Vacations Should Equal Fun Not Stress! Discover some great parenting travel hacks I have found to be life changing.
We have all been there, weeks on planning, packing, preparing for a family trip to only slowly discover we forgot to pack something, kids aren't adjusting to the new routine or surroundings, or the kids are getting stir crazy in the backseat, I have been you and I got you!
The Backseat Buddy
Traveling, church, traffic jams... just a few ideas of how you can use this! I have a crafty daughter who loves anything craft/coloring related here is how I use this to keep her busy and the list of questions including the dreaded "how much longer?" I found the bag here, and I ordered the large. The patches I found here.
I have packed everything customized to her interests. Crayons (twistables), post it notes, magnetic dolls, stickers and coloring books and empty journal pages. Yes, you can make it more your child's speed such as legos, fidgets, magnetic stories or puzzle pieces etc.
Routine Mix Ups
Just bringing their favorite stuffy will not cut it! Try to keep things as routine as possible. Pack a book or two (we pack one book of many stories for a nightly variety), their favorite blanket/stuffy, and their night time lullabies/white noise they use at home. My son has an owl that projects lights and plays lullaby music so the owl came with us and it helped him understand these are his night time cues. One of the biggest life saving saving hacks I discovered is this portable stool! I have linked here. My children are small and can't reach the sink or potty without a small stool so this travel stool was a game changer. Trust me you don't want to spend your vacation/ picking them up to pee, wash their hands, and brush their teeth - especially if you have more than one kid!!
Avoiding the "We forgot the...."
I must say this on EVERY family vacation, except this year! I started a week prior to the trip just noting what I use on a daily basis from hair detangler to sunscreen. I apply this to my list I create for when I pack our suitcases. It really helped! This year I have a first aid kit with more practical things in it such as nail clippers! (You would be surprised how many times we break our nails on a trip). When I make our list of things to pack my husband and I divide them into categories. Bathroom Needs, Clothes, Swim and Accessories, Snacks/Drinks, Baby Needs, etc. and build from there. It also helps that when we map our list we bounce back ideas on what to pack we are good at reminding each other of things we may have forgotten, it's like proofreading in a way. My husband also makes a list of house things to check before we leave which is really helpful when we are all piling in the car. He will include checking if things are unplugged, stove is off and all that kind of stuff which has taken the stressful "Oh my gosh, did I turn off the stove!" feeling away.
Have fun and make memories!
No matter if it's a quick trip to a splash pad, or a 2 week trip far away the most important part is being safe and having fun! Safe travels!
I have refused to let the pandemic rob my daughter of this graduation milestone! This was her first of many graduating celebrations which is so special. I had grandparents, her aunt and cousin come over as we had a backyard celebration. I bought decorations from the dollar store and had her favorite snack foods out (cheese puffs, brownies, and watermelon) then we ate pizza for lunch.
Lets start with the outfit... courtesy of Amazon! If you put in the search preschool graduation gowns you will find a great selection of colors. My favorite part about this cap and gown set is the 2021 tassel on the cap. It made it feel so official and a great keepsake for her memory box.
She processed into the backyard to the graduation tune (pulled it up on my phone from YouTube).
Sang I am Special song: *Tune of Are You Sleeping Brother John* "I am special I am special look at me you will see someone very special someone very special that is me, that is me,"
She sang her months of the year and days of the week song to showcase what she has been learning in calendar.
She gave her grandmothers each flowers. and said to them "thank you for helping me grow" I had her say that to them because without my mom and mother in law watching my toddler son I would not have been able to each Lucy the way I did this year. Lucy and I were gifted that uninterrupted time.
Once flowers were passed out I asked her if she was ready to side into Kindergarten and she ran up the slide in the backyard and slid down. Once at the bottom she threw her cap in the air and unzipped her gown to reveal her shirt (said "Straight Outta Preschool, from etsy) and yelled "party time!!"
We closed the ceremony with the song we ended school with, Skinamirinki Dink E Dink.
