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Saturday, August 27, 2016

Toddler Fun, Week 2: Letter B, Number 2, Blue and SHARKS

Our sweet boy is in love with sharks!  He loves to read about them, watch them, visit them... on one occasion we were taking a boat out into the bay, and he was yelling at the top of his lungs, "Sharks!!! We're coming!!!"  So clearly, we had to have our very own Shark Week.

Week 2
Letter: B
Number: 2
Color: Blue
Animal: Sharks


1. Shark Day at the Jacksonville Zoo

This was actually two weeks ago, but well-worth the share.  Our zoo had a Shark Expo, which naturally we attended.  There were educational booths set up, one of which was Sharks 4 Kids, a group that will actually do a Skype chat with your child/class to teach them about sharks!! They also had a book called Norman the Nurse Shark, which my dear sweet husband bought without my even asking!  To top it all, they had face painting, which Aidan somehow (mostly) sat through!

2. Shark Letter Sorting 


 For this fun activity you'll need:
- A wipe container
- White paper, blue paper
- Bottle caps
- Hot glue, scissors, rubber cement, tape, sharpie

I took the top off a wipe box, and cut out the rubber from the top.  After that I cut a shark head shape out of the blue paper, then an oval for the mouth.  I then cut triangles out of the white paper, and 

glued and taped (for good measure) the teeth around the inside.  I drew black eyes on the side of its head.  I hot glued the face to the box.  I wrote A-s and B-s on white circles, hot glued those to some Snapple bottle caps, and voila!  I told him sharks love letters, and then I told him to feed the shark all the B-s, or A-s, and he did!  So much fun!

3. Visiting Nurse Sharks

This was a few weeks ago too, but it was too fun, and perfect not to share.  When we had a service in Key West, we visited the aquarium, where they had a nurse shark feeding!  Aidan loved it, and we had a great time!  The nurse shark tank is actually IN the gulf, which I found to be very cool.


1. Apple Shark Teeth

I'm almost embarrassed to post this, because it's so simple, but that's the beauty of it!  I cut up an apple into triangles, and called them shark teeth.  It's super easy to pack, so it came with us  to our beloved indoor play space, Bay N Bee.

2. Shark Waffles

 I found this idea on Pinterest, and didn't really get a very good picture of it, but our little boy loved the whipped cream.  I made whipped cream, added blue food coloring, made some waffles cut one piece to look like a shark fin, and it's shark week breakfast!


1. "B" is for blue

I realize that blue starts with a blend, but it went with our theme, and it's the same blend that's at the beginning of Aidan's last name, so I figured it would be okay.  ;)
So, I wrote out the letter B, and let Aidan trace it with blue finger paint.  It's messy, not pretty (which took everything in this mommy to leave be), but it's all his!

2. Shark silhouette 

I printed out shark silhouette, cut it out, glued it onto a canvas, and let Aidan paint all over it.  :)

3. Coloring Pages

I downloaded these coloring pages from that I mentioned earlier.  Who doesn't love coloring pages?

Books and Media

We Read:

1. Norman The Nurse Shark by Jillian Morris is a very sweet tale about a nurse shark who gets lost, makes some friends and meets a boy who feeds him in the "shark sanctuary" in Bahamas.

2. Hark! A Shark! by Bonnie Worth is a very informative and yet fun book all about sharks!  It has some of our favorites - whale sharks, hammerhead sharks, dwarf lantern sharks, etc.  I do have to admit, I majorly talked up the library, only to get there and find it closed.  So, Aidan had a melt-down, so I said, "that's okay, let's go to the Target library"!  So, this is one of the new books we now own.  from the Target library.

3. The Octonauts and the Whale Shark is a book version of the episode of the same name.  Aidan loves this book, and it's fun to watch him get excited about the whale shark!

4. Good Night Atlanta by Adam Gamble.  We picked this book up when we went to the Georgia Aquarium.  It also has a whale shark, so you can imagine how excited we ALL get! :)

We watched:

1. Finding Dory - we finally went to see it in the movie theatre, and Aidan really liked it!  It had me in tears a couple times, so you know it was good!

2. Octonauts Season 1 Episode 21 - The Dwarf Lantern Shark - this episode is on Netflix (but there it's episode 25), or you can probably find it on youtube.  This episode is great because it features both a whale shark (the largest shark), and the dwarf lantern shark (the smallest).

3. Octonauts Season 1 Episode 31 - The Cookie Cutter Shark - also on Netflix.  This type of shark is also featured in the Hark! A Shark! book, which is pretty cool!

