Letter 4 – Toddlers

Letter to myselfHere’s the next letter my series ~ “Letter To Mewhere I share the letters I wrote to myself, encouraging myself (and, hopefully, other new homeschoolers)  with what I wish I had known when I started out on our homeschooling journey ~

 Dear Nadene,

So you’re starting homeschool with your toddlers.  You do not need to “do formal school” with your littles.  Forget the boxed curriculums, those expensive educational toys and the dedicated time and place for learning.  It IS NOT NECESSARY!  Life and learning go hand-in-hand.  Sorting laundry, plumping pillows, washing veggies, and any and every activity you are busy with are all part of the lessons learnt at this stage.

P1040645Play!  Go outside.  Explore!  A sandbox and some water are your toddler’s best toys!  Let her get dirty, play in puddles, smear mud, eat some worms … it is good, old-fashioned, messy fun!  Blow bubbles, chase butterflies and sniff all the flowers. Kick balls and throw bean bags.  Have fun!

Sing songs.  Sing them over and over again.  Do hand actions!  Dance and move.  Play musical instruments; like those you make with some seeds in bottles, two sticks to beat together, a few bells on some string. Buy a few good CDs and play them during the day and in the car.  This is the season when the “wheels of the bus go round and round ….”

P1100408Read to your toddler.  A good Mother Goose or Classic Children’s Storybook with lovely illustrations is all you need.  Read with funny expressions!  You’ll make the story come alive!  Read every day.  Read at night at bedtime.  Read alouds are the most powerful learning tool you will ever, ever need!  Your children will amaze you with an ever-increasing vocabulary, creative imagination and incredible general knowledge! Sit with your child on your lap and cuddle together. This is going to become her and your most cherished memory of homeschooling!  And DON”T STOP!   Read aloud to your teens!  They will still love it!

Encourage narrations after the story … “tell me the story in your own words”  or “what happened to the mouse?”  or draw a picture of the story.  Use a large blank jotter and write your child’s dictated narration under or near their illustration.  It will be her precious book of creative learning.

Playing with playdoughTeach basic skills with fun games.  Select one or two short activities per day — roll and cut playdough, sort colors and shapes, pour rice, beans or water through funnels and into jugs, paste magazine pictures or wool or cotton wool onto card, peg with clothes pegs, press stubby pins in holes, cut paper with safety scissors, draw with chubby crayons, finger paint, lace with reels, thread large beads … the lists are endless.  Just one or two activities per day!  That’s all.  Prepare for repetition.  Kids love to repeat an activity over and over. It is their way of mastery.  Go with them until they have had enough and then move on to something new.

Make Ziplock activity bags for your toddlers if you are teaching older kiddies.  They will save your sanity when you need to focus on your older children!  Use some of the ideas above, as well as countless others you’ll find on Pinterest and Google.  Spend an hour or two once a month and create new sets.   Swap them with your friends or make them for each other.  Teach your toddler to play quietly and then pack all the pieces back in the bag before going on to another activity.  These are also great for church and waiting rooms!

Avoid over-scheduling your toddler!  She only needs some swim safety lessons, but don’t fill her days with endless extra lessons.  She does not need horse riding, kinder music, group play dates, ballet, ball skills sessions that require you to pack up and bundle everyone in the car and stress to arrive in time … only to arrive home late with tired, ratty kids and still have supper to prepare … Your toddler will not fall behind.  You are not neglecting her if you don’t fall into this modern-day trend.

Follow your child’s readiness.  Take note of the things she enjoys and facilitates her love to learn gently. You may lead her to something further, but don’t rush her.   And if she is not ready for something, just quietly put it aside and try again a few months later.

Prepare your child ahead of events so she can cope with change or new things.  Give 5 minutes “heads up” before the game or activity ends so that she can move on without tantrums.  Explain your expectations clearly and simply, for example:  “When we are in the shop we are not buying any (….) (sweets or drinks) at the till.  Here are your sippy cup and teddy to hold while we shop.”  Remind her again as you put your toddler in the trolley.  Be kind and gentle but firm. 

