Toddler Lesson: Pumpkins

Our first homeschooling lesson with friends last week was a success! My son Kai is one month away from hitting 2.5 years old, and I began to realize the importance of social interaction along with a structured form of learning and playing.

After a few failed attempts of teaching my toddler the alphabet at home on my own, I started talking with other moms and seeking some online resources for guidance and inspiration.

And, finally after speaking with a few of my mommy friends who I met at the library, I really got motivated and started developing a toddler curriculum during my recent trip.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Every Wednesday morning, for about an hour, I teach and direct play! That first day, we welcomed two of Kai’s friends to our house! They are both very close in age. The little boy is one month older than Kai and the little girl is three months younger than him. All the kids have their own personalities, which makes the class challenging yet educational. Everyone gets to show his or her strongpoints and they can learn a great deal from each other!

Lesson Plan and Poster

Below is my lesson plan. It’s a FREE PDF DOWNLOAD of PUMPKIN LESSON PLAN.

So feel free to view, download, and print at home!  I have included the sources I have used in the file, and additional resources will be listed in the Resources section of this post.

Pumpkins Lesson Plan

Here was my toddler homeschooling lesson poster:)

homeschooling a toddler pumpkin lesson poster board

As you may notice, it was a lot to cover! I ended up having to make an adjustment mid-way through the lesson and eliminated the life cycle of a pumpkin because it just didn’t seem like it was going to grab the kids’ attention.

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Water Activities

This one is a picture of the pumpkin washing station where I filled a large plastic bin with some warm water and added some brushes for the kids to clean off the dirt from the pumpkin. We did this activity indoors so I ended up putting a towel underneath the tub, but you could easily bring the classroom outdoors too!

In my mind, this teaches the toddlers to focus on cleaning something, and it demonstrates the importance of helping and working together to complete chores.

pumpkin washing and cleaning station for toddlers

To the right of my son you may also notice another plastic bin. This one was used to demonstrate the concepts of sink or float?! We first saw this activity in an episode of Blippi!  My son absolutely loves watching his educational videos. I think Blippi is very enthusiastic and definitely captures the attention of my little one. I enjoy watching Blippi with my son in small doses:)

Anyways, when I introduced sink or float to the kids, they automatically began putting all the objects into the water and their goal was to play. This was perfectly fine because it was getting their attention and it was more of a “free play” activity! It wasn’t my goal, but we were totally happy with the kids enjoying themselves. That is really our goal here: for the kids to have fun, learn to play with other kids, and conduct their own experiments and create their own form of curious play.

Pumpkin Painting and Decorating

In between my structured teaching, we handed out brushes, paint, and smocks, and everyone brought their own pumpkins to paint! The kids had fun painting. Afterwards, we let them dry and I bought Halloween-themed foam stickers from the Dollar Tree for the kids to stick them on after our Chinese lesson!

toddlers painting pumpkins for a homeschooling craft activity

In addition to painting and decorating their very own pumpkins, the kids got a chance to help measure out the ingredients while we made slime for the first time!

Pirate pumpkinSkeleton pumpkin

Pumpkin Slime-Making

One of my mommy friends brought pumpkin seeds, which were so scrumptious! She got the ones that were seeded and salted. YUM! We all got to taste-test these pumpkin seeds before we added them to our slime mixture.

The recipe we used to make this version of slime can be found here.

It took a little bit to figure out how to not make it as sticky, but it turned out to be such an amazing sensory activity for them.

pumpkin slime with pumpkin seeds

Kai and I ended up playing with it after everyone left, and we must have spent over a half an hour on this activity.

Little Passports

Chinese for Pumpkin

Here are the Chinese characters for pumpkin. In pinyin it’s n√°nguńĀ.

Chinese characters for pumpkin

I have included a printout for you to download for Pp is for Pumpkin, which includes the Chinese characters for pumpkin.

The Chinese resources I used during my lesson are found in the Resources section of this post.

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Pumpkin Bread

Another mom friend made pumpkin bread and brought it for everyone to share. It was so thoughtful! We really have a wonderful and creative team of moms in the group. So happy.

