Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Train Tot Pack (*free*)

You’re probably focused on Christmas-y ideas and activities this month.  I know that’s been on my brain for the past few days!  This tot pack has been in the works for a while, and there hasn’t been a ton of extra time for creating.  I’d hoped to be working on a Christmas pack by now, but didn’t want to put this promised pack on hold…
My boys ADORE trains!  Often, as soon as they hop out of bed in the morning, they are playing at their train table.  One boy or the other usually has a Thomas train in his hand.  They BEG to watch Chuggington on TV!  (They have a Chuggington book, and I didn’t even realize it was a TV show until my neighbor clued me in…we don’t usually watch anything other than PBS!)  The number one item on their Christmas lists is more trains!
Alex was super excited to wake up from his nap one day and find me creating train-themed printables.  He grinned and said, “Are these for me?  For Tot School?”  He was thrilled, and I hope your little engineers will love these pages, too!
I try not to include the exact same pages in every pack, just to keep things creative.  There are some new activities like an alphabet mini book with cutting, matching, gluing, and tracing.  I’d love some feedback on the new count & match/add & match cards.  (I’m hoping these will work in a pocket chart, but I have to admit that we haven’t printed them yet!)  If you’re disappointed to find your child’s favorite activity is missing, let me know…I’ll be glad to create something for you!
train abc book 1 count and match2 size matching t is for train
CLICK HERE to download the train pack FOR FREE at my Teachers Notebook store.  

I started a Pinterest train pinboard, but haven’t had much time to fill it yet.  If you’re saving this pack for later, you can always check back for new additions to the board! :)
This pack contains 27 pages of printable learning games and activity pages for 3 - 5 year olds.  You'll find:
~ scissors skills
~ graphing activity
~ shape matching
~ size matching
~ ten-part puzzle (number order practice)
~ circle what's different
~ handwriting practice T and t
~ rhyming words activity
~ alphabet mini book (match upper/lowercase)
~ train cars for counting
~ prewriting
~ missing numbers
~ count & match puzzle cards
~ add & match puzzle cards
~ dot marker page
~ Find the T and t page
~ Word Builders (spelling)
Graphics © Zenware Designs and Babystar Design Purchased at MyGrafico

Monday, November 28, 2011

Countdown To Christmas

Last year, while hitting the after Christmas sales, I came across a really neat children’s board book.  It’s called Countdown To Christmas, and it is a very simple book of Bible verses and activities to use from December 1st – December 25th. 

There’s nothing profound about this book.  It’s not amazingly theological, nor is it designed to teach the details of the Biblical story of Jesus’ birth.  It’s meant to teach and remind children that Christmas is the celebration of Jesus.

This is perfect for moms (like me…) who aren’t planning elaborate crafts or big projects, but want to make the Christmas season fun and meaningful.  Each page of this board book contains a paragraph to read to your child, an activity, a prayer starter, and a Bible verse for the day.

The first day explains that Advent (or “coming”) is the time when we are waiting for Christmas to arrive.  The verse is 1 Kings 8:20, “The Lord has done what He promised.”  The activity for the day is to create a paper chain with 25 links, then remove one link each day until Christmas.

When I taught second grade, I’d expand on that idea with my second graders by writing a classmate’s name on each link in the chain.  The chain was hanging from a yellow paper star.  As you removed the link each day at home, you were to take a minute and pray for this classmate.  You could do the same with friends, family, or other prayer requests!  We wrote a a poem on the star that went like this:

Each evening as your prayers are said,
take off one link then hop in bed.
When only the star is left to shine,
You’ll find that it is Christmas time!

Other activities in this book include tracing Christmas cookie cutters on paper and cutting them out to make simple ornaments, wrapping a doll in a towel as if you’re swaddling a baby, making napkin rings from sections of paper towel tubes, and cutting travel pictures from a magazine of things you’d pack for a long journey.

I’ve linked (with a referral link) to Amazon in the picture of the book.  It’s a good price, but you also might want to check at Walmart or keep an eye out for this book at the clearance sales after Christmas!

