Tag Archives: learning at home

Strengthening Scissor Skills with Play Dough

Strengthening Scissor Skills with Play Dough | Mama Papa BubbaOne of the things I’ve always loved doing with students who’ve found using scissors challenging is pairing them with play dough instead of paper.  Let’s face it – learning to use scissors properly is tricky!  First there’s figuring out which fingers go where, plus there’s finding the hand strength and coordination to open and close them, and then there’s also guiding them in the direction you want them to go… Certainly no easy task!  The reason I love play dough is that although many kids come to Kindergarten not all that familiar with using ‘school tools’ like scissors, almost all kids come to school having played with play dough.  And not only are they familiar with it, but they love it.  And because it’s fun and non-intimidating, plus soft and easy to cut, it’s a perfect starting point, even for reluctant munchkins.  

IMG 0190I’ve done this activity with Gracen many times, and although she’s already very comfortable using scissors with paper and cutting on pre-determined lines, she still loves cutting play dough.  It’s an easy activity to put together and I’d rather smush together bits of play dough than pick up tiny shards of paper any day of the week. When I set it up, I usually create both play dough ‘pancakes’ and ‘worms’ and then let her go to town, but anything goes.  Today after quickly preparing the play dough shapes, she used them to create a daisy and a stem. ☺

IMG 0192Then it was time to cut!

IMG 0194Two things I like to reinforce during the cutting process are one, being mindful of where your ‘holding fingers’ are and two, positioning your scissors so they’re pointing away from your body.

IMG 0199During the process Grae almost always asks for a bowl to put her ‘food’ in, which makes the activity that much more fun and adds in an element of pretend play.

IMG 0206Today’s food was for kitties only. ☺


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Building Beaded Pattern Sticks

Building Beaded Pattern Sticks | Mama Papa BubbaIMG 8945The other day while picking up a few craft supplies, Miss G absolutely fell in love with these heart-shaped pony beads.  Next to them, we found tiny little wooden dowels that the beads fit onto perfectly.  At the time, I really had no idea what we’d do with the pair, but I knew we’d figure something out.  

IMG 8940Turns out, the answer was play with patterns!  I was quite surprised by how early on Miss G grasped the concept of patterns…  I remember being in the kitchen cooking dinner one night long ago and hearing Brad ask Grae about a pattern out in the living room.  I thought to myself, ‘she’s way too young to know what he’s talking about’, but sure enough she proved me wrong on the spot.  So since we really haven’t explored them all that much, I decided our beads and dowels would be perfect for it.  While Miss G napped today, I spent a little bit of time catching up on my RSS feed while colouring pattern stripes on the dowels with markers.  This time around, I chose to pattern the entire dowel, but next time around I’d probably just start the patterns in order to let her complete them on her own.

IMG 8943With my patterned sticks complete, I knew I wanted to stand them upright somehow.  Out came some homemade lemony play dough and the little pots we used for our flower garden yogurt parfaits, and voila.  Mission accomplished. 

IMG 8948When Gracen woke up, she immediately saw the little station I’d set out and was thrilled.  After a squeal and cheer, the first thing’Mama, I want you to tell me what to do’, but when I asked if she really wanted me to tell her what to do or if she wanted to just play, she decided she was happy to just play.

IMG 8949Of course she immediately realized that the colours on the dowels coordinated with the bead colours and began matching them up. (Just look at that little face… Makes me melt!)

IMG 8953Shortly after beginning the activity, I realized that the dough-filled pots allowed the dowels to sink down as she added beads, so I changed things up a little bit and just used a play dough pancake to hold the sticks up instead.  She realized that the stripes in fact made patterns, and ‘read’ each one out to me.

IMG 8955Not only has this activity been fun and great for discussing colours and patterns, but it’s also great fine motor practice too!  Fitting the tiny beads onto the tiny dowels requires some serious concentration.

IMG 8992This activity has been out for several days now, is still out currently (dried up play dough and all), and gets some decent attention each day…  A hit in my books. ☺


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Miss G Learns her Name… The FUN Way!

FUN Ways to Teach Kids to Spell  Write their Names | Mama Papa BubbaIt may sound sort of strange seeing as I spent 7 years teaching kindergarten and grade one before Miss G was born, but very rarely do I sit down with Gracen with the intention of teaching her something specific.  At 2 and 3/4 years old, I truly believe that she does all of the learning she needs {for now} through playing, going on adventures, and reading books. The exception to this is when Grae takes the lead…  In that case, I’m more than happy to follow along.

Recently, she’s become very interested in “drawing words”.  It started off with random words like ‘swing’ and ‘tall’, and then it became focused solely on her name.  There’s been a whole lot of ‘How do you draw my name again, Mama?’ and ‘Mama, can we play another name game today?’ this past week, so that’s just what we’ve been doing… Exploring her name in fun, hands-on ways.  All of these simple activities are things I’ve done with my students in the past and Grae has thoroughly enjoyed each one.

