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!