Monday, September 30, 2013

Eating Well on A Budget: Why Supporting Local Farmers + Eating Seasonally Works

I've noticed many initiatives this year during Hunger Action Month that raise awareness about families struggling with hunger through participation in the SNAP challenge, which means eating on $1.50 per meal, an amount comparable to what SNAP participants receive.

One of the ways our family eats well on a budget is by getting produce from local farmers through Abundant Harvest Organics. Another benefit is that I connect with other individuals committed to healthy living. One of these individuals is Jessica David of Conveying Awareness, who shared her best tips for feeding her family well on a budget: 

Support Your  Local Farmers!  

Before visiting your local grocery store chain or farmers’ market, go here first: "What's in Season?" Knowing what's in season is best for your health and your pocket. Purchasing fruits & veggies out of season will be slightly higher in cost.  

Getting fruits and vegetables from your local farmers' market is a good way to ensure freshness plus you'll be supporting your local farmers - it's a win-win situation! Consider a CSA - a Community Supported Agriculture program in which you pay for local and sometimes (depends on the farmer) organic foods. You can find out if there is a participating farmer near you at Local Harvest (some deliver to your door and others have an established point of pick-up). 

In taking the SNAP challenge for this month’s Hunger Action, I want to share that my family of 3 can eat on less than $4.50 a day. We joined a CSA (community supported agriculture) that supports the ‘local farmer’ for roughly $1.70 a day with Abundant Harvest Organics.

One of her budget-friendly meals.
Because I’m purchasing and eating in-season produce, I know that my family is getting the best nutritive value for our dollar. My personal goal is to eat at least 5 fruits and 5 vegetables daily. I truly believe there is power and healing in eating a variety of produce daily. Prices on produce are lower on the foods grown during the season.

I used to live in a metropolitan area of Southern California where I had the pleasure of visiting a farmers’ market every day of the week. When I moved to the desert, it was a bit of a culture shock because the closest farmers market is 90 miles away. So, I checked to learn that Abundant Harvest Organics delivers in-season organic produce to my town twice a week. What a relief!!  

About Jessica: Jessica David is a Certified L.E.A.N. Health Coach and the owner and founder of Conveying Awareness. Jessica provides nutrition tips via her blog, newsletter, Facebook page, and various media in print and online covering a plethora of wellness topics.  Having lived overseas, a seed was planted within her to cook meals from fresh ingredients and she now shows families how to do the same. Jessica feels that through encouragement we can impart education with lasting results. She also advocates for families to eat more fruits and vegetables. She lives in Ridgecrest, California with her husband and their son. 

On Pinterest? Follow Jessica and I's Recipes Using Vegetables Board for recipe ideas and my Seasonal Eats! Board where I pin recipes that coincide with vegetables currently in season. Have a fabulous veggie recipe we should pin? Share it in the comments or on my Facebook page! Excited to also be sharing this post at Mom's Library and Thrifty Thursday.

You might also like:
30+ Kid-Friendly Veggie Recipes
Veggie Broth from Veggie Scraps
P shelling activity + recipe

Sunday, September 29, 2013

{Project 101: Weekly Library Challenge} Discovering New Alphabet Books + Learning about Butterflies and Bad Movies!

This week, I'll finally be caught up with the Weekly Library Challenge, where I share 1 book the boys love from the library and 1 that I am reading. At the end of the year, we will have shared 101 books in honor of our library's 101st birthday! To get all caught up, I'm sharing two books the boys love and two books I love. 

Since we've been focusing on letters a lot lately with our Letter of the Week learning activities and daily letter baskets, I have been on the prowl for new alphabet books and this week I'm sharing two new ones that we love. The first, ABC Kids by Simon Basher, is by far their favorite book from the library right now. The book uses alliteration to focus on each letter and has very clever scenarios, such as "Jasper juggles juicy jellyfish." I always appreciate ABC books that equally emphasize upper and lowercase letters and this one does that. I also love that it works well for reinforcing letter names for my toddler and for reinforcing letter sounds with my preschooler. We also have taken advantage of the inclusion of "cuckoo," "igloo," and "oodles" in the book to learn that two o's together make an oo sound. This is probably our most requested book right now at story time.