We’re also going to do Christmas picture books for the 12 Days of Christmas.  We don’t have 25 Christmas stories yet, so we’re cutting it a bit short.  I plan to place a book in a gift bag each night so that the boys can open the bag each morning to find the Christmas story for the day.  Occasionally, I’ll throw in a little surprise – a candy cane, a craft, or a small present.  (My sister found a snow-covered Thomas train on clearance after Christmas last year, and I’d like to give that to the boys before Christmas so they can enjoy it!  I figure that will go in the bag on the first day!)

For a REALLY neat idea for the Christmas Book Bag, check out Michelle’s post at Musings of Me!  The bag itself is interactive…you need to read Michelle’s post!  It’s such a beautiful bag; I’m drooling over that picture!  But we’ll stick with our paper gift bag filled with tissue paper since I can barely sew a button! ;)

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Black Friday Sale: Little Monkey Printables

I hope you all had a WONDERFUL Thanksgiving!  Ours was a little eventful, but we still had a great day with family!  We are so VERY blessed!

Everyone loves a Black Friday/Cyber Monday Deal!  This weekend only, save 20% on Little Monkey Printables at Itsy Bitsy Learners.  Combined with the newsletter discount of 25%, you’ll save 45% on the Bitty Buckaroo or Woodland Friends preschool packs!

Thanksgiving Sale Dawn

If you haven’t subscribed to Itsy Bitsy Learners newsletter yet, then TeachersPayTeachers has a deal for you on Cyber Monday:  Save 20%, and then save an extra 10% using coupon code: CMS28

tpt sale code

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Owl Tot Pack (extra pages)

We used our Owl Tot Pack last week, and I created a few extra pages that I thought Alex would enjoy.  Hopefully your little ones will appreciate these, too!
  • roll & graph activity – picture cube, graph, and graph questions page
    (yes, one page says “spin & graph”, and I didn’t fix it…sorry!)
  • handwriting practice
  • scissors skills
  • circle the smallest
Download all the pages (old & new) by clicking on the picture below:
You can find the original Owl Tot Pack here: http://mamasmonkeys.blogspot.com/2011/08/owl-tot-pack.html
Thanks again to Belen at PixelPaperPrints for allowing me to use her graphics!
We also had lots of fun making these cute pinecone owls that I found on Pinterest
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Friday, November 18, 2011

GIVEAWAY: Zookies Diaper Cover

Recently, I had the opportunity to review a free cloth diaper cover for Zookies. What a fun treat! I’m excited now to share a FREE DIAPER COVER with one lucky reader!  (You can enter using the “Rafflecopter” at the end of this review post.)

It all started when I asked about a discount if I would review her covers on my blog. Michele, the owner/seamstress replied quickly to ask if I would be interested in hosting a giveaway instead. Like I told Michele, you could have peeled me off the ceiling after I read her generous offer. I was hoping for 20% off, and instead, I received a free cover!  Thank you SO MUCH for your kindness, Michele!

Along with the free cover, I opted to order one additional cover because I wanted to try out two different styles. Michele was SO easy to work with, and she customized the covers to suit exactly what I wanted.

The package arrived only a few days later, and the covers are BEAUTIFULLY made! I couldn’t have asked for anything nicer.  They look so cute when they’re wrapped up in the package!November2011 037

Our free cover is a medium in “Little Ellies” print with snap closures.  (She also offers hook & loop, but – in my experience - snap diapers tend to last longer.)  I asked for pocket flaps to be sewn into the cover so that prefolds and diaper inserts will stay in place nicely.  It was barely out of the package before I was changing Jensyn’s diaper so that we could try it out.
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Could a diaper possibly any cuter than this?  I love the diaper AND the print!

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Judging by weight, Jensyn (about 15 lbs) is right on the border of a small or a medium Zookies cover.  She’s still wearing a small in her current diapers, but I opted for the medium cover, figuring that would leave plenty of room for her to grow. Thanks to the cross-over snaps, I was able to get a pretty good fit.  It’s still just a touch too big around her thighs, but we didn’t have any trouble with leaks. 