IMG 8840Stamping – We are lucky to have alphabet stamps, but you can easily make your own by adhering foam letter stickers onto cork tops or bottle caps.  Right now, I set out only the letters needed for her name {along with a piece of paper and stamp pad}, but to make the activity a little more challenging, you can include extra stamps too.

IMG 8863Magnetic Letters – I particularly like these wooden ones by Melissa & Doug, especially because the set includes both upper and lowercase letters, but any sort of alphabet magnets will do (you can even make some using scrabble tiles or foam letters).  I simply set out the required letters in a bowl next to a magnetic board, and let Miss G play.

IMG 8857Computer Typing – This activity is extra special in our house since we really don’t let Gracen use our computers yet.  I simply open up a blank word document, select a good clear font, make it nice and big, and let Miss G choose the colour.  Then she goes ahead and searches out each letter on the keyboard.  Today as she was about to hit the ‘G’, she asked, “But Mama, is this going to be a capital G? Because my name needs a capital G.’  After getting over my surprise, I taught her how to use the shift key and that was that.

IMG 8853Felt Board Name Game – Since my days in elementary school, I’ve always loved felt boards and felt board games.  Though you can purchase pre-made felt boards and felt alphabet pieces online, you can very easily and inexpensively make your own.  Here is my felt board tutorial and my felt name game tutorial {along with a collection of my very favourite fonts}.

IMG 8847Duplo / Lego Stacking – Depending on the size of your collection, you may want to write the letters of your child’s name straight onto your Lego or Duplo to create a permanent and lasting game.  Or, if you’re like us, you can print the letters on sticker dots or labels and then attach them to the pieces.  This activity is always a huge hit and I especially like it because it can be done both horizontally and vertically.

IMG 8845Salt Printing – This one is one of my absolute favourite ways to have kids practice their printing.  In the classroom, I always keep a stack of colourful plastic plates filled with a layer of salt for practicing printing.  The students use their finger as a pencil, then simply give the plate a little shake to erase the letter and practice again.  In this case, I used a rectangular serving tray and provided Gracen with an example of her name on card stock in front of her. (P.S. How amazing is that bed head?!)

IMG 8842Chalkboard Water Painting – If asked, I have a feeling that Gracen may say this is her favourite name game to date.  To set it up, simply print the name on a chalkboard (using chalk of course), and give your wee one a paintbrush and some water to paint on top of the lines.  As he or she paints the letters, they will ‘disappear’, which is always fun!

IMG 8807Highlighter Tracing – This is probably the simplest of the bunch.  I print Gracen’s name and she traces over it using a darker marker or pencil.  We pretend the highlighter lines are the road (or racetrack) and the marker is the car, and of course you want to keep your car on the road!

IMG 8783Letter boxes – While I prefer to teach beginners how to print their names on plain, unlined paper, some munchkins, Miss G included, enjoy having a little more structure than that. Creating two sets of boxes, your sample letters on top and blank ones directly below, gives many the ability to focus on one letter at a time with the goal of filling up all of the boxes by the end.

 So that’s that!  Gracen’s been enjoying these name activities so much that we’ve done almost all of them multiple times.  I know I’ll be asked for new ones in the very near future, so as of now, I’ve got ideas that use spaghetti, clothespins, rocks, cookie cutters, beads, blocks, and bean bags ready to go, but beyond that, I may have to get Googling.  ☺  


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Fruit & Veggie Sorting {Using Flyer Clippings}

Fruit  Veggie Sorting Using Flyer Clippings | Mama Papa BubbaEvery few days, a newspaper bound in a long rubber band makes its way onto our porch.  If it’s not already soaked through with early morning rain, I half-heartedly flip through the stories and flyers {that make up the majority of the paper} so I feel a tiny bit less guilty about recycling it almost immediately.  This morning, however, when we found a bone dry paper on our porch, we decided to put it to use.

Fruit and Vegetable Sorting | Mama Papa BubbaGracen’s been helping me wash our produce and sort it into the different refrigerator sections for a long while now and often asks if things are fruits or vegetables, so I decided we’d use our grocery store flyers to play a little fruit and veggie sorting game.  

We gathered up a small piece of poster board, a ruler, some glue, and some scissors to start.  I drew a quick T chart while explaining that one ‘box’ would be for all the fruit pictures we found and the other would be for the veggies.  Grae shared with me one thing that she was certain was a fruit (an apple) and one thing she was certain was a vegetable (a potato) and we added little picture clues at the top next to the column headings.

