Our first nature study

I have not been doing school with Mingli lately, and I want to start again.  I have been busy planning so I can have everything ready when we move, hopefully in the next couple of weeks, and we can start (I will post more about my planning soon).  One thing I have wanted to start with Mingli is a nature study.  I have never done this before and felt like I needed some guidance, so I started looking up toddler/preschool nature study curriculums.  I wanted something simple that included a lot of exploration, and I found something that is just perfect!  We are going to be using the Charlotte Mason nature study.  Basically, all you do is take your kid into nature once a week and let them explore.  You can bring things like magnifying glasses and stuff like that if you want to, and you can take things home for further examination, but the child is supposed to be able to spend the time exploring however they want.  It is so simple, I don’t know why I thought I had to have lesson plans and all that every week for our nature study.

Even though I am not starting school again until we move, we had our first nature study today.  My mom wanted to go to a local national park, so I decided that it would be a good time to test out our nature study.  The place we went had an interactive visitor center that was were most of my family stayed, but I took Mingli to the trail that was just beside that.  He went a few feet down the trail, then got interested in the leaves.  We spent probably half an hour in one spot as Mingli played with the leaves.  I kept wanting to try and get him interested in something else, point out the moss, the trees, something beside the leaves that he had been exploring forever, but I didn’t, because it was his time to explore and when he had learned everything he wanted to about the leaves I knew he would move on to something else.  Instead I sat on a log nearby and did some nature study with Iella.  I picked up a pinecone and let her touch and look at it.  I held it in my hand so she didn’t stick it in her mouth, but I made sure it was within reach so she could explore it.  This kept her attention for a very long time.

Mingli did eventually move on to looking at sticks, for about two minutes, then he went back to the leaves.  He had such a good time, and even though I wanted to get him exploring more thing, I am glad I let him lead.  Sometimes I could see him pick up a leaf that looked different from the other leaves and concentrating on it so hard.  There will be plenty of time for him to explore other things, but it will be when he wants to.


Tot school

For tot school today we read Oh My, Oh My, Oh Dinosaurs.  After I took Mingli’s dinosaur costume from Halloween and we danced around the kitchen listening the the song We Are The Dinosaurs.  This wasn’t planned, but it wasn’t good weather so we couldn’t do our planned activity.  It was a gross motor activity, so I decided last minute that dancing was a good substitute.

Next was a counting activity found here.  I wrote a number and the corresponding number of circles on each card.  We used a cookie sheet and some magnets to put on each of the circles.  Mingli counted as we did this and identified some of the numbers.  As we were starting this activity Ebo came and joined us.  After doing some counting we let the two kids just play with the magnets, which they had a lot of fun doing.


After that we did another gross motor activity.  Mingli got a bunch of balls for his 2nd birthday and I got them and helped the kids practice throwing the balls into a basket.  They loved this, and after a while we started throwing the balls to each other, then they just started playing with them.

Tot school-Ducks and farm animals

Yesterday we were able to do tot school again, and it was great.  I didn’t get any pictures because I had finger paint on my hands, but we had a lot of fun.  Cousin Ebo joined us and I think Mingli really enjoyed that.  Ebo is almost a year and a half younger than Mingli, but the two of them have become best friends lately.

Our first activity was finger painting.  We took some of the plastic farm animals that my parents have Mingli used them as stamps.  Ebo was a little young for the stamping, so he just used him hands.  We did it on the kitchen floor so they could both get to the paint and so we were in a place that it would clean up easily.  At first I tried to get them to only paint on the paper, but eventually they started painting on the floor as well and I gave up.  I try not to say no too much during tot school because it is supposed to be about exploration, so I decided to let them make as big of a mess as they wanted.

Eventually we transitioned from painting to our water play.  I had a container of water that had sponges and rubber ducks and that may have been an even bigger hit than the paint.  They especially loved the sponges and trying to squeeze the water out of them.  It was great being able to do this again and having the energy and emotional bandwidth.  I feel like I have really neglected Mingli over the last few months, and we are both enjoying our time reconnecting.