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The second cover (which I purchased) is a one-size with an adjustable rise that ranges from 13” – 19”.  I was very curious to see how the Zookies one-size cover compared to a Flip diaper cover, as that’s what we normally use around here for older babies/toddlers.  The Zookies covers appealed to me because they reminded me of a Flip cover, but with the cuteness of patterned fabric.  I chose to go with this pretty, girly “Flower Power” print. 

This picture shows it snapped down to a 13” rise…November2011 088

If you’re familiar with Flip covers, you know that the “shiny side” of the PUL is facing out.  This makes it easy to wipe away any slight dirty spots on the cover so you can immediately reuse it.  On a Zookies cover, the “shiny side” is hidden.  This way, you can use the cover as a swim diaper without irritating your baby’s skin.  Both ways have their pros/cons, but I thought I’d point out that difference.

Jensyn isn’t wearing Flips just yet…I’ll wait until she’s about 9 months to make that switch.  For this comparison, I tried both diapers on my 25ish pound two year old.  (Oooh boy, flower print on a boy…I’ll have to delete this picture as soon as the giveaway is over, ha ha!)  The Flip, with only one layer, might be a tad bit trimmer.  With the fold-over-elastic edging, the Zookies cover is just a bit thicker around the edges.  Both covers give a pretty similar fit, though, and I have no complaints at all about the fit of the Zookies cover.

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The shape of the Zookies diaper cover is somewhat different from a Flip.  That’s certainly not a problem; it’s just something that I noticed.  The pocket flaps on the Zookies are much sturdier than the flaps on a Flip cover.  I was VERY impressed with how well the Zookies flaps held in every insert we tried. 

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Larger prefold diapers (a Green Mountain Diaper yellow-edge) fit wonderfully in the one size cover.  Smaller prefold diapers (a GMD orange-edge) fit nicely in the medium diaper; I don’t think you’d want to use it in the sized cover if you have the pocket flaps sewn in.  I find that to be the case with Flip covers, too…tiny babies really do need sized covers, in my opinion! :)

Zookies one-size with a tri-folded yellow-edge GMD prefoldNovember2011 091

I don’t have a picture of the orange-edge GMD prefold in the cover, but here’s a size comparison of the two.  Can you see why the orange edge might be a bit small in the one-size cover?November2011 094

Michele’s diaper covers are available in a HUGE variety of prints, You can customize a diaper just about any way you want…fabric choice, hook & loop or snap, pocket flaps or no pocket flaps, sized or one-size…to get the perfect diaper for your little one!

You can also send her a favorite fabric, and she’ll make you a custom diaper!  How fun is that?  Michele said it takes a 20” x 20” piece of fabric for a one-size diaper. Guess what Jensyn’s getting for her first birthday?!  (Uh, not that she’s allowed to turn one.  She’s going to be my baby forever!)  

The quality of Michele’s work is excellent, she’s super-quick to respond to messages, and we’re thrilled with the diaper covers we’ve received.  I’m very impressed with these covers, and I will definitely be back for a few more!

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You can check out Michele’s diapers and other crafty items (snack bags, gift sets, and more…) on Etsy, but I also discovered that she has even more fabric options available on her website.  Here are the links to visit both sites:

Here’s what you’ve been waiting for…


Michele is providing one free diaper cover of your choice to one lucky winner.  She will ship internationally, so all mamas are welcome to enter this giveaway.  Giveaway ends November 30th, and the winner will be announced here on December 1st.

There are TWO mandatory entries, and the rest are optional entries just for fun. 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Fluffy Little Bums…

Alex, 6 months old, wearing a cloth diaper

I’m very excited to have the opportunity to host a cloth diaper giveaway starting tomorrow!  Before the giveaway, I wanted to share a little about how we cloth diaper…

I started looking into cloth diapers about 4 years ago, just before Alex was born.  It’s something that I just felt compelled to try.  I was surprised to see that cloth diapers are not just Gerber prefolds, safety pins, and plastic pants anymore.  The new options are much nicer!

