Activities to do with the toddlers

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My little kids (ages 1.5 and 3.5) have been driving me crazy lately, and I think its because I need to have more activities and time focused towards them.  So much of my day is revolved around housework and homeschooling, I think they act out to get some of my attention.

I’ve worked hard to eliminate clutter from our home (I found the book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo to be very inspiring), which makes it so I spend less time putting things away all day.

And I’ve gotten into a good homeschool routine with our older child.  The daily schoolwork expectations are:

  • Piano practice (3o minutes)
  • Computer time (30 minutes)
    • Khanacademy
    • typing.com
    • xtramath.org
  • Journal (1 page writing on a given prompt)
  • Science (Mon/Wed), History (Tues/Thurs), OR Art (Fri.)
    • I’m using Abeka for Science, “Story of the World” for History, and art projectsforkids.org for Art ideas
  • English lesson (~60 minutes from “Rod and Staff” textbook)
  • Math lesson (~60 minutes from “Saxon” textbook)
  • Reading (60 minutes)

Generally our 9-year-old can do the majority of his schoolwork alone.  There are some oral drills in English and Math occasionally, and I’m always nearby to answer questions– but the lessons are written in a manner that he can read and learn pretty independently.  (I check his schoolwork DAILY, and go over any problems he misses with him to ensure he’s understanding everything… I think this is key).

So tonight I decided to invest some time in planning activities and projects focused towards the toddlers in my life.  Here is a list of things I’d like to try with them this Summer….

  • Yogurt Silly Putty:  Mix together a cup of yogurt with 3/4 cup corn starch  (found this idea here)

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  • Fireworks Painting Activity (idea found here)

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  • Pasta Threading activity (idea found here)

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  • Giant toy-filled ice cube (idea found here)

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  • Homemade bathtub paint (idea found here)

1 tbsp cornstarch

4-6 pumps baby shampoo (about 1/8 c.)

2-3 drops food coloring

1-2 tsp water

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  • Little Boy Dream Activity Board

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  • Homemade Playdough (recipe found here)

1 cup water

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1/2 cup salt

1 tablespoon cream of tartar (do not omit– helps keep dough fresh for 6 months!)

Food coloring

Saucepan

1 cup flour

Combine water, oil, salt, cream of tartar, and food coloring in a saucepan and heat until warm. Remove from heat and add flour. Stir, then knead until smooth. Store in an airtight container or a Ziploc freezer bag.

  • Homemade finger paint (recipe found here)
 

4 tablespoons of sugar,  1/2 cup of cornstarch,  2 cups of cold water,  Food coloring

Stir sugar and 1 cornstarch together. Add cold water and heat over medium heat until the mixture is thick (the mixture will further thicken as it cools).  Divide into containers and add food coloring.

 

Behavior Bucks (2016 edition)

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Every year I revise our Behavior Bucks and print off a new set.  After going through the kids’ hands, pockets, laundry, etc for a year, they begin to get quite worn.

I enjoy designing a new Behavior Buck each year, and the kids enjoy receiving the new edition (although we continue to use and accept all previous years of Behavior Bucks– but as time goes on I destroy the ones that become too worn).

I make the Behavior Bucks measure exactly equal to that of a U.S. dollar bill (2.61 inches wide x 6.14 inches long); this way they can stash their Behavior Bucks in any regular wallet!

So here is the unveiling of our 2016 Behavior Bucks!!!

Behavior Bucks 2016 (1)

I got the cute “Choose the Right” emblem from http://melonheadsldsillustrating.blogspot.com.  She has so many cute illustrations!  I wish I had her talent…

I particularly like the CTR/RTC acronym– if we strive to CTR (Choose the Right), then, through the atonement of Christ, we can RTC (Return to Christ).  Cause and effect!

