Learning through TV shows and Movies

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We are big fans of fun educational videos in our house. Videos aren’t everyone’s cup of tea but if you have a very visual learner like a couple of my boys are than maybe the following list will help you. Here are some of our very favorites. Some of them we’ve bought and others we enjoy via Netflix or checking out from the library.

LeapFrog Learning Videos: These videos have long been favorites with our crew when they are toddlers and preschoolers. These videos are a great way to help with ABC’s, numbers, shapes, phonics and other basic early learning skills. We watch them on Netflix but if you wanted to buy them they can be found at Amazon.

Magic School Bus: I bought the complete series off of Amazon and we love pairing them with the books. My boys (and even I) have learned a ton about a wide variety of science topics from watching them.

Wild Kratts: Available on Netflix you can also purchase collections of episodes very inexpensively on Amazon. (Makes a great gift!). We bought the Wild Kratts: Wildest Animal Adventures from Amazon. Paul has learned so much about animals from this show that the last time we were at the zoo he gave the zookeeper sitting next to the cheetah exhibit a lecture on cheetahs. The zookeeper was blown away by all the information Paul knew.

Bill Nye the Science Guy: I personally kind of hate him. He brings back unpleasant memories of being forced to watch him when I was in school as a kid. (I would have rather been reading) but we check out his videos from the library and the kids enjoy them.

Liberty Kids: I can’t recommend this series enough for early elementary age kids studying the American Revolution. It’s an incredibly accurate cartoon series. We bought ours off of Amazon for $5. I have heard that you can find them on youtube as well.

Where on Earth is Carmen Sandiego: This is a fun way to learn about different geographical places.  The complete series can be order here on Amazon.

Animated Hero Classic Series: We check this out from the library. A series of 20 biographical that are typically 30-40 minutes long. They have videos about people like George Washington, Harriet Tubman, The Wright Brothers, etc. The movies can be ordered on Amazon. However, if you want to order them the best value I have found is directly from the company Nest Learning that produces the movies. We have not watched any of the bible movies.

I recently came across this blog post that has a great list of movies and documentaries on Netflix that can be used with Story of the World. Even if you don’t use Story of the World (we don’t) it is a great list!

PBS shows like Sid the Science Kid, Word Girl and Super Why are great educational shows for kids. They aren’t my personal favorites but kids can still learn a lot from them. They are readily available on netflix or on PBS.

I also came across the website Teach With Movies. I haven’t used it yet because it is mostly geared movies for kids older than mine but it has some good content on it and I’ve bookmarked it for the future.

What are you favorite educational movies or tv shows for kids?

Upcycled Ball Pit

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My children love ball pits. Paul and Antonio play in one when they are at occupational therapy. When Paul first started occupation therapy for his sensory issues I made our own ball pit here at home. I bought an inflatable baby pool and a bunch of plastic balls. This worked great for a while. I loved having a ball pit for Paul to play in. It was a very calming sensory activity for him. He could climb in all wired and when he was done playing he would be considerably calmer.

Eventually, the baby pool popped and wasn’t fixable. So, I threw away the pool and bagged the balls up; forgetting about them after I tossed them in the storage shed. Last week when I was digging out the summer clothes Paul and Thomas saw the bag of balls and wanted me to make another ball pit. Paul kept saying how much Antonio would like having one here at home. I said sure and put buying another baby pool on my shopping list.

Then this morning as I was prepping the backyard to be mowed I had a brilliant thought. My kids don’t use our turtle sandbox. It hasn’t had sand in it for over a year. I was actually to put it up for grabs on the curb. However, instead I turned it into our new ball pit! It’s great. Unlike the baby pool this one can’t get a hole in it and it has a lid to cover the balls if need be.




Preschool Goodies

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My mother-in-law is a veteran homeschooler. My sister-in-law is a current homeschool with several years under her belt. They are both generous and have handed down many materials they are no longer using. Several weeks ago when I sat down to take stock of what materials I had to use for preschool I was surprised to realize just how much I already had at hand to use. I had no need to purchase anything other than consumable products like paper, pencils, et cetera.  Here are some of the fun things we have at our disposable this year.

Bears, bears and more bears! We are lucky to have a large set of bear counters. Our set has four colors and 3 different sizes. There are so many things we can use these for. They are great for counting, pattern and color recognition and understanding sizing. These bears are so multi functioning.

Pattern blocks and Cards. Paul really loves to use the blocks to build small towns. He loves that they are “unusual” shapes. As we start our adventure in schooling this fall we will start using the blocks along with the pattern cards. I believe using the cards will be a good activity to help Paul learn to listen to directions, help his focus, slow down and help with his fine motor skills.

Lacing Beads and Lacing Cards. These are a favorite of Thomas, my 2 year old. Paul isn’t as interested in them mostly because he gets frustrated with the cards.

Wedgits. These have to be one of the coolest new things we have acquired for our home education. All summer the boys have been building spaceships and towers. We will be purchasing the Parent-Teacher Activity Guide; so that we can use our wedgits to their fullest potential.