After the lesson and activities, the kids got to play upstairs in Kai’s play room. And, we all got to have some pumpkin bread and other snacks. It was a nice time to just wind down and do some bonding.

Feedback

I was so happy with the feedback! One thing I am going to try and focus on is getting the kids’ attentions as soon as we start the lesson.

It had been a while since one of the little girls had been to our house, and the little boy had never been here before. Hence, distractions galore:)

We are hoping the next time the kids come over, I will plan for more songs to grab everyone’s attention. Maybe playing some dance music or adding a few more songs in the beginning of the lesson to set the toddlers in “lesson mode”?

Kai, of course, was just too comfortable and drawing on the whiteboard while I was reading the books, haha.

One suggestion was to do a rotation, where, every week we would travel to other mom’s houses and everyone would plan their own lessons. Such a wonderful network of moms here. And an amazing idea…that we would definitely want to do after the holidays. Why? Well, one of my mommy friends is leaving for a month to visit family out-of-state. And, the following month, our family will be away for a month and a half, traveling.

Everything will return back to a normal schedule come January 2019. So, we could essentially start this rotational homeschooling program with the toddlers then. For the remainder of the autumn season, I have developed the curriculum and will continue to host the kids at my house or wherever we are. And, during our time away from each other, the moms will have the choice to use my weekly lesson plans and do their own activities at home.

It was such a great first run. 

I’m super excited to be doing this with my toddler. He’s having such an amazing time learning. It also gives me purpose. I am thankful for having friends so Kai is able to socialize and interact with them.

xErgo baby Love Carries On/Go Far Stay Close

Field Trip Tie-In

Before or after each lesson, my intention is to bring the classroom outside for the kids to explore and experience things first-hand. With the colorful changing seasons of New England, what a perfect way for us to do some family bonding while reinforcing a lesson topic:)

Our intention was to visit a local pumpkin patch and do some hayrides. Unfortunately, he started getting a runny nose, the coughs and sneezes:(

Last night, he was up a few hours because he couldn’t breath from his nose. I honestly swear this kid gets sick so many times during the year. It’s at least once a month if he’s interacting with other people. I’m praying his immune system is solid once he gets older because he’s probably caught 70% of the colds out there.

Maybe we will take a family trip to a local farm that incorporates all of the autumn topics I’m covering.

Resources

Here are the links I used throughout the lesson:

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Thank you ALL for reading! If you have any questions or suggestions, feel free to leave a comment:)

Homeschooling my Toddler

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Boston Children’s Museum Day Trip

Boston Children’s Museum Day Trip
Friday, August 10, 2018

Sometimes going on day trips and taking advantage of where your home base is, is the best way to explore.

Explore locally.

So my husband took a guys fishing trip to Key West, Florida for about five days. Oh I’m really hoping he will write a short post about his trip…or maybe I’ll do an interview! Anyways, while he was away, I had planned a few activities to keep my toddler and me busy.

Preparation

My friend Paolina and her one-year old Isabella met up with us.

We both had planned to pack our own lunches. This always takes a little time. My go-to: peanut butter and jelly sandwiches:) well I made one PB&J with the crusts cut off and cut into triangles for Kai. I also made one ham and cheese with mayo sans crust for him. I made myself a buffalo chicken sandwich with mustard, and I brought some baby carrots dipped in hummus with pine nuts (so tasty)! One thing Kai loves is his milk.

I always pack a change of clothes and underwear for Kai. And, extra shoes too! Since he was going to do a lot of walking, I made sure to put on socks and sneakers for him. I did notice there were some rooms with water, so I packed sandals for him too!

The Trip

We met at the Boston Children’s Museum, and we both drove into Boston. I live in Rhode Island, so Boston is about an hour north of me. Paolina lives north of Boston, so we met in a good location.

I left my house around 10am to try and avoid the rush hour traffic into the city. It worked out pretty well!

Parking garage options are listed on their webpage. We opted for the one located at: 280 Congress Street, Boston, MA.

The rate: $20 for the day with a validated parking ticket from the museum.

Kai and I got to the parking garage around 11:20am. Paolina had just parked, so she waited for me in the elevator area while I got all of his stuff together.

