Pumpkin Week

I hope you have had a chance to enjoy the sunshine in between the smoky days.  It is a different beginning to fall for sure — smoke and 80 degree days are not our typical October weather pattern.

This week we will continue to have activities with pumpkins, leaves and apples.  We will look at the difference between pumpkins and apples.  We will examine their seeds, stems and blossom ends.  Some children will enjoy touching the goo inside the pumpkin and others will prefer to just look. 

We will use the ramps to roll pumpkins and apples.   The children will race them and try to guess which is faster – the apple or the pumpkin.  We will also have some games with the pumpkins, leaves and apples.  Hide and seek is a favorite for the older kids.  We will hide the leaf cards, apples, small and big pumpkins in the play area.  

We will talk about patterns during Circle Time. 

The book Look Look Look by Tana Hoban shows the children 3 different views of the same object and lets them guess what it is.  This is a fun game to play with your child.  Have them look at different parts of something familiar to them and see if they can tell what the object is.  

You can play I Spy With My Little Eye as you go on a walk or in your home.  Let them have a chance to be the one who picks the object and you guess what it is …. so fun to see what they choose for the object to find.

This last week the older kids played a game of What’s Missing?  Show your child a pattern of 3 or more objects and talk about what is there.  Repeating out loud the pattern they are looking at.  Such as  “red ball, orange ball, blue ball”.  Say it several times. Then take one item away (orange ball) and have them try to remember what was taken away.  Repeat the pattern by saying, “red ball, something is missing, blue ball”.  You can either remove the object or cover it up with a small container or cloth.  After doing this with your child allow them to do the ‘taking away’ and have you guess what is missing.

With the younger children when the object is covered up it is actually gone in their mind so it is a big surprise when it is uncovered again — playing a version of Peek a Boo with just one object is great fun for them.

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I have always been an outdoors kind of person.  When I was in the second grade my family moved from Yakima to Lynnwood.  I had been used to the weather in Eastern Washington — no matter if it was cold or hot we had lots dry outdoor time.  I was not used to days and days of rain.  I was surprised when I realized that children could play outside in the rain!  Once I realized I could play in the rain I was outside all the time.  My sons had lots of outdoor rain adventures growing up.  One of my favorite memories is of our annual camping trips to Mt. Rainier.  We went with our family friends every year.  Back in the ancient days you had to go up to the mountain to see if there were any camping spots available — no reservations were taken.  Every other year we would be the ones to go up on a Thursday to try and secure two camping spots.  This particular year it was pouring rain!  We got up there and found two side-by-side camping spots and started to set up camp.  It was raining so hard we could not even start a fire.  As Curt and I set up the tent I realized the boys were off in the woods collecting pieces of bark from the cedar trees in the area.  I wasn’t sure what they were doing until they started setting up a gutter system around the perimeter of the tarps we had hung over our tent and the picnic table.  It was a great gutter system that sent the water away from the tarps and kept the area under the tarps completely dry.  We tried again to start a fire and finally gave up.  Soaking wet we drove up to Paradise Lodge and stood in front of the huge fireplace eating a bowl of chili we bought at the little cafe.  Warm, and full, we drove back to the campsite and fell asleep listening to the rain hitting the tarp over our tent.  The next morning we awoke to a beautiful sunny morning.  I was glad it was sunny but was happy we had such a fun time in the rain.  When our friends arrived the boys were eager to show them the gutter system and tell them all about our rain adventure.  I must admit that I preferred a day hiking in the sunshine to a day of hiking in the rain but I know we would have had a great time no matter what the weather.
I hope you have a chance to get outside and create your own rain memories.  One of the preschool parents sent me a note and thanked me for introducing her to the concept of playing outside in the rain.  She had the same realization I had had as a child — children can play in the rain!  She sent me a note, laughing that they had the whole playground to themselves!  As I told my sister-in-law who lives in California, after their son’s Boy Scout camping trip was cancelled because it rained, if we didn’t go camping in the rain (and play soccer, go to a park, ride our bikes) we would never go places at all!
I have so many fun memories of being outside in the rain.  I miss those days outside with the boys.  I am so glad that Danielle and Joel  take Zoe and Ansel outside in the rain and invite us to join them on evening Rain Walks fun fun!

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I love watching clouds as they float by the house. The big fluffy white ones remind me of summer in Ohio. Big white fluffy clouds that just sat quietly in the sky that would turn in a moment’s notice to thunderheads with an approaching thunder and lightning storm on its way. We would all sit in the window and watch the thunder and lightning storm…I loved them and so did Joel and Nick. My cousins thought we were all nuts!

My grandfather would talk to me about all the different types of clouds and what they would do — rain, storm, nothing — each cloud had a different look and a different weather pattern that went with it. I can’t look at cumulus clouds without thinking of my grandpa. 