And how to avoid birthday party meltdowns?  Use the golden ratio = child’s age: the number of friends + 1, so, if your child is turning 2, then she can cope with 3 friends.    Arrange to have healthy party foods or snacks with your friends and agree not to give away sweets as party favours. 

Lastly, Nadene, this will all be over in such a short time!  Love every moment of every age and stage.  All too soon they will grow up and move on with their lives.  Homeschooling your children is the most precious gift!

Blessings from your older, hopefully, wiser self,


PS.  I did get little teary posting photos of my youngest daughter, Lara, then 5 years old, who is now a tall, slender 13-year-young lady … sigh … and recall those precious young years.

I’d love to hear your views and thoughts on this topic!  Please, would you share yours in the comments?

Previous posts in this series:

Make Memories with Hands-on Activities

Revisiting earlier posts ~

Way back in 2009, when I re-used our Sonlight Core 1&2 World History with my youngest 2 kids, I ignored the time-frame suggested in the Sonlight schedule and followed it as a mere guideline.  Adding hands-on activities to our themes made homeschool come alive and filled our school day with fun!  

But, more importantly, it really helped my kids learn.  In fact, when I asked them what they remember of their studies, they mostly only remember the hands-on activities!

I am re-using Core 1&2 with my younger 2 girls and decided to relax, stretch the schedule and do hand-on activities when we could this year.

Buiilding castles

building castles

The girls have made models and built castles.  They have created interesting project pages.  They have dressed up and acted out scenes from read alouds.  They have cooked and baked and then ate foods from the country or era.  We have visited places and museums.

Dressing the part

Dressing the part

During school they have played online educational games and they have created interesting notebook pages.  We have made lapbooks for as many themes as we could find or create.

Mapping World War II

Mapping World War II

These activities have been the highlights!  I highly recommend that you allow more time to ‘flesh out’ the schedule!  How can one spend only 1 day covering Japan?  Or take just 2 days to enjoy the Knights and Castles?

Sonlight has offered me a great framework and I have enjoyed this approach SO much more than my first year of homeschooling tick-the-box-stick-to-the-schedule approach!

Life is the learning journey!

Especially while you are teaching your young children, even up to junior high, add and include hands-on activities!  Make time for it!  It is an investment in your children’s learning experience that will last!


Animal Mobile

Land Animals with Exploring Creation with Zoology 3  and a fun hands-on activity ~

A Animal Classification Mobile!

In preparation for this year’s science studies, I made these pictures of every. single. animal in the book.  Miss.L will use these to paste on to her world maps and notebooking pages.

And here’s the free download ~

  1. Pictures ~ Land Animal Pictures
  2. Classification table ~ Table Classification of land animals

While I read aloud, Miss.L wanted to do something creative … and so I pulled out our animal classification chart and cards.

Classification Table  (We used these for our text boxes)

Classification Cards (These are the pictures we used for the mobile.)

Here’s your free download of the above cards and table ~  Classification Table+cards

And I suggested, “Why not actually make that mobile we thought about a while ago?”

Animal Mobile 1We did … and had fun for a few days!

Some tips:

  • Print out the classification cards twice. (You want to have pictures and text on both sides of the card!)
  • Paste the text or pictures on to the front & back of each colored card leaving a colored frame around the picture or texts.
  • Punch and insert eyelets on the tops and bottoms of all the cards.
  • Use soft binding wire and loop in to the top of each card and another wire with a loop at the bottom.  (We cut each wire about 5cm long, and the wire for the felt animals slightly shorter.)
  • Start at the bottom and work out the mobile, laying out the cards to see how wide the mobile will become at the top.
  • The very top of the mobile needs a wooden stick about 50cm long
  • Each “branch” should be slightly shorter than the level above.
  • Overlap 2 branches to make “Mammals” a 4-branch.
  • Add beads to balance the “Invertebrates” branch with the “Vertebrates” branch of the mobile.
  • Cut out felt animals and insert the wire and hang on the bottoms of each picture. (We added some details with black permanent marker.)
  • Perhaps add other animals from each class (e.g.: rodent = rabbit, mouse, squirrel … ) as you study them.  (Just add more beads to keep the mobile balanced.)