Our other new alphabet book from the library is Bang! Boom! Roar! A Busy Crew of Dinosaurs, which also has lots of alliteration, though I'll admit that what attracts the boys to this book is the dinosaurs and construction theme -- putting them together is fabulous! Plus, it ends with skateboarding dinosaurs. How could my boys NOT love that? 

As for me, I enjoyed both of my books this week quite a lot (enough to read two in one week to get caught up, which is pretty impressive): Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver and My Year of Flops by Nathan Rabin of the A.V. Club (The Onion's Entertainment Section). The two couldn't be more different. 

I first became acquainted with Barbara Kingsolver through one of her rare non-fiction works, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life in which she shares her family's journey through a year of growing their own food and only eating locally produced food -- including raising their own turkeys, one of which became Thanksgiving Dinner. I already knew that I loved her writing style and that she was quite gifted with her prose. Flight Behavior only reinforced for me her talent and skill as a writer. The story chronicles a stay at home mom whose discovery of a massive colony of monarch butterflies changes her life. The butterflies have no business being in the hills above her home in Appalachia instead of Mexico. Their arrival allows her to not only make important discoveries about herself, her life and her family, but also about the butterflies themselves, their role in a fragile ecosystem and what their presence says about climate change. They also introduce her 5 year-old son to the world of science, changing his life forever as well. The book resonated with me on many levels, even if I felt that at times the global warming message was a bit heavy handed. I realize that maybe it needed to be for some readers. She honors so many individuals and issues well in the book and kept me engaged and interested. Though my life differs from the protagonist's in many ways, I could also relate to her and could enjoy taking her journey with her, which is ultimately what mattered the most. 

My Year of Flops is not for everyone - it is a book full of reviews of movies deemed box office and/or critical failures. Many of the films and much of the book would qualify as R-rated given the profane language. The book also reminded me that so many "bad" movies seem to include "shocking sex" or "hot girls" in an effort to attract an audience, I presume. Rabin reviews Elizabethtown, Waterworld, Howard the Duck, Ishtar, W. and many other films, many that I had previously never heard of -- thankfully Rabin assures me. Given that this is primarily a kid blog, I wanted to mention that this is very much an adult read -- not that anyone would ever read this book with their child. I also realize that some of my readers will appreciate knowing that Rabin uses explicit language as he discusses the films - if a film is vulgar, sometimes his discussion of it is too. If a scene is highly sexual and crude, his discussion of it is too. And so on. I don't want to get caught up in that as I agree with NPR in their assessment that this is "A Very Good Book About Some Very Bad Movies."

As an independent filmmaker and as someone who ran a film festival for several years, I know bad movies a little too well and have made a few myself. However, I know what Rabin knows as well: some bad movies are redeemable, some are not, all provide learning opportunities. 

Personally, I know that failure is part of success. It was comforting to see through the book that many acclaimed filmmakers/directors, have made abysmal failures, providing a life lesson for all of us -- don't let your failures define you. Learn from them and move on! Reading the book also underscored something I already knew -- most bad/failed films suffer from self-indulgence. It's okay to make a movie just for you, but be aware it may be just for you!! Everyone else might hate it or laugh at it for all of the wrong reasons. The unfortunate reality in the film business, though, is that a person's self-indulgent failure can cost many people their jobs and careers. It's an expensive art and thus very risky business. This is the reason I'm quite glad my failed films happened on my own dime and cost very little, but provided me a lot of insight into what I needed to do to make a good film. And that I have now successfully done that with my latest award-winning indie film, SMUGGLED. (I also recognize the irony in writing about self-indulgence on a blog about my kids -- which is insanely self-indulgent! On the flip side, the blog does not involve anyone else's money and nobody's career is on the line.) What I appreciate the most about Rabin is that he honors the fact that no matter how bad a movie may be, it was important to someone -- it involved many people who truly gave a lot to the project, even if no one else will ever understand, appreciate or enjoy it. As someone who knows first-hand how much work making a film is, I respect and appreciate the respect he gives to filmmakers -- even when they fail. 