Here are a few photos from the special day. I hope we have encouraged, motivated or inspired anyone that is thinking about homeschooling preschool. It is work but it is worth it and so much fun. I found it to be really rewarding. I am always open to answering emails for any questions or to bounce ideas with. firstname.lastname@example.org
I wanted to share some last day of school activates we did together. She worked so hard I wanted to make the last day of school and graduation special.
Mini Bonfire - We used this amazing kit from City Bonfire (gifted) to make smores and cheers our hard work! This kit was so amazing! It came with graham crackers, marshmallows, chocolate, skewers, lighter and of course the portable bonfire. If you are interested in one for yourself I am an affiliate and you can find them on this link here.
Putting it all together - Lucy wanted to write out her whole alphabet for me because she was so proud that she could! I will be honest with you some letters she needed a quick recap writing but that is to be expected. She did great though and all her letters looked amazing when she finished. You might see that she has t = and a heart (the lower case t next to the heart she made was a mistake haha). We did a mini sentence lesson that this is technically a sentence because it means Christ is Love. She finished her alphabet by doodling (with glitter glue) pictures to represent her favorite themed weeks such as princess week and pumpkin week.
Indoor Sandbox - It was extremely hot on the last day of school and she really wanted sand to be part of her celebration so I made it happen! I used an old fitted sheet, kid chairs and kinetic sand to build a fun mess free sandbox.
Once upon a time a Princess named Lucy begged her mommy the Queen to have a princess themed week of homeschool. She worked hard all year and learned a lot, so the Queen finally gave in and the princess learned happily ever after.
Princess Graphing - I found most of my math resources from this FREE packet!! Click here for resource link. Princess graphing was great she simply rolled a princess dice (included in the free packet, small assembly on the grown ups half but nothing too hard), and colored the appropriate squares. It goes up to ten so it allows for many rolls, and to stop when you want or to the number ten. It was a great opportunity to introduce or reinforce "more" and fewer" when the chart is finished, and introduces graph reading skills.
Princess Number Wheel - Again using the same free resource I cut the wheel of princesses out and numbered 10 clothespins 1-10. Each section of the wheel had 1-10 princesses on it and Lucy put the appropriate clothespin to that section. To make the activity more challenging you could create your own wheel and add more princesses with clipart or stickers.
Princess Patterns - From the same resource I printed out these adorable princesses patterns. I was great cutting practice as she cut the missing pattern pieces at the bottom of the page and glued them on.
Letter Work and Writing
Workbooks - We are on the letter Yy this week and it has become challenging for her so we've implemented a few workbook pages for added practice and it has greatly helped her improve. If you want to see what my favorite workbooks to use are check out this page where I posted my favorite and how I use them.
Upper/lowercase Match up - From the same resource as the math worksheets (seriously its a 40+ page free packet people!) Lucy matched the Princess wearing the uppercase letter to the crown with the lowercase letter.
Dry Erase Letter Practice - We needed some extra scaffolding on the letter "Yy" and she would occasionally get frustrated with crayon and paper so I switched the narrative and have her practice on dry erase which calmed her down and seemed to make learning fun again.
Art and Crafts
Mermaid Tail Bookmark - I found a mermaid tail template (googled mermaid tail template and found this) cut out a few because I know my daughter would want to make a few. She used markers and made about 4 and I used my laminator cut it out then hot clued it to a clothespin.
Paper bag Princess Dress - After reading paper bag princess we used a paper grocery bag and decorated it as a beautiful princess dress.
Elsa Slime - Check out my recipes for play to see how we made this slime. The only difference is we added chunky blue glitter (found on amazon apparently this glitter is used as festival glitter?? I actually almost bought blue marajuana leaves by mistake!! haha) also our slime was stickier than usual so we added more contact solution to our hands and the slime and it fixed the issue.
Lucy use to be so scared of the dentist and now she gets excited when I let her know when an appointment is about to happen. Free toothbrush, toothpaste, and a toy from the treasure chest - score! Since we had an appointment this week I figured it was a perfect time to learn more about dental hygiene.
