Works For Me Wednesday- Morning Message

Every morning when I taught first grade I would write a “Morning Message” to my students on a white board.  It would always start “Today is …” and then the day and date.  Then I would write about what we were talking about today and where we were going for specials (art, music, PE, computer)  I would end my message with some positive sentence about the day.

One morning last year when my daughter was 4 I wrote her one.  She loved it and I’ve been doing it ever since.  I start with “Today is… ”  and then write the day and date.  I let her know what we will be doing that day and where we will be going.  I also let her know how excited I am to spend the day with her and tell her that I love her.  On some days, I have her circle her different sight words or underline all the capitol letters. Last week I started spelling words wrong and having her correct them. 

She loves waking up and reading the plan for the day.   It lets her know what to expect and also gives her daily reading practice.  Here is a message she wrote back to me last year around Easter time.  Not bad for a 4 year old.  See if you can read what it says.  Mouse over the picture to see if you are right.


Today is Thursday.  We did an Easter egg hunt.  Love, Ashlyn

Here are a few other resources for teaching children to write.

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Works For Me Wednesday- Spring Break

This week our whole family is on Spring Break.  My husband is a teacher so he gets the whole week off too which is wonderful! The past two years I have had Ashlyn create a top ten list of things she wanted to do over Spring Break. I love seeing that it’s the simple things she enjoys.  Here is her list from last year in no particular order. 

  • Go to a movie.
  • Go to the beach.
  • Go swimming at the YMCA.
  • Play with Elizabeth and Riley. (her friends in the neighborhood)
  • Play hide and go seek with Mommy and Daddy.
  • Go to a farm and feed the animals. (this one surprised me)
  • Go to the zoo. (we have passes and go all the time.  I guess she loves it!)
  • Play with Mommy, Daddy, and Emily (her sister)
  • Go to Disney. (my husband’s grandfather works here so we are able to go a couple times a year)
  • Go fishing with Daddy.

And here is her list from this year;

  • Go to the beach.
  • Go swimming at the Y.
  • Have a playdate with Ella. (her friend she doesn’t get to see very often)
  • Go fishing with Daddy.
  • Go on a bike ride.
  • Go get ice cream.
  • Go to the Science Center.
  • Play at Elizabeth’s house. (our neighbor)
  • Spend the night with Nana. (my Mom)
  • Go to the fair.

I thought these were great lists.  As a look over them I can tell that spending time with her family is what she wants most.  I wonder how long that will last!

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Works For Me Wednesday- Discovery Tables

I have always used Discovery Tables in my class but this week I decided to do them at home too.  If you don’t know what I am talking about, Discovery Tables are tables that you put different things in such as water, soil, bird seed, sand, etc. and other items for kids to explore with.  Here’s an example; today in class we were talking about eggs, so I put sand in my table and put Easter eggs in the sand.  Then I put different animals that hatch from eggs inside the eggs. 

The other day while I was kind of cleaning out the garage I found a huge back of bird seed.  I decided to put it in a big tupperware container and put a funnel, shovel, mini rake, and a couple of cups with it.  I put it out in the backyard and when my 2 year old woke up from her nap I let her play with it.  She poured, scooped, measured, and dumped bird seed for an hour straight.  She loved it!  When she was finally finished I just swept it all in the grass and now we have had birds in our backyard all week. 

Emily with bird seed

Today I put together another one, except this time I used water.  I filled two big popcorn bowls full and then put cups, a funnel, and a mixing spoon in one.  In the other bowl I put a little fishing game we have where you try to catch little fish with a pole.  (great for hand eye coordination)  Both my girls loved this activity as well.  I was able to sweep and pick weeds while they played together.  When they got bored with the cups I gave them different objects to put in the water to see if they would float or sink.  Once again they played outside for an hour. 

Emily playing with water

Emily fishing

Ashlyn and Emily playing with water

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Works For Me Wednesday- Room Time

Every morning my girls spend between 30 to 45 minutes playing by themselves in their rooms.  I started this when both were about 2 months old and have done it almost every morning since.  When they were that young, it was play pen time.  At first, we put them in their car seat and put that in the play pen with a few toys hanging.  Then when they could sit up, it was 1 kid, 3 toys, and a few books.  

Now, it’s called room time. I got the idea from a book called Babywise and it’s been amazing!  Both girls have to stay in their rooms until I come to get them.  But that’s never a problem.  It’s just become something we do.

I give Emily, who’s 2, a few different options to play with.  These might include a coloring activity, blocks, dolls, puzzles, lacing activities, and books to read.  It can be anything she is able to do on her own. 

For Ashlyn’s room time I give her an activity to do in the beginning and once she has finished she is able to read books, play with her dolls, etc.  Some of her activities might include; a writing activity, puzzles, tanagrams, magnetic letters, sight word practice, etc.

They both love it. It teaches them to play independently, to be creative, and obedience.  We have also noticed that both girls have developed long attention spans.  They are able to focus on one task at a time instead of jumping from one thing to another.  It’s actually become a struggle to get them out of room time.  Emily wants to stay in and play by herself for up to an hour some days.

One of the best parts of room time is also the break it gives me.  I get a lot done while they are playing by themselves in their rooms.

When I tell friends about room time, many say their children would never be able to do that.  Don’t give up so fast.  It is definitely easier to do if you start them young, but why not try incrementally increasing the time?  Start out with one toy and try to do a 5-minute room time.  Then increase it by 2 or 3 minutes each week.  Before you know it, you’ll have 30 minutes to yourself and your child will be learning to play independently.  Oh, and one more helpful tip.  Stick to the schedule.  Do room time at the same exact time everyday, and it’ll work like a charm.

Here is a previous room time post with lots of activity ideas.

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Childwise Chat has a good testimony about Babywise, and answers some room time questions.

Works For Me Wednesday

Works For Me WednesdaySpring Break and summer time will be here before you know it and that means going on more road trips with the kids.  My kids are 5 and 2 and have always done pretty good on long trips.  They can entertain themselves and don’t mind being strapped in their car-seats for hours on end.  Here are some things I’ve learned to make our trips more fun.

  • Activity Folder- I make Ashlyn a folder with all kinds of activities in it.  I put connect the dots, word searches, coloring pages, adding, phonics papers, mazes, anything I think she can do on her own.  She loves to show me how many she can do. 
  • Bag of Books- Both my girls love to look at books.  I pack a tote bag full of different kinds and put the bag in the middle of their car seats.  I always buy (or check out from the library) a few new ones to surprise them in their bag.  I also put a sticker book for each of them.
  • I pack lots of crayons (the twist up ones so they don’t melt in the car) and give them each a pad of paper.  They love post it notes because when they are finished writing on them they stick them all over the window.  Stickers are also fun.  Emily loves to stick them on herself and pretend they are bandaids.
  • Books on Tape- this works for a while but most kid books on tape are so short it’s almost not worth it.  Regardless, I still pack a few.
  • DVD Player- I only let my kids watch this when we go on long trips so it’s very special for them.  Plus I want them to be able to entertain themselves and not think it’s tv time every time we go somewhere.  But on long trips it’s a life saver.
  • Present Bag- My mother in law wraps individual gifts and numbers them for each girl whenever we travel.  They look forward to it and get so excited when I tell them they can open a present.  The gifts are little things like post it notes, stickers, pieces of candy, a book usually for each, a cd with kid songs, etc.  My only rule with this is that they can’t ask, “Can we open a present.”  I surprise them throughout the trip with one.

These are just some of the things that make our trips easier.  It makes it fun and gives them things to look forward to.

For more Works For Me Wednesday ideas, head over to We Are THAT Family.