Literally right after we finished up this week of tot school we decided that we all needed a little family getaway and hopped in the car to start a spring break vacation. Because of that this post is a little delayed in getting out, but I'm so happy to report to all of you that at the end of our yellow week Emery had what I guess you could call a "breakthrough" in her learning, and all of these activities that we worked to do to teach her the primary colors seemed to come together and she finally got it! I also tried to keep this week of tot school really flexible by letting Emery choose which activities we did on each day. We have a small bookshelf in our apartment that holds the majority of her school "supplies", and now that we've been doing this for long enough it was a lot of fun to see what she specifically chose to do on different days. I also feel like allowing her that freedom to choose the activities (maybe?) helped make them more effective in their teaching, and even though no week with a toddler is completely mess/tantrum free, this one for the most part felt more easy going and productive, giving me that bit of motivation that I needed to know that this whole tot school thing actually works. 😉
Tot School WEek 3: The Color Yellow
Theme: The Color YELLOW
Snacks (One per day):
Monday - YELLOW coloring activity book & coloring with YELLOW chalk on the chalkboard. Emery's really come to look forward to making these little color books every week, and this week it was a lot of fun to see her start to recognize some of the pictures that she was coloring (like the banana) and associate that item with the color yellow. After the book was made, Em asked to color with her chalk, so we pulled out our big chalkboard and I drew a large sun for her to color in to try and keep the item/color recognition going.
Tuesday- YELLOW play dough (with button-face emotions) and YELLOW YouTube song/video. This morning Emery pulled out the play dough, and to make it a little more interesting I decided to incorporate in a different play item and pulled out some old yellow buttons that I'd found in my craft closet. We read My Many Colored Days by Dr. Suess, which focuses on different emotions being felt with different colors, and then used the buttons to make different emotions in faces on the yellow play dough. For where Em is currently at with her age, I would put the buttons in place to make a specific emotion, and then we'd say which emotion it was while she'd push the buttons into the play dough. For older kiddos, this could easily be adapted to have the children create the faces in the dough themselves, or create numbers, letters, or shapes depending on what you're wanting to focus on with them.
Wednesday- YELLOW sensory bin and singing our YELLOW song/poem. There will forever be a part of me that will despise how messy of an activity the sensory bin is, but for how much Em loves it I know that it's one that we'll have to keep around when it can be made applicable. This week while she played with the sensory bin we also tried to incorporate finding a few different shapes into the mix of things, and in an effort to keep all things relevant we also sang the YELLOW song during/after the sensory bin activity. I don't know if it's just my bad singing voice or if they're just really catchy tunes, but Emery has been loving these weekly color songs and makes them into a little dance party every week!
Thursday- YELLOW flower painting activity and colorful window markers. This flower painting activity at least for me keeps getting more and more fun every time we do it. This week Emery got super focused on her work, and I'd be lying if I didn't admit that the artist in me celebrated at her attention to detail. 😉 The second activity of the day was not originally planned on, but ended up being successful regardless and reminded me of the ever-importance of being flexible with the curriculum. I had initially planned a bead sorting color activity for us, but that afternoon we were watching a couple of Emery's friends (an almost 3 yr old and a baby) and when I pulled out the activity, I realized that although it proved to be a great idea for the almost 3 year old, it was too much stimulation for Emery combined with the company of friends, and it ended with a giant mess of beads all over the floor and Emery crying because I was letting her friend do the activity and not her. We did try the bead activity again the next day, but I needed something quick to make up for the mess/disappointment in that moment. I pulled out some window markers that I've had since college (you can find some here), and let Em and her friend go wild on the biggest window in our house. It ended up being a huge hit, and to insure that colors were tied in I had the kids name each color that they used before taking it to the window.
