Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Pretend Play Stations Invitations

The end of the school year is approaching quickly for us and I've been slowing trying to devise a plan for the summer months. Last year, we did a few thematic mini-units, spent time with family and friends who came to visit us and traveled a bit but this year, other than the preparative work required for Adrian to transfer from German school to an "English" school, I'll probably be giving the kids a "summer off". It'll give me to time to prepare for the upcoming preschool year for the little one and will also allow for everyone to relax (including me!). That being said, I am a very organized person who loves planning and couldn't help but start drawing charts and monthly/weekly planners of possibilities! :O One thing I'd like to explore this summer is pretend play (that ain't school, now is it?). This household is mostly following the Montessori philosophy when it comes to education and as such, pretend play is not a huge part of our daily lives. I still think it's important though and I can see my children improvising in that area more and more everyday, so this summer, I'd like to provide more in that area to help them get their imagination going.

12 Pretend Play Stations Are to Be Set Up This Summer!

Here is a list of pretend play dramatic art stations I intend to put together this summer. I believe I'll invite them to participate in one every week and take it from there. Zahavah will be 3 and a half at that time and  Adrian will be turning 6 during the summer so their level of involvement will of course differ a bit but having a partner to play with will at least be a possibility. I also want to mention that as much as possible, these stations will be set OUTSIDE! There is no reason why these should remain indoors after all...

Pretend Play Stations Line-Up 
(in no particular order)

Flower Shop
Farmer's Market or Grocery Store
Museum (Art Gallery or Natural History)
Restaurant or Pizza Parlor
Science Lab

As time goes by of course, I'll look deeper into each station and see if some need to be cut off the list or added...and I'll keep you posted as we explore pretend play ("pretend play" just doesn't sound like the right wording somehow...)! :)

So what do you think? Are there any pretend play stations you feel were left out? Any you'd like me to set up and share on the blog over the summer? Share your comments below. I love hearing from you!

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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Fun Thematic Family Nights

I must say that considering the time at which my children start getting ready for bed, it doesn't leave that much time for family fun nights. On top of that, "daddy" is usually the entertainer after the entire dinner has been gobbled up but when he happens to be away for a while, I find myself having to fill in the void and usually try to spice things up a bit once a week or so (hey, roughhousing is sadly not my strong point...). I present you here a few activities we did not long ago. They are all simple and easy to prepare and caused a lot of excitement in this household!


I had not had a chocolate fondue in YEARS. The kids...well, I don't believe they ever had chocolate fondue. I chose to offer mine with mostly fresh fruit (a colorful array please!) and added a few mini-marshmallow (something they've never had before...unless maybe in a Rice Krispies treat once?) and some dry crackers. For the chocolate, I simply melted a good baking bar and added a little bit of milk to the mix. It was divine. Even more divine? A fondue takes a long time to eat. It's the perfect opportunity to find out what's really going on in your children's lives! It can also be a good time to convince your children to try fruits if they usually won't eat any. Next time, I most definitely will be adding fruits they've never had before! :)


Well, this one might not seem anything special for many of you but for my kids... it's a real treat. We don't premiere movies very often and screen time is accounted for. The thing is, children really enjoy watching the same feature over and over again and can actually learn from repetition too. Also, we're not one of these households where TV is on all the time. TV is on from 8p.m. until 10p.m. at which point both kids are in bed. That's right...the kids do not watch TV. At all. They do get to watch carefully selected DVDs though but only at specific time and for a specific amount of time. A new movie will usually be introduced to the house only when it's time for me to trim my son's hair (my way of preventing him to move for half an hour!) so they come by only every 6 weeks or so. Occasionally, new movies will also be gifted to the kids and I space out their introduction. To make the most out of movie premieres, I make a big deal out of every single one of them! I usually prepare a movie ticket, prepare a special snack, arrange the room differently (seats in front of the TV with snacks, dim the lights, etc. The excitement is palpable by the time the TV set turns on. By the way...if you are unsure what movie to premiere, check out Common Sense Media. They review movies and give you lots of details as to what to expect from the reviewed movie: violence?, bad language?, great role models? They cover it all. And don't forget that a lot of libraries let you borrow movies for free. Movie nights don't have to be expensive! 


By all means, if anyone has nut allergies or might, do not attempt this. And be aware that some people can react to the mere scent of a nut too! If, like us, you are blessed by having no nut and/or food allergies, then, proceed...and use caution and common sense. Technically, nuts are still pretty small and can pose a choking hazard under the age of 6. 

For our evening, I chose a sampling of as many nuts as I could and poured a few on separate plates. Each variety had a tag identifying the nuts, their point of origin and a small "fun fact" about them. You'll notice that I also included peanuts. I had too. Peanuts are practically part of every nut mix made even though they are not even a nut so I knew the children would inquire as to the peanut. I also thought it'd be a good time to explore why the peanut is not a nut!

