Tuesday, September 3, 2013

{Ten for Tuesday} Tot School: Early Literacy Activities - Letter B Baskets, Bins and Books (with Pre-K Add-Ons As Always!)

Last week, I shared our Tot School plan, including how we're focusing on a letter each week and exploring that letter through all 5 senses. Letter A explorations went quite well with Wild Thing (almost 4) often joining in the fun, so I continue to make preschool-aged adjustments and adds to the activities. I hope you enjoy the ways that we learned about and explored the Letter B through Taste, Touch, Sight, Sound and Smell! 

1. Taste - B is for Bananas and Blueberries. Again, we pulled out Eating the Alphabet: Fruits and Vegetables from A-Z by Lois Ehlert and looked at the different letter b produce items. Caterpillar then enjoyed exploring and tasting...especially the blueberries. (We also made chocolate banana bread calling it brown banana bread for the alliteration). 
Look how excited he is about those blueberries. I need to read him Blueberries for Sal!

2. Black Bean and Barley Sensory Bin Our other food sensory component for the Letter B included black beans and barley. I happened to have some of each on hand. Typically, I only use food in ways that will allow it to still be eaten, but did make an exception with these dried goods -- reusing them three different ways to get the most out of the experience. We also purchased some canned black beans to donate to our local food pantry, which I like to do when I use a food item for play. (I am planning on making some black bean and barley burgers soon and pinned two recipes to my Seasonal Eats board). 

We started with just a few examples of each -- four dried black beans and some barley. Soon, though...

...I brought out the jar. Caterpillar enjoyed opening up the jars of each and feeling the barley and beans. In response, I set up a simple sensory bin later in the week for him. 

He really enjoyed this sensory experience. Our final use of the black bean and barley involved putting both items inside balloons after I was inspired by the DIY Juggling Balls shared on the Kids Activities Blog recently. It was a great fine motor activity for Wild Thing (almost 4) who filled his balloon himself putting the black beans and barley in one-by-one. We ended up deciding ours were DIY Hacky Sacks. The boys really loved them. There's a photo of one and more photos from our black bean and barley sensory experience in the Tot School Photo Album on my Facebook page

3. B is for Ball Basket (Touch) - My boys love baseball and really any type of activity or sport that involves throwing, rolling and catching any type of ball. I decided to create a ball basket for the sense of touch and put in balls of ours that had different feels/textures - a plastic baseball, a squishy red ball, a green ball with holes in it that is also a little squishy, but not as much as the red ball, and small practice golf balls that are plastic and have holes. I also added in some baseball cards and plastic baseball rings left from Caterpillar's birthday party. This was Caterpillar's favorite basket and one he kept asking to explore over and over. We also read two of our favorite books as of late: Ball by Mary Sullivan and Little Baseball. You can read more about why we love these books and how Ball helped Wild Thing learn to read, spell and identify one of his favorite words. You'll also get another look at our Ball Basket.

Wild Thing enjoyed this basket too and loved telling me all of the baseball words that start with the letter b: bench, ball, bat, bambino (as in The Great Bambino, which he learned from The Sandlot, our favorite family movie). He also includes Benny and the Beast as letter b baseball words -- again references from The Sandlot. I love the way his mind works! (Right now, as I type this, he keeps walking around the house telling me of items he sees that start with the letter b - bus, book, brown, blue, etc.) Oh - he's moved onto the Letter C now, since that is the letter we're doing this week. 

5. B is for Bowling - The bonus add-on activity from letter B week definitely had to be Wild Thing's creation of a bowling alley using my yoga mat, some toilet paper rolls and the practice golf balls. This kept him occupied for quite awhile, and he often returns to his creative game. 

6. Now for our Sound Exploration Basket with our Bell Basket. My mother sent me a box full of different items that I thought I might need for Tot School and, lucky for me, she had lots of bells to send - small jingle bells, medium size jingle bells, a large jingle bell and a hand bell. By the time I took the photo, the boys had already removed many of the small bells, but you get the idea. I created the B is for Bell card and am using Bell and Ball to show Wild Thing how changing one letter can change an entire word. After the ball basket, this basket was their next favorite. 

Of course, the boys rang each of the bells listening to their various sounds and noting how the small, medium and large bells varied in sound. We also discovered a way to make clean-up time easier, as Wild Thing informed me that at school, a bell rings and they clean up. Now, we ring our handbell and the boys happily clean up -- I love it! 

We also explored our bells and letter B milk caps using a muffin tin for an additional sensory and exploratory experience. 

7. For Sight, I knew I wanted to make a Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See? Basket as we love this Bill Martin book illustrated by Eric Carle. At the library, I also found Baby Bear Sees Blue by Ashley Wolff so the basket became a Brown Bear Basket that also included items that were blue, such as our blue blocks. Offering so many letter B items in the basket, itself a letter b word, worked well. We discussed B is for Bear, Blue, Blocks, and Brown. Plus, as we read both books, we searched for other b words like bird, black, butterfly and more. Another perfect extension would be to go on a blue and brown walking scavenger hunt, but it's been 100+ here, so we haven't done one yet. 

8. Blue and Brown Paint Chip Sticky Collages - In keeping with our blue and brown theme, I got some blue and brown paint chips at the hardware store. Wild Thing cut them up (great practice for him) and then both of the boys put them on sticky paper. Our first project was to create the blue sky and brown earth -- things that we see that start with the letter b. We also made a letter B out of the rest of the blue paint chips that were left. 

Looking at this again now and remembering that Wild Thing also kept talking about the ocean being blue -- it seems that perhaps he was creating a boat adrift in the ocean rather than the earth, sky and a tree. What do you think? What do you see?

9. Sense of Smell: Blue Flowers - I wanted to create a basket full of blue flowers, but had no luck finding any at the nurseries I went to, so instead we explored and sniffed some blue flowers in our neighborhood. If only we had fields of bluebonnets like back in Texas where I'm from -- that would have been perfect. 

10. B is for Big - The final Letter B activity to share came out of our bell basket as we explored Big and Little. Wild Thing really got into showing his brother the difference and emphasizing that b is for big. Learning together is priceless and wonderful!

Since baseball remains the most popular letter B activity and learning experience around our house, I thought I'd share another of our other favorite baseball books with related activities: Hit the Ball, Duck by Jez Alborough. Oh, and just for fun, photos from Caterpillar's 1st birthday at Dodger Stadium.


  1. I love the way you do Tot School! I can just see your littles learning so much through all of these great activities. I love the bear basket and the paint chip collages the best. So awesome!

  2. Wow. Great ideas. Learning to "read" should be fun.