So, if you love bad movies/cult movies, the A.V. Club and/or The Onion, this is the book for you -- it's funny, many of the films and scenarios are ridiculous, and it sometimes provides little known insights into the making of a project and, at times, includes interviews of people who worked on the failure. I don't think I could ever spend a year committed to watching bad movies, but thanks to Rabin I don't have to! Also, thanks to him, I may take a chance on a film considered a "failure" and discover, as he did at times, that it is a "secret success." So, fess up, what's your favorite "bad movie?" 

Shared this at Booknificent Thursday.

You might also like:
Travel Books We Love
Ball Basket + Ball Books We Love

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Now I Know My ABCs: Tot School Alphabet Activities from The Kid's Co-Op + What We Did with the Letter D at Tot School

I decided to highlight toddler and preschool letter learning ideas and alphabet activities from The Kid's Co-Op this week, since I was a bit behind in posting my Tot School Letter D post. (I wanted to post in on Tuesday, but we still had activities to do today). I'm merging my Tot School update with our Letter of the Week Activities for D with my selections from The Kid's Co-Op. Hope you enjoy! 

When I started my Tot School activities, we kicked off with the Letter A and an Apple Sensory Basket that Caterpillar really loved. Living Montessori now included it in her very thorough and wonderful round-up of 30+ Apple Sensory Tubs -- perfect for focusing on the letter a or for Fall learning. 

With my popular Things That Go Series, I focused on the Letter B and did Bus and Boat together. Craftulate shared 5 homemade boats, which would be a perfect addition for activities focused on the Letter B, and I shared our Tot School Letter C post last week through The Kid's Co-Op. The basket the boys enjoyed the most during "C Week" definitely was our car basket, and I loved these Learning Activities using Cars from There's Just One Mommy

Before I share our Letter D activities, I'll share the rest of my Kid's Co-Op picks: School Time Snippets shared their Tot School activities for the Letter K and both Wild Flower Ramblings and B Inspired Mama had activities for the Letter P. I definitely want to do Wild Flower Rambling's pig activity and B-Inspired Mama's Polka-Dot Pumpkin is perfect for Halloween

Sunlit Pages has you covered with snakes for the Letter S and Crystal and Company's Watermelon Wagon Craft is too cute for W

I'm wrapping up with 3 alphabet activities/resources for when your little one is ready to explore all the ABCs and perhaps start building some words: Recycle Alphabet Busy Box from And Next Comes L, Driveway ABC Game from Creative Family Fun and a DIY Alphabet Flip Book from Crystal and Company

Now, to finally share with you our toddler and preschool explorations of the Letter D through all five senses. 

Sight - I started the week with a simple duck basket and some of our favorite duck books.

They especially liked this because they love David Shannon's Duck On A Bike and love playing in the bathtub with their ducks. So, we did some duck hunts around the house with our ducks, some duck hunts in the bathtub (adding some milk caps with the letter D to bathtub playtime) and measured, counted and labeled our ducks, while also reading many of our favorite duck books. We also love going to the duck pond to see the ducks as well. 

Hear - We moved onto things we hear that start with the letter D and dogs immediately came to mind since our neighbor has two dogs, and Caterpillar notices every little bark. Again, I put together a simple basket with two fun dog books, including the classic Go, Dog, Go! by P.D. Eastman. 

I took the small dog beads that you see in the basket (in the small orange bowl) and created another activity for the boys that helps with their grip, color sorting and, for Wild Thing, word recognition. I found the chopsticks with chopstick holders at the dollar store. 

They both really enjoyed this activity.

For sound, I also set up a simple drum basket inspired by the Letter D page from ABC Kids by Simon Basher in which Dexter's dog dances dreadfully (in the photo Dexter also plays the drums). The boys took turns playing the drum and making the dog dance and daddy did some dancing and drumming too -- that's lots of letter Ds! 

Taste - For taste, we did dates and donuts. The dates I featured through Lara Bars with some deconstructed Lara Bars as well -- a plate for them that had a bar and then the bar ingredients all separate: dates, peanuts, chocolate chips. Of course, the big hit, though, were the donuts. Caterpillar and Wild Thing shared a donut from a bakery. Then we attempted to make baked butternut squash donuts at home. They tasted fabulous, but didn't look all that great. (There's a couple of photos on my Facebook page). Our real donut making inspired some Playdough Donut Play, which was a major hit. 
Wild Thing played for over an hour with this set up, and Caterpillar lasted 30 minutes 
before he started throwing the playdough around -- that's a really long time for him.

