Wednesday, April 15, 2009

WFMW - Alphabet School

Esmé's Mommy here.

Wahoo - taxes are finally done and on the way to the post office!

I've been wanting to set up tray activities for Esmé's alphabet "school" somewhere, but since we're in transition, this house in Oregon is rather devoid of furniture.

We're making it work, though. We're using the one built-in bookshelf, in the bedroom...
Art/craft supplies taking up the top two shelves, diaper changing stuff and some cosmetics (no shelves in the bathroom at the moment) on the third shelf, a few of my books and current letter supplies on the fourth shelf, and the bottom three shelves dedicated to the activities! And we found seven rather compact yellow trays at a Goodwill that fit nicely...

See 1+1+1=1 for more Tot School Zone ideas.

So what are we doing? We're working our way through the alphabet again, on "A" now. And with Esmé a little older - now two - we've decided to make things slightly more structured and challenging for her.

But I must say I've been totally overwhelmed with all the resources available at the library and online! How on earth am I going to teach my girl everything in one lifetime, let alone just this one year? The more time I spend looking up things to do, the more inadequate I feel... I'm totally missing the point of my "Alphabet Approach," huh?! It's supposed to help us have fun together, just to give me a focus and incentive to find new ideas and things to do.

So, we're a week into this and I've set up a few guidelines that seem to be working really well for now. We'll adapt as things change, of course. Here's what's working for this two-year-old and her mom...

Two weeks per letter. We spent a week last time around, but with the extra stuff we're doing, we can easily fill up two weeks and probably much more per letter. A month might be better, except I WOULD like to get all the way through the alphabet this year.

Limited toys. Esmé has more than enough toys, even with many of them still being in Mozambique. I've taken them all out of her sight, except for a few that support the letter (like a bin with small animals and a plastic ark for "A"), or that she's really attached to (a few dolls), or that are pretty generic and I'll rotate them every so often (a wagon, kitchen pans, etc.). She doesn't seem to miss the other toys at all and is now playing with stuff that was overlooked when she had SO MUCH available to her.

Limited books. Actually, there are still a LOT of books out - I moved them from the now occupied bedroom bookshelf to a couple of baskets in the living room. I DID pare out quite a few of them; I'll rotate them back in as we come to the applicable letters. And once again, she is far more interested in the ones that are available than she was in the vast number of them that used to be on the bookshelf. We have been reading a lot!

Activity trays. I've set up a bunch of activity trays that she has access to all day long. I wanted to give her free choice as to picking out trays, but I've found that she doesn't pay them much attention unless I set one out for her. Once it's in front of her, she loves it. And having them all set up ahead of time makes it easy for me to just grab one when she's ready to move on to a new activity.

Here are the types of trays and activities I'm trying to include:
- counting tray
- pouring tray
- sensory tub
- sound box
- smell activity (like a shaker with allspice in it for "A" week)
- matching game
- stickers
- rubber stamps
- insert activity (like toothpicks to put into a large shaker)
- color sorting
- tonging
- play doh
- daily journal
- magnets
- cutting

A two-week theme plan. I'm working on a two week plan for each letter. Right now it includes the following, and it's been working really well for "A" week.
- Day #1 - Review of the alphabet, colors, numbers, shapes
- Day #2 - Letter lapbook
- Day #3 - Errand/excursion day
- Day #4 - Bible theme

- Day #5 - Science theme (animals, machinery, nature, etc.)
- Day #6 - Social studies theme (maybe a person, event, or country)
- Day #7 - Errand/excursion day
- Day #8 - Kitchen theme

This gives us the weekend off and one completely free day in the week. And errand days are pretty free, as well. This works great to "catch up" on things we didn't get to during the other days, or to expand on things Esmé really enjoys, or to do seasonal activities, or spend more time on activity trays, or whatever!

I don't stress over sticking to the exact days or getting everything done on a specific day. And we're free to deviate from the themes if we want. The hardest part is limiting myself to just these themes during preparation. There are so many terrific ideas out there, but I'd rather spend my time playing with my girl rather than all in preparation to play!

A similar program for each theme. We're not strict with a schedule, but we do try to include most of the following for each theme: a coloring page, a craft activity, computer time (including games and/or short video clips), books, a science activity, a related food, a physical activity, and a song or fingerplay.

Once again, the hardest part is limiting myself. For instance, there are tons of songs and poems on apples. In my previous program, I would try to get through them all and we'd remember none. This time around, we have been going through ALL five of the A songs we've picked (one for each theme) every day, and Esmé knows and loves them all now! And she'll remind me which ones I've missed when we start singing.

So we are having a blast so far! It's amazing how much difference 9 months makes at this stage - and how different things are this time around. But the principle is still the same - to have fun!


BranFlakes said...

looks good! It is so easy to get overwhelmed and then to feel inadequate!! I know I feel that way all the time. I also have to limit myself to what I have set in place, even though I find myself trying to add different things or too much all the time. I love your activity trays, we've set up something similar and my kids love it. I've also been thinking about limiting some of their toys because so much is going unplayed with, I just don't really have any other place to put it all.

CristyLynn said...

I love your style! You've been an encouragement to me through your blog and the way you're teaching/playing with your adorable little girl! Thanks for this "review" type post about your alphabet approach, again tons of great ideas!

♥ Somebody Loved ♥ said...

I just love your organization.

You have got it together oh Mommy of Esme. I don't believe I was ever that organized... was that because I had four kids in less than 6 years time? I think that had to be it.


One Mom said...

Thank you for doing all of the HARD work...there is so much out there to "help" us to teach and guide our babies that it can be overwhelming. I know this wasn't your intention, but you are an inspiration!

Jenners said...

Wow! You are one dedicated mom! I'll give you that! I think you will find that they absorb so much through osmosis and you don't even need to formally "teach" so much. I was concerned so much about my son in the beginning and then I stopped stressing about teaching him all the time and he just seemed to learn it. They are like sponges! It is amazing! Love that closet!

Jennifer said...

I just limited toys too. It is amazing how the toys were just a thing to mess up when we had a lot, and now they are things to play with.

Our Family said...

You might want to check out It has some great ideas for a lot of the basic items that you are already doing!

Letters,Numbers and Books said...

sounds great and don't forget Now I Know My ABC's on Totally Tots

Jennifer said...

It is official, you are the coolest toddler mom ever. Esme must love having so many choices. It is really like she is a big girl now getting to do "school," but it is still fun for her.

dani said...

oh to be so organized!!!

Carla said...

Good for you!
Just the one-on-one time does wonders!
How smart to take in the info, and make it yours, kudos to you both:)