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Saturday, October 29, 2016

Toddler Fun, Week 10: Letter H, Number 10, Brown and Horses

Horses.  Horses are wonderful!  One of my favorite memories from growing up, is when we went to Sweden.  The area we visited (Dalarna) is famous for their painted horses, which has always stood out as one of the coolest things ever.  I'm so glad we got to spend a whole week on horses.  Come along with us, and lets learn about these beautiful animals together...

Week 10
Letter: H
Number: 10
Color: Brown
Animal: Horse


1. Visiting a Local Farm
 Some of our friends from our old church recently bought a new house with lots of acreage.  So, now they have some farm animals, one of which was a miniature horse, named Yasmin. 
We went over there one day, and it just so happened to be the day the farrier (a person who specializes in hoof care) came by.  We fed sweet Yasmin 

carrots, petted her, and watched her get her hooves maintained (cleaned out and clipped down).  We had a wonderful day!  Our friends also had goats, rabbits, geese, chickens and roosters for us to see and feed. 


2. Pumpkin Patch
 This is the perfect time of year to learn about farm animals!  So many pumpkin patches have petting zoos or carriages, etc.  This year we went to Rype and Readi Farm Market.  Technically they didn't have any horses, but they had donkeys.  Close enough for me! :)
We had a wonderful time, Aidan loved his pumpkin, we got to go on the hayride, sample locally grown produce... a perfect day!

3. Letter Horseshoe Practicing

For this game, I cut out cardboard horseshoes, and wrote the letters he was struggling with on them.  Next, I took a paper towel roll and a red solo cup, cut an X on the bottom, stuck the roll through it for a base.  I ended up having to duct tape it down a little.  Next, I handed Aidan the horseshoes, and each time we said what letter was on it, and he "threw" it on the roll.  It was fun!  Didn't last super long, but that's okay!

4. Running!!!
Okay, clearly I didn't invent running.  BUT, I put different letters on the fence panels, then I'd say... "run to the H wall" or "run to the M wall"!  It was perfect, because it tired him out right before nap time!


1. Horse Cookies
Well, these adorable cookies are almost too cute to eat.  Thankfully, toddlers don't feel that way.  For these, I used Milano cookies, fruit leather, peanuts, melted chocolate (mane, nostrils and smiles), and candy eyes! :)

2. Horse Sandwich #1
This one didn't turn out so great, but I used buns, black olives and lunchmeat chicken.  The buns were kinda dry... I don't know.  

3. Horse Sandwich #2
This one, though is super cute.  For this one I used a sandwich, mango spears, black olives and raspberries.  Also, Aidan ate every single thing on the plate!


1. H is for Horse
Adding to our Alphabet book, H is for horse!  For this one, I cut out a brown H, head and ears, black mane and tail, and a googley eye.  Aidan assembled it all, and there you have it!

2. Dala Horse Decorating
Like I said, we visited Dalarna when we were kids.  They are known for these gorgeous painted wooden horses.  We went to where they make them, and saw the smallest one, which was sitting on a pinhead.  They are so iconic!  Also, my mom loves them (and I'm secretly jealous of the one she has).  So, I decided to help Aidan make one for her (and me, of course).  For this craft, I found a data horse outline online.  I cut that out, then traced it on a cheerios box.

I cut those out, and then helped Aidan paint them red.  Once they dried, he painted white, blue and green squiggles on them.  When it all tried, I punched a hole in the top, and voila!  It can be a Christmas tree ornament, or just a regular decoration, either way, I know his grandma will love it! :)

Books and Media

What We Read:

This books is super cute!  I chose this one because a) Florida cracker cow hunters, b) we've been to a lot of the places mentioned.  Also, the author is local, from Okeechobee.  It's a cute tall tale about a cracker cow hunter.  It also has a creative use of adjectives!

2. Everything But the Horse by Holly Hobbie
Stories about girls on farms always make me think of my mom.  This is a sweet autobiographical story by Holly Hobbie, about when she and her family moved to a farm.  The one thing she wanted most in the world is a horse.  And then on her birthday...

This book is for kids 7-10, so it was a bit over Aidan's head, but the illustrations were great! We just kind of talked about what was on each page.  I really enjoyed it, and I think older kids would too!

What we Watched:

1. Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron
I saw this movie when it came out in the theatre.  It's not fast-paced, or cluttered with humor, or third like that.  It's purely the journey of the horse whose spirit could not be broken in the 19th century American West.  You can rent it on iTunes, for $3.99.

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!