There’s no more “swishing” in the toilet.  We keep a plastic kitchen trash can with a PUL (waterproof) liner in our laundry room.  When we change a diaper, we just toss it into the can.  (If it’s dirty, we “plop” the solids into the toilet first.)  Every other day, I wash by doing a cold water rinse, a HOT wash with a diaper-safe detergent, and a few extra cold rinses to be sure all the detergent has washed out.  Every once in a while, maybe once a month, I do an extra wash with a bit of bleach.)  That’s it!

We started out trying a variety of diapers.  I tried everything: prefolds and covers, fitted diapers with separate covers, snap diapers, velcro diapers…and I got a pretty good idea of what I liked best. 

In those early days, I really came to appreciate the diapers that were most similar to a disposable.  Still adjusting to being a mommy, I didn’t enjoy any sort of prefolds or complicated diapers.  My favorites were BumGenius one-size diapers (which are like a washable disposable with velcro tabs) and FuzziBunz (which are very similar, but have snaps instead of velcro).

Alex, around 4 months old

When Max came along, I purchased some used Bum Genius x-small and small diapers to use for the first few months.  (DiaperSwappers is an excellent place to purchase gently used baby diapers.)

October2009 055Max, around 2 months old

When Max began using the same BumGenius that Alex was using, we started having a problem ~ after 2 years of regular use with Alex, and now the washing/drying demands of TWO children wearing the same diapers, the velcro just wasn’t holding well enough to stay on a wiggly toddler.  Max could still wear them just fine. Alex, however, would be running around the house, and suddenly his diaper would fall out through a pant leg! 

 Max, around 4 months old

That’s when Cotton Babies was introducing their new Flip diapers.  The price was right, and I was confident enough in cloth diapering to try something a little less like a disposable.  I fell in love with the simplicity of the Flip diapers! 

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Max, 2 years old, in a Flip cover

I used Flips on Alex until he potty trained, and Max is still wearing Flips every day.  Jensyn will begin using these soon, too.  They’ve held up WONDERFULLY, and I have no doubt they’ll last through Jensyn’s diaper days, too.

Flips are very thin, PUL (waterproof) covers with flaps inside to hold an insert in place.  They have absorbent microfiber inserts with a soft, stay-dry suedecloth lining that goes against baby’s skin.  (They also sell organic cotton inserts for those who prefer to avoid synthetic fibers against baby’s skin.)

You simply pop them into the reuseable cover and snap it on the baby.  (They’re available in snaps or velcro, but at that point, I was not a big fan of velcro on diapers that needed to last for a long time!)  When you change the diaper, you slip out the insert & set a new one in the cover.  If the cover gets a little dirty from a messy diaper, you can swap it out for a new cover.

We ended up purchasing 6 Flip covers, 12 inserts, and 4 organic inserts.  We also have some prefold diapers (you know, the “old-fashioned” diaper) that get used when we’re behind on the diaper laundry.  I just fold them into thirds and pop ‘em in the Flip – no pins involved!

April2011 423 Jensyn, just a few weeks old

When Jensyn came along, I purchased some clearanced BumGenius small diapers.  (Cotton Babies no longer be sells their sized diapers, so I snatched up some REALLY inexpensive pink & purple diapers.)  These fit her well, and we’ll be able to resell these with no problem when she outgrows them.

Now that she’s nearing the point of outgrowing these, I wanted to get her a few girly-colored diaper covers for Christmas.  There’s nothing wrong with yellow, green, and blue…but a little pink won’t hurt.  Besides, this little girl has EVERYTHING she needs…and she deserves to get SOMETHING for Christmas!

The next post, scheduled for tomorrow morning, reviews the diaper covers that we’ve been trying out this week.  I’m excited to have the opportunity to share a cover with one lucky reader!