IMG 8190Next we had a little chat about how we know if something is a fruit or vegetable…  While it’s kind of a complex subject filled with talk of flowers, ovaries, and plant accessory parts, I subscribe to the fruits have seeds theory when teaching kids (true story – avocados, peppers, and cucumbers are all fruits!)  It’s not a perfect rule because wee ones often don’t realize that things like bananas and blueberries have seeds, but it works for most things.

IMG 8196After adding a few little seeds next to our fruit heading, I began cutting pictures out of the flyers.  I’d pass one to Grae, ask her what it was, whether or not it had seeds, and if she thought it was a fruit or veggie, and she’d paste it in the correct box.

IMG 8197After a couple of times, she took things into her own hands… I’d pass her a picture and she’d say, “Dis is lettuce.  It no have seeds, so it’s a vegetable!”

IMG 8201When we’d used up all of the flyer photos, she took a minute to admire her project.  She was a very proud girl and immediately went to hang her poster on the fridge.

IMG 8213Later on in the day, after a big produce shop, Grae was helping me lay all of the freshly washed produce on the butcher block to dry.  Right away, I could see that she was putting all of the fruits on one side and the veggies on the other, so I grabbed a wooden spoon to act as a divider {and she grabbed her poster to add to the display}.  Instantly we had a real life sorting game.

Fruits vs Veggies | Mama Papa BubbaThese are her piles when she decided she was done playing.  The Chinese eggplant on the right is what she chose this time for our weekly fruit/veggie investigation, and though she’s not sure, her prediction is that it is a vegetable.  We’ll have to see when we open it up!  ☺


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For Mama’s Valentine

Here’s a little peek at what I’ve been up to late tonight…  A new little photo book for my littlest Valentine.CoverBubbaBearCowsPuppiesApplesBananasNewspaperMailToesBootsParkSwingsBalloonsAirplanesPoolBathBooksFishGlasses

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Family & Friends

IMG 4814Gracen adores the little family and friends photo album she got in her stocking while we were up in the Okanagan.  I’m fairly certain we’ve “read” it at least 5 times a day each day since she got it.  She carefully points to each person’s face and either tells me the person’s name or waits for me to tell it to her.

IMG 4816“Manmaw” (Grandma) and “Ee-Doh” (Gido) are easy peasy.

IMG 4820Grandpa Dave still gets called “Ee-Doh” most of the time, but we’re working on fixing that.

IMG 4832Inevitably, someone in the book is always “pretty, pretty, pretty”.  Today Grae ran her little finger over Auntie Rozi’s hair several times and announced, “pretty, pretty, pretty”.  I asked her, “Grae, do you think Auntie Rozi is pretty?” and with big eyes, she gave me the biggest, most serious nod ever.  Aw, Auntie Rozi – Grae thinks you’re pretty!

Here are a few of the other pages in Miss G’s book:

IMG 4838IMG 4844IMG 4845IMG 4846IMG 4847IMG 4848We’re still waiting on a couple of photos of great grandparents, but Gracen loves this little book anyways.  The best part is that Little G always has her loved ones close by.  🙂

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Grae’s Personalized Colouring Book

IMG 4511Gracen absolutely adores the little colouring book we made for her ‘Christmas in January’ stocking.  She loves pointing out her family members and having me tell her about what’s happening in the pictures.  We’ve already coloured 4 pages today, and it’s still morning!

IMG 3912All we did was take some of our favourite photos of her and her cousins, pop them into Photoshop, and turn them into line drawings rather than photos.  Then I printed them all on card stock, bound them, and that was it!

Here’s a little peek at some of the other pages in the book:

IMG 3917Here’s my cool girl helping her Mama with grocery shopping.

IMG 3915This is my all time favourite picture of Grae and her cousin, Kinslee, who is exactly 6 weeks younger than her.

IMG 3922Of course, her cousin, ‘SuperChay’, had to be in the colouring book.

IMG 3923And here’s one of her cousin Korbin’s pages.

IMG 3921The best part is that while we colour, we can talk about all the fun memories that fill the pages.  This photo was taken when Grae’s cousins came to visit us in Vernon and we all visited the pool for Chayton’s birthday.  I have a feeling these little colouring books will become a yearly tradition in our family.  🙂


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Grae’s Anatomy

Here’s a little peek at the project Gracen and I worked on yesterday and today…  Since she LOVES books more than life itself, I thought it would be fun to make her a couple of photo books for the stocking she’ll open when we celebrate Christmas in Vernon in a couple of weeks.  This one is all about body parts.  You’ll have to excuse the cheesy name.  I just couldn’t help myself.  Here are a few of the pages:

Grae s Anatomy



Mouth  Chin






I’d love to actually have an actual bound book printed, but I know that with the amount of “love” this little book is about to receive, it wouldn’t last as long as I’d like it to.  For now, I’m going to get the photos printed and put them all in a pretty little album.  Hopefully Miss G likes it as much as I expect her to.

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