When I offered to watch my niece and nephew on Tuesdays this summer, I made a few simple promises to my sis-in-law Dana.
1.) I would feed them.
2.) I would try to keep them out of trouble.
3.) I would try to do something educational with them, even if it was just for 20 minutes.
So one night, about 3 weeks ago, I got on Pinterest and simply searched "Preschool and Kindergarten Worksheets."
I was really only looking for letter tracing, sight word practice, etc. No themes. Nothing fancy. Just standard worksheets that I could print off each week and make them do at the table before lunchtime.
But as any Pinterest junkie knows...there is no such thing as a "simple search." 3 weeks and at least a 100 hours later...I had planned out not only the worksheets I was going to give the kids each Tuesday, but also the theme they would revolve around. I researched crafts, movies, books and other activities to go with each theme and before I knew it...I had a full blown summer school in my office.
I just couldn't help myself!! There are so many incredible FREE resources out there with fantastic ideas for homeschooling...it almost makes me want to homeschool full-time!
Anyway, the very first theme I knew we had to incorporate this summer was Ocean Week. It all started when I pinned this adorable paper shark craft. From there on I was a pinning fool and came up with a pretty awesome schedule of activities for the kiddies. Here is a little recap of our day with links to all the fabulous stuff we did:
Having 4 young kids to entertain for an entire day is no easy task if you go into without a plan. Telling a 3-year-old, 4-year-old and two 5-year-olds to just "go play" for 6 hours is an invitation for chaos. Before you know it...the house is trashed, someone is bleeding, someone is missing and there is PB&J smeared all over your new toss pillow.
I knew that if I was going to run a tight ship around here (and not be hiding in the closet at 11:00 with a bottle of wine), I needed a schedule to follow. I also knew that I needed to have everything ready to go before the kiddos came over so that I wasn't wasting time searching for supplies or setting up a space for them to work.
I decided that what made the most sense in my house was to set up our "school" in a separate room away from distractions like the TV, the kitchen (where snacks literally call their name), the backyard, the toys in their bedrooms, etc. So, I chose to set up our learning space in my office. I went out this week and purchased this awesome little folding table. The height is adjustable and at it's lowest setting, it is the perfect height for kids. It also folds up super easy and takes up little space for storage.
I knew we would be doing some crafts that required safety scissors, markers and glue, so I made up two little caddies (that I got at the dollar store) with all of the supplies we would need.
Because the kids are different ages, I wanted to find worksheets that were appropriate for each of them, but stayed with the same theme. Thanks to Pinterest, I ended up stumbling on the blog Royal Baloo and found some AWESOME printables for our Ocean Week!!!! She, and the author of 3 Dinosaurs, put together worksheets for Tots, Preschool, Kindergarten and 1st Grade.
The girls went absolutely nuts for the worksheets and actually asked me to print out another set when they were done.
The boys, on the other hand, were down with one worksheet each, and then they just wanted to look at all the cool ocean books we checked out from the library.
And speaking of the library...Mr. Will (our librarian) TOTALLY hooked me up for this week's theme. While we were at storytime, I mentioned how I was putting together a little learning day for the kids and wanted to find some fun fish/ocean/beach books. He told me it was my lucky day and took me over to their "Vacation Pack" area where he had about 20 different fabric bags filled with books and DVDs for particular themes. And wouldn't you know...there was a beach vacation pack waiting just for me :-)
The books he chose were PERFECT.
While the boys were looking at the books, I brought out our pack of plastic sea animals that we bought at the Shedd Aquarium last year.
We talked about each of their names and where they live (in the water, sand, both) and then I had the boys find the different creatures in their books.
The two of them LOVED this activity and we actually played with those plastic sea animals several times.
After our worksheets were done and the boys had made their way through all the books, we did our paper shark craft.
They all turned out SO CUTE!!!
I had another craft planned, but I could tell the kids were getting antsy to go play. Plus, it was coming up on lunch time so while they were out on the swingset, I got their meals together.
I had every intention of taking a super cute picture of our ocean-themed lunch but when the girls asked to help me get things on the plate, I couldn't say no. I was able to snap this really quick pic so that you could see our Sea Lion sandwiches (with starfish and goldfish crackers)...
And that blue Jell-O with the fishies was Aunt Dana's idea! The kids thought that was the coolest thing ever :-)
I promised the kids that if they ate really good lunches, I would set up the new WATER SLIDE for their afternoon water activity!! So they ate like there was no tomorrow...
And raced each other to the slide.
Dana and I decided on a whim to go in together on this water slide after I got a 30% off coupon from Kohls. We knew I would have the kids every Tuesday and we thought it was a great activity to keep them entertained outside. The water slide is on sale again this week and if you have a Kohls card, you can use the code SAVEBIG30 to get 30% off!! I've only used it for one day, and it is already worth EVERY...
Just ask these four :-)
So after a very wet and wild afternoon outside, we came in for a little down time. I made up some milk cups and decided to pop in Disney's Oceans. It's a documentary so I wasn't sure how into it the kids would be but oh my gosh...they were completely mesmerized! And a little milk drunk.
I thought I would maybe get 10 minutes out of them and I would have to switch to Finding Nemo or The Reef (which is only $5 at Target right now) but to my surprise...they watched almost the entire thing!! I am so happy too because they asked a million questions and I actually felt like they were learning something.
After our show, it was time for another craft and a game!! We played a little matching game that I got from another amazing blog, Learn Create Love, and made this adorable hand crab art.
I let the kids choose their color and although I tried to guide their hands the best I could to get into "crab" position...it didn't really work out. But they are still cute and Addie and Nia took their sweet time adding some extra touches :-)
Before the kids got picked up, we spent the last half hour singing the clean up song. We picked up all of our toys from "recess", we put our dishes from lunch and snack time in the sink and then we wiped down our table.
I mean...do you see this picture? The kids are CLEANING!!! Amazing. Totally and completely amazing.
I know these pictures tell a pretty awesome story and it may seem like things went perfectly today. But here's the honest truth...Did the kids have their moments? Sure. Did little fights break out over who's turn it was on the slide? Of course. Did I still get PB&J on my new GAP shorts? Duh.
But was the day a TOTAL blast?!!
HECK YEAH IT WAS!!!!
And because of that...I am calling it a success! The kids were fed, they didn't get into trouble, I never had to lock myself in a closet AND we all learned a lot about the ocean today. I really had so much fun teaching them and now that I know how well they thrive together in this type of environment, it makes me even more excited for SPACE WEEK next week!!!
Until then friends!! Happy summer learning!