Cleaning Teeth - I simply googled a picture of a mouth with teeth and put it in one of my dry erase pockets (you can also laminate) wrote random letters and would ask her to brush the letter... and she would brush it off accordingly. She really enjoyed this activity and she even switched roles, wrote the letters and would ask me to erase letters. It was a lot of fun and great letter writing and recognition practice.
Glitter Glue Letters - Super simple, I wrote out letters (letter of the week along with letters she needs improvement writing) and she traces them over with glitter glue.
Finding and Writing sight words - Every week she has a new sight word and this activity is both of our favorites. I write the sight word in a few sentences on the dry erase board and she finds and circles the letter. She also helps try to read along the sentences (the words she knows). She writes the sight word on the dry erase independently after finding and circling the all the sight words.
Clock Intro - So this might look intimidating to a child but we filled this in together and she loved it! She has been asking about telling time and begging for her own digital clock in her room. She now has one and likes to share the hour she wakes up in when she wakes up. We didn't do too much past this basic introduction. We mainly talked all week about morning, afternoon, and evening.
Brushing Numbers - We did exactly the same as cleaning letters except this time with numbers. See Above for full directions.
Number Sticks - I wrote out string of number sequences and omitted random numbers. On clothespins I wrote the missing number. I made a bunch and had her assemble them correctly.
Arts and Crafts
Tooth Fairy Craft - I cut out arms, legs, dress, and hair for her to glue together, draw a face and decorate her. She had so much fun. You can do a lot with the tooth fairy - from money to creative play you could do a whole week of ideas. (I almost did!)
Good vs Bad Teeth - We had a discussion on what is healthy for teeth and what's not healthy. As we went over this she would illustrate them on the two teeth I have drawn out.
Dramatic Play Dentist - I found this dentist kit AT THE DOLLAR STORE! She had so much fun with this! We talked about tools the dentist might use to clean our teeth and gave check ups to all the stuffed animals she could find.
Living in Michigan we are surrounded by the Great Lakes, and the occasional pond in parks. My daughter is always asking "where's the dolphins? Are there any sharks?" I decided it was time to teach her the difference in bodies of water, and fresh vs salt water. This week was a lot of fun, my daughter and I both love everything to do with water and water play so naturally we had a great time with the sensory actives this week.
JellyFish Beads - I cut a paper plate in half, hole punched 5 - 10 and wrote 5-10 above each hole and strung a piece of yarn under each hole. Her job was to count the beads to match the number and string them on. Greta activity for fine motor, counting, number recognition, and number value.
Octopus 8 - We had a great talk about the octopus and how he uses all 8 of his tentacles with the suckers on them. I had her make 8 suckers on each of his 8 tentacles. Again building on the number value, number recognition and counting skills.
Letter Building - We used our wooden peg board to build various letters Including our letter of the week, Vv! If you are looking for your own wooden peg letter board I have linked you to my educational resources page, check out think link.
Workbooks - We used some of my favorite workbooks this week to work on writing skills. Above is (an older) photo of my absolute favorite workbook subscription! We get this every month in the mail and everyday your child can trace their name, color how they feel, weather, day of the week, and a whole bunch more. Check out this link to learn more about this workbook and other workbooks I love.
Chalkboard Letters - I can't say and emphasize this enough.. change up the format when teaching writing! If you keep only having them practice with crayon and paper they are going to hate writing before Kindergarten! Chalkboard, dry erase, writing in sand/sprinkles/flour is a fun way to teach letters and writing while including sensory.
Sensory and Crafts
Play Doh Sea Creatures - We looked at sea shells and felt their ridges, and make imprints of them on our play doh. She then looked at mini sea creatures and tried to replicate them with play doh.
Hand Crabs - I traced Lucy's hands and cut them out. She helped me glue them on paper, and she added the googly eyes. I cut out pinchers for her to glue on and she finished up the under the sea crab by adding glitter glue seaweed and coral around him, her idea which I LOVED!