Stroller ride to the Boston Children's Museum

Thankfully we brought our stroller with us. It was quite useful when commuting from the parking garage to the museum itself.

Navigating the Museum

Here is the link to the museum floor plan. The museum is fairly large compared to the one in Providence, RI.

Once we were there it having the stroller was a little bit of a hassle, but the museum had ample stroller parking space alongside or outside of the exhibits.

This was both of our first times here at the museum.

Because I have a family plus membership to the Providence Children’s Museum I was able to get a 50% discount for up to six guests in total at the Boston Children’s Museum. You should check your local museum to see if they participate.

Here you can find a chart listing museums participating in the reciprocal program! This way, if you get a membership to your local museum, you are able to get a 50% discount to other museums:)

Food First!

Our first stop after purchasing tickets was to find a lunch area where we could eat our packed lunches. We ended up having to around to the cafe (Au Bon Pain) which was to the right of the ticketing area. Food for purchase was available, but since we brought our own lunches, we just ate that.  The cafeteria is a really cute space with ample high chairs if your child needs one.

We started from the top and worked our way downstairs.

Third Floor

There is a large construction play area, filled with trucks, tracks, and large working equipment for children to play on! There are costumes for the little ones to play dress up, and there were areas for them to climb on; bridges to walk across. It was as if you were in a large city environment in a construction zone.

We didn’t get a chance to see the Japanese House because they were doing guided tours every 15 minutes or so, and the timing just didn’t work out when we were there.

One thing we enjoyed was the large dinosaur they had on display. You were able to use the controls and push the buttons for the huge mechanical dino to move its head and arms. It also roars loudly.

Second Floor

The play space for kids 0-3 was a nice and contained area for the younger ones to explore and play! There were little areas for kids to play pretend and use their imagination. There is also a little playground area for the little ones to climb up and slide down. There is a scarf station that uses a vacuum.

Kids playing in water area at the Boston Children's Museum

I believe the water area is on this floor too!

First floor

To your left, after you purchase tickets, you will notice a large jungle gym. It is the same type of jungle gym/maze that the Providence Children’s Museum has outdoors.

There are a lot of sensory activities for kids to partake in. Kai especially enjoyed playing with the golf balls and rolling them down the ramps.

The bubble room was very entertaining as well. There is an interactive exercise area where kids are able to use a pulley system and pedal on stationary bike to race. It’s all about ‘energy’, and it was fun.

Right before we left, we decided to catch one of the kids shows at KidStage: Three Little Pigs. The performers were so entertaining. They asked for seven volunteers: three little pigs, three houses, and one big bad wolf.

Everyone did an amazing job.

Conclusions

Will we come back? It’s definitely likely, since you can really spend a lot of time here. My only concern would be how germ-infested it is during the winter months when outdoor playgrounds are of no use since it’s freezing in New England…but that’s everywhere I guess.

This museum will wear you AND your child out. Paolina and I thought it was necessary to get a caffeinated beverage from the Starbucks across the street when we left.

If you parked in an affiliated parking garage, don’t forget to get your ticket validated by the museum!

Thanks for reading about our day trip.

Little Passports

How I keep my toddler busy in winter

Go to the mall = FREE, aside from shopping
Some malls have indoor play areas with adult supervision so kids are able to play. I sometimes head to the Emerald Square Mall in North Attleboro, MA when it’s raining outside or if I’m planning on doing light shopping. I would choose that mall vs. the Providence Place Mall because there is an indoor play area so he can put his energy somewhere:) There’s also the Warwick Mall near us which has a Carousel for entertainment.

Visit Chick-Fil-A or similar place – $
This fast-food chain usually has an indoor play area for kids. While small, it does the trick! You can always just get a little something to snack or a simple beverage and then your toddler can play! One thing to keep in mind is you typically cannot bring food into the play area and you may need to bring socks for your baby if they have a no shoe policy.

