Tuesday, August 28, 2012

50 Nursery Games and Activities

On Sundays I go to church. As a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I get to hang out with all the children that are 18 months to 3 years old for two hours while their parents attend other classes. I love being in the nursery with all the kids. 

Sometimes those two hours can feel very long so I came up with some ideas to keep the time flying and to have fun with the best group of kids there are! These are also good preschool or babysitting activities.

  1. Toys. Every nursery is pretty well stocked with toys. Sometimes the children get sick of the same old thing. Try to be creative. Have the children sort the toys, count the toys, or have them clean them. (Give the children baby wipes to clean the toys or a clean sponge with a little soapy water. Have other children dry them.)
  2. Sing action songs that get the wiggles out.
      • Do As I'm Doing
      • Popcorn Popping
      • Once There Was a Snowman
      • Jesus Wants Me For a Sunbeam
      • Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes
      • Eensy Weensy Spider
      • The Wheels on the Bus
  3. Do puzzles. If you don't have puzzles, make some by cutting up some big pictures that have been mounted on card stock. 
  4. Look at pictures around the room (or in the Gospel Art book/kit, or in the nursery teaching manual). Ask questions or tell stories that relate to the pictures.
  5. Coloring. Color the handout from the lesson, coloring books, or plain paper.
  6. Trace hands and/or feet of the kids. They love to see their hands on paper.
  7. Read books. One of our very favorite books is Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr. and Eric Carle. The children LOVE this book. We also love to read HUG by Jez Alborough.
  8. Play "Ring-Around-The-Rosie."
  9. Play "Duck, Duck, Goose."
  10. Play "Motorboat." Have the children hold hands in a circle like you would for Ring-Around-The-Rosie. Say "Motorboat, motorboat, go so slow" while you walk slowly in a circle. Continue saying "Motorboat, motorboat, go so fast" while you walk quicker. Then say, "Motorboat, motorboat, step on the gas!" Everyone falls down.
  11. Play "Follow the Leader."
  12. Play "Freeze." Have the kids move around and have them stop when you say, "freeze!" They must freeze like statues. You can do it with or without music.
  13. Play "What Did I Change About Me?" One leader leaves the room for a second, or have the kids close their eyes. The leader changes something about him/her- takes off shoe, changes hair style, etc.) Leader returns to room (or children open their eyes) and try to guess what is different. We decided to have a bag of props outside the door. Inside the bag I included socks, glasses, gloves, a scarf, different shoes, lipstick, hair bow, and a belt. The children like this game too. 
  14. Play "Red Light, Green Light." You can substitute the words "Stop" and "Go" to make it easier for the younger children.
  15. Play "Snake in the Grass." Lie a jumprope down on the floor. Take one end of a jumprope and move it back and forth to imitate a moving snake. Have the kids jump over the snake without touching it.
  16. Floor shapes. Use masking tape to create large shapes on the floor. Children must walk/balance on the tape shapes.
  17. Play-doh. Use a disposable plastic mat (like the ones you put under a high chair). Make sure the play-doh stays on/over the mat.
  18. String cereal onto yarn. We use Froot Loops because the holes are bigger and they taste good. Tape one side of the yarn with a little piece of masking tape (kind of like the end of a shoelace) to make it easier to thread the cereal. This is a good activity for your older children.
  19. Flashlight stomp. Turn off the lights. Hold a flashlight so it makes a light on the floor. Have the children try to stomp on the light.
  20. Flashlight shadows. Turn off the lights and hold a flashlight up to the wall. Show the children how to make shadows on the wall.
  21. Sing "Old Mac Donald" with puppets or pictures of different animals. Have the children choose a puppet or picture before you start. They will be excited when you sing "their" verse.
  22. Singing with rhythm sticks. Sings songs while the children click their sticks together like "Follow the Prophet" or "Book of Mormon Stories." If you don't have rhythm sticks, you can use wooden dowels (found at any craft store) or PVC pipes, cut to about 10"-12". 
  23. Rhythm sticks beat. Pick a beat for the children to follow or drum with the sticks on the floor.
  24. Camping with rhythm sticks. Pretend you are camping. Use the sticks to build a "fire." Reserve a few sticks for the children to hold to "roast" pretend marshmallows or hotdogs. Sing a couple of songs around the "campfire."
  25. Play "Peek-a-Boo" with scarves. Have the children put the scarves over their heads. Say, "Where's (name)?" The children love to pull it off their heads and reveal their cute little faces.
  26. Scarf play. Have the children pretend that the scarves are a hat, apron, cape, and a scarf. You can sing "My hat has 4 corners" or just play. See scarf song at end of post.
  27. Butterfly Wings. Have the children pretend they are butterflies. Give each child two scarfs to use as "wings." See butterfly rhyme at end of post.
  28. Stickers. Have the children decorate plain paper with stickers. 
  29. Bubbles. Blow bubbles for the children. The children will want to blow bubbles themselves. It is a good idea to hold the bubble wand for them so it doesn't drip everywhere. See bubble song at end of post.
  30. Bean bag toss. Bring several bean bags and big plastic bowls or sand buckets. Have the children toss the bags into the bowls or buckets.