Sea Creature Sensory - Before I made it a water sensory bin I want her to pay close attention to the various ocean animals so I put them on a pile of blue rice (link here for how to make) to make them appear to be in water.
Laundry Bottle Cap Boats - I saved bottle caps from my laundry detergent/softeners to be the foundation of our boat. Lucy added play doh and stuck in her straw with the sail she decorated and taped on. The blue cap we decided would be a fun scoop to pick up the water beads. My sensory bin had water, blue gems, water beads, homemade bottle cap boats and scoops and sea creatures in it.
Dinosaurs are loved and fascinated by both girls and boys. Santa brought Lucy's brother some large plastic dinosaurs and Lucy keeps asking to borrow them. That's when I knew... time for a dinosaur theme! When I told her Sunday that this week in school we will be talking about dinosaurs she seemed confused by it and not so excited. Fast forward to Friday and she is begging for more dinosaur activities!
Rock Letters - Our letter of the week is "Uu" so we made U's using rocks, then tried making other letters with the rocks too.
Paleontologist Diggers - I wrote a-u (the letters we have been going over so far) on painters tape cut them apart and spread around randomly on our crafters tray. I then covered the tray with colored rice and had her use a paintbrush as a tool (we discussed tools paleontologists use to dig up dinosaur bones) to discover the letters. Once she found a letter she peeled it off and taped it it's uppercase. I had simply wrote A-U on a piece of paper for her to stick the lowercase letters to.
Dino Egg predicting, Counting, and Writing - I had a few plastic Easter eggs kicking around that missed the take down Easter tote so I utilized those! I took the mini dinosaurs and filled each egg with a different amount. We made predictions (yes I introduced this word!) on how many dinosaurs were in each egg based on shaking, holding it up to a light, and seeing how many dinosaurs were in the other eggs. Once she discovered how many dinosaurs were in the egg she took a paintbrush and wrote a number in the colored rice we used for our letter digging.
Dino Egg Smash - I could say, "find the egg that has the number..." and she would smash said number with a toy hammer (wrapped in foil to keep it clean. I have been saving my egg shells for this. This activity is a huge favorite at my house, I have also altered this with find the letter. You can really differentiate this to any age and grade level. As an adult I wanted to smash the egg shells!
Crafts and Sensory
Dinosaur Sensory Play - From the dollar store we bought a sack of stones, I had extra lentals left over from feelings week (from our our stress balls), and I added some blue and green colored rice to create a scene on our sensory tray. I added extra sensory items in the small bowls for her to either add more to the scene, or to use by itself. We used my son's large dinosaurs and I bought small dinosaurs on amazon for about $10 to play in the sensory tray.
Salt Dough Fossils - We used our mini dinosaurs to make imprints on salt dough to recreate a fossil. I have linked here how to make salt dough. You can roll the dough out nice and pretty and even use cookie cutters with salt dough they make great gifts with a child's hand or footprint. However, with this I was going for rough bumpy sand to look more prehistoric so I patted it down with my hands and left the ends loose.
Paper Plate Dinosaurs - I cut a paper plate in half and let her paint her stegosaurus. Then I cut toilet paper rolls to fit like legs. It came out pretty cute. Lucy really enjoyed this activity.
It has been a very warm spring here in Michigan so far, and we have been antsy to get our garden up and growing. We have been noticing more and more flowers on our walks this theme seems very fitting this week. There is so much science and art with flowers the homeschool ideas I had this week seemed endless, I really felt like I could make this theme a whole unit if I wanted to.
Draw/say/write a Number - I used a piece of paper wrote out 1 - 25 cut out the numbers and put them face side down. She drew from the pile said the number and wrote it down. It is a very simple activity but very effective. This lesson teaches number recognition and writing.