Nutty Night Score Card

Each child had a score card with coloring pencils for the night. Each time a nut was introduced, they had to score whether they liked it, disliked it or simply didn't dare try it. Fun times! In the fall, a lot of these nuts were presented in their shells and I wish we still had some of these around but at this time of year, I couldn't find any anywhere so I stuck to the edible part only. 

Fresh peanut butter made with the kids that night

The last "nut" presented was the legume "peanut" and you'll notice the bowl was filled. We actually discussed other byproducts of nuts so when this one came up, and we smelled it and tasted it, it was no surprise that it reminded them of the beloved peanut butter! So...we made some! Using the bowl of peanuts, a few drops of canola oil and a bit of honey, we processed it in our food processor and we had own homemade peanut butter! The kids quickly made some peanut butter cracker sandwiches! :) Gone Nutty Evening had been a success. Each child had learned more about themselves and their likings, about nuts and...their favorite toast spread! :)


How traditional! Well, in many ways, board games are classic because they have been loved for so long...and still are. Maybe you won't like Candyland as much as when you were a child but it's often a child's first board game and they love that they can finally play a "grown-up" game. I remember how much Adrian loved this game at 4 years of age. He could have played non-stop for days. Get the kids moving by making a giant version if you feel bored with the traditional board. Buy or make a giant die and use construction paper taped to the floor to make a lifesize version (or colored chalk squares if you play outside).  

Adrian & Zahavah's Recommendations for Board Games:
Hi-Ho Cherry-Ho
Sequence for Kids
Chutes & Ladders

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Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Pets Unit for Toddlers

I realize I haven't posted much about Zahavah's units lately. Truth is, I've had to scale them back to both my and her disappointment. We still do activities but they are not condensed into units as much (although she does take part into Adrian's a lot). Until the fall, things will probably remain the same too unfortunately, at which point, I am hoping out situation will be more stable and allowing us to really start her Montessori beginning.

Art: Popsicle Stick Kitties

Cats are one of my daughter's favorite animals. I HAD to find a craft that she'd be able to make and keep, and enjoy on a daily basis. This mini wooden stick one was relatively easy. She painted the sticks  one color and once dried, she added stripes or white paws and belly (these cats are inspired by the neighborhood cats!). Once dried, she applied liquid glue with a Q-tip on top of 8 sticks and then I personally placed the sticks together. Once dried, the head I had pre-drawn was attached and so was the tail. Original idea: Making Friends.

Sensorial: Dog in the Backyard

I thought about making a sensory tub filled with pets and then remembered that we had a pre-made one filled with doggies! "Santa" brought this "My Sandbox" to my daughter and although she plays with it every month, she does not play with it every week so the novelty hasn't worn off yet. Lots of accessories for the sand in this one.

Practical Life: Lacing Pet Cards

Made by Melissa & Doug, these lacing cards are the right level of difficulty for a 3 year old but there are a lot of holes! My daughter starts and rarely completes a card in one sitting despite her desire to do so. She usually gets back to it later in the day once her hand-eye coordination has had time to rest a little.

Math: Pet Puzzles of Various Kinds

These puzzles ar getting to be too easy for my little one yet the giant floor puzzle are still a little too much work for her. She completed these in no time and didn't linger. Seen above are two Melissa & Doug's and one Infantino's Where's My Tail? puzzles. 

Sensorial : Play Dough Birds

Play dough birds is something Adrian did last year during his Angry Bird week. From memory, he loved it far more than Z did. Considering she is a play dough lover, this activity did not seem to click with her. :( She loved playing with the bird I made alongside her to encourage her to try but she just preferred rolling the dough around. Well, that happens...

Zoology: Pet or No Pet?

Older children often know the difference but for toddlers, animals are sometimes just that; animals. I wanted to see if Zahavah could sort these animals into two groups: pets and not pets. I didn't want to label the other animals zoo animals or anything because really, after visiting zoos around the world, zoo animals are quite different from country to country and well, these animals also happen to run free in their homes. What is she gonna think the day she visits Kenya and sees a giraffe roaming about? Will she think the long-necked creature escaped from the local zoo? Anyhow, it was difficult for some animals to be sorted. She sorted as best as she could and left a third group, undecided where to put them. That's when I asked her if the animal would make a good pet. Would it fit in the house? Does she know anyone who owns such an animal? That cleared the third group completely and sadly, the tiger had to move from the pet group...:)

Language: Guess Who and Stamp your Answer!

Who can tell we own a lot of Melissa & Doug products? Haha! These are big stamps with two big ink pads we used to play a little game of "Guess the Pet!". I'd ask a question and Zahavah would stamp her answer down. She loves these games and is always excited to know the answer. Questions examples:  "Way up high in the sky is where I like to fly.", or " "Ride on me and I might Neiiiiigh."

Math: Match by Size & Order by Size

Made these little felt bones for Adrian during his Pet week. I certainly didn't work so hard not to reuse them! :) Zahavah was delighted to see these. First, she matched them by color. Then, she ordered them from smallest to biggest bone. Finally, it was time to go bone hunting in the yard! :)

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