Tuesday mornings are my day to step up to the plate. You see, a friend and I trade Tuesday and Thursday mornings. I watch her daughter on Tuesday mornings and she watches Linus on Thursdays. It means that each of us gets a little break once a week. It's very much a whirlwind with two almost three year olds, but it's totally worth it come Thursday.
One of my greatest strategies in dealing with the two tornadoes is to have a plan. (Actually, it's pretty much my life motto.) I try to have several structured activities ready. Combine the planned activities with lots of story time, a little movement activity, and a smidge of free play, and the morning goes smoothly. Often, my planned activity involves going to the park or playing outside. Today, after yesterday's torrential rains, outside time was not an option. Therefore I really had to scramble to come up with something. Here's what we did.
1. Read the book by Martin and Archambault pointing to each letter as it is named. (Repeat readings are a great way to pass the time.)
2. Using a big sheet of paper, draw a huge coconut tree.
3. While the kids are coloring in the coconut tree (I assigned one the trunk and one the leaves.), locate a set of letters. You may use magnetic ones, wooden ones, or even pieces from an alphabet puzzle. You can even write out a set on paper and cut them apart.
4. Place the letters at the bottom of the tree.While slowly reading the story, have kids take turns locating each letter and climbing it up the tree.
5. When you get to the end of the first part (or the middle of the story), the letters all fall out of the tree. If your kid is anything like Linus, you won't even have to model this... Let the kids sweep the letters out of the tree when you read, "Chicka chicka... BOOM! BOOM!" Loosen up and let them go everywhere. They will love this part and want to climb the letters up the tree again if only to crash them all down at the end again.
After several repetitions of this, I had the kids make their own coconut trees. This would let them play the same game on their own later. I used white paper for the base, brown construction paper rectangles for the trunk, some green paper cut into leaf shapes (cut while they were gluing the trunk on), and circle punched some tan coconuts. The kids glued it all together. For older kids, you could just draw the shapes on paper and let the kids do the cutting. If you are so motivated, you could cut each child his/her own set of letters to act the story out.
[As an extension (ie for older kids, more advanced kids, or revisits), you can move on to the end of the story where the grown-up letters (uppercase) come to pick-up all the bumbed and bruised letters. This would be a great time to match-up capitals to lowercase letters.]
1. Read Chrysanthemum by my favorite children's author, Kevin Henkes.
2. Punch circles for each letter of the kid's names. (Use separate colors.) I punched out 5 for Linus, 8 for his friend, and 13 for Chrysanthemum.
3. Use the letters to count and discuss more and less, longer and shorter (when lined up graph-style).
4. With the child watching, write the letters of his/her name on the circles. Feel free to talk through the formation ("L goes straight from the top to the bottom. Then it goes across.") AND/OR reinforce the sound of the letter ("Linus begins with l-l-l. What letter makes that sound? L.").
5. Grab a strip of paper. Write the child's name again on the paper leaving extra space between each letter. Repeat the above formation or sound talks as desired.
6. Using your set of Chrysanthemum letters, show the kids how to match the circle letters to the strip letters.
7. Give them each their set and go to it.
If when you complete all that and you look at the clock and go, "Crap. That only took 20 minutes," you can throw this in.
Yep, let those letters climb on up their coconut trees and glue them on. It will take at least 2 more minutes. Make sure you have them put the letters on in order, but don't fret if they don't put them left to right. That will come later.
PS- The Durham County Library did not pay me to link to the books. I'm guessing they don't have an advertising budget since you can get the books there or at your local public library for FREE!
Oh and as long as I'm handing out unpaid, unsolicited advice, we LOVE using Tap-N-Glue lids for our sticky crafts. Less mess is definitely a good thing.