Penny has never shown any particular interest in dinosaurs, but I’d been wanting to rent The Good Dinosaur movie (which I turned out to not love very much…was that just me?), so I decided to take a chance and focus our letter of the week study on dinosaurs. I checked out dinosaur books from the library, found some really cute dinosaur crafts and activities on Pinterest (click here to check out and follow my board), and started planning our week.

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(click here for a downloadable version of these plans)

I was actually really excited about the things I had planned, and I only hoped Penny would get into it as much as I was. As we started talking and reading about dinosaurs, using mostly nonfiction books (something I admit I haven’t exposed her to enough of because I tend to prefer fiction myself), I was very pleasantly surprised by how engaged Penny was with the subject matter.

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She asked so many questions and was fascinated with the idea that dinosaurs were now extinct. She kept wanting to flip back to the page about the meteor theory, trying to understand what happened to the dinosaurs and why the Earth and its’ animals have changed so much over the years. Quite honestly, it made me super proud to see her soaking everything in so eagerly.

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Over the next several days, I would find her pretending to eat our house plants as she explained that she was using her long neck to reach the leaves, or stomping around roaring like T-Rex (whom turned out to be her favorite dinosaur- another surprise, as I tend to like the more gentle plant eating variety myself). We pretended to be paleontologists, digging for fossils in the Earth (fossils being alphabet magnets and the Earth being whole wheat flour), we made fossil peanut butter cookies using Tyrannosaurus foot prints, and had a blast with kinetic sand.

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But our favorite activity was definitely visiting the Natural History Museum and seeing dinosaur bones up close. I think Penny was in awe of how big the dinosaurs actually were, as was I.

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This week has definitely taught me that kids can and often do surprise you. My girly princess loving girl can sing “Let it Go” until she turns blue, but that doesn’t mean she won’t be just as thrilled with digging and fossils. I can only wonder what Penny will surprise me with next!

If you have missed any of our previous letter of the week studies, check them out and keep following along!

P is for Pond

Z is for Zoo

B is for Beach

O is for Ocean

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Have you ever found yourself completely mesmerized watching the pulsing movement of jellyfish floating in the water?

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When we visited the South Carolina Aquarium recently, Penny and Lucy certainly were. The ocean has such an unusual array of creatures, and it was so cool to see some of them firsthand.

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The sea turtles were my personal favorite, but watching Penny stroke a starfish with a look of awe on her face was definitely the highlight of our trip. Her exclamation of “Oh, it’s so bumpy!” pretty much summed up the experience.

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She talked about it for days afterward, and her newfound interest in the ocean after our aquarium visit was perfect for launching into our latest letter of the week study.

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After gathering some ocean themed books from the library (our favorite was a pop-up book called Under the Ocean by Anouck Boisrobert and Louis Rigaurd, because of its’ gorgeous illustrations that detailed what was happening above and below the surface) and scavenging for ocean inspired crafts and activities on Pinterest, I got to work planning O is for Ocean week.

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For a printable version of my plans, click here, and to view my Pinterest board with direct links and details for each activity, click here.

As usual, Penny particularly enjoyed all of the crafts, especially the glittery paper bag jellyfish with their squiggly tentacles.

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Unfortunately, the paper plate aquarium craft featuring goldfish crackers was not long for this world, because Lucy got her hands on it and enjoyed a nice stale snack before we were able to display it with the other ocean-inspired creations.

Our water table, a birthday gift from Nana and Papa, was the perfect accompaniment to our ocean study, providing hours of pretend ocean play on the hot July days we’ve been suffering through. Penny has insisted that she and Lucy wear their bathing suits each time they play, which is probably for the best as things tend to get pretty wet now that Lucy has discovered the joys of pouring water on everything.

To celebrate all that Penny has learned, I took her to the movie theater for only the second time in her life. The new Pixar film Finding Dory couldn’t have come out at a better time, since we were in full on ocean mode and Penny was enthralled the entire 2 hours.  As was I, because childhood Dory with her mousy little voice and enormous globe-like eyes was too cute for words. If you haven’t seen it, go, then keep riding those waves of ocean fun with some of these engaging activities.

 

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Is there anything better than the beach? This family doesn’t think so. I will admit, there was a time when I thought the beach was overrated. Sitting smack dab in the middle of endless mounds of dry sand that keeps blowing in your face whilst baking (and inevitably burning) under unbearably hot sun? No thank you. However, thanks to some minor changes in our recent beach trips, I have finally become a convert.

I have discovered as of late that in order to have an enjoyable beach experience, timing and preparation are key. Going early in the morning beats the crowds, traffic, and hot hot heat. We have made it to the beach around 9am the last few times, and the cool breeze coupled with the warm temperatures were down right delightful. Making sure we have everything we need easily accessible has also helped- sunscreen, hats, towels, a book for mom, chairs, and especially toys for the girls. And the most important part- set up camp close to the water where the sand is compact so it doesn’t blow in your face and get all over everything. Plus, it is just so much more conducive to building sand castles.

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I now find myself suggesting we go to the beach every weekend, which is perfect because Penny and Lucy are obsessed. Being the teacher that I am, I decided to take advantage of their enthusiasm and launched into yet another letter of the week study, B is for Beach.

Preparation for our study was the same as usual- placing on hold and picking up beach themed books from the library, finding and pinning some cute beach crafts and activities on Pinterest, (click here to visit my board and get detailed info on all the projects we did) and gathering materials, including a bucket of sand and some sea shells from the beach.

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I planned out our lessons to last approximately a week, although we always end up taking longer than a week, which doesn’t bother us at all. Flexibility is one of the perks of learning from home.