Note: This activity was fairly technical and would work well with middle-schoolers and junior high students.

We are delighted with our mobile gently swaying above our work table!

Have you tried to make a mobile for homeschool?

Blessings, Nadene

Water Cycle Wonders

Another fun, yet educational hands-on activity we did recently was

a water cycle

Taking our cue from references we read about in our living history book, we looked at how rain forms and falls to form rivers and flow into the sea.

We made our own “rain~

Here’s how ~

  1. Take a large glass bowl and pour some water in it.
  2. Place an empty smaller glass bowl inside the big bowl.
  3. Cover the bowls with plastic cling wrap.
  4. Place a pebble in the center so that the cling wrap dips down slightly.
  5. Place the bowls in the sunshine and leave for several hours.
  6. Observe the water condense and form droplet on the inside of the plastic cling wrap.
  7. When large enough, the droplets fall into the smaller bowl = rain!

A fast demonstration of how water vapor condenses ~

  1. Hold a glass with a towel carefully over steam coming out of a boiling kettle spout.
  2. Observe water droplets forming inside the glass.  These droplets join and drip down and out off the glass.
  3. Parental note: Steam burns and this must be done by an adult or with careful supervision.

I created water cycle notebook pages with:

  • clear labeled diagram of the water cycle
  • circle table with labels and some pictures to cut and match

Here’s your free download~

Water Cycle Notebook Pages


Hands-on Knots

Young children love hands-on activities!

I am re-using our Footprints on our Land curriculum with my 9-year old.

This is a fabulous,


discover-history-through living-books,

read-aloud-cuddled-together-on-a-couch curriculum.

Every here and there in our stories, we delve off to investigate interesting topics.

Today we learnt,

along with the hero of our story,

a young stowaway,

how to do sailor knots.

With the help of my hubby who was once in the navy, oupa, a seasoned and experienced fisherman, and some printouts from the internet, we sat learning and tying knots.

We used a nylon rope to practice first because the knots were big and clear.  Then we practiced the knots with stiff sisal rope. And finally, made samples for our notebook page using wool.

We discussed how the knots could be best used in our everyday lives.

It was fun and practical!

Have you taught your children any fun/ practical hands-on skills?  Feel free to share with us in the comments.


Fun Ideas for Creative Homeschooling

Welcome to our 3rd SACH Carnival of 2012!

Join South African homeschool moms

as we share our



fun activities

in our homeschooling.

Taryn of Hayes Happenings shares a whole host of creative homeschooling activities, many of these shared with their homeschool group called the “Lunch Bunch”.  They have so much fun, don’t you wish you could join them too?

Here at Practical Pages I have written several posts of our fun and creative lessons!  Here are a few of my kid’s favorites:

Trixi from Trixi’s HomeEd Academy has found lapbooks have brought the joy of learning to her homeschooling days.  She shares some her creative posts:View album

Donette of The Journey wrote her post specially for the carnival and shared the fun and creative ideas for her children who are all under 6.

Thanks to all who shared in this carnival!

I’m sure you all have creative, fun activities that stand out as your homeschooling highlights.

Would you care to share them too?  Write a comment and leave a link to your post.


Making a Polly Pocket in a soap dish!

My younger children love creating toys for their imaginary games.

With only one genuine Polly Pocket between the girls, my 11-year-old created this incredible

Polly Pocket in a soap dish!

We attached the lid to the base with 2 strips of duct tape.

She created the building, furniture and gardens out of cardboard.

She made her Polly Pockets on a piece of straw with cardboard details.

The head is a piece of prestick (sticky tacky).

The hair and clothes are cut and glued cardboard.

