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Saturday, October 15, 2016

Toddler Fun, Week 9: Letter M, Number 9, Gray and Manatees

I absolutely love manatees!  I always have.  Since the Barbara Manatee song in Veggie Tales, and then even more so when we moved to Florida.  I made Dan promise me that we wouldn't leave Florida until I got to see some manatees.  So, my man was on a mission!  Last week we were in Tampa for a service, and the time had come!  

Week 9

Letter: M
Number: 9
Color: Gray
Animal: Manatee


The Tampa Lowry Park Zoo is amazing!  Because we are Jacksonville zoo members, thankfully we got in for 1/2 the price, so that was a bonus!  At this zoo, they have a manatee rehab hospital, where they take in injured manatees, fix them up, and then release them back into the wild.  It was so beautiful to watch them swim - they're a lot more graceful than one would think!  It was the perfect start to our manatee week!

2. "Caution, Manatee Area" Obstacle Course

Manatees have no natural predators.  We are their greatest threat.  They are curious by nature, slow swimmers, and being mammals have to come up to breathe.  This means that they often get hit by boats and propellers.  The ladies at the zoo actually said they can identify them by their scars (so so sad).  Anyway, all that inspired me to do a "Caution Manatee Area" Obstacle course.  I printed out "Caution Manatee Area" signs, and posted them around the course. Aidan has two manatee toys, which I placed strategically for him to avoid.  He had to climb, slide, "swim" and go through "sea grass".  It was a blast!

3. Manatee Habitat Activity

Since we've gotten to see manatees in the wild, I thought it would be a great activity to make a habitat.  Also, it gave us a chance to practice out numbers.

Here's what I used:
- Cardboard box
- Blue tissue paper
- White school glue
- Brown paper
- Brown pipe cleaners
- Green tissue paper (left over from the obstacle course)
- Hot glue
- Left over Easter basket filler
- Scrapbooking paper with rocks on it
- Manatee coloring page (I printed it out in two sizes to make mamas and babies)
- glue stick
- Scissors
- Gray crayon
- Sand

I took apart a cardboard box, brushed white school glue on it, and put blue tissue paper on top.  I had some scrapbooking paper that looked like rocks (score!), which I cut into pieces.  I took brown pipe cleaners, cut them in half and twisted them together in the middle to make mangrove trees.  I got all my pieces together in a box, and we headed outside to assemble it all.  (I brought a snack out for Aidan, which ended up being a HUGE help, because it kept him busy if there was a part I needed to stay busy during.

I gave him the manatee coloring sheet to color gray while I set up a little better.  I taped the brown paper on two corners to make the "land".  Next, I gave Aidan the mangrove trees, and he could put them wherever he wanted (the grow in the water, but then over the years, they become the island, so there was really no "wrong" place to put them).  I hot glued them in place.  Next, I gave him the "rocks", which he again could stick wherever.  After that, I cut the Easter basket filler and twisted it at the bottom to make it sea grass, and he glued that in place too.  Then, I put some glue along the edge of the land, and we poured some sand from the sand box on it.  (I may not have done this step again, in retrospect, the sand was still wet from hurricane Matthew, but Aidan had fun with it, so I guess that's a win.)  After that, I lost him to the slide, a stick and a ball, haha!

So while he played, I put tissue paper on the branches of the trees, cut out the manatees, and numbered them 1-9.  The manatees got him interested again, so he came back.  Every time he picked up a manatee, I would say something like "yeah, that's the number 7"!  I helped him put them in order, and then let him put them in groups of mommies and babies. <3  He brought over a piece of palm branch, which he decided was seaweed, and a branch or two.  We talked about the mangrove trees, the seagrass, and things like that.  It was a really fun activity!  If you decide to make your own habitat, you can send pictures of it to!

4. Bright Eyed Baby Chunky Flashcards
I ordered Aidan these flashcards back when it was a Kickstarter project, and I love them so much!  The momtrepreneurs who started this business make flashcards focusing on key elements from different states.  I love love love the concept and the execution.  So we have the Florida set, which of course features manatees.  These cards are really well-made, and I love supporting a small business like this one!


1. Manatee Breakfast
For this breakfast, I used two waffles, a slice of apple, blueberries, kiwi, fruit leather and candy eyes.  I cut one of the waffles to make the body (because manatees are shaped so uniquely), and then cut up all the other pieces to come together to make the manatee.  I have to be honest, Aidan didn't eat the waffles, but he did eat everything else (and the rest of the apple), so I'd say it was a win!

2. Manatee Sandwiches
For these sandwiches, I printed and then cut out a manatee template.  I then cut that on the sandwich, and cut around it.  Then I just made a starfish out of mandarin segments, seagrass out of kiwi, stuck some goldfish and blueberries around it, and hid a gummy frog (which of course was the first thing he found).

