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.

Starting tot school again

We haven’t been doing tot school since I found out I was pregnant because of morning sickness, but I think we are both missing it.  Mingli and I are not spending as much time together doing fun things, and I can tell it is making him sad and extra clingy, and I think it is also contributing to by depression.  My morning sickness is getting better, so I am going to try and start tot school again.  I am not going to put any pressure on myself to do it everyday (it’s not like I ever did it everyday anyways), but I am going to have several days planned out and have the supplies on hand, then on days when I am feeling up to it I will pull some stuff out and we will do it.  On days I am feeling bad we will not worry about it and I will just let him play with puzzles and do other informal learning activities.  Currently I have 4 days of activities planned out, but I need to get the supplies for them still.  I am still using a book as the theme for each day, then we do a few related activities for the book, usually 3.  Sometimes we will do activities unrelated to the book if there is one that I am wanting to do or if I am having trouble coming up with 3 activities related to the book that I think Mingli will enjoy.

I am also wanting to sing songs using the song sheets I created.  I don’t know if I posted about them or not, but I gathered several songs that we are going to be using in tot school, made a sheet with the words and some pictures representing the song, printed them, and laminated them.  During tot school we sing 3 songs.  I lay out a few sheets and let Mingli choose which one he wants.  Because they have pictures he is able to actually recognize which song he is choosing, and he is starting to develop clear favorites.  Song of the songs have little printed props that go with them.  For example, with 5 little ducks I printed and laminated a mama duck,  5 baby ducks, and some hills.  Each verse we hide one of the baby ducks behind the hills and then count how many are left.  These props are paper clipped to the back of the sheet.  Other songs we sing have actions, like Itsy Bitsy Spider.  If the song doesn’t have actions of props, like Row, Row, Row Your Boat, we use one of his rattles to make music, so all of his songs have active participation from him, even if he can’t sing them yet.

Eventually I want to add in having one activity each day that is related to a certain developmental area, and the developmental areas will rotate.  I want to do this because I have noticed that I tend to neglect certain areas in my tot school, particularly gross motor (skills that involve large muscles, such as running, throwing, jumping, etc.).  If I am rotating developmental areas I can make sure I am helping him develop in all the different areas and our tot school will be more varied.  I need to change my planning sheets to do this, though, and I have to figure out exactly how I want to do that, so I am not doing that just yet.

Tot school the last few weeks

So, for the last few weeks tot school, or at least formal tot school, has been nonexistent.  I just haven’t felt well enough to actually plan out, setup, and carry out tot school.  We have done some simple, informal tot school, though.

The biggest thing we have been doing is learning the alphabet.  Mingli was given an alphabet puzzle from his great grandmother, and he just loves it.  As he plays with it I will sometimes name some of the letters he is putting in, and he has picked right up on that.  He knows A(kind of, sometimes he gets it mixed up with R), E, M, R, S, T, V, X, and W.  He mixes up M and W, actually he seems to think that they are two names for the same letter, and he also thinks that N and Z are M/W as well.  I think for someone who is not even 2 yet it is incredibly good.  I am not pushing the letters, he is way to young for me to be worrying about him learning his letters, but he is interested, so I go with that.  I was asked if I am teaching him which words start with which letters, and I was like “definitely not, he is not even 2 and doesn’t know that the  letters make sounds yet.”  We have also tried to find the letters he knows on boxes or in books.  The books are harder, because he only knows the uppercase letters, but many boxes have words written entirely in uppercase letters.  He gets so excited when he finds a letter that he knows.

We have done a few color hunts.  It started because Mingli really wanted me to play with him one evening, but I was too sick to get off the couch.  He was getting really upset, and I was trying to come up with something to calm him down, so without really thinking about it I told him to go find me blue.  He thought about that for a second, then ran off and came back with a blue toy.  We then went through all the colors (except grey, at the time he didn’t know grey yet).  Some of the things he brought me were really creative and smart of him.  When I asked for brown he brought me his blue rubber duck.  I was sure he knew brown, so I asked him where brown was, and he proudly pointed to the duck’s brown bill.  For black he brought me a box that had tiny black writing on it.  I was pretty impressed with the details he was finding.  We have done that a few more times, and it is great because he is getting my attention, but I am able to lay done on the couch and not make myself sick.

He found a shapes puzzle for him and have been working on the shapes a little as he does the puzzle.  He is better with his alphabet than he is with his shapes, but he does his alphabet puzzle more, so that is understandable.

We are also working on animal sounds, which he thinks is one of the funnest games ever.  His favorite sounds are the elephant, the crocodile (he makes his hands go “snap”), and the wolf (he loves throwing his head back and howling).  He knows a lot of the more traditional ones as well, like cat, dog, and sheep, but the others are just more fun.

Well, that is what I can think of that we have done for tot school lately.  Like I said, not much, but I am not stressing about it, because he is still young and doesn’t really need formal schooling yet, we just have fun doing it.  When I am feeling better we will go back to it, but until then we will just do what works for us.

Tot school


Our theme for Monday was colors.  My first two activities came from here.  My first one was rather simple, and went really well.  I got some colored stickers and matching colored note cards and let Mingli put the stickers on the note cards.  He loved this activity, but it was pretty challenging for him (which I thought was a good thing).  He has never really used stickers before, and had some difficulty figuring out how to get them to stick to the note cards instead of to his hand.  I didn’t push him, though, this was something he was really interested in and really wanted to figure out.  He finally did, and was really pleased with himself.  After he had managed to get a few stickers onto the paper he took the sticker sheet away from me and started working on getting the stickers off the sheet by himself.  He was also able to figure this out and seemed really happy about it.  He matched the stickers for several minutes, then I could tell he was getting more frustrated.  He seemed to have reached his limit with the stickers, so I asked him if he was done, and he handed me the stickers.  One funny thing about this activity, Mingli did two sheets of stickers, and both sheets he did not want to use the pink stickers.  He used all of the orange and green, then handed the sheet of stickers back to me with all of the pink stickers still stuck to it (I handed it back and wouldn’t give him another sheet until he had finished with all the stickers).  I have no idea why this would be.  We have used pink in other activities and he has never seemed to be against it, but oh well.