Finally, Touch and Smell - My touch and smell items went together: dirt and daisies. 
There's more daisy photos and other photos from Letter D Week over on Facebook.

We also realized we could create the letter with our daisies. Plus, we painted with them too
and created our culminating Letter D art piece with dog stamping and daisy painting.

We had lots of fun exploring the Letter D, and I can't believe I actually captured 
this wonderful moment with Caterpillar identifying the Letter D for us! 

Sharing this post at: 31 Days of ABCsMontessori Monday, Sow Sprout Play Saturday Link-Up, Tuesday Tots, Artsy Play Wednesday, Mom's Library and It's Playtime!

Now, it's time to Link Up and Play!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

{Project 101: Weekly Library Challenge} Encouraging Creativity + Artistry in Our Children and Ourselves

What's holding your back? What's keeping your feet on the ground instead of your wings spread wide so that you can soar higher? What's the reason that you aren't making art or aren't making better art or aren't shipping your art? Why do you reign in your creativity and keep yourself inside the box? 

These are the types of questions The Icarus Deception by Seth Godin encouraged me to consider. This is 1 of 2 books I'm sharing this week as part of my Weekly Library Challenge. (Yes, I'm 3 weeks behind, so I'm sharing 2 books this week that I've been reading and 2 books the boys have been reading and next week I'll have to share 2 as well). I already read Seth Godin's blog regularly, and you should too. It will encourage you to do something, which is what you should just go do right now! Stop reading this and go make some art right now! Or, read for a bit longer to find out why I love this book and then go make some art.

The Icarus Deception encourages you to be creative and brave. Godin wants you to take advantage of your own unique capacity to create art AND share that art with others because simply creating art is not enough. As an independent filmmaker, the book underscored for me many of the lessons I've learned as I have pursued my art over the last ten years -- primarily my process in learning to become more creative, be more true to myself, find my audience rather than creating films that I "think" the masses want, making better art and, most importantly, creating art that connects with others. Ultimately in the book he stresses the shift in the world from the economy of the industrial age to an economy today focused on connection. He insists that we connect, that we create art, that we push ourselves out of our safety zones, and he's right. Once my husband and I stopped worrying about making a film for "an audience" and instead focused on making better art that connected to something important to us, we began to thrive. We thrived because our art now was meaningful for others as well -- it had value, it mattered. Imagine how liberating it is to know we know we can create the art we want to create, the art we are passionate about and ship it to an audience that cares and appreciates it.

If you are thinking, well I'm not an artist because I'm in marketing/publicity, management, etc. You're wrong, and Seth will show you why. Many of the examples in his book of top artists are publicists, managers, entrepreneurs, internet leaders and others at the forefront of their respective industries primarily because they are artists. It would take me way too long to explain why this is the case, so it's best for you to read the book yourself. I did some "crash" reading with the book (read a lot in a few sittings), but I think the book works best if you read a few short sections daily and view it as part of your daily practice to form artistic habits that will help you "make better art" as he says and "fly closer to the sun." 

I created this for myself from a list he shares in the book as something that can serve
as my daily reminder to make art and then make better art.
The other book I read over the past few weeks encouraged my artistry and creativity in a different way -- in the kitchen! I'll admit that there was no single recipe from 100 Best Vegetarian Recipes from Carol Gelles that I fell in love with. Rather, like all cookbooks or recipes I read these days, her book inspired me to be creative in my kitchen and to remember that vegetables can be the star of the show. I was a vegetarian for 10 years, and this book reminded me of how wonderful vegetarian recipes can be and encouraged me to focus on Meatless Mondays again for my family. For some of my favorite vegetarian recipes for kids, check out Meatless Monday: Eating the Alphabet from A-Z. If you have a favorite vegetarian recipe, please share it. It can be a main course or side dish recipe. Share in the comments or come over to my Facebook page and share there! 
I also have a Seasonal Eats! pinboard that features 
lots of vegetable recipes (and other recipes too).  