  31. Hot Lava. Set out several carpet squares, pieces of fabric or beach towels on the floor. Pretend the floor is "hot lava." Have the children jump from one square/fabric piece/towel to the next without touching the floor.
  32. Cars, Sleds and Magic Carpets. With your carpet squares or towels, have the children pretend they are riding in a car, sled or on a magic carpet. "Ride" to different places (church, school, Grandma's house, grocery store, etc.)
  33. Music! Sing songs with the children. Bring some kid-friendly instruments or have them clap along. You can make your own instruments with recycled containers and cardboard tubes. Make a drum with a big yogurt container or oatmeal can. Make a shaker by taking a toilet paper tube and fill it 1/3 full with dried beans. Staple or duct tape the ends shut. Make rhythm sticks with PVC pipe or wooden dowels.
  34. Blanket (or parachute) Toss. Bring a blanket (or a child's play parachute, if you've got one). Have the children hold onto a corner/side of the blanket. Put a soft ball or stuffed animal in the middle and lift the blanket together. See how high you can toss the ball/stuffed animal.
  35. Play a big game of memory. Prepare memory cards and place them on the floor. Let the kids take turns flipping the cards over to get a match. If you want to get fancy, take pictures of the kids and create memory cards with the pictures. Remember to print 2 sets of pictures. Mount the pictures onto some cute card stock and laminate the pictures. The kids love to see themselves.
  36. Dress up. Clean out your closet or bring in some old costumes. Let the kids dress up. Make sure the clothes are modest, and clean. No masks.
  37. Play "Choo Choo Train." Have the children form a line and hold onto the person in front of them, either on their shoulders or waist. Pretend you are a train. Stop at various "stations." 
  38. Punch balloons/balls. Bring in some punch balloons/balls. Let the children play. These are nice because they don't pop very easily.
  39. Balloons or beach balls. Blow up a balloon or beach ball and let the children pop them up.
  40. Pop! Have the children hold hands in a circle. Bring the children in very close together so the circle is very small. Have the children blow at the same time like they are blowing up an imaginary balloon. Every time they blow, take a step backward to make the circle bigger and bigger. When the circle is at it's biggest without letting go of hands, say "Pop!" Everyone falls to the floor.
  41. Musical Carpet Squares. Arrange carpet squares into a circle. Designate a special square as the "winning square." We have one bright red carpet square that we designate as the winning square. Have the children walk in a circle on the square while music is playing. When the music stops, the children stop. The child who lands on the "winning square" wins that round. Carpet squares are NOT removed after each round and no child "loses." 
  42. Do a Trick. Older children like to show off what they can do. Have the older children sit in a circle and take turns showing everyone what they can do.
  43. Do some rhymes with actions. See ideas at end of post.
  44. Play with ribbon dancers. Order a few online or create your own. Click HERE to see how to make your own.
  45. Shadow. Create movements with your body and have the children follow what you do. (Stand on one foot, touch the floor, stand up, turn around, clasp hands together and touch the sky, etc.)
  46. Play "I Spy." This is a good game with the older children. Sit the children down on the floor or at the table. Pick an obvious object in the room without saying what it is and say, "I spy something (color)." Name the color of the object. The children must guess what the object is that you are thinking of. Have the children take turns "spying" something. You might need to help them a little until they get the hang of it.
  47. Do an Age-Appropriate Craft. (paper bag puppets, spoon puppets, handprint/thumbprint art, etc.)
  48. Easy Hand Sewing. Click HERE for instructions.
  49. Have an Indoor Snowball Fight. Click HERE for instructions.
  50. Senses Activities. Create guessing games using the senses.
    • For smells, use extracts, perfumes or spices. Soak up some extract or perfume with a cotton ball and place each one in a separate, clean baby food jar. Or, bring in some different spice bottles and let the children smell the jars/bottles. See if they like what they smell or not. Can they guess some of the smells?
    • For touch, place different objects in a bag. Make sure the bag isn't see-through. Have them pick out an object that is rough, smooth, sticky, scratchy, soft, hard, etc. Or, place one item in the bag at a time without the children seeing it. Have them take turns putting their hand in the bag. See if they can describe how it feels or guess the item.
    • For listening, fill 3-6 similar containers with different objects. Make sure they cannot see inside the container. You can use empty Play-doh jars, or plastic Easter eggs, etc. You can do this two ways:
      •  Fill 3 containers, each with a different object inside. Display a duplicate of the objects on the floor or table. Have the children shake the container and listen. Have them guess which object is in which container according to the choices given on the floor/table.
      • Fill 3 containers with different objects (rice, beans, pennies, cereal, nuts and bolts, golf tees, paper clips, marbles, etc.) Fill 3 more with the same objects as the first 3 so there are 3 pairs of containers. For example, fill 2 containers with rice, 2 containers with golf tees, and two containers with pennies. Have the children shake the containers and try to match the sounds. Try to make it trickier by using similar materials.
    • For sight, have the children sort different objects by color, shape, size, etc.

