Friday, September 23, 2011


I recently had a conversation with a friend about the value of preschoolers learning the skill of SORTING.  Our conversation got me thinking about different ways we could sort items around our home, without buying anything special.  So, we gathered up some coins and an empty egg carton...

Both kids emptied out their piggy (but not shaped like piggies) banks.  I cut an egg carton in half and asked each of them to sort their coins.

Eli's Sorting:
It was interesting to see how Eli interpreted the directions to "sort the coins."  In my head, it was obvious that there would be four piles:  quarters, dimes, nickels, and pennies.  But, Eli had two piles to start:  a silver pile and a copper pile.  Once I asked him if we could sort the silver pile by size ALSO, he was able to split that pile into three groups.

Abby's Sorting:
Hmmm...ok then.  With Abby, I realized after-the-fact, that I should have given her just two kinds of coins...maybe quarters and pennies.  At two years old, she needed a bit more of a concrete place to start and sorting JUST quarters and pennies would have been much more achievable for her.  She could not even begin to comprehend sorting the silver into groups based on size.  Actually, she had a hard time comprehending sorting in the first place.  The fact that Eli could sort and she could not, leads me to believe that this is a learned skill.  Or...Eli got all of the mathematical genes.  As the children of a statistician and math teacher, I would have thought that we would have more than enough math genes to go around.  Time will tell, I suppose...

Just to make sure that sorting was as important of a skill as I thought, I did a quick reference to the Michigan Department of Education's Early Childhood Standards of Quality for Prekindergarten.  Mind you, this is only the second time that I have referred to this document, but I think I will be spending some more time with it!

Mathematics Early Learning Expectation #2: 
Children begin to develop skills of comparing and classifying objects, relationships and events in their environment. 
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Children typically:
1. Can describe, match, and sort.
2. Identify likenesses and differences.
3. Can place objects or events in order, according to a given criterion; e.g.,
    color, shape, size, time.
4. Recognize that the same group can be sorted and classified in more than
    one way.
5. Can describe why they group or sequence in a particular way.
( Early Childhood Standards of Quality for Prekindergarten, page 112)

YAY!  What a great skill to be able to sort!  After all, isn't that how we process sorting it?  As adults, in our own thought processes, we are always classifying, comparing similarities and differences, and putting things in order.  We sort.  All the time.  So...let's sort!

When folding laundry, children can:
  • Sort by type of clothing:  socks, pants, shirts, etc.
  • Sort by the wearer of the clothing:  An Abby pile, an Eli pile, a Mommy pile, etc.
  • Sort by color

When putting away groceries after shopping, children can:
  • Sort by temperature:  cold into the fridge or freezer, not-cold into the pantry.
  • Sort by food group:  fruit, veggies, dairy, etc.
  • Sort by meal:  we eat this for breakfast, lunch, dinner, etc.
  • Sort by color
  • Sort by size:  rectangle, square, circle

I really like the idea of sorting the same group of items in multiple ways.  Laundry would work so well for this, plus my kids love to jump in the big pile of clothes.  Though I would have to grit my teeth a bit while doing this with CLEAN clothes, my kids would be so excited to sort out the laundry and then re-pile it up AGAIN to jump in it AGAIN.  I also like the idea of giving a child a pile of stuff and saying, "Can you sort this?"  How fun to see how their little minds work as they explain how they have sorted the items!  Don't we sort ALL THE TIME when working around the home?  Putting away toys, unloading the dishwasher, organizing a closet....

How about sorting these household items??
  • Save tops from milk jugs to later sort by color.
  • Sort pictures of family members.
  • Little girl accessories...sort barrettes and ribbons and necklaces by color or by type of accessory.
  • Cut pictures out of the weekly grocery story advertisement and then sort by color or food group.  What about an "I like this food" pile and an "I don't like this food" pile?
  • Put a few types of cereal in a bowl and then sort...then have it as a snack.
  • Crayons:  sort by color, or, if your crayons are anything like ours, sort by broken and not-broken.
  • Sort the items for recycling.

We can even sort without even moving items around.  The other day, Eli called to me from the dining table and said, "Mom, I see some coupons."  We had this conversation:
Me:  Can you tell what kind of coupons they are?
E:  No
Me:  Well, does it look like a restaurant or a store?
E:  Restaurant
Me:  Can you tell what kind of food they serve?
E:  (looking for a minute)  Fish
Just by looking at an advertisement, we could sort through the information to determine that it was coupons for a seafood restaurant, without having to read a single word.  This is one thing I love about preschool education, our days are FULL of opportunities to learn, if we are on the lookout for them.

I could keep going...I have gotten really excited about sorting, once again showing my mathematical nerdiness.  I just can't keep it hidden for long.

Happy Sorting.

Monday, September 19, 2011


We like to cut paper with scissors.

In my kids' lingo, we are "scissoring" with "kid scissors."  In my lingo, we are really working those fine motor skills. 

Eli will cut and cut into smaller and smaller pieces.  Here, he is using some fancy edged scissors.  He thought that was pretty cool.
It is so interesting to see the differences in their developmental stages.  Abby has to have someone hold her paper and she does her "scissoring" with two hands, while Eli holds his own paper and cuts one-handed.

The final products.  What a great way to use up scrap paper!

Eli and I have also used the Kumon "Let's Cut Paper" book to practice cutting skills.  At this link you can "look inside" the book to see some of the cutting activities.