As for what the boys have been reading, I'm sharing two of our favorite books, which I think connect well with the theme of encouraging creativity and artistry: Meeow and the pots and pans by Sebastien Braun and Nighttime Ninja written by Barbara DeCosta with art by Ed Young.

Meeow and the pots and pans is a book we discovered at the library through our Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See? Library Scavenger Hunt. In the book, Meeow and her friends are in the kitchen getting pots, pans and other kitchen items. Rather than cooking, though, they end up making music! The reason we love this book so much is that it underscores the idea of using traditional items in non-traditional ways, of being creative, of innovating and it is something I encourage in Wild Thing all of the time, which the circles back as his ingenuity encourages me. Together, we push each other to make art, to create the unexpected, to be brave. An empty dish soap bottle becomes a trumpet, an empty strawberry container becomes a special catcher box for a ball game, and the list goes on. 

Nighttime Ninja is a book we discovered through Pragmatic Mom, and it is a book unlike any other -- specifically because of the unique and beautiful art in the book. My boys both love this book and not just because it is about a ninja child sneaking into the kitchen to get ice cream in the middle of the night, but because of the bold and engaging art that seems three dimensional. Ed Young created the art for the book using cut paper, textured cloth, string and colored pencil, and it shows. This award-winning book deserves its award and is absolutely a must-read. 

Finally, in the spirit of encouraging artistry and creativity, I'm sharing two of my favorite bloggers that encourage creativity and art for children: Red Ted Art and Tinkerlab. Thanks for reading and now -- go do something! Make some art! If you do or have already, share it with the world. You can start by sharing it with me. Leave a link, share a photo, send me an essay. Share your art! The world is waiting. Shared this with Booknificent Thursday.

Friday, September 20, 2013

{Kid's Co-Op} Children's Book-Related Activities + Some Hunger Action Month Inspiration

I love doing activities with my kids that connect with books that we're reading -- probably because I love books. So this week several posts from last week's Kid's Co-Op attracted my attention because they connected with books and, often, with some of our favorite books. I wanted to share those activities and, in some cases, connect the books with new activities related to Hunger Action Month, since that has been a big theme for me on my blog and because I've seen with my own kids and through others that books can be perfect ways to engage children in helping others. I'm kicking things off with three class children's books from Eric Carle and Bill Martin, Jr.: Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom and The Very Hungry Caterpillar. 

Last week on the Co-Op, I shared one of my most popular recent posts with four ways to learn and play through Brown, Brown Bear What Do You See? including our creative food pantry donation activityAnother favorite from Bill Martin Jr. is Chicka Chicka Boom Boom and last week The Educators' Spin On It shared a coconut tree with letter stamping, which is a great literacy activity, and Growing Book By Book shared banana boom cookies -- yum! 

Jodie, of Growing Book by Book, also shared two clever ways to extend her activity for Hunger Action Month. She says: "These healthy cookies would be a great afternoon project for kids to make and then deliver to a food pantry along with a copy of Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr." Or..."Have your kids use some of their saved money to purchase the ingredients for these cookies. Then, together wrap up the ingredients, recipe, and a copy of the book. Take the package to your child's school or another local school and ask them to send it home with a child whose family may be in need!"

I also recently made the boys a Chicka Chicka Boom Boom-inspired dinner, and I realized that this dinner could excite your child in selecting spinach noodles and alphabet noodles to donate to a food pantry. (We always find the alphabet pasta at the dollar store!) Bonus share: our Very Hungry Caterpillar Virtual Food Drive.  
The trunk to the tree on the left is chicken. The one on the right is a breadstick. The center of the trees are pepperonis.
Here's some more favorites from last week: KC Edventures shared Farm Crafts and Activities along with Children's Books About Farms and Teach Beside Me shared her delta activity related to the book Geography From A-Z. I would definitely use these resources/books to dive into learning about where food comes from with my kids, which absolutely connects to hunger and food sustainability. I shared some tips and resources about food sustainability, along with other ways to get involved, at Multicultural Kid Blogs.