Songs and Rhymes

My Hat, It Has Four Corners

My hat, it has four corners,
Four corners has my hat.
And if it there weren’t four corners,
It wouldn’t be my hat. 

*Substitute the word hat for apron, cape, scarf, etc.

Butterflies, butterflies, flapping around.

Visiting flowers, not making a sound.
Flapping your wings, as you go.
Flapping your wings, up high, then low.
Butterflies, butterflies, flapping around.
Visiting flowers, not making a sound.
*Pin two scarves to the middle of each child’s back.
Have them hold onto an outer corner to create wings.
Recite the poem, as your children fly around the room.
BUBBLES (to the tune of "Where Is Thumbkin")
Hello bubbles, hello bubbles,
Come and land, come and land
Right in the middle, right in the middle
Of my hand, of my hand.

Good-bye bubbles, good-bye bubbles
Time to go, time to go,
I will help you, I will help you,
With a blow, with a blow.

I’m toast in the toaster (squat down)
I’m getting very hot
Tick tock, tick tock (sway side to side)
Up I pop! (jump up)

My fuzzy caterpillar, 
(wiggle finger along opposite arm)
Made his cocoon one day.
(cup hands together)
He turned into a butterfly,
(link thumbs together)
And quickly flew away! 
(wave fingers and move hands upward as though flying away)

Tommy Thumbs up!
(bounce thumbs up)
And Tommy Thumbs down!
(bounce thumbs down)
Tommy Thumbs dancing
(bounce thumbs back and forth)
All around the town!
Dance them on your shoulders!
(bounce thumbs on shoulders)
Dance them on your head!
(bounce thumbs on head)
Dance them on your knees!
(bounce thumbs on knees)
Then tuck them into bed!
(tuck thumbs under arms)

Please share your nursery ideas!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Back to School: How to Support Your Student

The new school year is approaching quickly, or has already begun for some. Make this school year a great one by supporting your child/student. There is nothing more important than giving your child(ren) time. Here are some ways that you can support your student(s) this year.

*Make sure your child eats breakfast. If you have to, wake him/her up early enough to grab a healthy bite to eat before school. Stock the kitchen with healthy options. Here are some ideas:

fruit (apples, bananas, grapes, pears, peaches, etc.) 
cereal (no sugar cereal!)
applesauce and toast
peanut butter and toast
bran muffins
yogurt, granola and fruit

NO: waffles, french toast, pancakes, Pop Tarts, sugar cereal, chocolate milk. They may be convenient for you but will make your child tired and will hinder their ability to focus.

