Stuffed Animal Alphabet

stuffed animal alphabet

I’m always happy to find a way to use our plethora of stuffed friends.  We’ve made a stuffed animal zoo, and now we are using them to learn letters.  This game helps with phonics and letter recognition.  All you need are animals and letters.  We used a foam alphabet mat, but you could easily write letters on index cards or use letter flashcards instead.

For each stuffed animal ask:

  1. What animal is this?
  2. What letter does it start with?  (If they need some help offer other words that start with the same letter)
  3. Can you find the letter and place the animal on top of it?  (Again, depending on ability level you might need to give some clues about what the letter looks like or its place in the alphabet)

Then read an animal ABC book and see if you had the same animals!

15 Ways to Learn with Playdough

Ah, playdough.  How many ways can we learn with you?  Let me count the ways.

  1. counting- Make and count objects.
  2. patterns- Make a pattern and see if your kiddo can continue it.playdough patterns
  3. addition and subtraction- Use playdough to illustrate story problems.  Make a nest with five eggs in it.  What happens when you add two more eggs?  How many do you have now?
  4. guess the animal- Make animals and take turns guessing what it is the other person made.guess the playdough animal
  5. pretend picnic/tea party- Make playdough food and good conversation during a pretend picnic.
  6. textures- Play around with different materials to make imprint textures.  Use lots of good adjectives to describe them.playdough textures
  7. write letters– Practice writing letters in playdough for a new handwriting experience.
  8. form letters- Make 3D letters to feel their shapes.playdough letters
  9. 2D shapes- Play “Name that shape!”  Count sides and corners of shapes.
  10. 3D shapes- Make and compare 2D and 3D shapes.2D and 3D playdough shapes
  11. colors- Let’s be honest.  Playdough mixing happens whether we want it to or not.  Make it a learning opportunity to make new colors.
  12. hide and seek-  Bury objects in have your child be the archaeologist or paleontologist.  Use toothpicks and paintbrushes to carefully uncover the buried toy.playdough dinsoaurs
  13. cutting- Practice cutting by rolling playdough into “snakes” and cutting them into little pieces.
  14. match the imprint- Make imprints using objects and then have your child match the object to the imprint.dinosaur imprint
  15. retell stories– Make characters to retell and act out books.  How about re-creating The Three Little Pigs?

What is your favorite way to learn with playdough?

Puzzle Easter Egg Hunt

My girls love finding Easter eggs, so I had the idea of hiding puzzle pieces in them instead of candy.  This might be a fun way to give kids a new puzzle on Easter.  Or it can just be a fun non-treat egg hunt you can have around your house any day.

Confession: my original idea was to hide regular puzzle pieces in the eggs, but they didn’t fit. 😦  Never fear!  This Melissa & Doug alphabet puzzle worked perfectly.  Plus it had the added learning component of identifying the letter found in the egg and then finding its spot in the alphabet.  puzzle Easter egg hunt

  1. Place puzzle pieces in eggs and hide around the room (or outside).
  2. Bring in the kids and let them look for eggs!
  3. After finding an egg, the kiddo needs to run over to the puzzle and put in her piece before she hunts for another egg.
  4. To make it fair for younger players, you might want to have kids take turns finding eggs and adding pieces to the puzzle.  One kid can’t go find a second egg until everyone has found their first egg and so on.

puzzle pieces in Easter eggs

Stuffed Animal Zoo

We have way too many stuffed animals.  I’m not a fan.  They take up a lot of room, and although they are occasionally snuggled at night…they rarely participate in play during the day.  Until today.  Today we made a stuffed animal zoo.  It was a great indoor activity for a rainy day….and it was free!  And, of course, there was a lot of conversation and learning about animals.  Here’s what you do…

  1. Gather all stuffed animals and cages.  If you don’t have that many (lucky you), use puppets, plastic animals, or even animals on the covers of books.  We used baskets and boxes for cages.  We also used a green blanket for the “grass” and a blue towel for the “water.”stuffed animals for zoo
  2. Sort out the ones that don’t belong in your zoo.  You can ask questions like “What animal is this?  Where does it live?  Have we seen it in the zoo?”  Big Sis had fun asking these questions to Little Sis.  She decided stuffed animals like Care Bears, Thomas the Train, and dolls didn’t belong in the zoo.  However, you can do whatever you want.  It’s your zoo! You can make this a learning opportunity to discuss real zoo animals, or you can make it pure fantasy and have a unicorn section.  Whatever is most interesting to your kiddos.water section of stuffed animal zoo
  3. Match up like animals.  This is a great activity for toddlers and preschoolers.  You can talk about what characteristics the stuffed animals share.  What makes it an elephant and not a hippo?  How did you know that it was a bear even though it was pink?  If you are like us, you will end up with four elephants….and maybe you’ll realize you need to get rid of some stuffed animals. 🙂indoor activity stuffed animal zoo
  4. Decide how to organize your zoo.  This is where it gets fun!  Talk about how you could arrange the animals and plan out the space.  Should all the African animals be together?  What about animals that fly?  Preschoolers and early elementary kids will enjoy thinking about different ways to categorize the animals.  If they are stuck, suggest some of these…
    • habitats
    • continents
    • carnivore/herbivore/omnivore
    • number of legs
    • color
    • patterns- stripes/spots/plain
    • land/water
    • alphabetical
    • mammals/reptiles/amphibians/fish/birds/invertebratesrainy day activity stuffed animal zoo
  5. Put the animals in cages…or not.  It’s easier to see them if they are just loosely grouped.  However, Big Sis is a stickler for “keeping it real.”  Although I need to have a talk with her about animal rights and forcing four elephants into such small cage.stuffed animal zoo
  6. Visit the zoo.  This was my daughters’ favorite part.  One pretended to be a visitor and pushed a baby doll in a stroller.  The other was a zookeeper who took tickets and guided the visitor around the zoo.  Then they switched.  If your kids are too young, YOU be the zookeeper and give facts about the animals as you travel through the zoo.

Extension activities you might want to try-

  • Reorganize the zoo a different way using the same animals.
  • Read a book about zoo animals.
  • Watch a live zoo cam feed online.
  • Write the animals’ names on papers and place them outside the cages.

 

Writing in Shaving Cream

shaving cream writing

I am a little messophobic.  That’s a word, right?  I love to give my kids new experiences and it is fun to watch them get messy…but the clean-up.  The clean up.  Sometimes I don’t know if it is worth it.  Sigh.  Despite my messophobia, I got out the shaving cream one day.  I remember playing with shaving cream on the table when I was little and I loved it.  And of course, so did my girls.  Although Little Sis did not like to get it on her hands, so she used stick.  Maybe messophobia is genetic?

learning with shaving cream

Shaving cream might be the “fun factor” your kid needs to practice writing letters, numbers, or words.  Even toddlers can practice straight and curved lines that they will need to make letters.  Little Sis made lots of lines, while Big Sis did some writing.  She might need a little more practice on her numbers….

writing numbers in shaving cream

And the clean up was not as bad as I expected.  Luckily no one started throwing shaving cream, so it was just the table to clean up.  I could wipe most of it off the table with my hands and then wash it off in the sink.  Then a wet towel did the rest.  Shaving cream is officially approved for messophobes everywhere.

Here’s a round-up of 67 art and learning ideas for shaving cream from The Artful Parent.