Flowers and Pi- a little late

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In going with our intentional days of March we went out and bought flowers the other day. I let both boys pick out their own type to plant. Paul picked impatients and Thomas picked pansies. Mommy also picked out some tulips for herself.  It was several days later before we had the chance to plant them due to rain. However, plant them we did! I let the kids use their shovels to dig in the flower bed. In no time they had a nice trench dug to plant our flowers in.

The hardest part was wrangling the flowers out of the plastic holders they came in. The boys where impatient and mommy wasn’t doing very well removing them fast enough. However, mommy prevailed and the boys buried the plants in the trench. Given their current obsession with water I think that their favorite part of the flower business will be watering.

A few days later we celebrated National PI day (March 14). While, my boys are a little young to really understand PI- from a mathematical point of view they do understand pie! We started the morning reading Sir Cumference and the Dragon of Pi by Cindy Neuschwander. Paul picked the book from the library based on the picture of the dragon on the front but I loved how nicely it tied into our intentional days of March.

While, the math concept that was covered in the book was over the boys head; they thoroughly enjoyed the story of the Sir Cumference and the dragon. As a homeschooler to be I am always on the look out for good books to add to our resources. Cindy Neuschwander’s books will be joining our library. She has a whole bunch of math themed books- which will be a great literature addition to our math curriculum once we get started with school.
I let the boys help me make a pudding pie (graham cracker crust w/ instant pudding mix and whip cream!) after lunch and we chilled it in the fridge till dinner time. After a yummy dinner we enjoyed a wonderful slice of pie!

Days of Intentional March

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I want to make the most of this upcoming month and do what I call intentional living – making the most of our time and the resources around us. I want to make sure the children and I are making the best use of our days and being productive. However, I also believe unstructured play time is important. We will be celebrating the following days this year:

March 1- is National Peanut Butter day: To celebrate we will be incorporating lots of peanut butter into our meals and snacks. This will make Thomas ecstatic since peanut butter is his favorite food!

March 7- is the Feast Day of St. Thomas of Aquinas and so we’ll celebrate Thomas’ nameday. I will print a coloring sheeting for them to do. We’ll also make star shaped cookies that the children can help make.

March 12- is plant a flower day. We’ll get some inexpensive flowers and plant them together. Then the children can help take care of them. Mommy is thinking we’ll plant tulips; since they are my favorite flower.

March 14- is national PI day. While, math isn’t my thing it’s a good excuse to make a pie for dessert that day!

March 15- is incredible kid day! I am not sure what we will do but we’ll do some sort of fun activity to celebrate that we have 3 incredible kids!

March 17- is St. Patrick’s Day. We will of course wear green. I’ll have some coloring sheets that are both generic Irish themed and themed around the actual St. Patrick. We’ll make shamrock cookies and have a Irish dinner. I will also have a few books for our evening reading.

Bathtub Painting

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Today we made a few home valentines. When we were finished the boys still wanted to paint. However, since I am still recovering from my kidney infection I didn’t have the energy to supervise free painting time-which because Thomas is in a phase of thinking walls make a better canvas then paper does I have to.

So, I decided I’d try something I had pinned on pinterest a while back- bathtub shaving cream paint. It took all of 2 minutes to prep. Here are the ingredients:

– muffin tin
– cheap shaving cream
– food coloring

Fill muffin tin with shaving cream then add different color food drops to each cup. The amount of food coloring you add will depend on how vibrant you desire the colors to be

Once, I had mixed up the paint the boys and I headed to the bathroom. Given that my boys are still little I stripped them down to their underwear and diaper to make the mess less. I headed them the muffin tin and told them to enjoy finger painting their canvas.

Paul was a little confused at first that I wasn’t starting a bath for him but once I explained we were going to paint the tub and walls then take a bath he was happy. Paul and Thomas had a blast and I didn’t have to watch like a hawk to make sure they weren’t painting on places they weren’t suppose to be. I was able to sit down and rest while they happily painted for an entire hour. After that they took a bath and that occupied them for another 45 minutes.

Bathtub painting took just a few minutes to prepare but kept the boys entertained and happy for 2 hours. That is what I call a hit and an activity well worth repeating.

Crazy about the ABC’s

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Paul is starting to show a huge interest in learning about the ABCs; so we’ve been doing lots of reading about the ABCs. Here are some of my of our favorite books we have been using in our ABC fun!


I lucked out and scored a set of my first steps to reading books by Jane Belk Moncure from a thrift store. It is a set of 25 books that cover all the letters. Each letter has its own book with the exception of X, Y, Z; which are cover together in one book. These books are great vocabulary building books. You can find the books used on Amazon or purchase them through http://www.earlymoments.com/Our-Products/My-First-Steps-to-Learning/

Bill Martin Jr is a favorite children’s author of mine and his ABC book Chicka Chicka Boom Boom is no exception. It is a fantastic fun read about the ABCs. It elicits giggles from the children every time we read it. There are also a ton of fun activities you can do with this book. You can get a cd to go with the story. This website has a wealth of activities you can do to go along with the story.

