Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Weekly Learning Theme: Birthday

One of my favorite learning themes to do is our birthday learning theme. I love that doing a learning theme on birthdays during the week of my childrens' birthdays makes me think of lots of ways to make their birthday fun and exciting. I love making the entire week about our birthday girl or boy, in this case it was girl, and showing her how much I love her. Since we were doing this learning theme for Elise's birthday I focused more on her objectives and ways to tie the birthday theme to her learning needs. Carter did pretty darn well with the majority of the attention for the week being on Elise and I was very proud of him! Read about our past birthday learning themes, Carter's 4th birthday theme here, 3rd birthday theme here, and 2nd birthday theme here.

Listed below are the objectives I am focusing on for the themed weeks.  I have revised our objectives to really hone in and focus on specific skills Carter will need to master before kindergarten and are appropriate to his age and development right now. I plan to continue to implement activities to practice and reinforce our previous objectives while putting more emphasis on our new objectives.  Some of them won't necessarily be targeted with specific activities during our weeks, but I wanted to list them to help me remember to practice them continually. I have added working on his name as his teachers at school have asked us to work on it at home and I want to remember to include working on it in some form during each of our learning themes. I'm also adding in a section for Elise now that she is a year old. I don't considers her bullet points objectives, they are experiences I want to make sure to expose her to frequently. Her experiences are listed below Carter as bullet points rather than numbers.