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(Click here for a printable version of these lesson plans)

I would say this was Penny’s favorite letter study theme yet, and Lucy even got in on the fun as well! The bucket of sand provided hours of entertainment, with lots of building and creating and pretend play. The girls loved using the seashells to decorate sand sculptures and hide in the sand, and had a blast painting them. With our third letter study under our belt, Penny definitely seems to be grasping the concept of letter sounds making up the beginning of words. It is so cool to see her mind working and processing all that she is learning.

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Our next study will delve even further beneath the surface (pun intended), with O is for Ocean. Stay tuned!

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We took a trip to Riverbanks Zoo in Columbia a couple of weeks ago. It was such a beautiful day, the girls got to see so many cool animals (including a cuddly brown bear who was napping belly up with his feet resting on the glass of his enclosure), and it was the perfect way to kick off our second letter of the week study.

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We came home from our trip ready to gush about all of the animals we had seen, and Penny couldn’t wait to get crafting. I created a Z if for Zoo board on Pinterest, where I pinned all of the crafts and activities we would be doing (head on over for full details on each of them).

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I also placed some zoo themed books on hold at our local library, and got to work lesson planning. (For a detailed overview of how my plans are laid out, and to see our first week’s P is for Pond study, click here).

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(Click here for a printable version of our lesson plans)

Penny had a blast, as usual, and woke up each morning asking what zoo activity we would be doing that day. She is a crafty girl at heart, but she also really enjoyed pretending to be a zoo keeper and various zoo animals, and humored me with a few zoo animal yoga poses as well.

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We are having so much fun doing all of these crafts and activities, and Penny is learning a little something as well! Stay tuned for B is for Beach week, coming soon.

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Lately, Penny has been begging me to challenge her. I can sometimes get away with giving her some crayons and paper and letting her have at it, but more times than not, she insists that she wants to “do something activity.” She is at an age (almost 3) where she is picking up on things so easily, saying new words and trying out new phrases everyday, and is always asking questions about the world around her. In an effort to appease her appetite for learning and stay ahead of the game so that I have a plan the next time she is craving something creative to do, I have decided to start loosely planning out our weeks around themes and letters.

Penny already knows and recognizes all of the uppercase letters, and often points them out when she comes across them, but I thought it would be a good next step to start working on lower case letters as well as letter sounds and writing. I also decided to incorporate a theme into each week just to help guide our activities and make it more fun for both of us.

We started with letter P, since it is the first letter of her name and therefore her favorite letter, and went with the pond theme since it is spring. In the future I will continue to pick letters based more on the season and our plans to go places that may yield opportunities for field trips and real world learning, rather than going in alphabetical order. I began by Pinteresting “letter of the week” and “pond study ideas,” and then went onto my library website to find books to go along with our theme. I was able to place several on hold so that we could just run in on our next trip to the library and they would all be ready for us.

Next, I created a simple lesson plan template to help plan out the activities we would do each day.

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(Click here for a downloadable version for you to print at home)

The goals/objectives section was where I wrote out what I wanted Penny to learn from our lessons. My personal goals for Penny were for her to recognize upper and lowercase letter P, recite the P sound and tell me common words that began with P, to attempt to write or form the letter P, and learn about pond animals and characteristics.

Key terms/ideas were things I wanted to make sure I touched on throughout the week, mostly taken from the books we would be reading. Materials were any art supplies or objects that we would need for our activities beyond the basic staples we always have. I went to the Dollar Tree for everything that I didn’t already have in the house, and found some great stuff!

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Books/videos we would use to supplement our lessons were listed. I decided on one craft/project for each of the 5 days. There were plenty to chose from on Pinterest- you can check out my board (click here for link) for full details on all of them.

Activities included anything involving play, movement, music, and fine or gross motor skills. Field trips to possible areas that went along with our theme were listed, as well as a final culminating activity to show all that we had learned from our study. I decided that Penny would create her own alphabet book by making a collage of objects that began with each letter of the alphabet and gluing them inside of letter templates.

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In the Daily Plan section, I wrote out what our focus for each day would be, as well as any books, movies, crafts, activities, or outings we would be doing. I tried to stick to one book, one craft, and one activity a day. I was very flexible with following this guide, and changed plans around according to weather, time, and our moods, but it was nice to have it to help keep us on track.

The final notes section was added for me to reflect on what worked and what didn’t, what Penny seemed to grasp and what we still need to work on further.

After we finished our first week, (which honestly took almost two weeks because of Lucy’s birthday and family visits and all), I was really excited to do another one, and I absolutely know Penny is as well. The former teacher in me got super excited about the planning component, and Penny had so much fun doing all of the crafts and activities, and was constantly talking about ponds and pretending to be pond animals.

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She would often point out the letter P wherever we would go, and could even tell us whether it was lowercase or uppercase. The most exciting thing for me was watching her actually start to write the letter, something she could never do before. It helped to start out with her forming the letter with play dough and pipe cleaners and things like that, and she was eventually able to write it as well. I would say the most difficult thing for her to grasp was the sound component. She could recite the sound P makes and list off words that began with P, but if I asked her if a word like cat began with P, she would often say yes. I imagine we will have to do more letters before she really starts to understand how to pick out the beginning sounds of words, and I am looking forward to watching her progression!

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I will continue to share our plans for each letter and theme that we do- feel free to follow along and adapt your focus and activities to your child’s own skill level and interests. This could easily be done with younger children, perhaps just focusing on the upper case letter and recognition rather than actually forming letters, or with older children by focusing more on letter sounds and words.

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