February 27, 2013

Letter of the Week- Letter R

Here we are again, at the end of another letter week.  Click on the link below for my full curriculum and check out the pictures for a glimpse into our week.

Handwriting practice.


Finding the letter R.

R is for Rainbows!  
I think Addi is to young to start teaching the ROY G BIV method of learning the colors, especially trying to teach the different between blue, indigo, and violet might be more confusing than it is actually helpful.  So, we just stuck to red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple as our rainbow colors for the week.  One thing I wanted to point out is that many of these activities are simple enough that they could be replicated for St.Patrick's Day.

We started by making a rainbow lowercase r by cutting the shape out of the center of black construction paper and gluing strips of colored construction paper onto the back.

We had a large group of people coming over to our house one night and I knew I had wanted to provide a dessert.  I was short on time so instead of trying to make something AND help Addi with lessons, I thought I would combine the two.  So, I got her to help me make dessert!  To fit our theme for the week I was trying to decide between rainbow colored rice crispy treats or a homemade fruit pizza.  We choose the fruit pizza, which was a little more work, but definitely worth it!  Cute isn't it.  For the full description and recipe click here.

Addi made a rainbow from construction paper squares and half a paper plate.

The other half of the paper plate she colored as a rainbow.

My kids rarely get super sugary cereals but this week they had the treat of eating fruit loops for the first time.  I found this printable at Mama Clucks and it was great to have Addi glue on the correct colors during her snack time.  She did eat one with a little glue on it and I am fairly confident she wasn't too pleased. 

This rainbow was so simple to make and I think I am going to add it to our busy bag collection.  I just took little pieces of foam and cut out the appropriate size arches and then had Addilyn stack them in the correct order to make a rainbow.

Finger painting with all the colors of the rainbow = way too much fun!

At one point Addilyn let me pant each of her fingers and then I had her swipe her had across the paper in an arch.  I think it turned out so pretty.  It's so simple but it's one of those paintings you want to keep forever.

It had been months and months since I had pulled out our rainbow rice, but I figured letter R week was the time to do it (and Daddy was home to help) which made it much more manageable.  To be honest, I'm okay with some messes, but tiny pieces of rice all over my floor just is not something I really care for.  All that to say, I was thankful my husband was home to help.

The finished product!

I had printed out two copies of that worksheet and we used the second one for Do-A-Dot markers.  I couldn't find our orange marker so we just used an orange marker.  I was trying to teach Addilyn what the word improvise means.  It was super cute.

Despite how common rainbows are.  It was very difficult to find rainbow themed books.  The Rainbow Fish series we didn't actually read, but we used them to look at and identify all the colors.

On the other hand, we found plenty of rabbit themed books which was perfect since letter R is also for Rabbits!  

We made a capital R Rabbit.  I got the idea from Animal Alphabet which like it''s name suggest they have lots of animal ideas for each letter of the alphabet.

Fruit Pizza

Fruit pizza...one of my favorite desserts.  It is sweet and yet so refreshing.  It's a great spring time dessert because of all the amazing fruits that are in season then.  I was first introduced to it about 8 years ago at a birthday party.  Since then, I've used various different recipes (because there seems to be a ton) but my favorite so far  (in taste and appearance) is the one pictured here that Addi and I made into a rainbow for her letter r week lesson.

The base of the pizza is actually one large sugar cookie.  Anytime I make sugar cookies I use Sweet Sugar Bell's basic recipe.  For the fruit pizza I placed all the dough on a pizza tin and rolled it out into a perfect circle.  I baked it at 400 degrees for 12 minutes (but I would actually recommend pulling it out a minute or two earlier if you like it more soft).   For the "icing" I mixed an 8 oz. package of creme cheese with 2 Tbs of sugar and 1 tsp of vanilla.  I speed out the icing and then added fresh fruit.  Easy as pie. Ha ha ha...pun intended ;)

February 25, 2013

Celebrating 100 posts with my very first giveaway!