Number Petals - Quick and easy math activity. I simply drew a handful of stems with circles and assigned the circles random numbers, she drew on that many petals. For an alternate I had her use black beans as petals for added sensory. You could also use sunflower seeds, real petals, the possibilities are endless. I used black beans because I had some kicking around my sensory drawer and she likes playing with them.
Filling Bowls with Gems - Flower and butterfly gems from the dollar store are one of Lucy's favorite craft items. They are shiny and different colors, usually we use them to glue onto drawings she makes. This week we used them to fill bowls. Each bowl had a number in front of it (I had number flashcards kicking around so I used those but you can also easily use post its or scrap paper) and she was to fill the bowl to the correct amount. Easy, quick and effective. Builds counting skills, number recognition, and fine motor.
Sorting Gems - Piggy-backing off of counting gems we also used the gems to sort. I added a small handful of other gems from our crafting cabinet and we sorted by color and tried to see how else we could sort, we discovered we can also sort by texture (smooth and bumpy gems).
Trampoline Sound Hop - Our letter of the week is Tt so since I recently moved our trampoline to the basement I used it in the lesson. I could say random to words to her and when she heard a T word she would jump. Simple and fun, and you don't need a trampoline to do it. An alternate could be sticking out your tongue or jumping in place.
Build a letter - We used the STEM wheels from Sr. Seuss week to build the letter Tt. After building our letters of course we did free play with the STEM wheels and Lucy created a beautiful flower.
Chalkboard writing - if you frequent my blog you might notice we do this a lot. She makes letters then traces over the letters with a wet paintbrush dipped in water. When it's hard to get your preschooler to practice writing change up the format and they won't fuss as much. Chalk writing and dry erase writing are my go to. There is something about it not being crayon/pencil and paper that they love and find exciting. We took this time to also go back and practice letters we have gone over already and still struggle with (for her we needed to review B and K).
Sight Words - I don't usually post often about the things we do for sight words so I figured this week I would give more insight. We always add the word of the week to our word wall at the beginning of each week ad review the words we added every time we add the new one. In the middle of the week I write out about 4-6 sentences using the new word of the week, she finds them and circles them. This week I that she should try to write the word of the week in the last sentence. By the end of the week she writes the word down by herself using the word wall as a reference if needed. Some weeks we do scrabble spelling other weeks she writes it on dry erase or chalkboard.
Sensory & Crafts
Gardening - Lucy helped me jumpstart our garden by planter starters with me. We had a great discussion on how a plant grows from a seed and needs water and sunlight. She was also introduced to my grow lamps and learned how they help in cold months when their is little to no sun to help the plant grow.
Painting Flowers - Lucy used paint stick paint to paint a beautiful flower picture. We continued to review all the things plants and flowers need to grow as she created it.
Play Doh Flowers - Creating beautiful play doh flowers using dollar store gems for an added touch.
Coloring Flowers Outdoors - This was not part of my lesson plan it is something that happened very organically while she was playing in the yard. She said she wanted to color my flowers "to always remember them." It was so cute, and yes sour patch kids snack was a must for this project (hehe).
Living in the Midwest can be very exciting for a number of reasons, but most specifically our weather! When the weather changes seasons it can be so unpredictable! One day it will snow the next day will be sunny and warm. Luckily, this week has been absolutely beautiful perfect spring weather. We took advantage of the nice weather and did a lot of nature exploring, and hiking. Learning outside is just as beneficial as in a classroom. Listed below are some in class actives we worked on.
Books We Read
Spring Chicks was a fun opportunity to teach Lucy about spring animals being born and shapes with this craft. We used a toilet paper roll and yellow paint to stamp on the circle body, cut out small triangle beaks, and used a maker to add eyes and feet
Of course this was a huge hit. My daughter and I went on a meaningful walk where we spotted the first signs of spring. A handful of spring beginnings we found were: buds of various size and textures, moss, robins, and daffodils.
Every week we do a new letter of the week, this week our letter is Ss. Lucy enjoyed tracing upper and lowercase S that I have written out, with jellybeans! This builds great letter recognition, fine motor, and pre writing skills.