Friday- YELLOW glitter star wand, picking out YELLOW clothes to wear, and bead sorting activity recapping on RED, BLUE, & YELLOW. I didn't get any pictures of the yellow star wand, but we basically just painted this wooden star wand that Em found at Hobby Lobby, and then once the star was painted yellow, I gave Emery some gold glitter (turns out gold & yellow are the same thing in the glitter world?) and let her go to town on it making her wand as glittery as possible. As with all glitter crafts, make sure that your work surface is completely covered unless you want it to sparkle for weeks on end following the activity. On Friday we also did a retry on the bead sorting activity and I can't even tell you all how happy and proud I felt watching Emery as the activity just "clicked" in her mind and she went straight to work sorting through the beads! To recreate this activity, all you need is bowls (I made mine the same colors as the beads we were working on, but another alternative would be to use white paper bowls and color either the base or rim of each bowl the colors that you're wanting to focus on), and then some sort of small object in the different colors that you want your toddler to sort (we used wooden beads - another craft closet clean out find). Put all of the beads in a separate bowl, and then guide your toddler to separate the beads into the different bowls by color. If you're child is older they could do this with more colors than three, or use a spoon to transfer the beads/objects to help develop their hand-eye coordination. Once Emery got what the activity was supposed to be, she had SO much fun separating out the beads, and I already know that this is going to be an activity that we coordinate into our day to day activities to keep her up to date on her colors that she's been learning. It always feels good to end the week on a positive note, and this for us was definitely the best type of ending we could've had!
To get a day by day scheduled chart for your own YELLOW themed week of Tot School simply click here for the free download, or if you're looking for a blank template to fill in with your own activities then feel free to checkout this free blank template. We did take a week off of Tot School for Daddy's Spring Break/ vacation, but now that we're back, week 4 of Tot School is going to be focused all around Spring & Easter in honor of the holiday coming up. Keep an eye out for that blog post next week, or feel free to follow along with us doing the activities in real time on our Instagram stories! Thanks for following along!
I've got to be real, this week of tot school was a rough go for Emery and I. Something in the universe was disturbing Emery's world, and even though we worked really hard to stick to all of our planned activities it was a major struggle because of the gargantuan temper tantrums that ensued every single time the tiniest of things did not go exactly the way that Emery wanted them to. It was REALLY hard to not get discouraged and just throw our tot school activities out the window since Em didn't seem to be getting into them that much anyway and I was basically just in mom-survival mode, but on Friday morning the heavens opened, my child was happy and actually responded with the word "BLUE!!!!" when I asked her what color her bath water was, and all was right with the world again. It was such a good reminder that even when things seem a little hopeless because of that crazy toddler life to not give up!! Even when we don't realize it our kiddos are still soaking in so much information and as long as we're working hard to make sure that the info they're consuming is good, then they will get what we're trying to teach them in their own timeline, most likely right when we feel at our wit's end. 😉
Tot School Week 2: The Color BLUE
Theme: The Color BLUE
Snacks (One per day):
Honestly it was a LOT harder to find foods that were naturally blue to use for this week's activities, so we basically ate blueberries everyday in one form or another. If your tot doesn't like blueberries, then you might have to get creative by either choosing items with blue packaging, or just skipping the snack portion for this week.
Monday - BLUE coloring book activity and sing the BLUE song/poem. These cute little books are seriously my favorite way to kick off our week when focusing on a color because Em really enjoys making them and then she can use them and continue to look through them for the rest of the week, helping to keep our focus color in her mind! The BLUE song is such a cute and simple activity, and when we do it as our activity for the day we'll usually sing it through 2-3 times, and then again throughout the week if it fits into the flow of our day!
Tuesday- BLUE chalk on the chalkboard (with letter "E" focus) and outdoor BLUE activities. Tuesday was the only day slightly warm enough last week and we felt like we had to take advantage of it, so we spent our afternoon outside playing with Emery's blue bubble wand (our Target's dollar sections has these available from now until usually end of summer and for only being a dollar they last for a long time!) and she got to try out riding her new blue bike. The chalk activity could be done either inside or outdoors, but due to timing/Emery's temperament we did ours inside. A while back I found this giant sheet of chalkboard at Home Depot for only $10 and knew it'd make for a lot of fun indoor activity times while waiting for the weather to turn warm! Emery recently learned the letter "E" and has been pretty excited about that, so as an additional learning activity with the chalk I drew a large upper and lowercase "E" on the chalkboard, and then let Emery fill them in with the blue chalk specifically for our color focus.