She used felt-tip pens to draw the details

These Polly pockets stand in the little cardboard cylinders placed in the house.

The straw fits perfectly inside the cylinder and can stand securely!

She even made a little pony with a straw stuck between 2 cardboard horse shapes and closed with a contour strip.

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Now the 2 girls can play … and play … and play!

(I confess that I could NOT and did not help!  My child has the most nimble little fingers!)

Recycled Toys and Ideas for A Polka Dot Party!

My 11-year-old came up with this theme for her party ~

A Polka Dot Party!

Ginger Mango cupcakes with Polka Dots with blu...

Image via Wikipedia

With dots in mind we decided to play with ideas of all things…


and colourful …

even for food

and decor

and activities.

We took our fun party and joined another large homeschooling family for the fun-filled Polka Dot Party!


Polka Dot Cooties

The girls created several cooties with polka dots on the top.They moved around the group taking turns to play.

Inside were simple fun choices with even more funny activities or actions for the last choice.

Scavenger Hunt

I created a coloured dot scavenger hunt list and wrote 8 things the children could find outside on the farm.

Each child had a small bag (to hold the items they collected).

Each child had 8 dot stickers to stick over the dot when they found the item.

This was a fun activity that got everyone running around and exploring!

Dotty Refreshments

Fruit Juice

Decorate each glass with a circle slice of fruit.

Place round ice-cubes made with fruit juice in different colours in each glass.

Or put  round melon balls in the fruit juice.

Ice cream cones

Instead of a birthday cake we gave everyone 2 scoops of ice-cream in a wafer cone.

Everyone decorated their ice cream with Smarties, Jelly Tots or Astros.

Fun ball games with some recycled 2l milk bottles, newspaper and scrap wool.

We cut the bottles to create a “racket” and a “bucket”.

We made the balls with a sheet of newspaper crumpled tightly in a ball and tied around with some yarn and knotted to end.

Colour or number the buckets.

Games with “rackets” and balls –

Each child had a ball attached to the handle of the milk bottle. They practiced tossing the ball up and catching the ball as it fell back down.

Next we pulled the ball off the string attached to the handle and each child chose a partner.  They tossed and caught the ball.

Once they mastered throwing and catching 1 ball between the partners, everyone took a ball and both partners tossed and caught each other’s balls at the count of 3!  FUN!

(The balls are quite soft and you don’t need too much space to play this.  We played on a small patch of lawn outside.)

Tossing balls in the “buckets” –

Arrange the buckets in 2 or 3 rows.  Let all the children toss their balls and score if the ball goes in.

Number the buckets and arrange them in 3’s with highest number in back rows to score.

Place the buckets on a table and let the children toss the balls to knock them off the table!

Paint a different colour on each bucket.  Call out a colour and see who can toss their ball into the correct bucket.

Other Ball, Dot and Circle Games:

Knock the Scarecrow’s Hat

Tie a broom to the back of a chair.

Place a hat over the top of the broom handle

Children toss their balls to knock the hat off the “scarecrow”!


Make 10 skittles with recycled plastic bottle filled with sand.  (Paint them different colours.)

Arrange the bottles in a triangle.  Place a skipping rope/ hula hoop for the children’s mark and let them toss a large newspaper ball at the skittles.

Hula Hoop circle

All the children join hands and stand in a circle.

Mom opens the circle to place a hula hoop over the 1 child’s arm and then closes the circle again.

Now the children must move the hula hoop around the circle of children, over each child alternating over the head and under the feet without breaking the circle!

Ring Games

Ring – a Rosie (traditional game)

Murderer and Detective

Everyone sits with their eyes closed.  One child walks around the circle.  Everyone sings, “One tap detective, Two taps murderer.” The child walking around taps 1 child once and another child 2x on their head.  The detective (the child who tapped 1x) now sits in the middle of the circle.  He/she watches to see who the murderer is.