The highlighted objectives below are ones Carter received exposure to during our theme this week:
  1. Begin to organize and focus on writing. (Dictate stories, plan out a story, draw pictures and scribbles to create a book).
  2. Understand same and different.
  3. Accurately tell stories as well as retell the story from a book. 
  4. Use age appropriate scissors.  (I'm moving on to looking for a thumb and forefinger grasp with writing tools and holding scissors appropriately)
  5. Develop a better understanding of time (for example, be able to describe when things happen using morning, afternoon, night)
  6. Group objects based on a category (sort by defining feature).
  7. Count with one-to-one correspondence, begin to identify numerals, being to use ordinal numbers (first, second, last). 
  8. Recognize the letters in name, arrange them to spell name, begin to write name.
Experiences Elise was exposed to during our theme this week are highlighted below:
  • Play make believe/Imitate the behaviors of others (adults and children).
  • Know the names of and be able to point out body parts.
  • Groups things together by size or color/matches like objects, understands hard and soft.
  • Names common objects and is able to point them out.
  • Begin to hold writing tools and scribble spontaneously. Can draw a line. Differentiates between a circle and square.
  • Follows simple instructions (focusing on words such as in, on, beside, under).
  • Others: counts to two, refers to self by name. These I want to start to expose her to, but she isn't quite ready to master then yet.
  • One of my favorite birthday traditions is hanging streamers from the birthday child's door. It was a tradition one of my students told me about because he loved that his parents did it for him so much. Carter and Elise loved playing in streamers hanging from Elise's doorway and Carter pointed out that the streamers made a color pattern. Once he pointed that out we counted to see how many streamers of each color we had hanging from the doorway. Elise's favorite was to grab the bottom of the streamer as she ran through to see how much of the streamer would rip off, not surprising at all for our rough and tumble girl! Carter, my rule follower, was a little upset by that but I explained it was her birthday and she could play with the streamers in whatever way was the most fun for her. Before she started ripping the streamers she kept driving her baby stroller through the streamers which was cute!
    Carter pointing out the pattern of the streamers.
  • On Elise's birthday I surprised her with balloons to play with when she woke up from her nap. I had her sort the balloons by color. She did one color and stopped so then I moved to holding up a color balloon and asking her to match the other balloon of that color to mine which she did. I had blown two balloons of each color up, one was big and the other was small. I pointed out the size difference and then helped her sort the balloons based on size. While I worked with Elise, Carter worked to make color patterns using the balloons. When we were finished the kids just played with the balloons, throwing them in the air and having a blast!
  • I retold the story of when Elise was born for both of the kids. Carter loves to hear the part about how he woke up right before we left and then about him visiting her in the hospital. I showed them Elise's newborn photo book and we talked about who we saw in the pictures. Then we compared pictures of Carter as a newborn to pictures of Elise as a newborn and talked about how they looked the same and how they looked different. 
  • We used the streamers from Elise's doorway to make confetti. To practice using scissors, Carter cut the streamers into confetti. Elise practiced fine motor skills by ripping the streamers into small confetti-sized pieces. Elise saw Carter using scissors and wanted to try so I showed her how to hold scissors and she worked on cutting a little bit.
  • We used the confetti we made as the base of a sensory bin. I added in a couple balloons, some noise makers, a crown, and a birthday hat. We played with the birthday hat and crown, talking about what body part we wear them on. Then I had Elise be silly and put it on other body parts to practice the names of body parts. I caught Carter holding Elise down and blowing the noise maker directly into her ear so he didn't get to play with the noise makers for a while after that but Elise still had fun with them!
  • I was disappointed that Elise slept through the exact time she was born, 7:22 am. She didn't wake up until 7:30 so we didn't get to drop confetti on her at her exact birth time. I decided that didn't matter since she doesn't understand time anyway so we just dropped confetti on her while yelling "Happy Birthday," after Ty got home from work. I'm glad I went ahead and did it because it was by far her favorite birthday activity. She kept picking up handfuls of confetti and throwing them in the air while yelling, "Happy Birday!" It was the cutest!
  • On her birthday Elise got to have a special birthday bath. She picked a color for her bath, yellow, of course! Then we added bubbles, balloons, and a few birthday-themed toys. The bubbles were her favorite and she sure laughed and enjoyed the bath!
  • Elise got to pick out her birthday cake supplies at the store. We always have cake at the kids' birthday parties but since it's not usually on their actual birthday, I also like to make a cake on their birthday. Elise picked out pink velvet cake with marshmallow flavored frosting and sprinkles. She was so excited to pick out her cake that she requested to get out of the cart so she could see the choices better!
Cart full of cuties while shopping for Elise's birthday cake supplies!
  • Carter was so proud to sign the birthday card he made for Elise. I love how often he gets to practice writing his name! He also answered questions about Elise for her birthday which you can read here. I tried asking Elise a couple questions and it didn't go over very well so we will wait to do the interview with her next year.
  • We used our magnetic shape blocks to make a birthday cake while we were playing with them. Carter was proud to count out two candles for the top of the cake for his sister!
  • I pulled out the wooden birthday cake toy to play with during this learning theme. Carter loved serving the cake and Elise's favorite part was blowing out the candles and singing happy birthday. It was cute to see how Elise played differently with it than Carter had at her age!
  • We measured Elise on the height chart that Leina used for Paul and Ty when they were kids. It is always fun to see how Elise stacks up to her daddy and her uncle as well as Carter's height at her age. The 2 year old measurements were a bit off because Paul was measured at 2.5 but Ty and Carter's were both pretty close to where she measured!
    Elise excited to show off how tall she is!
    It's neat to see Carter and Ty were both pretty close to Elise's height when they were 2.
  • Elise got to decorate a birthday shirt to wear at her birthday party and again on her birthday. We lucked out that we already had a plain white onesie and we used the pink and purple fabric paint I bought for her shirt last year. She worked so hard on her shirt and I was amazed at her attention span. Her favorite part was squirting the paint out of the bottle and onto the shirt. She just kept squirting the paint and then rubbing it around with her paint brush.

  • Carter draw a picture of Elise with him on the bag he wrapped her birthday present in. It was so cute because we were at the store shopping the week before Elise's birthday and Carter saw a Minnie Mouse nightgown and insisted I buy it for Elise so I told him he could buy it for her as a birthday present. When he wrapped her present he decorated the bag first. He said Elise has a bird on her head and she is holding hands with him which melted my heart!
  • Elise drew a special picture on her birthday to show how she drew at the age of 2. I wrote You are 2 and then Happy Birthday, Elise on the paper so, of course, she had to color all over the top of the letters!
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Special Snack:
  • On Elise's birthday we took a marshmallow with a candle in it into her room when she woke up. She was still a little tired and didn't want to eat the marshmallow so I let Carter have it. That evening she was so excited to help make her birthday cake. She and Carter both helped make it and had a blast decorating it after dinner.