Well friends, this is my 100th post!  There are so many things I hope to continue sharing and there are 100s of ways I hope to improve.  For now, I would love to celebrate by having my very first giveaway!

In honor of it being my 100th post I will be giving away 10 Busy Bag Sets with 10 games in each set!  That's right, 10 new games for your little one and you don't have to make a single one!  The only restriction is that you must have a U.S. mailing address.

There are multiple ways you can enter my giveaway and each one of these ways will give you one entry into the drawing.  Your name can be entered into the drawing up to 10 times!


  1. Follow Me.  Become a follower of my blog by submitting your email in the "Follow Me" box located in the column to the right.
  2. Subscribe.  Subscribe to my blog by submitting your information in the "Subscribe to" box located in the column to the right.
  3. Leave a Comment.  Like this blog post and leave a comment below telling me one thing you would like to see added or improved upon OR tell me which post has been your favorite thus far.
  4. Link to Facebook.  Share the link to my blog on your Facebook page and let your friends know about this giveaway.
  5. Pin It.  Pick your favorite things you've seen on my blog and pin it to one of your Pinterest boards.  You can get one entry for every pin (up to 6).
Once you have done any or all of these things email me at amandakelly17@gmail.com to let me know what you've done.  Remember, you can get up to TEN entries!  The drawing will take place next Monday, March 4th Thursday, March 7th and I will announce the winner on  Tuesday Friday.  Get excited!   I can't wait to see who wins!    Also, even if you are not interested in the giveaway I would love to hear your comments and still welcome you to subscribe!  Thanks everyone!

February 20, 2013

Each and Every Week

Each and every week we start out our lessons with a few basic activities.  If you have ever noticed the bottom section of my curriculum sheets there is an area entitled "Activities."  These are things I feel preschoolers, at an actual school, would call "learning centers."  Typically a learning center is a section of the classroom in which students engage in independent and self-directed learning activities.  These are activities they have become so familiar with that they need little assistance or instruction, if any at all.  Many times I don't take pictures of Addi as she is doing these activities but we are faithful to do most of these each week with whatever the new letter is that we are learning about.

Letter Introduction:  First, I introduce the letter we will be studying that week and we practice making the different sounds that letter might say.  For example, the letter s does not just make the /s/ sound, but it also makes the /z/ sound (as in the word "nose").  We look at the objects illustrated on the letter and then try to come up with ideas of other things that begin with that letter which are not already pictured.  I made each of the letters by simply using Microsoft clipart pictures and a really large font.  I printed them, cut them, and laminated them so I could use them over and over again.  I got the idea from Storytime Katie who actually cut hers up to make puzzles.  Next, we color our  letter "cheat sheet" and identify how the uppercase and lowercase letters look different from one another.  I found the entire alphabet set on a blog last summer and now I can't remember where it was.  If this is your work please leave a comment below so you can get the credit you deserve.

Handwriting Practice Worksheets:  We got several of the preschool and kindergarten workbooks and either laminated the pages or put the pages in pocket protectors so several days throughout the week Addi can practice writing the letter.  When we first began the Letter of the Week series Addi could barely hold a pencil, much less draw a line or circle.  She has improved so much and I really do think it's because she like practicing with fun worksheets each week.

Sandpaper and Yarn:  I have a ziplock bag with one piece of sandpaper and lots of strips of yarn (cut into all different sizes).  Each week we pull it out and see if we can make the uppercase and lowercase letters from the yarn we have in the bag.

Letter Stamping:  I bought a set of uppercase letter stamps for approximately $3 at Walmart.  Each week Addilyn has to find the right letter (sometimes a challenge in and of itself) in the bag and then pick out her ink pad color.  Sometimes if we have a color focus that week I will go ahead and pick out the color I want her to use.  When we first began she was not great at pressing the stamp hard enough into the ink pad, but now she is a pro!