Work out! = FREE – $
Every week, I go to the gym at least once. At my gym there is child care in the morning from 9am-12pm and then again from 4pm-8pm on the weekdays. During the weekend, they are open from 9am-11am on Saturdays. It’s not too bad! If I want to just take an hour class, I can drop Kai off with the caregiver. He usually has fun with the other kids. this also is a great way for him to socialize with other children. It was tough for him to leave me at first, but after 2-3 times, he got used to it. I never leave him for more than 1.5 hours. One perk is there is a sauna and showers as well as tanning beds (if you tan). I haven’t gotten to take advantage of those amenities, but they sound nice huh?

Can’t afford a gym membership or don’t like to get sweaty in public? There’s always the option of doing an exercise routine at home! You can find videos online or just make up your own and get your toddler involved! Make it fun to work out. Kai loves music, especially dancing to the best. You can try to make up a routine at home and have a dance party while breaking in a sweat! Just remember to be safe and consult with a medical professional before doing anything out of the ordinary!

Go to an indoor play area – $
Such places include Chuck E. Cheese. One local place in Warwick, RI is called Kidz Kastle. There is also a place in Taunton, MA called Round 1, which is a place for the whole family. That’s pretty much an all-in-one arcade, pool hall, bowling alley, bar and kids indoor play area. In my area, in Seekonk, MA there are Fantasyland and the Seekonk Speedway.

Visit a local pet store – FREE – $
My son loves animals! Sometimes when our dog runs out of dog food or is in need of a little something special, I bring Kai with me to run errands. Meanwhile, there are usually some fun, cute and also creepy little critters on display and for sale at the local pet store.

Kai loves running up to the fish tanks on display and pointing to the different species. And he loves dinosaurs, so naturally he is drawn to the prehistoric-looking lizards and reptiles on display too!

And who doesn’t love watching little rodents run a muck in their little confined spaces? Gerbils, mice, ferrets, and more. Sometimes there’s also some rabbits. Although most of the time, they’re just sleeping.

Oh and don’t forget about the little birds flying about in their cages and mingling with their companions!

Visit your local library  = FREE
The library is a great resource. The libraries in my local area have wonderful programs, such as story time, play time, or music and dance programs. It’s a great place to network with other parents, grandparents, and caretakers. It also serves as a wonderful place to get your little one interested in reading books!

Take swim lessons – $$
Since we live in RI, I was initially drawn Pods Swimming, which is a local aquatic swimming education center. They were building a brand new facility last year, and unfortunately construction was a month behind. Therefore, I enrolled my then-10-month old child in a swim class at my local YMCA. They start accepting children as early at 6 months old! We had so much fun. Although, just keep in mind these are introductory classes to get your baby familiar with the water. Safety was emphasized in these classes along with fun activities.

Play in the snow = FREE
Kai went sledding for the first time a few weeks ago. While it only lasted about a half an hour to 45 minutes, we were able to both indulge in some rich hot chocolate!

Sometimes when it snows a lot, I choose to take our dog Stanley in the backyard to do his business instead of going out for a walk with Kai’s stroller. So, I suit Kai up and we run around and explore our snow-covered backyard!

Get a Children’s Museum or Discovery Center Membership = $$
We were fortunate enough to be gifted an annual pass to the Providence Children’s Museum for Kai’s Christmas present! We opted to go with the Family Plus Membership, which was $150. It allows a total of 6 people to visit the museum. Kids who are 12 months and older have to pay full price. He loves playing with the water. It’s a great place to bring your child during the winter!

Meet up with family and friends = FREE
While I thoroughly enjoy spending time with Kai and Stanley I also like to have some time to have a conversation or two with other adults. Also, if your friends and family have kids of their own, they can play together! If you have family nearby, take advantage! If they’re anything like my parents or in-laws, they love bonding with their grandchild. I also have a few friends who love hanging with Kai. It’s a win-win. Maybe you can even cook together and plan out meals!

Get a zoo membership
Sometimes when there’s a warmer winter day, I like to take Kai to the zoo. It’s usually or crowded at all during the weekday, especially in the wintertime! I guess it also depends on where you live though. We sometimes just watch the animals for a longer period of time, and since Kai loves those pre-historic looking creatures, we watch the Komodo dragon (which is in an indoor area of the zoo).

Read – FREE
Kai asks me to read to him about five times a day! He tends to gravitate towards busy books. The peek-a-boo ones where you lift the flaps up and see something. He really likes me to read the same book several times, or go to a specific page and gets mad if we don’t read that page many times.