Four of my other favorites from last week included Science for Children: Falling Chickens from JDaniel4's Mom, Stellaluna Activities from There's Just One Mommy, Children's Books for Letter of the Week -- Letter A from Crystal and Company, and Little Bins for Little Hands shared and Invitation to Read and Play with Earl the Squirrel by Don Freeman.

Simple ways to extend these same books for Hunger Action Month include: donating a bag(s) of apples to your local food pantry or homeless shelter in connection with the apples falling in Falling Chickens or to connect with learning about the Letter A. For Earl the Squirrel, you could go on a hunt for different nut or nut butters to donate as protein items are in high need and demand at most food banks. For Stellaluna, I love how this book opens up opportunities for discussions about the way people are different and alike -- these could include discussions about how some people, children and families struggles with hunger and others do not. 

My final share might just be my favorite: Pennies of Time shared how she used Uncle Willie and the Soup Kitchen and the way she used this book to help her and her children discuss hunger and homelessness and to begin discussing ways to help. 

Do you discuss hunger and/or homelessness or other topics like this with your children? If so, what tools do you use to help children understand big issues and, perhaps, get involved? Please share in comments or, even better, over at Moms Fighting Hunger on Facebook so we can extend the discussion. Proud to be sharing this at Tuesday Tots, Mom's Library and After-School Linky Party.

And now, it's time to Link Up and Play with The Kid's Co-Op! 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

An Apple A Day...Keeps the Kids at Play!! Learning through Play

I've really enjoyed seeing so many wonderful play ideas inspired by apples now that it's September and Fall is officially around the corner. I shared 20 Apple Play + Learning Ideas from The Kid's Co-Op recently, and then saw SO many more wonderful ideas this week and this great Apples, Apples and More Apples Blog Hop hosted by Blessed Beyond A Doubt already (on Day 1) has enough apple activities for you to do one apple activity a day for more than a month! I've been pinning many of the ideas I see to my Tot School Board (which has lots of preschool ideas too) since we kicked off Tot School a few weeks ago with the Letter A and our own engaging (and simple) A is for Apple basket. I'll be pinning many more in the next few days.

Wild Thing recently did one of my favorite apple activities at preschool -- an apple tasting. They tasted red, yellow and green apples and picked their favorite. By far, he prefers green apples (Granny Smith), which are his father's favorite too. As he shared about the activity I got inspired to do another tasting activity with apples giving him 5 slices with different toppings. Rather than an "Invitation to Play," I'm calling it an "Invitation to Taste," and it will be waiting for him when he wakes from his nap soon. I suspect he will be hesitant to taste. On the other hand, I know Caterpillar will want to dive right in! Our Tot School approach has involved exploring each letter through the five senses, so this tasting activity fits well with our current learning experiences at home. 

Finally, for the first time ever, I'm sharing printables on my site -- yikes!! During our Tot School Letter A week, we also did an A is for Apple Color by Number sheet that a friend of mine made through inspiration from Romero Britto's graphic alphabet art, which we shared as part of Kids Get Arty earlier this year. Wild Thing and Caterpillar have loved doing these as we explore each letter. Right now, we've done A through D. I'm excited to share A with you now as well as a simple form to use for exploring an apple through all five senses with your child. I've done this with various classes during after-school programs in the past, and students always really love it. (Sound is the really fun ones as children get quiet and intensely hold apples up to their ears or knock on their apples. Too funny!) 

Click here to download the color by number page.

Click here to download this Apple Tasting Worksheet.

Loving this Blog Hop so much. Please join in the fun!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

{Ten for Tuesday} Tot School: Letter C Activities - Exploration Through All Five Senses (Pre-K Add Ons Too!)

I decided to do Tot School with Caterpillar (2) and Wild Thing (almost 4 and in preschool now) often joins in the fun, so I adapt the activities to work for both of them. We've been going with the "Letter of the Week" approach, but through the lens of exploring that letter through all five sense. We spent two weeks on C as grandma was visiting and quality time with her became a major priority, as it should. I'm excited to share 10 activities we did as we focused on learning about the letter C through the five senses and to be back next Tuesday with all we're doing with the Letter D this week. 