3. Manatee Crescent Rolls
You have to use your imagination a little for this one, but it works, haha!  I rolled a slice of chicken lunchmeat and cheese in each Pillsbury crescent roll, and tried my best to shape it like a manatee,  While they were baking, I put humus on the bottom, for the sea bed, then cut up some carrots and cucumbers for the coral.  It was supposed to be a baby and mama, so I used a cookie cutter to cut hearts out of apple slices, and topped it with fruit leather heart too.


1. M is for Mountain
Manatees don't look like the letter M, sorry.  So we went with mountain instead.  Slovenia has a lot of beautiful mountains, so I thought it was best to get him acquainted.  I cut out the pieces, and then we put them all together.

2. Manatee Puppet

I found this cute manatee craft on  All you need is to print out the cutout sheet, and have a paper lunch bag.  Color it all gray, cut it out, and glue it together!  It's super cute!

Books and Media

We Read:

1. Manatee Winter by Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld
I love this book!  I bought it for my classroom, and just couldn't part with it.  It's about a mama and baby manatee migrating to warmer spring water.  The illustrations are realistic and beautiful.

We got this book for Aidan when we were at the Tampa Lowry Park Zoo.  It's cute, and has a lot of interesting facts for kiddos.  Aidan likes counting the manatees in each picture.

3. Go, Diego, Go - Diego's Manatee Rescue by Sheila Sweeny Higginson
I thought this book was really!  I liked it a lot better than the Go Diego Go episode that is also about manatees.  It follows Diego as he reunites a mama and baby manatee.  It's interactive, which Aidan really liked!

4. Count to Sleep Florida by Adam Gamble
This is a sweet bedtime counting book that highlights different things about Florida, one of them being manatees, of course.  The numbers are large on each page, so we practice tracing them.

We Watched:

1. Octonauts Season 2, Episode 19 (on Netflix, it's season 2, episode 10) - The Octonauts save a group of manatees from a lightning storm.

2. The Cat in the Hat Knows A Lot About That, Season 2 Episode 6 - A sweet episode where the kids and the Cat in the Hat go on an adventure to learn about manatees.  Like so many other manatee stories, it's about a mama and a baby!

3. Go, Diego, Go! Season 3, Episode 315 - In this episode, Diego tells a manatee a story about mermaids, and manatees, and how mermaids used to be manatees... it's all read from a "storybook", but for someone as young as Aidan (and most Diego viewers), I think it's a little confusing as to which creature is real, and which isn't.  (I bought the episode on iTunes for $1.99)

4. Veggie Tales Silly Songs With Larry - Barbara Manatee
We watched this classic on youtube.  Aidan liked it well, enough, but I loved the nostalgia of it all!

So, that was our AMAZING manatee week!  We had fun, and I'm so glad my sweet boys shares my love for these amazing creatures!

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Toddler Fun, Week 8: Letter G, Number 8, Orange and Goldfish

Week 8

Letter: G
Number: 8
Color: Orange
Animal: Goldfish


1. Restaurant with Aquarium

Unfortunately, Jacksonville is in the process of building an aquarium, but doesn't have one yet.  So, I was trying to think of where there was an aquarium near us, when I remembered... restaurants!  So we went to one on the road while we were traveling, as well as one of our favorites here in Jacksonville, called Salt Life.  It's a great way to get to see fishies swimming around, and while it is not entirely free, if you're on the road and needing to eat anyway, might as well stop somewhere that has a fish tank!

2. Name Building Puzzle
One of the most important things kids should recognize and know how to write is their name.  I made Aidan this puzzle for his name by cutting a fish out of some cute scrapbooking paper, which I traced onto some paper, then cut into pieces, writing a letter from his name on each.  After that, we practiced putting them in order, and saying the letters out loud.

3. Feed the Goldfish Letter Game

For this game, I took a used Tide pod container, picked the labels off (which took well over an hour, just giving you fair warning), cut out fins and a tail, and glued those down.  Oh, and of course googley eyes.  Next, I cut out fish food flakes out of colored paper.  I had some pre-cut letters that I glued onto them.  I used the letters we'd already learned (A, B, C, D, E, F, G, R).  Next we "fed" the fish.  Sometimes I would call out a letter, sometimes he would... it was just a fun way to reenforce the letters.

4. Pet Store
We visited our local PetSmart to look at all the pretty fish!  I thought about buying one for Aidan, but decided against it, because we never know how long we will be home for, and we're moving halfway across the world in a few months.  I know it's just a fish, but I didn't want to get something just to have to get rid of it.  Plus, this way we get to enjoy ALL the fish, and it stays free.