Wednesday- BLUE sensory bin and picking out BLUE clothes to wear for the day. In Emery's Little Friends Sound Book: Colors, the whole premise of the book is picking out matching colored clothes to go with each of the character's outfits (ex: bear has a blue hat and blue shoes, what color backpack should he choose?) so to try and keep a theme we picked out Emery's blue matching clothes on the same day that we read this book. We also did the sensory bin with her but with blue toys this week instead of red, and just like last time she had an absolute blast with it! Learning from last week's mess, instead of putting her sensory bin on her little play table like last week I put it on a giant tablecloth on the floor, and it made cleanup so much easier! Em tries to get this activity out almost every single day so whenever we can fit it in with our weekly theme I think we definitely will! (To see how we put together her sensory bin check out my last tot school post)
Thursday- Painting/Planting a Rainbow Activity and watch this 5-minute BLUE YouTube video. This ABC Kid TV channel on YouTube has proven to be great two weeks in a row now with their cute short videos on the different colors making this activity an easy one for a grumpy, just woken up from nap Emery, and our weekly painting flower activity to go along with our Planting a Rainbow book made for a fun activity for the second week in a row! Instead of doing "bag painting" like we've done in the past I decided to give Em a little more freedom and let her paint with actual brushes on a protected surface and it actually worked out really well. I found some adorable kid-sized paintbrushes at Target that worked really well. It allowed Emery to feel like a big kid painting with a brush, but also keep her hands and our work surface (mostly) clean. This day's activity was also a really good lesson day for me to learn that sometimes it's ok to give kiddos a little more freedom in their creativity, and that it won't always necessarily end up in a huge mess. Using craft paper to cover our surface made for an easy cleanup, and an overall happy mama and Emery.
Friday- BLUE watered bubble bath and play with BLUE play dough. I said at the beginning of this post that this week was a bit rough for us, and that was no lie. All of the activities leading up to this point were kept fairly short because of Emery's even more short of a temper, and I had reached a point where I wondered if any of my efforts to teach her were making any sort of difference. I was ready to just give us a "free day" from any sort of tot school activities, but then late Thursday night found these Crayola bath tablets at Target that would turn Em's bath water whatever color of tablet I chose to put in the water. I've always been a little weary of colored bath things because of how close of contact it makes with Emery's baby skin, but these specific drops are free of any sort of phthalates, parabens, fragrances, and are non-toxic, so we decided to give these a shot. I also liked the idea of being able to make the concept of "blue water" real for Emery; we always color water blue on paper, and even in her songs and books talk about the ocean and other water being blue, but the main water that Em experiences on a daily basis in the bathtub is just clear so.... we put a blue tablet in the tub along with some Burt's Bee's bubble bath and oh my gosh - I seriously cannot remember the last time I saw Emery so excited! She LOVES bath time already, but adding in the bubbles and the color seriously just made her little year and a half old life! The best part about it was that while she was playing in the bath, I asked her what color her water was (honestly just out of habit of trying to teach her the colors) and when she responded with an enthusiastic "BLUUUUUUUUE!!!" all of my mama doubts and frustrations just flew right out the window. We were able to end the week on a positive note, and I didn't have to feel so "blue" about whether or not my daughter is actually learning any of these colors. I'm learning more and more that Emery will pick up on the concepts I'm trying to teach her in her own time, and that as her mother it's my job to simply teach and give her the environment to learn in as fun a way as possible. Every day and week we're still learning and perfecting, but the experience is a fun one and I'm enjoying the chance to be part of Emery's learning and growth.
To get a day by day scheduled chart for your own BLUE themed week of Tot School simply click here for the free download, or if you're looking for a blank template to fill in with your own activities then feel free to checkout this free blank template. Week 3 of Tot School is going to be focused around the color YELLOW, and towards the end of the week we'll start trying to incorporate all three of the primary colors together to see how Emery does with sorting them out! Keep an eye out for that blog post next week, or feel free to follow along with us doing the activities in real time on our Instagram stories! Thanks for following along! Until next week-
First things first... What is "Tot" School, and why am I doing it with Em?
Before jumping into our first week's recap of tot school, I figured that a really brief intro into what we're doing would be appropriate for anyone wondering exactly what "tot" school is.😉 I had first heard the term used by a few different mama friends on Instagram; curiosity lead me to doing some research, and I found that "tot" school is essentially a prequel to pre-school, and a focused and organized way to teach toddlers basic knowledge and life topics. There are SO many different ways to go about doing tot-school, so what you're seeing here is how Em & I have decided to do it that works well for us! Our basic set up includes a weekly theme, and each week has a snack, a book, and two activities for each day. We keep the schedule flexible to keep my stress levels low, and to ensure that the experience is as personalized and enjoyable for Emery as possible. If you like our setup but want to change the themes to something more applicable to your toddler, great! If you like my themes but want to add in more activities or different books, great! The whole point of the tot school is to make it your own in a way that best works for you and your tot! I hope to use this space to share our resources, activities, books, etc. with anyone that feels like using them for you and your toddler, and hope that whatever direction it takes you is one that can bring a few smiles to you and your little one!