Letter Searches:  So, if you've read my "Secret to Being 'Book Smart'" post, you know that I reuse things over and over again or sometimes I use things in ways they were not intended to be used.  I love finding word search books at goodwill or a yard sale for a quarter (many times I've found them for free).  Each week I tear out a pages and let Addi find her letter of the week.  She loves using the "Do a Dot" markers to highlight the letters she has found.

Build a Letter:  Using our homemade Letter Construction set, Addi can create her uppercase and lowercase letter from foam.  Click here for more info on how I made these activities.

Watercolors Over White Crayon:  This activity is Addilyn's favorite almost every week.  She loves to paint.  I saw the activity on Pinterest and am so thankful for Redefine Creativity for such a fun and EASY idea.  Each week I take a white crayon and draw the letter on to a white piece of paper.  When we pull out the watercolors, Addi gets to see the letter of the week magically appear before her eyes!

Magnet Games:  These printable worksheets can be found just about anywhere these days.  Addi loves the little round magnets we use (we were given a pack) but I hear you can get a set of about 20 at Walmart for about $3-4.  I simply place the print out on a cookie sheet and hand her the magnets.  She fills in all the blank circles with the magnets.  i know many people also use these printouts for Do-a-Dot activities. We have a horrible printer and our ink cartridges run out pretty quickly so I choose not to print out much; however, if you're able I think it's a great idea.

Sandpaper Sounds:  This is another activity we do to make sure Addilyn is comprehending all the sounds that each letter makes.  For more on how I made this activity and exactly how we use it click here.

Playdoh:  Every child I know, and most adults if you can get them to admit it, love playdoh.  We have accumulated tons of cookie cutters from hand me downs, goodwill, or yard sales.  Each week I try to pull out our alphabet set and find the letter of the week.  In addition, I try to find other cookie cutters shapes that begin with our letter.  If we have a color focus that week I also try to incorporate that in the color of playdoh she plays with.  For example, you can see in the picture that for letter B week she played with blue playdoh, letter B cookie cutters, and shapes such as butterflies and bears.

There are 1,001 more ways we can introduce letters to our kids and every so often I try something new, but these are my fool-proof, each-and-every-week activities that my daughter loves.

The Secret to Being "Book Smart"

A friend and I were talking the other day about different types of workbooks you can buy to give your child practice with different skills. They have workbooks on just about any topic ranging from colors, shapes, letters, math skills, or whatever else you can possibly imagine.  They have them for preschoolers.  They have them for high schoolers.  There are hundreds of styles and formats by numerous different publishers.   Some are pretty expensive costing as much as $15-20 and others you can find at the Dollar Store.  My friend was telling me how she would like to expose her son to educational activities and not just coloring books; however, she really has a hard time investing in them.  She hates buying workbooks because her son doesn't know how to read and therefore it's difficult for him to understand the directions or expectations of the activity unless she is sitting right beside him.  She spoke about how they seem to go through these books in hardly no time because he will "complete" five or six pages (or more) in one sitting.  She also said that once he has finished a page (whether it's done correctly or not) it ends up in the trash and she feels like they are wasting so much paper because of how quickly they go through these books.  No matter how you look at it, buying these workbooks can get really expensive, especially if your child enjoys completing multiple pages a day.

It was then that I realized that not everyone knew the secret I had been told a few years ago.  At the time I was told, I didn't know it was a secret.  In fact, I felt so silly because I thought I was the only one who hadn't heard of it before.  Imagine my relief when I shared these tips with my frustrated friend.

The secret?  Are you ready?  Well, here it is...you get your kid to REUSE the same pages over and over again.  Simple enough, right? But then, how do you do that when there is marker, crayons, and color pencil all over the page?  Well friends, it's all about prepping the pages BEFORE your kid uses it the first time.  Here are several tips that have helped me and hopefully they can help you too:

Round up your resources!  

