Field Trip: Making Soap for Victims of Sandy

I’m always looking for activities that are both preschooler (and toddler) friendly and provide an opportunity to give back.

On Monday, Make Meaning (a “decorate-your-own-crafts” store), teamed up with Baby Buggy (a non-profit that provides baby gear and support to parents in need) to host a Sandy Relief Soap Making Event.
We donated unopened packages of diapers for victims of SuperStorm Sandy, and my kids filled soap molds with trinkets and decorations. Their “designs” were incorporated into soap, which was also donated to Sandy victims.
My preschooler loved soap making, and we might incorporate soap making into a future project later in the year. But more importantly, this event started a conversation about the concept of “giving back to others”. She asked why I was “bringing her sister’s diapers into the store”, and I explained that we were giving them to people who couldn’t buy any. While she was decorating soap, I explained that some people lost their homes and things, and no longer have soap, and we’re giving this soap to them.

I’m not sure what she actually understood from the conversation, but she smiled and went along with it. At the end of the day, that’s all I can ask for. Eventually, she’ll get it.

Thanks to Make Meaning and Baby Buggy for a fun event!

Field Trip: Art Farm in the City

Today, we visited Art Farm in the City on the Upper East Side. Art Farm has drop-in hours from 12:30-3pm (Mon-Thurs), where kids can play in their indoor petting zoo. The experience tied in with the animal themes we’re currently exploring in our curriculum.

The friendly staff members took various animals out of their enclosures and let the kids pet them. My kids were up-close and personal with turtles;
a tortoise;
a guinea pig;
and a dove.
There are other varieties of reptiles, amphibians, birds and furry mammals (my preschooler especially loved the rabbits). If you’re in the area, I definitely recommend a visit!

Halloween, Post-Sandy Edition (the post formerly titled “G is for Ghosts & Gourds”)

(A book I read to my preschooler before Sandy hit NYC)

I realize that I haven’t posted weekly themes for the past 2 weeks, but I felt that I needed to write this one before the others because of everything that has happened in the past few days. On Monday, Hurricane Sandy hit NYC and the surrounding area. I was really lucky–we never lost power, our neighborhood never flooded, and local businesses opened soon after the storm. But other areas aren’t so lucky, and I hope that with a lot of help and time, New York & New Jersey will be as vibrant and busy as it once was. It’s amazing to see grass root organizations such as Occupy Sandy, and the numerous volunteers (especially the marathon runners who pitched in after the NYC Marathon cancellation) provide food and other necessities to those hardest hit.

Needless to say, I really didn’t adhere to my planned weekly curriculum; my husband was home for a few days and family-time-in-the-apartment took precedence. Since Halloween was last Wednesday, we focused on ghosts and gourds, two words that begin with the weekly letter, G. Naturally, our color of the week was orange, and our number of the week was 7. We really didn’t have a vocabulary word, although I think it ended up being make-believe, because I had to explain to my preschooler that the scary decorations and costumes were just that.

One of the (many) perks of living in NYC is that Halloween-themed activities begin 1-2 weekends before the actual day. Two weeks prior, a local elementary school held their yearly Fall Fair, with pumpkin decorating, Halloween-themed cupcake decorating and the obligatory bouncy castle:
A week before Halloween, we went to the Swedish Cottage Marionette Theatre in Central Park to see Hansel & Gretel’s Halloween Show:
The marionette show was less than hour, had a lot of dancing, and my kids loved it; although my preschooler was scared of a few of the puppets. Afterwards, one of the puppeteers came out to demonstrate how a marionette worked:
The weekend before Halloween, we went to an inaugural Halloween Fair held by the Fourth Universalist Society, which had crafts and games geared towards younger kids (and yes, had an indoor bouncy castle):
To occupy our time before and during the storm, my husband helped the kids decorate the pumpkins. We read National Geographic Kids’ Halloween (by Laura Marsh), and my preschooler picked a jack-o-lantern face to carve on one pumpkin and a design to paint on the other pumpkin:
Aside from that Halloween book, this week we read “Halloween” (by Gail Gibbons), which explored the historical significance of the holiday; and “What Will You Be for Halloween” (by Mark Todd), which used fun rhyming prose to look at various costumes.

I also picked up a Sticker Encyclopedia of Baby Animals from our local bookstore, which my preschooler really enjoyed and tied into the animal themes from previous weeks.

We were extremely fortunate that our neighborhood had electricity and heat during Halloween; we invited some of my preschooler’s friends to trick-or-treat in our building, and they had a fun time learning the timeless Halloween equation: (young kids) + (cute costumes) = (lots of candy).

Week 4: D is for Dinosaurs (& Recap!)

I admit, I’ve been behind with my weekly theme updates. Instead of posting a separate “Week 4 Recap”, I’m going to combine the weekly teaching plan with the books and activities that we used throughout the week.

This week, we looked at the letter D, and what kid doesn’t love dinosaurs?
The vocabulary word of the week is extinct, and introduces the concept of something that no longer exists. I was wondering how my preschooler would interpret the word; at first she was convinced dinosaurs were still around because we see dinosaur bones at the museum, so I also had to explain the difference between animals that are alive and animals that are no longer alive. There are a few books that illustrated it way better than I did!

The dinosaur theme ties into the scientific theme that I plan to cover for the next few weeks: the animal kingdom. In the coming weeks, we will look at mammals, birds, fish, insects and reptiles.