While I like borrowing books at the library, I also enjoy owning them because he can always go back to them whenever he wants to. I’ve discovered a local second-hand store where you can buy and sell your old baby items. It’s called Once Upon a Child in Warwick, RI. You know when you go into a Savers, a Goodwill or a Salvation Army and there’s a weird musty stench? This used store isn’t anything like that. I’ve only gone there twice, but they have a ton of toys and clothes. I have gotten three of Kai’s current favorite books there.

The other day, I celebrated my friend’s birthday by going to trivia at this bookstore and cafe called An Unlikely Story in Plainville, MA. It has a wonderful children’s section! I plan on going back one of these days for story time.

Visit a local botanical garden – $
Most of these gardens have large a large or multiple greenhouses you can visit with a wide variety of plant species! Kai enjoys exploring new areas and appreciates large open spaces so he can run around.

Join a support group = FREE or $
If you are a new mom, there are usually local support groups you can join! There are Meetup Groups, which are usually private, that you can request to join. There’s sometimes a small fee (maybe $10-$50 a year) to participate. Kai and I ended up going to a mommy Bible study at a local church. There was nursery during the session, so Kai was able to interact with other kids. It was a wonderful way to fellowship as well as grow closer to God.

Get your toddler involved in cleaning:) = FREE
Kai keeps me on my toes. He loves to see people cleaning, especially sweeping or mopping. And shoveling or raking. I guess he just has a fascination with sticks. Sometimes, when we are hanging at out home, he asks me to sweep and clean the floors because it is “dirty”. He also begs me to take the vacuum cleaner out and use it.

Enroll in a music class = $$
This year, we decided to enroll Kai in a music class. He absolutely loves it.¬† Last year we ended up going to a free introductory music class to get a taste for what to expect if we decided to sign up this year. It was nice to see the different activities and just a a little taste of everything. At the time, Kai was still just beginning to take his first steps, so I selected swimming vs. music class. This year, we selected Lori’s Music Together. It has been such a fun few weeks already! It’s amazing to see Kai’s progress. He’s singing parts of songs and mimicking all of the dance moves at home! You just need to show him one time, and he remembers! It’s hard to believe because I sometimes think he’s not paying any attention to what the teacher is doing.

Go on a movie date at home – FREE
Since my almost-two year old cannot typically sit still for more than ten minutes or so, we haven’t yet attempted to go to a real movie theater. He usually does pretty well when he’s a little tired, but not over-tired.

On certain days, especially if he’s feeling under the weather and he needs a little more TLC, I will make some popcorn, get a juice box for him and maybe even think about giving him little lollipop treat while we watch a G or PG-rated movie together. Since he is still taking naps during the day (well mostly just one long nap now), he sometimes falls asleep watching a movie.

His current favorite movie is Moana. Michael thinks he has a crush on her.

Play at home – FREE
There are ways to make play time fun, creative and interactive! Playing with your toddler and teaching him to play pretend expands his imagination. Don’t be afraid to get messy either! You can always take a bath afterwards!

You can play with the idea of planning activities around different themes matching holidays or cultural traditions. Or, tailor play and activity time at home for your toddler to learn about the basics, such as colors or numbers.

You can invite his little friends over too! This also teaches your child or children to be more social with other kids. While this can be challenging at first, it’s good to be consistent with it. Since Kai is an only-child he doesn’t understand the concept of sharing. Well he’s getting more used to the idea, at least:)

Some of his favorite things to play with now are play-doh and instruments; play dirt and monster trucks; his train wooden tracks and train set; his CAT diggers, bulldozers, dump trucks, and front-end loaders; his Hot Wheels cars; cutting his wooden fruits and vegetables with this Melissa & Doug set; and watching PBS Kids!

Got any more ideas?
These are just some ideas! There are plenty of ways to entertain your toddler. I have honestly bonded so much with my 21 month year old. It has been such a joy to watch him learn things so quickly. I feel so lucky to be spending this time with him.  If anyone has any other ideas, please share! I am totally open to trying new things to keep busy.