*Make sure they eat a healthy lunch. If you can't see what your child is buying at school, consider packing a lunch. Don't give your child money if you pack a lunch, but include something your child will like. Here are some healthy ideas:

fruit (apples, pears, strawberries, blueberries, watermelon, orange, grapes, fruit cup, etc.)
raisins, Craisins, dried fruit, fruit leather
veggies (carrots, celery, cherry tomatoes, etc.)
cheese (string cheese or mini Babybel cheese)
ham/turkey sandwich, tortilla wraps, ham or turkey roll-ups
pasta salad
chicken nuggets
meat/cheese/cherry tomato skewers
crackers, pretzels, popcorn, granola bar
treat (yes, give them a treat): oatmeal cookie, homemade cookie, pudding, fruit snack, etc.

*Include a love note or surprise (not money) in their lunch. 

*Sit down with your child and help him/her with homework.
  • If your child can do homework on his/her own, check his/her completed work. 
  • Test prep: Quiz your child, or have your child teach you. If your child can teach you without any hesitation and can answer your questions, that is a good sign that he/she knows the material. 
  • Create a homework space, free from TV and other distractions. Make sure there is plenty of light. Natural lighting is best if possible.

*Read with your child. Weather it be for homework or just for leisure, read with your child. It can be a great time to bond.

*Talk about "highs & lows" of the day at dinner. What was the best (high) part of your day? What was the worst (low) part of you day? You can usually assess what kind of day your child had with these two simple questions. 

*Have family dinner! Click HERE to see why family dinner is so important. 

*Help your student get enough sleep. The majority of our students run on very little sleep. Homework and extra curricular activities don't help but, there are other distractions that really cause the lack of sleep- cell phones/texting, Facebook, TV, video games, etc. As a parent, you can help your student by limiting access to these distractions.
  • When your child sits down to do homework, make him/her turn off his/her cell phone and give it to you. He/She can have it back once homework is finished. 
  • Make sure your child doesn't have a TV, video games, or computer in his/her room. If he/she wants to spend time on these devices, they should be in common areas of the house, such as family room or den. This will limit time spent on these activities around bedtime.
  • Set a curfew or "lights out" time, if possible. Sometimes homework and projects run quite late. Help your child finish it if necessary. Don't take away from your child's learning experience but do what you can to help.

*Be nice to your child. Let your child relax and have some fun. 

Let me put something in perspective. Our children go to school for about 7 hours a day. During those 7 hours their brains are being crammed with new information, each teacher thinking that his/her students understood every word and will retain everything that has been taught. After school, our children are headed to soccer practice and/or piano lessons, or whatever extra curricular activities they may be involved in. Those activities can take up another 2 or 3 hours in the day, maybe more if it is game day. Some of our youth work after school. Once our tired children are allowed to go home, it is homework time. Homework shouldn't last more than 2 hours but it normally goes longer because every teacher thinks that his/her class is the most important, so let's say it goes for 4 hours on a good night- no tests or projects to finish up. Let's look at this schedule without breaks.

Wake up: 6:30-7:00am
Breakfast, get ready, go to school: 7:00-7:45
School 8:00am-3:00pm
Sports, lessons, etc. 3:00-5:00pm 
Homework 5:00-9:00pm

Where's the time to have dinner? Time to be with family? Time to unwind and relax? Time to get good sleep? There's got to be some balance. 

*Please be patient and kind to your children when they are going through puberty. Their bodies are changing and growing so quickly. They need extra rest and and proper nutrition. Sometimes the body can become overworked during rapid growth and changes which in turn can cause stress and weaken the body's immune system. Puberty is already an awkward stage for children. Don't make it worse. Support them by helping them get the rest that they need and make sure they are eating well. 

*Limit the extra-curricular activities. Don't overwhelm your child (or yourself) with too many extra-curricular activities. I know so many parents that spend their whole afternoons running their children to so many lessons and practices. What happens? We stop making dinner and eat out because it's convenient. We don't sit down for dinner because we ate it in the car. We don't talk with our children because they're gone and dinnertime is over. Our most valuable time to connect with our children is gone. 

*Don't worry. Your child will get into college. I've had so many experiences with parents stressing about their child getting into college that it cracks me up. Their child "has to take such-and-such test prep class on Saturdays so they can pass the SAT and ACT tests." Their child "has to get straight A's to qualify for such-and-such college." Their child "has to take AP classes and AP tests." Their child "has to do so many sports and activities to show how well-rounded their child is on a college application." So many times I just wanted to say, "Chill out! Your kid will get into college." It's true. Your child WILL get into college one way or another. He/She might go to a junior college first. Sweet! Save some money and enjoy another year or two with your child. 