1. Sound - We started off with things we could hear that began with the letter C and focused on two animals that the boys love to imitate -- cats and cows. I try to start each day with a new basket. For this basket, I included a farm book we have that features cows, some Cat in the Hat crayons (from the $1 spot at Target), various Letter C items, including a magnet letter and some milk caps with Letter C stickers, a crazy cow toy my mom gave us, a C is for Cat learning card and a Cat in the Hat book. We had lots of fun pretending to be cats and cows and reading the books. 

2. Learning Letters with Yoga - We also connected our Letter C learning with some Tot/PreK yoga time focusing on the cat and cow poses with the boys. Below, is the cat post in action -- arching their backs as best as they can.

3. Sight - For sight, we focused on colors as we definitely see colors all the time and color begins with the letter c. I put together a simple basket with crayons and a colors book (in fact, this basket came about at the end of a night of coloring when all the crayons just got tossed into the basket for easy clean up!) 

Having the crayons and the book together like this prompted a simple color sorting/matching exercise. 

As we went through the books, the boys would find items from the basket that were the same color as the current color pages we were reading. 

4. Colors + Counting At Snack Time - I still had some colored fruit o's on hand from our Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See? snack activity, plus a C notecard that corresponded with a color by number activity, so we put those items together with a recycled muffin container and had a perfect letter c snack activity -- sorting colors and counting. 

5. Taste - For our official Letter C day focused on taste, I went with a much healthier option and again used Eating the Alphabet: Fruits and Vegetables from A-Z by Lois Ehlert.

You can see a glimpse of the purple cabbage in this photo, but not the carrots really which were in the bottom of the glass container. The dip is a yogurt dip made with chives. Caterpillar tried the cabbage, cauliflower and cucumbers and seemed to prefer the cabbage. Wild Thing tried the cauliflower only and then stuck with the carrots. Obviously, the corn wasn't cooked yet, but the boys are both familiar with corn, especially popcorn! 

6. Touch - For a Letter C item the boys could feel, I put cotton balls and swabs into an egg carton. Initially, they explored the items on their own. Then, we did some cotton ball and cotton swab water color painting. 

7. Smell - This is probably my favorite thing we did. I absolutely loved our Letter C "Scents-ory Bin," as I like to call it. My recycled muffin container came in handy again as we explored spices and coffee grounds (I used grounds from already made coffee). 

My mom gave the boys this book about smells, which paired well with the activity. I also added the word cards as the different items provided an opportunity to talk with Wild Thing about how the letter c makes different sounds in the case of cinnamon, cloves, chocolate and coffee. Depending on what the letter C paired with changed the way it sounded. I loved this extended learning opportunity for him. Oh - and here's a budget tip: look for cloves and cinnamon in the Mexican food aisle in bags rather than with the spices. I got them at a fraction of the cost this way. Both are now in our Fall Sensory Bin.  

The boys had a lot of fun with this one and played with it a few days in a row.

8. Cars Sensory Bin - Once all 5 senses were covered, we extended our letter C learning with some items the boys love. A Car Sensory Bin was just too obvious! As expected, it was a big hit too. You can't tell from the photo, but in addition to the cars books, cards, letter C items and Lightning McQueen, the basket also had several of their matchbox cars/hot wheels in it. 

A closer look at key items from our cars bin.

9. Early Writing Activities - We did some pre-writing activities too. I simply made a paper for both of the boys that had letter C stickers on it and some handwritten letters. First, we traced the letters with our fingers. Then, we pulled the cotton swab bin out again and watercolors and did some pre-writing work. Wild Thing eventually did tracing with markers too, but the finger tracing and cotton swab was perfect for Caterpillar -- challenging, but fun for him too. (In the photo, it's Wild Thing).

10. Wrap-Up Letter C Craft - Our final activity was a letter C craft that included several Letter C items from our week. Wild Thing enjoyed the activity quite a bit. Caterpillar enjoyed telling Wild Thing what to do and watching him do all the work! 

You can see the blue paper with one cotton ball on it, which is as far as Caterpillar got.

We also have a few more photos from our Letter C week(s) on The Good Long Road Facebook Page's Tot School Photo Album. What fun learning activities are you doing right now? We'd love to know! 

You might also like: 
Tot School: Letter A
Tot School: Letter B
Toddler Car Wash