5. Story Time at the Library
Our local library has story time every Tuesday.  We've gone a few times, and it's really fun!  They always read a couple books, sing some songs, finger plays, nursery rhymes, and starting this week, they even had centers set up afterward.  Look at the top left corner of the flannel graph.  See the goldfish in the pond??? God loves me. 
The center time was fun!  Of course, Aidan found a puffer fish (right hand), that was very hard for us to leave.  It worked out perfectly, I picked up the books I'd put on hold, and had a great time!

6. Goldfish Counting

I found this great one-to-one correspondence matching game here.  I printed them out, cut them out, and laminated them.  Then the goldfish were brought out - and fun times were had by all!  It's great for fine motor skills, one-to-one correspondence, counting and recognizing numbers, and plus, it's just fun to eat.


1. Gone Fishin'
 For this snack, I used a hazelnut spread to-go pack (it has crackers on one side, and the spread on the other), and goldfish (in a blue bowl, to represent the water).  It's hard to teach your kids not to play with their food after this snack, haha!
This was a great activity for practicing fine motor skills.  Aidan dipped the cracker in the hazelnut dip, and then used it to "fish" the goldfish out.  He honestly had a blast!  You could do this with pretzels and peanut butter just as easily.

2. Goldfish Fruit Snack
For this adorable snack that I found on pinterest, I used a mandarin orange, some kiwi slices, a carrot slice and blueberries.  I arranged them all on the plate, and badda-bing, badda-boom... GOLDFISH!

3. We Mak Our Own Sunshine
This snack turned out so cute!  I made this one during the onset of Hurricane Matthew, and was in desperate need of some rays of sunshine.  For this snack I used cheerios, blueberries, cupcake flavored goldfish, pretzels, kiwi and a slice of mandarin.  Aidan loved this one!

4. Dried Apricot Fishies
Although this school of fish is super cute, it was not a hit with Aidan.  I tried to convince him that the apricots were fruit snacks, but to no avail, haha!  I used dried apricots, blueberries, pretzels, nutella (to stick them to each other) and candy eyes.


1. G is for Goldfish
For this letter craft, I cut out an orange "G", fins tail and mouth.  Then, we assembled it all, while singing "I hear an echo, I hear an echo, G says /g/, G says /g/, goldfish and gorilla, goldfish and gorilla, G says /g/, G says /g/.

Books and Media

This is a sweet story about a boy whose parents get him a goldfish for his birthday, but Norman isn't the type of pet he wanted.  He decides to take him back to the pet store, but starts finding out how cool Norman can be.

This is a sweet bedtime story where a boy drifts off to sleep, and has a dream about a sailboat and how things come alive in his bedroom.

A nice book with pictures of goldfishies.  It was great for talking about colors and things.

This was a great book about (and a good reminder about why we're not) getting a goldfish. It has facts about goldfish, pictures of them and aquariums.

5. Bible App For Kids Storybook
We read from the Bible every night before bed, but this week we focused specifically on the story of the boy with the two fish and the five loaves of bread.  We also sang these lyrics to the "Happy Birthday" song: "One boy had two fish, and five loaves of bread.  He gave them to Jesus, lots of people were fed."  We did a little finger play along with it, which proved to be more difficult than expected, haha!

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Toddler Fun, Week 7: Letter E, Number 7, Gray and Elephants

Elephants are awe-inspiring.  They burry and mourn their dead, touching one another is important, the calf/mother relationship is tender and long-lasting, they recognize themselves... they are amazing.  I've always really liked them, and I'm so glad Aidan does too!  So, here is our elephant week - I hope you enjoy it!

Week 7

Letter: E
Number: 7
Color: Gray
Animal: Elephant


1. Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens
We have zoo memberships, so really, we spend as much time there as we can. We recently spent the morning there with some friends, and had a wonderful day! The elephants are really great, and you can look at them from out of a cave, which makes it that much more exciting for our little boy.

2. "Elephants Never Forget" Memory Matching Game

I downloaded an animal matching game here.  I printed them out, cut them out, then glued them to foam paper, cut those out, glued those to scrapbooking paper, cut them out again... and now it's a matching game.  At first, we matched them all.  Then, we started with small batches - 4, 6, etc.  We turned them all 2-at-a-time, and tried to remember where we'd seen that animal last.  I was surprised at how well he did!  I could also tell the moment his brain got too tired to focus anymore, haha.  He turned into a little monkey, climbing on the ottoman, making silly faces... you know the drill. 

3. "Safari" 

I made Aidan a safari Jeep out of a box.  He's been sitting in it to watch TV, been putting all his animals in it, pushing it around... it's been a hit! 