And here is a PDF of them (I fit 3 Behavior Bucks per sheet of paper, and make some of them worth $1 and some worth $5)  Behavior Bucks 2016

Behavior Bucks Rewards

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Over the past few years, our rewards for Behavior Bucks have evolved as our children have grown and their interests have evolved.

I began with making coupons available for purchase (like little credit cards).  These were fun, but it didn’t allow the kids to see ALL the rewards available quickly and easily.  Also, they’d get bent or lost.

Then I changed to a simple list (no pictures).  This wasn’t fun enough.  I learned that I need to ADVERTISE all the fun things they can buy in order to more effectively encourage them to work towards earning Behavior Bucks.  When you go to a store, there are fun colors and bright pictures to entice you to buy things… A simple black-and-white list wouldn’t get you excited to make a purchase.

Alas, here is my latest edition of the Behavior Buck Rewards:

behavior buck rewards

There are pictures to accompany each item, both to increase the excitement factor AND, as an added benefit, so our toddler can interpret the different rewards available.  They are all on one page so everything can easily be seen at one glance (no flipping through cards, or reading through long lists).

I also changed some of the prices– generally our kids earn 2-3 Behavior Bucks per day (one for chores, and one for school well done, and one for doing something extra or exceptional).  The conversion rate is approximately 2 Behavior Bucks per dollar we spend out of pocket for an activity (so in monetary value, they earn around $1/day).  For example, it costs us about $10 to take a child out to eat at a restaurant, so therefore, it costs 20 Behavior Bucks for this treat.

Now $1/day is probably more allowance than I’d hand out, but oftentimes parents give allowance on TOP of freebie fun outings out to eat or to the movies.  Although we do sometimes just go out and do things for free without “charging” the kids, generally we require them to pay for things using their Behavior Bucks.  (This is also an effective way to find out if the kids are actually interested in going somewhere/doing something… If they’re not willing to spend their Behavior Bucks to go see a movie, then it’s obviously not a movie they’d actually like to see).

Also, we take away Behavior Bucks for naughty behavior.  And they do NOT earn them if they haven’t finished their schoolwork or chores (we hand out Behavior Bucks every night before prayers/bedtime).  So in reality, although our kids could earn our kids earn 21 Behavior Bucks in any given week, they actually earn (and keep) an average of 12 Behavior Bucks per week (an equivalent of around $6).  I think it is money well-spent to encourage positive behavior, in addition to teaching delayed gratification as they work and save to earn some of the more expensive rewards!

Chore Chart for our Kids

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I revise our chore chart twice a year or so.  EVERYBODY becomes complacent when they are given the same job over and over again.  Changing things up a bit helps keep the kids on their toes, and also gives them the opportunity to practice important life skills in different areas of the household!  I can’t emphasize this enough.  Your kids’ chores MUST change at least semi-annually, or you WILL see a decrease in their work ethic and efficiency.  For some reason, making the change from taking the trash out instead of emptying the dishwasher is super exciting and reinvigorates hard work.

We used to swap chores every week.  Switching chores weekly was too often, in my opinion, as the kids would forget whose week it was to do which set of chores.  And wracking my brain at bedtime trying to remember who should have done what during the day was too exhausting!  Anywhere from once a month, to semi-annually, seems to be a good time to change up chores.

You’ll notice a NEW player on my chore chart– our 3-year-old!  He’s beginning to show interest in helping out, and he wants so much to be like the older boys.  I thought we better take advantage of his alacrity and get that boy some chores!

(Calvin is 3; Jameson is 9; Nekoda is 11)

Chores

I really do try to assign the kids chores that they seem to enjoy (although obviously they’re NOT going to like everything).  For instance, I noticed that Nekoda would often actually come and ask me if he could help out with making dinner, so I thought that would be a perfect “chore” for him!

I got the jurisdiction idea from a book I read by the Duggar family. (Despite all the craziness their family is going through right now, I am blown away by how well they seem to manage their children and household).  I am excited to see how it works in our home.