Cotton Ball Bunnies
We made cotton ball bunnies to pass out to grandparents for Easter this year. I cut out bunny head silhouettes on white card stock, had Lucy use a pink paint stick (marker works too) to fill in the ears, pasted a photo of her head, and glue cotton balls around the face and ears. Of course I made ones with her brother's head too with her. I made extra bunny silhouettes for her to use markers and be creative with. She enjoyed both the structured craft and the open ended freedom of the other craft.
Pastel Easter Chalk Cross
I used painters tape to made a cross and with the empty space around the cross I taped triangles and squares. While taped Lucy used pastels to shade in the empty space. It was fun practice working with pastels and while she worked in the shading we talked about the true meaning of Easter. We taped it to our front door as part of our Easter decorations.
Glitter Glue Letters and Numbers
This is always a huge hit. I write letters, words, and numbers on a piece of paper and Lucy traces over them in glitter glue.
In continuation of reading month we are exploring another classic, Eric Carle. We discussed how created beautiful images with tissue paper and of course tried our own hand at it too. I love seeing her excitement in seeing the same person that wrote/illustrated one book can create more stories! Eric Carle has so many classics I wish I owned more on hand, I really enjoy his (true) story about the rubber ducks and The Tiny Seed but did not have those around to read unfortunately. When we have our COVID vaccine we will be checking those books out at our local library (or I will cave and buy them online).
Bananagram Words - We used bananagram tiles (you can use scrabble tiles, or magnetic letters too) and spelled out our sight words with them. I had her facing our word wall and of course we went through and read the words we have added to the board. As you can see our word wall isn't super fancy, the words are written 4x6 on flash cards and tapped onto a poster from the dollar store. I gave her free liberties to choose the words she wanted to spell. Each week we add a new word, this week's word of the week is "you."
Chalkboard Letters - I have done this in previous weeks, it's always a hit. I write the letter of the week in chalk and she traces it with a paintbrush that we dip in water. Once done she takes a turn writing the letter in chalk along with her name and anything else she wishes to write. I like this activity because its a nice change from workbooks. It makes writingand letter work FUN which is how they learn best.
Symmetry - Inspired by "The Hungry Caterpillar" we painted one side of a butterfly folded it and noticed how it made the butterfly perfectly symmetrical.
Q is for Quilt - Both my mom and mother in law are excellent quilters so I reached out to them during Qq week. My daughter had a play date with my mother in law and I asked her to show Lucy her quilts she made. When my mom came to babysit my son I had her show Lucy some quilts she made too. This is a lesson in math because she is learning about shapes and how the can be moved around to potentially create new shapes. My mom helped me make this craft for Lucy. She precut various shapes in colored construction paper and I found this paper quilters "block" on this site. She created her own blocks assembling her very own (paper) quilt.
Arts & Crafts
Tissue Paper Butterfly and Art - Inspired by Eric Carle's tissue paper illustrations we made our own tissue paper creations.
Felt Board Stories - We played with felt stories a lot this week. I found an Etsy shop that has a lot of amazing felt stories and I of course bought all of the Eric Carle ones before I started homeschooling my daughter, that's how charming I thought they were. This week was truly the felt story's time to shine! My daughter loved adding the felt pictures that correlated to the story, it builds great listening skills, and patience. Each time we finished I would sit on the sit upon she sits on and say "ok your turn to be teacher, tell me the story!" Which of course she loves! Retelling is so powerful and such an important skill, it builds: confidence, vocabulary. It also enhances reading comprehension and sequencing, and helps a child organize and describe events.
Mister Seahorse Craft - After reading Mister Seahorse we decorated a seahorse (I image searched seahorse for a nice template) with gems, sequins, tissue paper, markers, and of course googly eyes.
Paint Sticks - We recently discovered paint sticks! Lucy painted her favorite Eric Carle Story with them, The Hungry Caterpillar.