Tot school- dogs and cars

I haven’t been able to do tot school for a while because of my health problems, but my 13 and 15 year old sisters have agreed to help me with it, so this morning we started again, but I didn’t get any pictures.  We used the book Go, Do. Go! as the theme today, which is one of Mingli’s favorite books.

We used this D is for dog coloring page first.  Mingli knows most of his uppercase letters, but none of his lowercase, so I thought coloring pages with both upper and lowercase letters might be a good way to connect them.  Mingli loves coloring, loves dogs, and loves letters, so I thought he would love this.  He did, for a few minutes, then he decided that he wanted to line the marker lids up instead.

Next we got out his cars and used these road shapes for Mingli to drive on.  We only used the circle, triangle, and square, because I was wanting to start off basic with shapes, but we have worked on shapes a couple of times now and I think he is ready to move on to more shapes.

When he started getting bored with his shapes we got out a piece of wood and made a ramp.  Mingli then rolled his cars and other objects down his ramp.  This lasted a while and he had a lot of fun before he moved on to other things.

I was sad that I didn’t really get to do tot school with him, just lay on the couch beside them and supervise, but I was really happy that we were able to start again.  Mingli loves it and seemed to have a lot of fun with the new activities.

Tot school-Oh My, Oh My, Oh Dinosaurs

This morning our tot school theme was Oh My, Oh My, Oh Dinosaurs.

Since it is a book mostly about opposites, I decided to start off with a big and small sorting.  Mingli and I have talked about big and small a little, mostly at the part.  Some we will find big and small sticks and he likes that, but I have never asked him to figure out if something was big or small, he would just find a stick and I would say “you found a big stick” or something like that.  Since this is the first time we have formally worked with this concept I wanted to have all the items be mostly the same.  I thought about going to the store and buying something to sort, but I was tired, so I decided to pull out my Russian nesting dolls.  I was nervous about this, because I actually got them in Russia and they are special to me, but it was what I thought would work best, and I thought if I was watching him it would be ok.  I had 5 dolls, and I decided to just use the 2 biggest and 2 smallest from each doll so there is more of a difference in size.  I helped Mingli sort the first couple, then he did the rest my himself.  He seemed to get it pretty quickly and actually enjoy it.

He had even more fun when he realized that the dolls could be opened, put back together, and would fit inside each other.  He figured this out all by himself and this activity lasted much longer than the sorting.  He was concentrating so much on it and learning a lot.  He had to get the angle right to get the dolls to fit back together, he tried to put bigger ones inside of smaller ones, and he tried to put pieces together that didn’t fit.  I could see the wheels turning in his brain as he figured out how these dolls worked.  I think I want to get him his own nesting dolls that he can play with whenever he wants without me having to worry about him messing up my special ones.


Since we were reading a dinosaur book we of course had to get back out Mingli’s dinosaur play set and play pretend.  We had fun making the dinos drink, eat, go down the slide, and play peek-a-boo.  I know for some thing may not seem like school, but learning to play pretend is an important cognitive skill, so I figured why not take the time to encourage it.

Last we took the dinosaurs and did dino painting.  I made some paint out of flour, water, and food coloring then let Mingli dip the dino feet in the paint and use the dinosaurs to make prints on the paper.  Mingli LOVED this.  His eyes just lit up when I demonstrated how to do it.  This was the first time I have done painting at the table instead of the bathtub, but it actually didn’t get too messy.  I mean, he was covered in paint, and so was the table, but the paint was only on his arms and there was none on the floor, so I thought it was good for painting with a toddler, especially since I didn’t want to restrict him too much.


Of course he didn’t want to stick to just putting the dinosaur’s feet in the paint.

And in the end it turned into finger painting.

When he tried to dump out the paint onto the table I decided the activity was done.  I was really happy to have a day where Mingli finally liked all the activities I had planned and prepared.  Sometimes he is not quite ready for the things I think he is, but today the activities were just right for him.