The number of the week was 4, and the shape of the week was the rectangle.

Due to my love for many PBS Kids shows, the only dinosaur songs I knew were “Dinosaur A to Z” by Dinosaur Train, and the songs from Elmo’s Dinosaurs DVD, so I didn’t have a song of the week.


    Dinosaurs! (G. Gibbons) – I am now a fan of Gail Gibbons’ books, because her Dinosaur book was really a fantastic way to introduce dinosaurs to my preschooler. She classified the dinosaurs into 7 main groups, and went through the characteristics of each.
    Dinosaurs Big and Small (K. Zoehfeld) – I also enjoy the “Let’s-Read-and Find-Out-Science” series. In this book, dinosaurs of different sizes are introduced, and it gives a gives a relative view of how large (or sometimes small) dinosaurs were.
    Dinosaurs Roar, Butterflies Soar! (B. Barner) – This book was surprisingly informative, and the illustrations were really fun. It shows how butterflies existed during the time of the dinosaurs, and there are little side notes on each page with scientific details.

A dinosaur-themed week would not be complete without a visit to the American Museum of Natural History!
We spent most of our time at the Hall of the Saurischian Dinosaurs, looking at the massive Tyrannosaurs Rex and Apatosaurus fossils. We went over a lot of the concepts in Gail Gibbons’ book–comparing the teeth of a meat eater versus a plant eater, and looking at examples of Theropods and Sauropods.

Between the museum visit and the mini co-op preschool, it was a busy week!

Mini Co-op Preschool “Orientation Week”

A few weeks ago, thanks to a post on Mommy Poppins, I joined a Yahoo group for parents who homeschool preschoolers. I was fortunate enough to meet two moms who were homeschooling their preschoolers and had kids the same age as my toddler! We decided to start a mini co-op preschool, and this week was our “orientation week”–we figured we should acclimate the kids to each other’s apartments, and let them play with each other’s toys, so they weren’t (as) distracted with them when it was time to start “school”.

Here’s the general layout of our mini co-op preschool:

    – We decided to meet 3 days/week, 1.5-2 hours each day.
    – One mom would host the kids for the entire week, plus organize activities and snacks.
    – While the “host mom” taught the preschoolers, the other moms kept the toddlers occupied.

At the end of the day, I am still teaching “the fundamentals” to my preschooler during the rest of the week, and I will continue to post weekly updates. Overall, I am really psyched about the idea of a co-op preschool because it gives her an opportunity to interact with other kids her age, and she’ll learn how to listen to other grown ups. Plus, I think each mom has different strengths and interests, and the range of activities will reflect that.

While I didn’t have a specific “teaching theme” this week, I started incorporating a really fun “Day of the Week” song that we sing each day:

I also found two books that I really recommend for all preschoolers:

    1) Teddy Bear Counting (B. McGrath) – This book uses different colored bears to count to 12, and then introduces simple math concepts by “grouping” the bears (multiplication) and saying bye to the bears (subtraction).
    2) What’s the Weather (Scholastic Inc.) – A really simple-to-read book that goes through various types of weather.

If you have any suggestions for the co-op preschool, I would love to hear them!

Week 3 Recap

Week 3 was pretty hectic, because we also fit in play dates with kids (and moms) that are involved with the mini co-op preschool we’re creating.


    Color (R. Heller) – The overall theme of the book (color layers from printers) is too complicated for a preschooler, but the images are stunning and the book contained colorful overlapping transparent pages that demonstrated color mixing.
    Leaves! Leaves! Leaves! (N.E. Wallace) – This book goes through the tree’s life cycle, as observed by a bear and his mom. It had a nice explanation for the reason leaves are green (chlorophyll) and the reason leaves change color.
    When Autumn Falls (K. Nidley) – A nice, rhyming story about autumn.
    Leaves (D.E. Stein) – Another story about autumn and winter, and why a bear needs to hibernate.

We had a play date in our apartment and decided to have a color scavenger hunt:
Each index card had a color written on it; the kids had to find something in the apartment matching the color on the card. I also had a small box with stickers and pom poms of various colors. When they matched the color card with an item in the apartment, they found a pom pom or sticker of the same color in the box and attached it to the card. My preschooler loved the game.

One of the other moms of the co-op preschool organized an alphabet grocery game at our local Whole Foods. We sat down and wrote out the alphabet together, and then we looked for food (mainly in the produce and bulk food aisles) that started with each letter.

I also found an Alphabet Sticker Workbook by School Zone that my preschooler finds entertaining, yet still has all the components (letter tracing, matching pictures with letters) that other workbooks have.

Activities: Banana Dippers

A few rainy days this week stopped us from collecting leaves and engaging in outdoor activities. Since I recently bought a lot of bananas, I decided to to make Banana Dippers, which is a recipe from Daphne Oz, who is one of the hosts of my favorite daytime show, The Chew:

Instead of adding peanut butter to the melted chocolate, I added a little bit of butter; and we rolled unfrozen bananas in chocolate and crushed peanuts before freezing them. I dipped the bananas in chocolate and my preschooler and toddler rolled them in crushed peanuts.
I thought this would be a (somewhat) healthy dessert for the kids, but it turns out they’ve outsmarted me yet again. Since the banana dippers are frozen, the kids ate the chocolate around the banana and left the fruit behind.