I'm sure you've noticed - Aidan wears his shark shirt A LOT.  It's his favorite, and really, who am I to stand between a boy and a shirt.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Toddler Fun, Week 1: Letter A, Number 1, Green and Alligators

The transition to stay-at-home mom is no joking matter.  For those of us who have had full-time and fulfilling carriers, no matter how much we love spending time with our littles, it is a different speed, with new struggles and responsibilities.
I am very much enjoying not going to work every day.  There.  I said it.  I miss the human interaction, and there are days I just want to go somewhere and not be the responsible adult, but being a kindergarten teacher, that was never an option anyway.
I am loving spending so much time with Aidan.  He has been with a caretaker or in school since he was 6 weeks old, so this is new for both of us.  We both have moments when we look at each other with all the love in the world, and can't imagine being happier.  Then there are moments when we both need to go to our respective time-outs.  
The one thing I've found that helps more than anything else I've tried, is staying busy.  So, I got my teacher juices flowing.

I don't want to overwhelm Aidan with stuff, just so I feel productive, and I am aware of the cruciality of free play.  Also, as my mom likes to remind me, he's 2.  So, I haven't planned every day to a T, and we're not doing worksheets, lol.  All I'm doing is coming up with a letter, a number, an animal and a color for the week, and thinking of fun corresponding activities to go along with them.  And then I'm sharing them with you.  It all comes to about one activity a day, for around 30 minutes.

Week 1
Letter: A
Number: 1
Color: Green
Animal: Alligator


1. The St. Augustine Alligator Farm

Now, I realize not everyone has an alligator farm within a 60 mile radius.  But, that's actually why I chose to go with an alligator.  I like that it's a "local" animal, and something we could actually go see in person.They had TONS of alligators and crocodiles, and even an albino one, which was Aidan's favorite.

They had a talk on local wild life, which was fun, and Aidan got to touch a turtle and a snake!  Also!  We got in for half the price, because we have memberships at the Jacksonville Zoo.  So, before you visit a zoo if you have a zoo membership somewhere, check on this list to see if it will get you a discount.

2. "Smack That" Alphabet Recognition

I wrote the letter "A" with chalk a few times on our back patio, and then wrote a few other letters around them.  Then, I gave Aidan a fly swatter, and told him to smack all the A-s he could find.  Here's a secret... STAND BACK!!!  He had loads of fun, and it was a great way to include some gross motor fun!  I'm probably going to do this activity every week with the new letter, he really got a kick out of it!

3. Pool time!

Who doesn't love to play in the pool?  I got Aidan these alligator (okay, so they may be crocodiles, but he's 2, it'll be okay) squirt toys, Dan filled up his kiddie pool, and that's all she wrote!  (Yes, those are sharks.  Salt water crocs and sharks coexist in some places.  Something I learned from Wild Kratts.  You're welcome.)

4. Color sorting

I bought some Fruit Loops, then cut out paper red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple shapes, and we sorted them.  And then he ate them.  Nothing really to it, and yet it was fun AND tasty!


1. Kiwi Alligator

I copied an idea from pinterest.  I used one kiwi, two cheerios, and two tiny pieces of chocolate.  We talked about the color green while he ate.

2. Key Lime Pie-lligator

I went easy on myself, and got a key lime pie mix, that only required heavy whipping cream.  Yeah.  Then I used chocolate chips for the eyes, white chocolate chips for the teeth, and cheerios for the nostrils.


1. "A" is for Alligator

We bought Aidan some toddler scissors (it has a tab you slide, so the scissors open back up after each use), and he did an AMAZING job!  Of course, I watched him and helped him the entire time.  The easiest way ended up being me holding the paper, while he cut.  We also found out, he favored his left hand, which could be interesting (both his daddy and grandpa are left handed, so it wouldn't be so far fetched)!  I wrote out a large "A", then helped him put glue on it, and stick his pieces of paper in it.  He really enjoyed getting to be a big boy, and use scissors and glue, like mommy!

2. Toilet paper roll Alligator

 I followed this tutorial, and cut three toilet paper rolls to make an alligator.  Then I let Aidan use finger paint, and paint it green.  Then I glued some google eyes on it, and viola!

Books and Media

We read:
Crocopotamus by Mary Murphy is a fun mix and match animal book.  Yes, that's a crocodile, yes they're different, but for the purposes of this week, we didn't focus on that.
St. Augustine A to Z by Susan Shipe Calfee is an alphabet book based on things found in St. Augustine, which is perfect!  The Alligator Farm is mentioned in it.

Florida by Sandra Friend.  It breaks Florida up by areas, which is cool, because in our travels, we've been to so many of the places mentioned.  Like, we were recently in the Everglades, and saw alligators in the wild there!

We also read Good Night Florida, and Count to Sleep Florida, Now You See Them Now You Don't, and Babar and Paradise Island.

We watched:

1. Wild Kratts Crocagator Contest (S3E11)- (Wild Kratts is a PBS show, and Amazon Prime is the sole streaming device for PBS shows now.  So if you have it, you're good to go.  If not here it is on Youtube.) This is a great episode for learning the differences between alligators and crocodiles.  It takes place down in the Everglades, the only place their natural habitats meet.  There's also a cool scene between a crocodile and a shark (see pool time).  (There's also Mom Of A Croc)

2. Octonauts and the Baby Gator (S4E11) - Although Netflix has the first three seasons of the Octonauts, it doesn't yet have season 4, which is a bummer.  I'm hoping they do soon, but until then, you can watch this here.