If you have train fan in your house then I highly recommended C is for Caboose: Riding the Rails from A to Z.

One of our favorite places to go as a family is the zoo. The kids always have a great time and love seeing all the animals. Therefore; it comes as no surprise that the children adore Alphabet Zoo- which  takes the kids on a fantastic scavenger hunt through the ABC.

Game Time Fun

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I love board games and always have. We have a wide variety of toddler/preschool games for Paul and Thomas. The boys got a few new ones recently; so I thought I’d share some reviews of ones that have been hits and one that haven’t been so great.

Lucky Ducks: My children love this game….mommy on the other hand can’t stand it. It drives me batty and has recently been re-gifted to the thrift store. The concept of the game was fantastic. It was great for learning the basic colors, matching skills and memory skills. However, the entire time it is turned on to be played it quacks…loudly.We had the same noise issue with the Goin’ Fishing game.

Memory: There are a gazillion different types of memory games with different themes. I think every game cabinet should have Memory in it. We are lucky to have a beautiful wooden animal themed set my mother-in-law  gave Paul as a birthday gift several years ago. Memory is a diverse game. Not only can you play it regularly you can also work on matching and identification (depending on what sort of theme the cards are). Paul learned to recognize a ton of different animals because of our memory game and now Thomas is learning to recognize them.

Elefun: This game is a ton of fun and gets kids moving. It is a great game for those days when every one is starting to go stir crazy because of being cooped up due to the weather. To play this you want to make sure the kids will have plenty of space to jump around and catch the butterflies. Every time I bring it out we have lots of giggles.

Gator Golf:  This is another great get up and move game.  It is great for teaching coordination and learning to judge distances. The boys also enjoy using the alligator in their creative play. The alligator has been known to eat cars and attack forts.

Eric Carle is one of my favorite authors and so I love that fact that now days you can get great educational boardgames based off his works. We have several of his games and so far have enjoyed them immensely. I look forward to adding more to our collection. Currently, we have Head to Toe and The Very Hungry Caterpillar; which we haven’t had the chance to play yet since we received it for Christmas.

Head to Toe: Is the perfect game for a high energy preschooler. Thomas (2) doesn’t quite get it yet but Paul (4) enjoys it immensely. This game encourages children to explore the different ways their bodies can move and how to coordinate those moves. It also encourages memorization when using the sequence play; where children have to act out a serious of actions in order.

LeapPad Review

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For Christmas my parents have bought the new LeapPad tablet for Paul. It came in last week. Over the last week after the kids have gone to bed I have played around with it to get a feel for it.

After having played with it a few times I think Paul will definitely like it. It will make a great waiting room or long car ride toy. It seems to be very sturdy; so it should hold up to the bumps and thumps that come with the territory of belonging to a 3.5 year old. It seems like it will  be very easy for him to get the hang of using.

I love the fact that it has a built in camera/video recorder. Paul loves taking pictures with our camera (which makes me very nervous because I afraid he’ll accidentally break it.); so I know he’ll enjoy that aspect of it immensely.

From the start you get 4 applications for it. 3 of them are pre-chosen and 1 can be chosen from a small selection at the app store. It comes with Story Studio- All About Me: an app where the child can use their own pictures, art and sound recordings to make stories to share with others. Art Studio is another app that it comes with. I believe Paul will greatly enjoy this app. The 3rd app it comes with is a virtual pet. The child can purchase supplies and treats for their pet via tokens they earn through playing games and doing other learning actives on the tablet.

There are several categories of apps for the tablet- ebooks, ultra ebooks, games, creativity, flash cards, video and expansions for the cartridges games you can purchase separately. One thing that I like immensely about the tablet is that the ebooks have an audio aspect which is great for pre-readers.  Don’t worry mom and dad there is a headphone jack. You can also play the Leap Explorer cartridge games on the LeapPad. There seems to be a fairly good selection of app choices and over the last week I have seen several new ones pop up in the shop.

The only real downside I see is the fact that the apps are a little pricier then I had expected them to be. For the most part they rang from 7.50-25 dollars for the ultra e-books. There are a few that are for 5 dollars. They could make good rewards or incentives though. Leapfrog did send me a code to get a free game once I registered the toy; which made me smile because I like free! Also, it has to be connected a computer to purchase any new apps; which means mom and dad don’t have to worry about accidental purchases! One great thing about it though (especially considering the price of the apps) is that the apps you purchase can be download on to two different LeapPads. I especially like this since I can for see my younger son Thomas wanting his own in another year or so.

Overall, I think the LeapPad is a great kid-friendly alternative to things like the much more expensive and not as kid-sturdy IPad. Feel free to ask any questions you might have on the LeapPad and I will answer them to the best of my ability.