Tot school

We have been doing some tot school again.  The book I was wanting to use was in the car with Kaanas at work, and I already had everything prepared, so I just decided to do without it.  We sung a few songs using the new shakers we made recently.  When I get my nausea medication filled they only give me 9 pills at a time, so I am going through 1-2 bottles a week.  I decided that instead of just throwing the bottles away I was going to do something with them and decided to make shakers for Mingli.  I put rice in 2 of them, the cut construction paper to fit around the bottle.  I let Mingli color the paper, then glued it onto the bottle.  I then hot glued yarn onto the lid.  Now it doesn’t even look like a prescription bottle!

After that I taped some contact paper with a picture of a rabbit onto our ottoman.  After I had already taped it there I realize that it was hard to see the picture because of how dark the ottoman was, but I didn’t want the tape to pull paint off the walls.  It didn’t seem to matter to Mingli, though, so we just went with it.  I gave him some cotton balls to stick to the contact paper and he had a lot of fun.  He didn’t really stick many cotton balls to the contact paper, but he enjoyed putting his hand on the contact paper and playing with the cotton balls.  Cotton balls are one of his favorite things, so any time I include them in tot school it is a big hit.


After that I brought out some animal touch and feel cards I had.  He wasn’t interested in the touch and feel part, but he loves animal noises at the moment, so we did a lot with that.  We also talked about the animals as we were looking at them.

Our last activity was some gross(large) motor play.  My parents got Mingli a set of tents and tubes that connect together last time they visited and he really enjoys them.  There is not room in our apartment for the whole set, but I got out 2 of the tents and 2 of the tunnels and set them up.  They were up for the rest of the day because Mingli loved them so much.  He brought some of his books into the biggest tent and had fun with that.


It was a simple tot school day, but a really fun one.

Tot school!

We actually did tot school this morning!  I am super excited that we were finally able to get back to it.  Today we read The Very Hungry Caterpillar.  This is one of Mingli’s favorite books, so this was fun.

As we read the book we counted the foods the caterpillar was eating.  Usually Mingli always skips 1 when he is counting, but today he actually said 1!

I thought I would take a picture of a couple of our song sheets since I talked about them last time.  You can also see the props for Old McDonald, they are just different animals that we spread and Mingli gets to choose which ones we sing about.  Yes, we use an elephant, that is actually Mingli’s favorite animal noise.

I tried a counting activity that I got from here.  I even made pom pom magnets for it.  Mingli did not get it at all.  He wanted to put the magnets just all over the paper instead of where they were supposed to go.  I modeled what I wanted him to do, but when it became clear that he wasn’t interested I just let him play with the magnets.  He has never used magnets before, so honestly some exploratory play with magnets was really valuable.

I made a feed the caterpillar game like on this post.  We laid out the foods to count them, but Mingli wasn’t interested.  He just wanted to feed the caterpillar, so that is what we did.  He ended up knocking the box over and feeding the caterpillar with it laying down, and then this turned into a great problem solving activity because he wanted the food back out.  First he tried to get it out through the mouth, then he tried sticking his arm in the opening on the bottom, but his arm wasn’t long enough.  Finally he figured out how to dump them out.

Next I tried a tracing sheet from here.  Mingli has never done anything like this, and I wasn’t sure how it would go.  I printed off 2, one for me to model with and one for him.  He completely ignored the lines he was supposed to trace and just wanted to color.  I figured that might happen, and I was fine with it.  The green marker lid was really hard to him to get off.  I ended up taking it off, then putting it back on much looser so he could take it off himself.

Wow, looking back, not a thing went like I had planned.  Mingli didn’t participate in a single activity the way I had intended, but it was a great time with lots of exploratory play and valuable learning.  I’m glad that I was able to be laid back about it and just go with what Mingli wanted to do, otherwise this tot school time would have been a very frustrating experience for both of us.

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