Find any and every activity book you have and make one large pile.  My grandmother found a few preschool workbooks on sale at Costco and they have tons of great activities in them.  In addition, I have found partially used books at yard sales for a quarter (or less).  Sometimes people are so desperate to get rid of these types of book they will just give them to you.  I have friends who have older kids and they are always trying to clean out the "junk"they don't need anymore.  I was given four like-new workbooks absolutely free.

Tear up your books!  

That's right.  You heard me.  Forget what your momma told you and for a brief moment, be a rebel!  Any page in any of the books that you think might possibly be usable, tear it out!  As you are doing this, begin to look for themes and create piles.  Some of the piles I created when I sorted through our books included shapes, colors, Dot-to-Dot letter activities, Dot-to-Dot number activities, mazes, and more.  I sorted every letter of the alphabet into separate piles so that when we did our Letter of the Week series I had several handwriting and practice sheets for that particular week.

As you can see in the picture below, you can end up with a ton of the same type of activity from many different books.  Then, as your child goes through a stage where he or she really enjoys that particular type of activity you have an overabundance of resources to choose from.

Protect and preserve!  

Depending on the type of activity, you need to decide on what will be the most efficient and cost effective way to preserve that particular resource.  For example, my preference is to either laminate or use sheet protectors depending on the activity.  Lamination and sheet protectors both protect the original document and allow your child to complete the activity over and over again as many times as they would like by simply using a dry erase marker or a crayon!  And, it's just as easy to clean up.  I use a wet paper towel to wipe and then follow with a dry paper towel.  Here are the pros and cons to each method I use as well as a few examples.
  • Lamination- Lamination is a beter option if you are looking to make something sturdy, if you plan to use the item more than 2-3 times, or if your goal is semi-permant durability.  Lamination can be cumbersome and costly.  An inexpensive lamination machine can be found for $25 and the lamination pouches cost anywhere from $10 and up depending on the quantity you want and the thickness of paper.  I choose to laminate worksheets that I know I will use on a fairly frequent basis, such as beginners handwriting activities.  I also choose to laminate activities that are oddly shaped, because I can cut around the edges to make the activity look much nicer.

  • Sheet Protectors (pocket protectors)- These are essentially a sleeve of plastic that remains open at one end, which allows you to slide any paper in and out.  They are reusable and will keep your papers pristine.  They are much more cost effective since you can purchase a pack of 25 for as little as $3.  One minor drawback to sheet protectors is that sometimes the paper slides back and forth and what was written on the outside will not actually match up with the worksheet.  Again, this is minor and if you are using it for a very short time, it will not really matter.

Think outside the box!  

Finally, look for things that are free or that you can get extremely cheap and use them in new or different ways.  I have gotten many partially used word search or sudoku books that I use for letter or number lessons.  One of Addi's favorite activities is to use a Do-A-Dot marker and find her Letter of the Week in a word search puzzle.  She doesn't have to find the words that are actually hidden in the puzzle, all she knows to do at her age is to look for her special letter of the week.  For her, it's great fun.  And, for me...it's free fun!

Now, the last thing to consider when planning with all of this is the time it takes.  Time is money right?  So, you need to think through if taking apart your books, organizing, and laminating is worth it in comparison to the amount of money you would be spending on new workbooks.  Everyone is different and the only right answer is to identify what works best for you.  I've only just shared my opinion.


When I first started looking into preschool activities, I was seeing Do-A-Dot activities everywhere.  I went to pick up a Do-A-Dot marker for Addi and suffering from a case of sticker shock, I ended up not getting one.  After looking at four different stores the cheapest one I found was $3 and the cheapest set (a 6 pack) was $15.  I started wondering what it was that made them so great.  Then, low and behold, one day as I was walking through the Dollar Tree I saw "Bingo Markers."  They come in all the same colors, are actually are smaller in circumference (so they fit in a preschooler's hand better) and they are only $1 each!  I only purchased one at the time because I wanted to see if the quality was equivalent to the price or if I had really truly just found a great deal.  Fortunately, the later was true.  I went back around Christmas time and purchased 3 other colors that we put in Addilyn's stocking.  I'm so excited about my find and I hope you can benefit from it too!

