Dino Week!

Dinosaurs and preschoolers-for some reason, they go together like peanut butter and jelly. Little ones are entranced by the legacy of these prehistoric behemoths, forging connections to the past and realizing for the first time that life has transcended the present, and has gone through many iterations throughout the history of our earth.

My sons are OBSESSED to put it lightly, and a dinosaur theme was requested repeatedly. Dino week was probably the best unit we’ve done so far, and they pretty much never wanted it to end, as all good things do. Here are some highlights of Dino Week:

Dino Counting (printables from Playful Learning, a subscription service for teaching resources)

We used Wikki Stix to form the numbers and used glass pebbles from the dollar store as counters. Monkey 1 is working on counting sequentially  from one to twenty with corresponding quantities. Monkey 2 is working on one to five.

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We also used the letter formation mats from Playful Learning (not pictured). Monkey 1 practiced tracing the letters and Monkey 2 used letter shapes to form the letters.

Dino Painting

Target had these cute dinosaur kraft paper figures, which the boys had a blast painting to make their own “toys.”

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Dino Fizzy Eggs

I used the fizzing dough recipe from 150 Screen Free Activities for Kids to mold into dinosaur eggs around little figurines from Dollar Tree. Add some baking soda and voila! The monkeys really enjoyed the sensory experience and discovering the dinosaur babies! A little alchemy is always fun!

Dino Excavation 

AC Moore had these dinosaur excavation kits for a steal at $5! Monkey One uncovered T-Rex (of course) and Monkey Two carefully dug out a diplodocus. Bonus fun putting the bones together after they were all dug out, just like real paleontologists!

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Dino Fossil Making

This was simply but mesmerized the boys for an entire afternoon. I made up a batch of play dough, and they used their dinosaur figurines to stamp in the play dough to create different fossils. This could be taken a step further and salt dough could be used instead, then dried either in the oven or left out for a few days and then you could keep your fossil indefinitely! Play dough is always a go-to for sensory and fine motor play here.

Block play and art was also centered around dinosaurs too, mostly because all the excitement carried into any other activities they were doing. We also visited the library and grabbed some more books to read about dinosaurs, as our vast dinosaur book collection is in Vermont and we just couldn’t take them all! A few favorites:

Why Why Why Do Dinosaurs Lay Eggs? by Camilla De La Bedoyere 

Prehistoric Actual Size by Steve Jenkins 

Digging Up Dinosaurs and Fossils Tell of Long Ago both by Aliki 

Some great fictional books that are dinosaur themed are the How Do Dinosaurs series by Jane Yolen, which also teaches young kiddos about taking care of themselves, others, and managing their emotions. There are a bunch of titles with different topics ranging from sleep to being angry and using manners, beautifully illustrated to expose children to these topics in an approachable and fun way.

We ended this unit with a fossil and rock sort, which segued into our next unit (rocks and minerals). I bought a mix of various rock specimens from Dancing Bear. We have a sizeable fossil collection back home but it was another instance of not worth carting cross country for a few months, though it would have been nice for this unit.

Dino Week was a blast! Who knows, maybe we’ll do it again 🙂

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The Big FL: What our clan has been up to

What a crazy and beautiful time this is. Tonight back in VT the weather has forecast 4-6 inches of snow, it is literally freezing (yesterday was one degree, granted, in a different part of the state, but brrr!) and here we are having what is considered a cold snap in Florida-today was mostly in the forties, but the sun was shining, and after three days of a heavy downpour, we ventured out to Rocky Bayou park for some outside play and lunch.

This morning it is 36 degrees here, so while it’s chilly, it’s a far cry from the winter wonderland that our friends and family are waking up to back home. The house is quiet for a fleeting moment (I hope the kids stay asleep-it’s four thirty in the morning!) and water is beginning to boil for coffee on the stove top. Today we will hit up the library and park after our morning meeting, then make some pizza dough and chocolate zucchini muffins for our Friday night movie tradition. We are starting to form some semblance of a rhythm, and for that I am thankful. My monkeys have had a hard time adjusting, and despite loving the beach and discovering new creatures and places, really miss their friends and routines back home.

My patience has been worn thin this past month, and I have doubted my abilities in mothering. I am tired and out of place-my flyaway hair and never made up face screams that I’m not from here. Frumpy is the word. I realized early on that I was hanging on the verge of crazy and joined a gym for the first time in four years, for both self-care and so that the kids could interact with other kids in the gym daycare. I think that’s been one of the most challenging aspects of this temporary move-finding friends for the kiddos, especially Monkey 1, who is super social and at that tender age of five where he is just starting to really find his standing in his peer group. We go to parks and library playgroups, but have yet to find a solid friend yet. The good pre-K programs are booked and I can’t bring myself to put him into an over-crowded program that’s mediocre, especially compared to what he’s used to with his amazing class back home. Recently, two of his best friends made the trip from VT to FL for a weekend visit, which was so good for him but also made me more determined to find him some other kids his age to play with.

Despite the social component lacking we have began a homeschool preschool, which the monkeys have dubbed “Mommy School” to instill some routine, structure, and learning while playing. We are still figuring out some of the logistics, but it’s getting easier, and the kids enjoy having a say in what we are learning about for the week and having something to do. I try to incorporate a weekly theme-this week is dinosaurs (I will write a post more devoted to it), last week was animals, the two weeks before were Superheroes. Before we do anything, we eat, wake up, take the dog outside for a walk, then we have our morning meeting where we sing, go over some basics, read, and discuss what we are doing for the day. Afterwards, we break into centers or an activity that is based on the theme, depending on the day and our schedule, as we have library and gymnastics (or yoga for mama). We do school for about an hour or so, then take a break and get ready for lunch. We usually head to the park to eat or they play outside while I make lunch. Monkey Two goes down for his nap after lunch, and then I have more time with Monkey One to focus on some reading and math activities, which he has expressed interest in. I will say that since he is still so young, if he didn’t specifically ask we probably wouldn’t be focusing on reading so much, but he is eager to start reading on his own. I love watching his face fill with pride as he finishes one of his little books without help.

After he does some reading and math work, he gets some stickers, a cheer (he fills up a pom pom jar to earn a reward of his choice, usually a trip to a museum or zoo). The rest of the afternoon is free. So far, despite some obstacles, this seems to be working out. I hope that as we continue to get out and go to parks, playgroups, and bike around our neighborhood things will fall into place for playmates. Their daycare provider back home sends weekly photos of their friends saying hello, and Monkey One’s preschool teacher is going to FaceTime his class so they still feel connected. I am grateful for our village that we have built.

Thanksgiving is next week; instead of going to Trev’s mother’s house for what looks like a snowy Turkey Day, we will be heading down the street to our friends for some feasting and camaraderie. One thing about the military life is that you become a part of a community that opens its arms to you, and you build amazing friendships that are always there when you need them. It makes moving, even just a temporary one, more bearable and less isolating. I truly believe that everyone needs to find their people, especially during these fleeting, demanding, active motherhood years, and while you may not jive with everyone who comes your way, eventually you are bound to meet someone.

We spent Halloween here, behold my superheroes! Unfortunately, Christmas looks cost prohibitive so a Southern holiday we will probably have, sans the fluffy white stuff. Anyways, signing off. Enjoy some photos of our past month.

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