This week we will be talking about clouds, Leprechauns and rainbows. It will be a week full of imaginative opportunities. Enjoy the fun!
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This week we are focussing on our community and the people who work in our community.It is a time when you can point out different businesses and who works there on your walks around the neighborhood.  How do we get those yummy meringue cookies at the bakery?  Who brings the milk to the store or your front porch?  What is your favorite construction vehicle?
Ansel and Zoe have a special relationship with Sedgewick, their mail carrier.  They watch for him and wave to him from inside the house.  They leave notes for him in their little mailbox in the yard.  They also watch for the garbage and recycle vehicles. They leave thank you notes taped to the bins for the garbage / recycle and clean green workers.  Danielle has worked hard to create relationships with the community workers that come by their house each week.  It is so important to find ways to connect safely with the people in our neighborhoods right now.  We may have to be more creative but we can do it.  Think of ways you can connect your child with the community workers in the neighborhood and city.
Next week we will be talking about some Little People that live in the gardens — Leprechauns!  I love leprechauns!  When Joel and Nick were little we had so much fun pretending to have leprechaun visits.  They built homes for them and left them treats.  In return the leprechauns would leave them shiny rocks.  The leprechauns would make all sorts of mischief on St Patrick’s Day!  I will send out a note with ideas for creating your own Leprechaun Village. We will continue the imaginary fun into the next week.
Happy pre-Green Week!

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When my sons were little I had a home daycare.  Every morning at 6am little boys would arrive at my house.  I had 8 little boys joining me for the day.  One of our favorite activities was to visit construction sites.  We would load up in the Bronco (back in the day when you could fit 8 car seats in a Bronco – 3 in the front and 5 in the back) to go in search of construction sites.  One of our favorites was a deep hole where they were putting up an apartment building (pre-Condo-Ballard!). I would pack their lunches and we would spend the day watching bulldozers, excavators and dump trucks.
Danielle called me the other day and we headed to the construction site near the floating bridge.  So much fun!  Cranes, dump trucks, excavators, welders and a construction worker smacking the hitch on her truck with a huge mallot — definitely a favorite!  There was a pick up truck with a three ball hitch that fascinated both Zoe and Ansel.  After the visit to the construction site we went to the Arboretum and waded through the largest / deepest puddle of the season.  What a perfect day!
This week we will be experimenting with ramps, movement and shapes.  I am looking forward to watching the children as they build, create and explore the world of construction.

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It is Train Week.  Little kids are drawn to things that move and trains are a favorite of many of them.  When our sons were little we had trains all over the house.  They loved playing with their trains.  They also loved playing at the beach so it was always a bonus to be at the beach when the train went by.  If the engineer would blow the horn at them while they were standing on the beach waving they would get so excited.  Ansel loves trains and he is very excited to play with PaPa’s remote control trains.  My brother-in-law collects trains and he gave us one that blows steam out the smoke stack while it chugs down the track. Every few minutes a voice yells “all aboard”.  He was so happy the first year we set it up at Christmas and he was given the remote control!  He loves anything to do with trains.  Danielle takes them on ‘train adventures’ where they go to try to find trains chuggin’ down the track.  He is especially excited if it happens to be a BNSF orange engine pulling the train.  Curt and I were on a snow hike at Lake Easton and we heard a train coming.  We found a good spot to stand on the bridge over the tracks to get a video (and still photos) of the train.  We knew Ansel would be so excited  when he saw the video of an orange engine coming around the bend.  And then, even better, we discovered it was a train with two BNSF engines! It was pulling a very long string of cars and at the end of the string of cars was another set of two BNSF engines but they were facing the other way.  It was a ‘push me/pull you’ train!  Ansel loved it. We had hit the BSNF engine jackpot!This Is a fun online virtual tour of the BNSF railway.
This week we will be reading about trains and talking about the wheels on the train, how they make the train (and other vehicles) move.  We will do some magnet experiments with the trains they have at home and do experiments to see what sticks and doesn’t stick to a magnet.  We will continue to talk about colors when we read The Freight Train.  I hope you have fun talking trains this week!