The murderer is the one who was tapped 2x.  He/ she WINKS secretly at anyone in the circle who looks at him/her.  The person who sees the wink rolls back groaning – killed!  They remain lying down.  The murderer continues to wink at anyone until he/she has killed the group and “wins” or until the detective sees or guesses who the murderer is.  The murderer now walks around the circle and game begins again.  If the detective cannot find the murderer, they are ‘out’ and cannot sit in the circle. (We let the child continue for fun.)

Click here for the party plan: Party Plan Polka Dot Party

Included in this download is the menu and food ideas, cootie details and other ideas.

I included the lyrics to the song “Yellow Polka Dot Bikini”.  Children could sing this while playing musical dress up/ while playing pool games …  so many more ideas …

Hope there is something fun here that you can use! 🙂

Learning Geography with “Simon Says”

We are studying the hemispheres and found this wonderful Geography Classroom Game ~

play “Geography Simon Says”

"Tropic of Cancer" = Shoulders!

But before the game we first learnt about the Equator, Tropics and Arctic and Antarctic circles and North and South Poles.

The kids found and named all the latitude lines on our globe.

Then we checked the names and positions on our maps.

Now we could play!

We named the body:

Top of head = North Pole
Ears = Arctic Circle *
Shoulders = Tropic of Cancer
Waist = Equator
Knees = Tropic of Capricorn
Shins = Antarctic Circle *
Toes = South Pole

* Once the kids had mastered the basics, I added the Arctic and Antarctic circles.

It took just a few rounds for the kids to learn all these important positions on the globe … and we had fun!

I am using Intelligo Unit Studies for our Geography course.

We used all these links for this Unit Study:

World Atlas – Hemispheres


How to Teach Latitude and Longitude

Games involve different learning styles. This physical activity is valuable  for kinesthetic learners (children who need to do/ act/ move what they are learning).  Games only need about 5 to 10 minutes, but they secure the new information in a dynamic way.

Our young children (and moms, too) must get out of our chairs and be actively involved when learning.  Hands-on activities, games, projects and fun create a happy learning environment.

Homeschool is fun!

Sniff and find your baby!

Batty about bats!

We have finished reading about bats in our Exploring Creation with Zoology 1:  Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day by Jeannie K. Fulbright.

We learnt some incredible facts about bats ~

  • Bats have a muscle in their ears that closes when they emit their high pitch squeak for echolocation that prevents the bats becoming deaf from their own call.
  • Bats hang upside down without the use of muscles.  Tendons are specially created to close and hold the weight of the bat without it becoming tired.
  • A mother bat can find her baby pup among the millions of other baby bats by scent and sound.

And this last amazing fact brought us to this activity ~

A scent experiment!

I created 20 different scents on cotton wool pads.

Here’s what I used to create different scents:

  • mouth wash
  • make-up remover
  • perfume
  • deodorant spray
  • essential oils – lavender, tea tree, eucalyptus, rose, lemon grass
  • lemon juice
  • fruit juice
  • apple cider vinegar
  • baking essences – vanilla, caramel, strawberry, almond, peppermint
  • laundry softener
  • ammonia household cleaner
  • furniture polish
  • condiments & sauces
  • spices – cinnamon, ginger, cloves

We sniffed each pad and the kids guessed what I had used.

Then I blindfolded each child, let them choose 1 pad and name the scent and place it back on the tray with all the other scent pads.

I used tongs (so the scent wouldn’t rub off on my fingers and confuse them) and placed the pad near their noses.

Sniff! Sniff! Think … remember … name it, try again …

And then they found their scent!

Each child showed a remarkable response to the scents when they found their “baby”.

Yes! This is mine!

It  is amazing to see how powerfully our emotions are connected to smells.   Our brains respond to scent and connect it to so many other memories. It is a powerful tool.

How often do we use all our senses to learn or remember or express ourselves?

The girls wrote narrations in their notebooking pages and minibooks.

Our notebooking pages are free from Jeannie Fulbright.

We downloaded our minibooks for our lapbook from CurrClick.com.

You can find more information on Science Notebooking at Jimmie’s Squidoo lens.