4. Bay & Bee
 We really love our Bay & Bee membership!  It's an indoor play space based on Montessori and Waldorf teaching methods.
This week, one of the days that we went, Aidan found a recycling truck, and an elephant, and some green "peanuts".  He reenacted a whole scene from 
Paw Patrol.  One where Rocky, the recycling pup dispenses peanuts to get the elephants to follow him.  I love how much he remembered it!!!  Also, that day they happened to have a local band come and sing, and he really enjoyed dancing!  The singer's name was Mere Woodard, and you can buy her album on iTunes.  She was REALLY great!

5. Letter E Recognizing 
 For this activity, I painted a paper towel role gray, punched two holes in it, through which I strung some string.  I tied it around Aidan's head to make a "trunk".  The game was, I'd tell him the name of the letter (E, R, or F), then he had to use the trunk to touch it.  I figured it would be a great gross-motor activity - and it WAS.  But he didn't like the trunk.  So it evolved into him jumping on the letter I said, which was just as great!


1. Elephant Waffles
For this breakfast, I used a waffle, a banana, a black berry, an apple slice, and candy eyes.  Aidan ate everything but the waffle, haha!  He's such a fruit-lover!

2. Elephants on Parade
For this tasty treat, I used half a banana, pretzel, kiwi, pineapple and animal crackers.  I went through 3 little bags of animal crackers looking for elephants, and could only find two, so I added a giraffe.  Then we read A Surprise for Giraffe and Elephant.

3. Horton Hears a Who Snack
For this snack, I used apple slices, kiwi, fruit leather and a mini white chocolate chip.  I cut the apple slices to look like a trunk, the fruit leather into circles, and then little cuts in it.  Arranged it all on the plate, and there you have it!

4. Elephant Sandwich
I found some adorable sandwich cutters on amazon, and couldn't help myself.  I made Aidan's favorite turkey and cheese sandwich, used the sandwich cutter, used black olives for eyes, and a banana and kiwi for the tree and grass.  Aidan was a big fan!


1. E is for Elephant
Every week, we've been making a letter craft, to help Aidan remember the letter. Eventually we will have the whole alphabet, which will be great!  For this one, I cut out a gray "E", an ear, a trunk, two tusks and nails.  Then we assembled it all, and voila!  I think this one specifically turned out super-duper cute!

2. Elmer "Stained Glass"
I think I enjoyed this craft more than Aidan.  I took a ziplock, and cut it along the seems.  They I took the half that didn't have anything on it.  I put that on the book cover, and traced Elmer onto it, using a sharpie.  Then, I cut some tissue paper into squares.  I brushed some white school glue on it, and then we placed the squares all over Elmer.  Aidan didn't love how the glue felt on his fingers, lol.  One the glue dried, I cut out "Elmer", and taped him to the window.

3. Tinga Tinga Coloring Pages

I found some cute coloring pages featuring the Tinga Tinga characters!

Books and Media

We Read:

1. Elmer by David McKee
This is a classic.  This book is a great one to talk about how God made each of us special, and with unique giftings.  It's about an elephant, who unlike his friends is not gray, but rather multi-colored.  He colors himself gray, so he can fit in, but ends up finding out that his color and humor is what his friends love about him.

Thi is a great book for practicing and teaching manners.  It's a little dated, but being polite is not going out of style at our house, so it's a good read for a little boy!

I found this book at our library, and it looked like fun!  It's good at teaching how to be a good friend, and we've been working on sharing, so it's great for that!

4. Little Elephant's Song by Wolfram Hanel
This is a sweet story about an elephant growing up, and finding his voice.  The illustrations are very sweet, and it's an enjoyable story!

5. Babar on Paradise Island by Laurent de Brunhoff
I've seen many of the Babar cartoons as a kid, and they are sweet stories about an anthropomorphic elephant family written by French author, Laurent de Brunhoff.  In the last few years he and his wife moved to Key West.  When we were there, we found this book, and I thought it was sweet.  It's not the greatest of his books, but I enjoyed it, and the Key West references were fun for us.

We Watched:

1. Tinga Tinga Tales
We found this show on Netflix.  It's based on African (Tanzanian and Kenyan) folk tales about how different animals received their distinctive characteristics.  The very first episode is about how elephants got their trunks.  The animation is inspired by traditional TingaTinga art.  I wasn't sure how well it would keep Aidan's attention, but he really enjoyed it!

2. The Jungle Book - The 1967 version.  It has Indian elephants in it, so it was great to talk about the similarities and differences between them and their African cousin.

3. Wild Kratts, Season 1 Episode 17, "Elephant in the Room" 

4. The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That, Season 1 Episode 27, "Be Cool/Elephant Walk"

5. Horton Hears a Who (1970) - I love a classic Dr. Seuss movie!  Again, I was surprised at how well it held Aidan's attention!  Also, I love the phrase "A person's a person, no matter how small."