  • For lunch on Elise's birthday I let her pick out some special food at the grocery store. She wanted mac and cheese so I bought a box of mac and cheese. For a special side she chose pear flavored apple sauce. She ate 4 helpings of mac and cheese and a decent amount of her apple sauce along with some broccoli.
Make Believe:
  • We played birthday party all through the week of our learning theme and beyond. Carter surprised me by absolutely loving to plan pretend parties. He would pick whose birthday it was and they were the special guest, often times it was Woody. Elise picked Otter as the guest of honor for a few of the parties. Carter would decorate with streamers and make birthday cards for the birthday boy/girl which he had to put in envelopes. Then he'd set out special snacks and drinks for everyone at the party. The highlight of the party was always singing Happy Birthday and the balloons. Carter would give the birthday boy/girl presents to unwrap and Elise would play along, helping to unwrap the presents.
  • I knew wrapping presents for each other and then opening them would be a hit during this learning theme because Carter was still playing it after we had done it for his birthday learning theme back in December. He would use the fabric napkins I use as decorations as wrapping paper and would wrap toys in them for either me, Elise, or the birthday person to unwrap. He loved doing it for me because I would always act really excited when I opened the presents. Elise got involved not just unwrapping presents, but also helping to wrap them as well!
  • We sang Happy Birthday multiple times during this learning theme. I sang it in English and Spanish. Then I pulled up other languages on Youtube. We listened to French, Japanese, and Chinese. We also sang Tom Chapin's birthday song which my parents sang to me as a child.
  • I again had Carter play this fun counting candles game on ABCYa's website here. It's such a great game for counting and he loved getting to light the candles.
Field Trip/Interactive Experience:
  • A new birthday tradition we started is going to Skyzone, a trampoline park, and then out to lunch at McAlister's afterward. It worked out to do it late for Carter's birthday when he was out of school for Christmas break and then early for Elise's birthday when Carter was out of school for spring break since their Toddler Time is on Thursday mornings. We started the tradition by going for my birthday in the summer and will continue to do it as long as the kids enjoy it. Elise had a blast jumping and really wore herself out. I wasn't surprised when we got to McAlister's and she had fallen asleep on the drive there!
  • On Elise's birthday we decided to go out for special birthday doughnuts before dropping Carter off at school since he had school and wouldn't be able to celebrate with us during the morning. The doughnut shop was already out of doughnuts when we arrived at 9am so we ended up stopping by a nearby grocery store and picking up doughnuts there which worked out. Elise only ate half her doughnut but definitely loved getting to pick out a doughnut and a special drink and it was a fun way to start our morning. When dropping Carter off at school he told everyone that it was his sister's birthday and he was so proud!
  • Elise's birthday party was the Saturday before her birthday. Since she loves shoes so much we went with a shoe-themed party. She had a blast playing with her friends and eating special food. We served macaroni and cheese along with sandwiches and had the cutest pink Puma cake!
    Opening presents at her party.
    • Birthday Rules by Laurie Friedman
    • Guinea Pig Party by Holly Surplice
    • Carl's Birthday by Alexandra Day
    • If You Give a Pig a Party by Laura Numeroff
    • Happy Birthday, Moon! by Frank Asch
    • The Birthday Queen by Audrey and Don Wood
    • Touch and Feel Birthday by DK Kids
    • Bunny Party by Rosemary Wells
    • Happy Birthday by Sarah Powell
    • Scaredy Squirrel Has a Birthday Party by Melanie Watt
    • The Birthday Surprise by Ann Lootens
    • Happy Birthday, Mouse by Laura Numeroff
    • Happy Birthday, Tacky by Helen Lester
    • Bear's Birthday by Stella Blackstone
    • Curious George and the Birthday Surprise by Margaret and H.A. Rey
    • It's My Birthday by Liesbet Slegers
    • Happy Birthday, Hamster by Cynthia Lord
    • Birthday Mice by Bethany Roberts
    • Happy Birthday, Bunny by Anna Schaub 
    • The Bad Birthday Idea by Madeline Valentine