- Reptiles Unit *Turtles / Lizards / Snakes
- Amphibians Unit *Frogs / Toads / Salamanders
- The Calendar (Intro to History)
- Christmas Around The World
- Music Appreciation
- Christmas Activities
- Art Appreciation
Reptiles Unit – Turtles / Lizards / Snakes
(This activity better suited for preschoolers or first graders. We won’t attempt this one for tot
school but wanted to offer the free download).
Snake board game with letters of the month (Ss, Rr, Ii, Pp). Roll a set of dry-erase foam dice and move to the nearest appropriate capital or lowercase letter on the game board. I used two dice to cover all of the 8 letters.
Free Download: Snake Letter Board Game – Ss, Rr, Ii, Pp
One of my child’s favorite things to play with is small, realistic animal figurines. Enter “Sunny Patch Litter of Lizards” by Melissa and Doug. They come with play ideas (and a hashtag: #countlesswaystoplay) on the back of the package:
- Name That Lizard: Give each lizard a name and a personality and tell a story about where it lives and what it likes to do.
- Leaping Lizards: Line up two lizards nose-to-tail at a starting line. Have the back lizard leap over the front lizard until the reach a finish line!
- Create a Scene: Draw a garden, desert, or forest scene and have your lizards crawl around it!
These held his entertainment for quite some time. I simply paired it with a felt mat I had made for another project. It reminded me I needed to create a felt aquatic scene to go with future lessons!
We repeated this same activity later in the week with plastic snakes by Melissa and Doug. These also came with play suggestions:
- Name that Snake: (Similar to Name That Lizard)
- Pick a Pair (Match That Snake): Place all the snakes into a bucket. Without looking, reach in and pick one snake. After looking at it, reach in again without looking and try to find the matching snake by feel alone.
- Create a Scene: (Same garden, desert, or forest scene as you would for lizards)
Amphibians Unit – Frogs / Toads / Salamanders
As part of our examination on turtles, we looked at lots of library books on this topic, and visited a local pet shop for an up-close look at these amniotes*.
*Turtles are amniotes, along with other reptiles, birds, and mammals. Like other amniotes, turtles breathe air and do not lay eggs underwater, although many species live in or around water. – Google
Plastic frogs, water, rocks, and lily pads (from Dollar Tree foam sheets)
“On the safety of the lily pad, a frog can relax or catch flies without fear of predation.” – The Life of a Lily Pad | Britannica Blog
Hand Print Tree – writing what you are thankful for on each ‘leaf’.
(Photo courtesy of DailyBread on Blogspot)
The Calendar – Intro To History
History will be an important part of our later schooling education, so it’s nice to start grasping the concept of the calendar. For tots, this is as basic as recognizing a time line, and vocabulary comprehension of terms such as “before / after / later / next / first / last” etc.
For this unit, I made a timeline of my little guy in hopes of appealing to a toddler’s natural ego-centrism (have you ever noticed that two year olds are all about me, me, me”?). While the presence of ego is a normal part of child development, around three years old we want to encourage a shift to towards ‘we’ and ‘us’ verbiages; including others, and developing empathy. Still, letting an activity reflect your child’s unique sense of self can be a useful learning tool that helps capture their interest!
As we explore the concept of time, creating a timeline with my child’s photographs (from when he was just a tiny baby in my tummy to the big brother he is now).
The template is available for download:
Christmas Around the World
One of the better books I have seen for toddlers on the topic is Jingle Bells by Iza Trapani. It was perfect for our toddler – beautiful full-page illustrations and it got many key concepts across without being too wordy.
“Join children on a Christmas sleigh ride around the world as they discover traditions from Mexico, Sweden, the Philippines, Poland, Italy, Kenya, and the United States. Best-selling author/illustrator Iza Trapani once again extends a classic song to include new fun-filled adventures.”
There are so many ways we incorporate music into our everyday, so this almost doesn’t need to be a unit. But…why not??
This month we brought out extra instruments for the toy rotation and made some of our own, such as a Corn Shaker made with some purple popcorn kernels that had gone a bit stale, and some pipe cleaner bits, for color – this one also makes a great November / Harvest activity!
Older kids can have a bit more fun cutting and tying ribbons onto the bottle or decorating with glue and beads or stickers. We always make sure to hot glue the caps onto any recycled water bottle activity when working with toddlers, to prevent a choking hazard.
We have wooden egg shakers, carousel bells, a guitar and other instruments at home that we utilized this week – if you don’t have such items available there are hundreds of DIY options you can find on Pinterest or Google using simple materials like rubber bands, tissue boxes, paper plates, or spoons. Or simply turn on some tunes and dance like there’s no tomorrow!