The next activity was dripping colored vinegar onto baking soda and watching it bubble.  I was using a little medicine dropper so we could put just a few drops on at once, but this isn’t how it happened.  I got Mingli to do a few drops with the medicine dropper, then he took the whole thing of vinegar and dumped it on the baking soda.  He loved this, and then got the other cup and did the same.  I let him, because I realized that this activity was a bit too old for him.  We will revisit it in a year or two.


Next was finger painting, of course.  Mingli loved it so much last time that I had to do it again.  Really, it wasn’t what I had planned, I had planned of colored shaving cream, but when I started preparing tot school for the day I realized we were out of shaving cream, so I did finger paint.  We do our finger paint in the bathtub, because I don’t want to worry about the mess.  I figure Mingli needs rules and limits with some things, but he does also need times when he can just make as big of a mess as he wants.  I do this with finger paint in the bathtub.  He dumps the paint out, then paints the tub floor, the walls, and himself.  There are no rules with finger painting, including not eating it, as you can see from the middle picture.  I make my own finger paint by mixing flour and water until it is the right consistency, then adding food coloring.  This means it is completely edible, and as a bonus I have never had it stain clothing.  This time Mingli actually drank the finger paint.  Immediately after he started gagging, because really, how good can water and flour really taste?  But he was able to experiment with it and decide that for himself, which I thought was important sometimes.  In the last picture you can see how messy he is, but you can’t see that his face is also covered (from sticking his face in the bowl and drinking it).  Soon after the last picture was taken we stopped.  When he stood up he started slipping and became scared, so I ended the activity.  Another bonus of doing finger paint in the bathtub, just take off the diaper (I leave the diaper on while finger painting so he doesn’t wet in the tub and ruin the activity) and turn on the water to clean up!  Cleaning up after the finger paint is one of Mingli’s favorite parts because he loves water.




Tuesday we were supposed to have a friend over for tot school.  I realized that the only aspect missing from tot school was social, we decided to invite a friend over once a week to join us.  They ended up canceling last minute, so tot school on Tuesday was just looking at our family picture cards.  I have taken pictures of all of Mingli’s aunts, uncles, grandparents, and his cousin, cropped them to the right size, printed, then put contact paper on them.  We look at them sometimes and go over people’s names.  Mingli loves this, and our family will love that next time we visit he will know their names!



Tot school on Thursday was a little difficult.  Mingli was having a really difficult day and spent most of it crying, which is not like him (he has two molars coming in at the same time).  I was hoping tot school would cheer him but, and it kind of did, but not a lot.  Our theme for the day was music.

Our first activity was making music with instruments.  I got out kitchen stuff for drums, and then I got Mingli’s little piano and his two shaker toys.  The kitchen stuff was the favorite.  He wouldn’t let me turn the pots over, he wanted to hit the spoons on the inside of them.  He did explore the other toys, but didn’t stay long on them.


I didn’t get pictures of our other activities that day.  We did songs and dancing.  I found an idea here about making a song notebook.  For about a week now I have been gathering songs that I like and want to teach Mingli.  I have been making a page for them with clipart from the internet, and making props to go along with some of the songs.  Thursday I got them out and used them with Mingli.  I gave him two choices at a time and let him pick which song we were going to be singing.  He had fun, but the activity only lasted a little while because of his mood.  Our last activity was dancing.  I turned on some of our baby music and we danced in his bedroom.  Again, this is an activity he enjoys, but it didn’t last long because he wasn’t in a good mood.

We did go to the park and kind of extended tot school to there.  We worked on vocabulary as we talked about trees, sticks, grass, and other nature words that we went over in the fall, but haven’t talked much about during the winter.  We talked about big sticks and little sticks.  We counted on the swings, and Mingli counted with me (he only said two and three, but that was still something).  And we even worked on social skills because there was another toddler who was just two months younger than Mingli.  Park tot school went much better than my planned out tot school.



Friday went much better.  I introduced shapes to Mingli, and he loved it.  He again caught on really quickly.

The first thing we did was I took the top of Mingli’s block shape sorter, put it on the floor, and had Mingli use it like I puzzle.  This was challenging for him, but he was able to do it.  He completed the whole thing a few times as we talked about the shapes.

After Mingli was done with the shape puzzle we moved onto a sorting activity I found here.  Mingli really loves sorting activities like this, they are always a hit.  On the website it had stuff to sort 8 different shapes, but because this was Mingli’s first introduction to shapes I just did 4.  I helped him in the beginning, but he quickly got it.  After that I names the shapes as he sorted them, occasionally correcting him by pointing to the shape he had just placed and naming it, then pointing the the large shape and naming it.  After a while he was able to find shapes when I asked for them.  He did this entire activity twice.

Our final activity of the day, and the most fun, was from here.  I put tape on the floor in the shape of a square, triangle, and circle (all I had was white masking tape, which didn’t show up on our floor, so I used marker on top of the tape), then told Mingli to run to certain shapes.  For the first few I held his hand and ran with him, then after he got the idea I just stood back and told him which shape to go to.  He loved this and was really good at it.  He even started saying the shape names.  This activity lasted until the fire trucks we by our apartment, and then that was it.


All in all it was a good week.  For more tot school ideas, visit

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