Who knew scissoring could be so incredibly fun?  
Scissor on.  Scissor on.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Re-purposing Kids' Art

I don't like to throw anything away that my kids make.  As a crazy sentimental mommy, I would keep forever and ever a little scratching done on a Post-it note, if it was scratched by the hands that belong to these faces:

The faces that belong to those hands are pretty cute, so, needless to say, I have stacks of paintings and colorings and markerings and stickerings.  I know I can't keep it ALL,  but, I can't bring myself to just pitch their creative endeavors.  So, a way to get rid of some of the stacks of stuff, without just moving it to the trash...

I have had these on the wall for a long, long time and it was long past their time to go.  We started by cutting out little rectangles from the paintings with the goal of making notecards.

Rectangular cuttings all ready to go.  I did bring myself to throw away the scraps, though it was a challenge.  Told you I was crazy sentimental...I wanted to keep the SCRAPS of their paintings.

We then glued the painting pieces to blank notecards purchased at the Dollar Store...
Once we did the gluing, I did put the notecards under a bin of magazines to help flatten them out. 

We also cut some longer strips from the original paintings and then folded them in half to make another type of notecard.
So, there is painting on both sides and blank on the inside.

Sending off their art work in the mail truck sure seems better, to me, than sending it off in the garbage truck.

For Reading.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Saying Yes

A month or so ago I read an unbelievably, fantastic book called "Loving the Little Years: Motherhood in the Trenches" by Rachel Jankovic.  The author is the mother of five young children and she is totally "in the fray," as we call it around here.  I couldn't put it down and for that reason, it is good that it is a short book and a pretty quick read.  I learned so much from reading this book and I know that I will be reading it again and again.  It's that good.  Moms of little ones, you have to read this book.

One of many, many, many things that left an impression on me from this book was a section about really knowing your kids.  I don't have the book here, since I borrowed it, so I can't give an exact quote, but there was a sentence that went something like this...

Is your daughter the one who always wants to paint and you always say no??

Yes.  As a matter of fact, yes, that is my daughter.  My sweet daughter who loves, LOVES to paint, doesn't get to paint very often, though she asks a lot to do so.  Generally, I say NO and we all know why:   painting is messy.  This specific situation struck a chord with me and I realized that I needed to say YES to painting, more than I was saying NO.  

On Saturday, I was working in the kitchen when I heard my husband say to my daughter, "You will have to go ask Mommy."  
Out she runs and she says, "Paint, Mommy?"  
I said, "Yes.  Yes, we can paint." 

Let me tell you, she was shocked.  Her little face broke out into a huge smile and she ran back to her dad saying, "She said yes!  Mommy said yes."  It was the cutest thing, but yet, I could have cried.  She was too shocked and too happy at me saying YES.  Ouch.  

So, we painted...

And we painted and we painted...

Once she left the paintbrush behind, I did remember why I usually say NO to painting.  When the mess was cleaned up, however, I knew again why I said YES in the first place.  That was one happy little artist.

So, all this to say...I am trying to say YES and not just to painting... 

Can you play Legos with me?
Can you help me with this?
Can we play Play-Doh?
Can we go outside?
Can we color?
Can you play with me?

My answers too often are...
In a minute.
When I finish this.
After I am done here.
Give me a few seconds.
I just need to send a quick e-mail.
I can't right now because I am too busy.

Granted, I can't drop everthing on every occassion to meet every need.  But, I think I can say YES more than I do.  I know for a fact that dirty dishes and laundry will wait for me.  In the blink of an eye, I can see that I will be the one saying, "Can you play with me?"  I really, really want my teenaged Eli and Abby to say "YES.  Yes, Mom, we can play with you."  So, we'll start now.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Cucumber Letters and Pride

We played with our food today.

Tomorrow is Eli's first day of preschool.  Since he is a really young five-year old, this is his second year doing preschool, so there are not as many unknowns, but it's still a big day for us.  I had grand plans at the beginning of the summer to work with Eli every day while Abby was napping.  I even have a copy of this book all ready to go:

Let's just didn't happen.  I have kind of felt today like I am cramming for a final...checking to see which letters Eli can remember and hoping it's enough to show that he did actually learn something during his first year of preschool.  Poor kid, if we didn't do school stuff over the past weeks, I could have at least let him enjoy his last day of summer.  The cramming continued as we got out our magnetic letters and I quizzed Eli while making lunch.

Love these!

Today for lunch, I happened to be cutting cucumbers into strips, as opposed to our usual circles.  With "letter recognition" and "fit a summer's worth of learning into one day" on my brain, I saw letters when I looked at the cutting board.

I would make letters for the kids and they would tell me (HOPEFULLY) what they were.

Turns out that you can make a lot of letters with cucumber strips.

When we got around to actually eating lunch, I asked Eli to make some letters for me.
Where you see the arrow, he bit off a piece to make this "F."  It was fun to watch his thought process.

"Mom, just let me eat, please."
With another chomp, the "E" from the previous picture becomes another "F."

And...not to be outdone by her brother...

The results of our cramming?  He knows most, but certainly not all of his letters.  If I am really honest with myself, I am afraid that this will make me look bad.  He has the same teachers this year and THEY will know what HE knows (or doesn't know) and then his teachers will know what his mother did (or did not do) with him over the summer.  I am thankful for another reminder today (in line with years and years of reminders) of the prideful state of my heart and thankful for God's mercy to me.  So tomorrow, without even knowing how many numbers he can identify, I will send off my sweet boy to preschool.  No more cramming today...