One of my favorite new activities in simply displaying a themed Word Wall, opening up the possibility for dialog throughout any given day. My toddler will notice when new words are displayed, and point to ones that intrigue him (but that he doesn’t yet have the vocabulary for).
He seems to really enjoy being able to put names to new objects, and I find that it helped him communicate with us. If you don’t want to do a word wall, you can simply focus on a few words that fit your theme each month and point out the objects whenever you see them in the world.
Here is a gross motor movement activity I created to get little bodies moving. I use this before or after story time to ‘get the wiggles out’.
Available for download at: teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Mommaamommab
Handmade Art for Christmas Gifts
We love ornaments that are handmade by the 0-3 crowd. They are a timeless keepsake that make great gifts for parents and grandparents, not to mention they can be a lot of fun for a toddler to help create! Depending on the age of your child, they can help you mix a batch of salt dough, glue or paint items, etc.
Our “grandparent gifts” this year included a store bought ceramic ornament that we stamped with an acrylic hand print on one side (for the 18 month old) and a footprint on the other side (for our two month old).
Our boy’s hand BARELY fit onto the pre-made ornament, so if you have an older child you may want to go with a larger ornament. I have seen a globe-style ornament with the child’s hand print – the sphere allows for a greater surface area compared to our flat, one dimensional circle.
This was an incredibly easy and thrifty activity made with a recycled water bottle and seasonal ornament filler (available at Dollar Tree).
…or as my toddler likes to say, “gingerbread guys”.
The activity pictured is for older children as it contains small parts such as buttons, gems and googly eyes. Yard-sale stickers, felt cutouts, pipe-cleaners, ribbon and large pom-poms were perfect for our 19 month old.
These are just examples, the actual gingerbread turned out hilarious, with no rhyme or reason to the placement of the accessories. He still had a blast exploring the materials!
And yet MORE gingerbread (guys)…
I created a quick template to use with felt ‘buttons’. I also plan on trying this with our new Do-A-Dot markers. Cut out and laminate the colored examples and have your child try to match each card with the correct color! (Click the photo to open download page at TeachersPayTeachers.com)
One shelf on our home which is inaccessible (thus irresistible) to our toddler is the library books shelf. When he finds a book he likes, he will often go to the shelf and ask for it by name (or author, in some cases. Ahem, Eric Carle).
Art by Patrick McDonnell is one of those books. The main character, a young boy named Art, explores his Art-istic endeavors. In the end, his Mama posts his creations on the fridge at home. Because Mama loves Art.
Jingle bells / Trapani, Iza.
The Tadpole and the Frog / Knobler, Susan.
Turtle, Turtle Watch Out! / Pulley Sayre, April.
One Tiny Turtle / Davies, Nicola.
A Pet Named Sneaker / Heilbroner, Joan.
The Spirit of Christmas / Tillman, Nancy.
Fa la la / Patricelli, Leslie.
Llama llama jingle bells / Dewdney, Anna.
Christmas pop-up peekaboo! / Sirett, Dawn.
The Importance of Being Little: What Young Children Really Need from Grownups / Christakis, Erika
This book is an eye-opening collection of examples and theories from a long time preschool educator who has seen many of the approaches in action (Montessori, Waldorf, etc.) in both homeschooling and public schooling environments.
She uses her psychology background to explain why letting a child explore and play is a more successful approach in the early years, and how Common Core standards are increasingly being ‘pushed down’ to preschool and kindergarten levels.
It also touches on how we as parents look to the child’s pedagogical environment for concrete examples of what a child has learned as proof of their endeavors (such as that cliche Thanksgiving hand print turkey exemplifying their class involvement and cooperation, when they could really be learning much more by visiting a turkey farm for example).
The book also talks about how teachers today are held to such high standards, and that child education products and curriculum must still be looked at with a discerning eye toward big business influences: learning resources being peddled to educators and S.T.E.M. stamps on toys that parents are guilt-tripped into buying, in hopes for pushing letters, shapes and other concepts at parents to get them “kindergarten ready”. There is also a prevalence of box kits which include materials and schedules for ‘an entire curriculum’ when much of the learning should be paced by the child and open to flexibility.
While I love my hand print turkeys and other arts and crafts activities, it is a good reminder to keep some room available in the curriculum to provide room for spontaneity.
It’s also a great reminder to be patient with yourself as an educator!
Pin these images to your own Pinterest board – or follow our November – December board for all these ideas in one spot!