Busy Bag Organization

Several ladies have asked me how I organize and store our busy bags.  Great question!  When we first started making them last year and after one or two busy bag swaps I realized how quickly they became a cluttered pile of confusion.  I asked another lady who I had swapped with and she said she just kept them in a box in their coat closet so they were easily assessable to the kids but out of the way.  Great idea I thought, until I realized, oh yeah...we don't have a coat closet (or any kid-friendly closet).  I considered Addi and Josiah's closets, but then I realized how much I didn't want them to pull out the busy bags unsupervised because some of them do have smaller pieces.

Next I researched what other blogging busy bag moms have done to keep them organized. Testy yet Trying used 3 ring binder pencil pouches with a clear plastic front.  Because they are all the same shape and size she is able to store them neatly in cardboard boxes.  I found myself wishing I could afford a bajillion pretty 3 ring binder pencil holders, and then soon realized that I would be spending more more on the busy bag holders than the actual activity itself.  Ha, never mind!  I think my ziplock bags will work just fine (even if they don't stand up neatly in a box).  I also thought about that the old phrase "out of site, out of mind." If I were to place all the busy bags in neat boxes and store them somewhere I would probably be less likely to pull them out as often.  I imagined myself telling Addi she couldn't play with her games because I didn't want to fool with the hassle of pulling out a box.  Or even worse, I imagined that Addilyn and I both would forget she even had the games to play with.

Finally I decided I was going to set them out in some orderly way in our laundry room (closest thing I have to a closet in the front of our house).  I tried multiple ways before I finally found a method that worked for us.  My favorite failed attempt was to replicate the method used by  We Love Being Moms. They used shower curtain rings and clips to display all their busy bags from a wire shelf in a closet.  Well I wan't about to purchase and install a wire shelf in my laundry room (because I already have great cabinets and there would not have been any room); however, I thought I might be able to improvise.  I Found a tension rod that we had used in our previous home and I tried securing it in multiple locations (under one of the cabinets, in-between two shelves, and another that wouldn't make any sense even if I tried to describe it to you).  However, by the time I added the shower curtain rings and one or two of the busy bags the rod would slip loose and fall.  I tried this over and over again tightening the tension rod each time.  With each failed attempt I became more and more angry.  I soon realized I was a living example of the quote, "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results." I finally came to my senses and decided to start back at square one.

As, I was putting back the tension rod in this small nook with the other odds and ends we used at our old house I came across a over-the-door hanging shelf.  We had used it on our pantry door to create more "shelving" and here it was just waiting to be put to use once again.  The notches in it were the perfect size for a clothespin so I decided to give it a try.  Perfect!

Each bag is hung up by a single clothespin and I have enough spaces to hang approximately 30 bags.  In addition the heavier bags can sit on the actual shelves directly behind the clothes pins.

This has worked so well for us.  First, it is neatly put "away" in the laundry room so that when we have guests they are not seeing tons of bags laying in a basket or a box on the floor.  Secondly, it is still placed in a area that I see every day so that we don't forget we have them.  Third, they are organized so the kids can see many options of games, but they are high enough on the door so they can't get them down without my help.  Finally, they are extremely easy to get out and put away (it really is as simple as squeezing a clothes pin).

And, for all the ones that don't fit, I pack them away for a  month or two and then trade them out with the ones the kids have been playing with.  It's the "put some of the toys in the attic" trick; except in this case, I use clear plastic storage bins next to my dryer.  I have one bin for seasonal busy bags (i.e. Christmas, Valentines, etc.) and another one for year-round games I can pull out for just any old reason.  I've found that the ones that have been put away for a little while are also good for road trips or doctors visits!

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