I hope you ALL enjoy your school year this year!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Back To School: Stay Connected

As a former public high school teacher in California, I loved the new school year! I loved new school supplies, new lesson plans and material, and of course, my new students! With a class of 30+ kids, it can often feel like there isn't enough one-on-one time in an hour or hour and a half. Students and teachers may feel there is a disconnect. I suggest how and why to stay connected with your teacher(s) at any grade level.

  • Stop by and introduce yourself (and your child) at the beginning of the school year. Take time to talk to your teacher. Ask him/her questions. Let your child talk about him/herself.
  • Offer to help your teacher. It can be anything from grading papers, to assisting with a class project, to helping with field trips, etc. Students can offer to help as well (filing, cleaning, organizing, etc.).
  • Email or call your teacher and let him/her know if your child is struggling in his/her class or if there are other personal issues your teacher might want to know about (death in the family, health issues, struggles with other classes, lack of sleep, etc.). This takes a lot of the guess work out for the teacher as to why your child might be performing or behaving differently in class. Your teacher will be more aware of the situation and able to help your child better in and out of the classroom.
  • Be kind to your teacher. Please realize that teachers are some of the most busy people and they are expected to care for 30-120+ students (depending on grade level) daily. Their work day doesn't end when the bell rings. It often ends late at night, sometimes at home, after grading and lesson planning has been completed for the next day. If you notice your child's grades are slipping, please talk to your teacher ASAP. Teachers don't have a lot of time to call everyone's parents or talk to each student about their progress. Be willing to help your student at home. The teacher can't tutor your child all the time. 
  • Your teacher is a great resource for letters of recommendation. Your teacher can more accurately write a sincere letter if he/she knows you, your interests, your abilities, etc. 
  • Your teacher is more willing to help you if he/she knows what's going on in your life.
  • If your student is lucky, he/she could get the same teacher the following year! 
Now, a word from a family counselor about TALL children.

I have two girls that are both in the 90th percentile for height for their age. Because they are tall, people tend to think they are older. The downside is that because people think they are older, they expect the children should know more and should behave older. This can get them into a lot of trouble if people don't know their real age. Imagine a kindergartner being expected to behave like a second grader, or in other words, a 5 year-old expected to behave like a 7 year-old. Teachers supervising the on playground or at lunchtime who don't know your child may think this way. A good thing to do at the beginning of the school year is to introduce your child to other teachers and let them know that little Johnny is only 5 (or whatever age your TALL child may be). 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Fresh Homemade Strawberry Ice Cream

One of my favorite summertime treats is homemade ice cream! I love the way it tastes, the texture, the way it melts, and the memories. As a kid we would have gatherings with my extended family once a month at my great aunt's house behind a grove of orange trees in California. I loved being with family while smelling the sweet orange blossoms, and hearing the motors of the ice cream makers with their constant buzz in the background, ready to surprise us with a treat at any moment. As a kid it seemed like it took forever for the ice cream to be done but it was worth it when the adults would finally give us a paper cup filled with mint, lemon, or fresh banana ice cream. It was heaven! 

Now that I am older and we live far away from California and any extended family, I get to create new memories with my own family. This year I made FRESH HOMEMADE STRAWBERRY ICE CREAM and it was delicious! I just might make it again for Date Night. 

Here's my recipe for Fresh Homemade Strawberry Ice Cream:

4 c. sugar
2 (14.5 oz) cans evaporated milk
1 tsp. salt
3 quarts half & half
1 pint heavy whipping cream
2 Tbsp. vanilla extract
2 pounds of fresh, washed strawberries, hulled and pureed 
3 bags ice
1 qt. rock salt


  • In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, evaporated milk, and salt and heat until luke warm. Pour into large (6 qt.) ice cream freezer container. (I have a 4-qt. freezer and this recipe made 2 batches.)
  • Add the half & half, whipping cream, vanilla, and strawberry puree to freezer container.
  • Freeze in ice cream freezer by surrounding the container with ice until it reaches the top of the container. Generously sprinkle rock salt on the ice. As the ice melts, add more ice and salt. I end up using about 3 bags of ice and 1 quart rock salt for a large freezer. The freezer motor will stop when the ice cream is thick and ready.