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We celebrated Ansel and Danielle’s birthdays last Saturday.  While Ansel was playing with his new train we started talking about Thomas the Tank Engine and how so many of the things children have always liked are now connected to a specific brand — trains have always been something children are fascinated with and now it is just not “a” train but “Thomas”.   When my sons were little it was just the “toy” not a branded toy.  Tools were tools with a construction worker not Bob the Builder, trains were trains, and dinosaurs were dinosaurs until Land Before Time.  When the movie came out Pizza Hut started giving away the dinosaur puppets that went with the movie.  It was no longer a Triceratops but it was Cera and her friends Littlefoot, Spike, Ducky and Petrie.  And of course, a Tyrannosaurus named Sharp Tooth.  I had decided I was not going to fall for this commercialization of children’s interests in dinosaurs.  Ha!  Never say never.  I rationalized that we all liked pizza and if they got a toy from our Friday night pizza dinner then so be it …but it was only because we were already going to have pizza — right?!?  It was not because the boys were begging to go and get another dinosaur puppet for their collection.  Soon they had collected all of the dinosaur puppets except Sharp Tooth.  And you cannot have a proper dinosaur collection without a Sharp Tooth!  So we go to Pizza Hut only to discover they are out of that puppet.  I start to call around to find a Pizza Hut that still has a Sharp Tooth — I cannot believe I am doing this, I say.  Well, two little boys standing next to me in the kitchen as I make the phone calls have convinced me it is something I need to do.  I finally find two puppets and, yes, the manager will hold them for me if I make the order over the phone….huge smiles and laughter as we climb in the car and drive to ….. Mercer Island!!  We had a great pizza dinner. with a favorite relative who lived nearby and the boys had giant smiles on their faces as they played with the complete set of dinosaurs in the backseat as we drove back home.We still have the dinosaur puppets and Ansel will be playing with them, as well as Zoe.  They have never seen the movie and have no idea what their YaYa and PaPa had to do to complete their Dada’s collection.  Fun, and funny, memory.

This week we will be learning about dinosaurs, bones and volcanoes. The children will be building a volcano and adding dinosaurs to the volcano before it ‘blows up’. We will use descriptive words while we discuss big and little,
loud and quiet, in and out. The kids will be using tools (technology) as they add the dino-bone powder to the volcano as you make your volcanoes at home during class.  You can also dig for ‘bones’ in your sensory bin and examine fossil prints in your playdough. Children love being paleontologists and learning about dinosaurs.

We have been talking about things that match, size and colors.  This week you  can talk to your child about size and comparisons. You can ask questions that compare things the child is familiar with: big as an elephant, small as a kitten. Talk about the difference of loud and quiet. When is a cat loud? What is loud in the house – the vacuum? the hair blower? the blender? Give them an opportunity to make loud sounds and quiet sounds with a tool that can do both. A tooth brush can make both loud and quiet sound. The soft brush side of a toothbrush will make one sound while the plastic handle side makes another
sound. What can you use a toothbrush for? At preschool we would have been using toothbrushes to dust off the sand from the bones in the sensory table.  This is also the month that we talk about brushing our teeth and how important that is.  You can talk about how they use it as a tool to brush food off their teeth An easy way to show them how a toothbrush works is to brush ‘dirt’ off of an item or toy.
Dinosaur Week will be filled with STEM activities: Science: study of dinosaurs/volcanoes, Technology: paleontologist tools, Engineering: building
the volcano, Math: adding/counting/comparing/categorizing. All of this while we play with dinosaurs!  I love Dinosaur Week!

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Thumbs in the thumb place…. This will be a good week to add to your child’s vocabulary: words that  describe the weather, colors, temperature and textures. Our children have lots of words for wet and rain  but not as many about cold weather. The snow we had will give you an opportunity to add those words to  their vocabulary with an understanding of the cold snow. We will have a chance to talk about textures this week along with colors. The children will be playing matching games with colored mitten cards.  You can extend that play with giving them things to match at home – socks when you are doing laundry,  spoons/forks when unloading the dishwasher and putting the silverware away, memory card games and  picture dominoes are fun both for learning how to play a game as well as matching the pictures.

As I wrote this note I remembered when Joel was 9 months old he was sitting on the couch with me while I was folding laundry. He had picked up the cordless phone and I finished folding the towel and then took it away from him. Just as I was about to set it down the phone rang. I answered and the person says: This is the Seattle Police Department. We just received a 9-1-1 from this number. I was shocked and explained my son had been holding the phone and must have pushed the button for 911. She informed me I needed to have a discussion with my son and let him know the seriousness of calling the police. I explained to her I would but that he was only 9 months old. Ha!My mom had her class do the math to figure out what the chances were to randomly call 9-1-1 on your phone. It was definitely not something I would ever have thought he would do in a few seconds while he sat on the couch next to me!
As I am remembering this event I was thinking about the world we are living in right now — things are happening that we would never have imagined could happen.  Please, take some time to focus on something positive today.  For me mittens are cozy and remind me of fun walks in the snow with my family or by myself.  I love the quiet beauty of a winter snowfall.  It is so magical to take a long walk in the snow.  My sister knows how much I love the snow and for Christmas she knit me the most beautiful pair of mittens.  Now I will think of her as I go for my walks in the snow.  We did not get along as children so it is nice to know that we have a wonderful relationship now and can share family memories that no one but family would know.  I have always been so happy that Joel and Nick have always been best friends.  It makes me so happy to hear them laughing together and remembering fun times they had together as they grew up. Laughter brings me joy — which may be another reason I love snow so much — children laughing is always something I hear while on my snow walks.  Children’s laughter brings me joy, hope and memories of fun times with my family.  Please, find a time to laugh with your child this week.