So there it is, Week 1!
Tell me what you think?  What did you love?  Do you have any other ideas?  What helps you stay sane as a mama?

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Books To Help Teach Kids Appreciate Different Cultures

Hi friends, it's been a while, and I am glad to have a moment to form some sentences.
It's been an interesting few months, we've been on the road, and have had a few family tragedies.  In the last 4 months, I have lost two of my grandparents.  It has been tough, and we've had to work through many different emotions.  At my Gramps' funeral, the latter of the two, my Uncle John gave a heart-warming eulogy about him.

Some things I knew, others I must not have heard before, or did not understand the significance of.  
My great-grandparents moved from Hungary to Canada.  They then moved to Buffalo, New York, where my Gramps was born.  My Gramps was the first one of his family members to go to and graduate from college.  He met my Gran (who passed 3 months before he did) shortly before going to Korea.  When he came back, they got married, had three sons, he worked for the Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics, was an active member of his church, a coach, and beloved by many.

He lived the American dream.  He was the son of immigrants, and by working hard, he made a better life for his family, and generations to come.

I am a third generation Hungarian American.  I am the descendant of an immigrant. Not only that, but I have BEEN an immigrant.  The definition of an immigrant is a person who comes to live permanently in a foreign country.  That's what I did when I moved to Hungary.  On top of that, we are planning on doing that again, by moving to Slovenia.
I think this explains why books about different cultures speak to me.  I am interested in different cultures, love the significance given to certain things, and how it all ties into the "human family".

So, I am going to raise Aidan to appreciate the things that make us all unique.  I will teach him to love his own culture(s), as well as find the beauty of those he encounters.  These books will help me with that, and I'm hoping they will help you too.

Across the Alley by Richard Michelson is a book about two boys, one who is Jewish, and one who is African American.  It's about how they aren't allowed to be friends out and about, but their windows open up to each other - where they can become friends.  They each teach the other something they're good at, and eventually affect the people around them.  It's a great way for kids to learn about making friends, and that they can make a difference.

My Name Is Yoon by Helen Recorvitz is a book about a young girl whose family moves to America from Korea.  She loves how her name looks in Korean - it dances and looks happy.  But she doesn't like how it looks in English.  She refuses to write it for a while, but with the help of an encouraging teacher, is able to write it, and in time learns to love it too.  This is a great book for talking about different languages, and meanings of names.  You could even find out what your child's name would look like in a different language.

The Keeping Quilt by Patricia Polacco is one of my all time favorite books!  I've talked about it before, and I will keep talking about it forever!  As the daughter of a quilter, it has special meaning to me.  It's about a Russian Jewish immigrant community, and how they preserve their traditions, as well as how those traditions change over time.  We all have family traditions, so this is a great way to start talking about those too.  If you know your own heritage, or even better, if you have any family heirlooms, this would be a great time to bring them up.


Tea with Milk and Grandfather's Journey by Allen Say.  Grandfather's Journey was one of my favorites growing up.  I think the reason I liked it was because the man in it misses Japan when he's in America, and misses America when he's in Japan.  As someone who dealt with a similar conundrum, it was nice to have a story to relate too.  Reentry can be hard on kids growing up cross-culturally, so knowing that other people feel the same way, can be encouraging.  His other book, Tea with Milk is about the man in the first book's mother, who deals with some similar emotions.  She's a strong female character who makes her own way in the world, which I also really like.

The Sound of the Bell by Penny S Anderson is about refugees.  They have to flee their home, but always know where to go, because the children can hear their mother's bell ringing.  However, they get separated from her, and have to figure things out for themselves for a while.  (Don't worry, it has a happy ending.)  I would recommend this for older, more mature kiddos, since it is a little heavier topic.  It's something I think we need to talk to our kids about, because there are children their age, around the world who are facing these things, and it's important to be aware of it.

The Thanksgiving Door by Debby Atwell is a heartwarming story about a couple who burn Thanksgiving dinner, and decide to try to eat out instead.  They think a restaurant (The New World Cafe) is open, and so they take a seat.  What they don't realize, is that they have just sat down in the middle of an immigrant family's Thanksgiving celebration.  I love this, because it captures what I think the essence of Thanksgiving is, and what has made our country great - being thankful to God of course, but also thankful for each other.  

Well, I guess you can take the teacher out of school but not the school out of the teacher.  This is the first time in many years, that it is August, and I'm not writing lesson plans, setting up my classroom, buying school supplies, laminating, and getting headaches from sharpie fumes.  Instead, I'm at home with a rambunctious 2-year-old, building train sets, kissing boo-boos, and reading lots of books.  It's a different adventure, and I'm enjoying it, but writing about things like this helps keep me sane.

I hope you got something out of my ramblings, and enjoy these books!  If you know of any others I should add to this list, please let me know!