Tot School Week 1: The Color Red
Theme: The Color RED
Snacks (One per day):
Monday - Pick out RED clothes to wear (for Em & me) and Red Coloring Book Activity. I love activities like this because it shows that the activities don't have to be super complex or take a ton of planning or effort to pull off. Em LOVES picking out her own clothes to wear so for this day we just made it applicable to the color of the week, and then this book was as easy as printing out the free template, letting her color until she felt like she was done, then I cut out the pages for her and she helped me staple them all together. She was SO proud of the little "book" she'd made and carried it around the house with her for the rest of the morning!
Tuesday - Color Song RED on YouTube and a RED sight/nature walk. Tuesday was our warmest weathered day last week and to take advantage of the sunshine we went to the zoo that morning with friends and afterwards Em was pretty worn out and took a good nap. Usually when she wakes up from naps she needs a few minutes of cuddle time to fully wake up so watching this short 5 minute song video on YouTube about the color RED was a perfect after nap activity for her to wake up to, and then once she was ready to play again we went for a little walk outside and pointed out everything red that we could find from stop signs to cars to berries and everything in between!
Wednesday - Sing the "RED" song/poem and red flower painting. Emery loves music so when I found these free songs for each of the colors I knew I wanted to incorporate them into our schooling. I didn't get any pictures of the actual flower painting because it was a little messy, but it's basically an activity designed to go along with our Planting a Rainbow book. The book talks about planting flowers of all different colors, and I was able to find these cute wooden flower shapes at Target that I thought would go along with it well. Each week while focusing on colors we'll read the book, then I'll let Emery paint a few of the flowers in whatever color we're focusing on for that week. To make this activity as mess free as possible, I put the flowers in a gallon sized ziplock bag with some red paint and water, then let Emery move the paint with her hands and shake the bag until the flowers were covered. I'll have a full DIY post with this activity on the blog later, but here's a picture of her doing a regular rainbow painting to help give you an idea of how it looks.
Thursday - Homemade Play dough. We'd originally had two activities planned for today, but ended up scratching the second one so that I could involve Emery in the making of the play-dough as well as the playing of it! We made the dough together in the morning in six different colors, then in the afternoon played with the red play-dough specifically to go along with our theme! The recipe I used for the play-dough can be found here; the only thing I did differently was to make two colors per batch instead of just one (basically just follow her recipe but before adding in the food coloring, separate half of your batch into a different saucepan to finish up!)
Friday - RED Sensory Bin and bake RED m&m cookies. This was probably our favorite day of the entire week which is totally ok because we celebrate Fri-YAY whenever we can! 😉 Making Em's sensory bin took less than 5 minutes to put together and kept her entertained for over 30.... which is basically an eternity in toddler time! To put it together I bought this lidded storage bin from Target for less than $5 (it's the 3.25 x 11 x 14" sized one in case you already have something similar), and then cleaned out my cupboard of all of our rice and quinoa that I'd let expire but due to previous laziness hadn't thrown out and put it to good use in Em's bin! Once the bin was filled with the old rice and quinoa, I simply gathered several of Emery's RED colored toys (think wooden blocks, balls, alphabet & shape magnets, etc) and "hid" them in the rice for her to dig out! Emery LOVED digging through the rice for her toys, and after a while of digging them out proceeded to then rebury them so that she could find them again! Once she was done playing, I took out the toys and lidded the bin so that we can use the rice again with different colors and themes! The only mistake I made in this activity was underestimating how much of a mess Emery could make with the rice and quinoa. Next week we're definitely doing this activity again, but with a tablecloth underneath her to make for easier cleanup afterwards!
That sums up our very first week of tot school! All in all I feel like actually planning out our activities, snacks, and books for the week takes about 20 minutes on a Sunday afternoon, and then I try to keep the actual prep time for each activity to 10 minutes or less to make it so that we can spend more time together having fun! Each activity ranged anywhere from 2 minutes to about 30, and I genuinely feel like it's given Emery a positive, educational outlet for her energy, and gives me a chance to bond with her in a different way as I plan out and join in on the activities with her! I'm already excited to start week 2 with her, and look forward to sharing in our little journey with all of you! I've included a free printable sheet showing our schedule, as well as a blank template for filling in your own theme, activities, etc if you so choose! Also, I try to share our daily activities as we do them in my Instagram stories, so if you want to follow along in real time be sure to join us there! Happy tot schooling!