My Reasons To Smile :)

These kiddos melt my heart…all three of them, playing happily together with Jensyn’s toy.  This lasted for about 20 amazing minutes…no fighting, no whining, just smiles and giggles.

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Orange slice “disguises” at lunch…mustaches, goatees, and even sunglasses.  Never mind that they’re not supposed to play with their food; Mommy even got in on the fun today!

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Oh, did those boys laugh when Mommy gave Jensyn a mustache.
Jensyn, on the other hand, just wanted to LICK her mustache! ;)

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Tot School – Letter X and Owl

Alex is almost 4 (46 months), and Max is 26 months.
This week, we worked on RRSP Letter X and we did an owl theme.  The kids were pretty excited!  Max is fascinated with owls, and he spots owls in many random books as we’re reading.  He even finds owls in tractor books! :)
This week we used Raising Rock Star printables from 1+1+1=1 and free Owl printables from my blog.  (I’ve also created a few new printables to meet Alex’s current interests; you can find those here.)
We read several books from the library ~
Wow Said The Owl (great for 2 year olds, teaches colors, Max loved it!)
Berkeley’s Barn Owl Dance (didn’t really care for this one)
White Owl, Barn Owl (great fact/fiction mix, and Alex loved it!)
The nice thing about Alex’s name is that we’ve now covered each letter in his name in the first 6 lessons of RRSP.  I made him a laminated name practice page to use with dry erase.
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He is scissors-crazy (in a good way) lately!  He’s finally interested in cutting on the lines, and he’s doing a pretty good job.  It’s still not a smooth cut, but he’s getting there!
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I made an owl roll & graph, but Alex was annoyed that he was supposed to be recording his results.  He just wanted to roll and roll and roll…so much for that activity!  It’s cute, though, and I’m sure it will benefit somebody’s kiddos! ;)
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Max tried, too.  Then he smushed the cube, rendering it useless.  Sigh.
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Both boys LOVED this “circle the smallest” page. 
Even Max scribbled on the smallest one in each row! 
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Alex “made stairs”…or sequenced owls by size…
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He LOVES using the letter tiles to build words.
After he builds them, I show him how to use the letters to sound out the words.
Alex loves letter sounds right now.
He’s not quite ready to sound out words, but he’s willing to listen to me sound it out.
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Max had to try, too…although he’s obviously not ready for this yet!
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Number Order Puzzle…it took a little ‘pushing’ on my part to convince Alex to do this activity, but he did a great job once he decided to try!
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Dot Painting – a current favorite…
and the reason that the boys are getting the real dot markers for Christmas :)
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Owl Shape Puzzle…Max did this every day!  Alex tolerated it.
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Pre-writing for Alex, scribbling practice for Max
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Five Little Owls poem with manipulatives…Alex LOVED making the owls fly away!
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Finding and stamping this week’s sight word (little) in the RRSP Mini Book
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Stamping for the sake of stamping, because Mommy wouldn’t give him the mini book ;)
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Practicing his Xs on the Bible verse page
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This little boy loves his colors…but has no clue about color names.
We keep trying!  This week, he matched candy heart erasers to the colored dots, matched the velcro colors, and matched the color words to the correct spot.:)
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Tower Building…although crashing it is the best part for Max!
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We’re finished with all of our tot school papers for the week, so Friday is for fun!  Grandma & Papa collected some pine cones for us, so we’re making pine cone owls tomorrow morning!  Wish me luck…glue guns, googly eyes, 3 tots and a baby, and sticky-sappy pine cones should be interesting!  If they actually turn out, I’ll post about them next week :)
I wish life wasn’t crazy with three little ones.  My boys loved the owl theme, and I would LOVE to have gone into more depth with the science-y side of things.  Maybe next year we’ll do this again, but put more emphasis on the factual information.  I hope so!
You can learn more about RRSP, Preschool Corner, or Tot School by clicking on the links below.  You’ll also see what other moms are doing with their tots and preschoolers!
Tot School