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I used to love seeing the snow start to fall and I’d cross my fingers we would have a snow day.  If the snow started in the evening hours we would  wake up the boys and stuff them in their snow gear (jammies still on!) and go play in the snow.  Our whole neighborhood would be outside playing in the snow as we all knew there was no guarantee the snow would still be around in the morning.  If we were lucky enough to have snow in the morning, and Seattle Schools cancelled for a snow day, we would have a family fun day because Curt would have the day off as well as the boys.  We would start the day with a pancake breakfast then head outside for some snow fun.  Our neighborhood would have a sledding party on the little hill at the end of the street or meet up at the community center.  It was fun to see the neighborhood kids wearing the snow gear that was passed down from family to family.  We were so lucky to have a tight knit neighborhood — family friends for a lifetime.  After the sledding it was time to make our snowman. One of my favorite things to do when it snows is to make a snowman — yes, mine were usually  snowmen as I would be building them with two boys who wanted a ‘snowman’.  We have also made snowdogs, snow iguanas and snowdinosaurs…depending on the amount of snow we had in the yard.Now I am usually alone on snow days. I enjoy walking the neighborhood and seeing all the snow creations that have been made by the families in the area.  I remember the days when we would be the ones making creations in the snow. Curt doesn’t get snow days any more – he is off by 4am to make sure those college students don’t get hurt on the slick sidewalks – haha.  Joel will call me and tell me it is snowing at his house and send video of Ansel on the same sled Joel used as a child.  After 8 winters in Wisconsin Nick is not as excited to see the snow as he used to be but he is still happy to play in it when he is home.  Two years ago it snowed on Christmas Eve.  It was magical.  Nick and Greta were here for the holidays.  We walked around Olympic Manor as it snowed and looked at the lights.  Then in the morning we built the biggest snowperson ever — and yes this one was a snowperson because Greta was here to be sure she was a she!  Ansel was duly impressed by our creation.    We watched as our snowperson leaned over – further and further – until there was just a round pile of snow in the yard with two sticks laying nearby.  It was fun to see how long our snowball stayed in the yard after Nick and Greta went back to Wisconsin.Such fun memories of time laughing and working together as we would build our snow creations.  Now it’s just me and Curt building the snow people in the yard but Curt is always game to build one with me even if it is after he comes home and its dark outside.  We have built more than one snowman in the dark using flashlights.  I will take a picture of it and send it to Joel and Nick.  This week while we are doing our Snowman/Snowperson activities I will be thinking of all the fun our family had in the snow.  I hope this winter you have a chance to play in the snow and start a tradition that will stay with you when your children are grown — and continuing the tradition with their child.  It is so much fun to have these memories. I enjoy watching Joel and Danielle make memories with Ansel and Zoe as they continue family traditions from their own childhood and as they build new traditions together.  Enjoy ‘playing’ in the snow this week.

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We won’t have snow in Seattle but lots of snow in the mountains! We will have some fun investigating snow, snowflakes, cold weather and mittens this month.

Just as no two snowflakes are alike your child is not like any other child. Yes, they may have family similarities or are right on target with other children their age on the development charts but they are all unique little people. Enjoy those special qualities that make your child a ‘snowflake’ – unique and one-of-a-kind!

This week we will be talking about snow and snowflakes.

The Science of Snowflakes: Facts and Activities for Children
Laure Latham
December 9, 2015

Six is the magic number for snow – did you know that? If you had a big magnifier and stepped outside with your children on a cold winter day to watch snow fall from the sky, here is what you might observe – six-sided hexagonal crystals, needles or flat six-sided crystals, and a wide variety of six-sided shapes. All snowflakes are a combination of the number six for simple chemical reasons – they’re all variants of the water molecule. Despite all snowflakes having six sides, not two snowflakes are exactly identical. How crazy is that? Here are a few more fun facts about snowflakes as well as simple science activities you can do with your children.

Where Do Snowflakes Come From?
As obvious as this may sound, snowflakes—or more scientifically, snow crystals—are formed in clouds. However they are not frozen raindrops, as that’s called sleet or hail. Snowflakes are a different cold weather phenomenon formed from water vapor that condenses around a tiny particle—the seed crystal, usually a speck of dust—in clouds. Cloud droplets condense around the seed crystal and freeze on the surface of the particle, patterns emerging as the crystals grow.

The shape of snowflakes is determined by the altitude and temperatures at which they are formed. When several crystals stick together or create puffy white balls, they become snowflakes. Once the snowflakes are heavy enough, they fall to the earth. The average snowflakes fall at an average speed of 3.1 miles per hour!

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