We used to have “10-minute-clean up” every night, which was more than enough time to get all our toys put away (you know, so I could bask in the perfection of a clean home after the kids went to bed).  That worked super well for about a year.  And then the kids started getting complacent.  One child would inevitably end up doing most of the cleaning up, while the other child would slowly examine toys and look at books instead of actively putting things away.  So then we changed to switching off nights… Nekoda would be responsible for cleaning up one night, and then Jameson the next.

I decided to change that up again by introducing “jurisdictions”, so everyone is working at cleaning their area of focus (we’ll probably switch jurisdictions once a week).  In our home, there are 3 main areas that need attention at the end of the day:

  • Kitchen (I HATE being left with a horribly messy kitchen to clean all by myself after already spending an hour in there making everyone dinner)
  • Living room (which has our piano and books– which are pulled from the shelves every day… the price I pay for not letting our kids watch TV)
  • Family room (which houses all our toys, organized with baskets for each category of toy)

The boys will take turns cleaning each “jurisdiction” (Calvin, being new to the concept, will need me or my husband to guide him).

Another change to the chore chart is “meal prep” for the older boys on the weekend.  I will sit down with each of them earlier in the week and help them plan dinner for either Saturday or Sunday.  They can write out their shopping list and then be responsible for making dinner (I’ll help, of course).  Their wives can thank me later.

 

A day in the life of my toddler

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Our 3-year-old has become a bit of a disaster… he dumps toys and won’t clean them up.  He runs from activity to activity. He whines and cries at me.  Today it dawned on me that he would probably really benefit from a visual schedule.  Although we basically go through the same routine every day, perhaps he doesn’t know what is coming next. KNOWING what to expect helps everyone feel more calm and happy.

So tonight after I put the kids to bed, I wrote out his schedule:calvin schedule

Each activity for a child this age generally lasts 3o minutes (or less).  Except going for walks and playing outside.  My boys could play outside for HOURS and never get bored.

In the “read with mom or outing” part of the schedule, I take him to a library story time once per week, and also to a community play group once per week.

Crossing my fingers this will help us all out!

A day in the life of my 3rd grader

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I like schedules, but I also flip-flop between being really strict with times and then just using the schedule as a guideline/check-list for the day.

I like schedule tables with time frames for when the (older) kids act like they don’t have time to get everything done.  I can’t stand hearing, “But mom, I didn’t have time!!”  Breaking down their days helps SHOW them that they in fact do have enough time, and TEACHES them how to practice using their time wisely.

I’m happy to report that everything is getting done, so I can move to being more flexible with time frames for now🙂  Here is a new revised run-down of what our 9-year-old’s day looks like…schedules

He understands the specifics of what each time block means:

  • Piano (practice for 30 minutes)
  • Computer (15 minutes of KhanAcademy, a lesson on typing.com, and a lesson on Xtramath.org)
  • Science, History, or Art
    • Science–a lesson in an Abeka textbook, is on Mondays/Wednesdays
    • History–read a section and answer questions in “Story of the World”, on Tuesdays/Thursdays
    • Art on Fridays, usually pulled from artprojectsforkids.com
  • Walk (we go 3-4 miles, depending on how I feel)
  • Journal (he writes on an assigned prompt, filling an entire sheet of paper)
  • English (one lesson from “Rod and Staff”)
  • Math (one lesson from “Saxon” textbook)
  • Reading (1-2 chapters from assigned reading book)

I used to be really lax about grading (meaning, I’d look through his things every other week or so when I got a chance).  What ended up happening is he’d completely misunderstand a concept and get it wrong over and over again before I caught it.  Or he’d just skip lessons altogether and give himself a nice vacation. I decided that I needed to buckle down and get serious about going over his work with him every.single.day.  I’ve been doing this for several weeks now, and it’s worked much, much better.  I immediately know if he isn’t understanding something, and he receives immediate feedback (if his work is really poorly done, then he has to re-do it– more motivation to do it correctly the first time around!).