Friday, September 30, 2016

Toddler Playschool: E is for Everything About Me {free printable}

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Our Toddler Playschool is going well. I think that my only trouble is finding time to plan and get things ready. Sunny only sleeps on her own about 45 minutes a night, so I try to crunch everything in when I can.  I do apologize for what may seem to be cryptic lesson plans.  When I started this venture, I'd planned to include links and pictures of our activities.  But as many of you know, there's just never enough time.  When planning for the letter E, I came up with an Everything About Me theme where we could practice name recognition, talk about our family, and spend some time doing Sunny's favorite activities. 

If you missed the first few weeks, you can find them here:
 
This curriculum is ideal for 2-3 year olds. We'll be reinforcing colors and shapes and introducing letters and numbers. We'll be exploring a different theme each week as we proceed through the alphabet. It provides us with a framework of activity ideas we can use and expand on.  Very soon, I will be providing links to activities on these posts... There's just not enough time for me!
 
 
 
Click the link below to download 


I'd love for you to join us on our adventure! If you share on social media, use the hashtag #toddlerplayschool so I can see all of your wonderful activities!
 



Follow Crayon Freckles on Facebook to get post previews and hear about other great activities! You can also follow Crayon Freckles on Pinterest, Instagram, and Twitter.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Apologetic Parenting: 5 Reasons Why Moms Apologize for Their Kids

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I recently went to lunch with a dear friend.  Both of us had our children with us.  We sat there, visiting and eating in a family restaurant with four children ranging from ages 2-10 years old.  And I suddenly became painfully aware of something we were both doing too much of.  Now, one would think it'd be bragging about a recent dance recital or talking about summer plans. Instead, we kept apologizing for things our children were saying or doing. But the kicker is, our children weren't really doing anything outside the realm of being kids.

Which begs the question:
 When did moms start feeling like we had to apologize
for our children behaving like children?
 
After this, I started paying attention to two things:
           1. How often was I apologizing to others about my children's behaviors?
           2. How often were others apologizing to me for the behavior of their children?


What I found amazed me. Too many times the words "I'm sorry" were escaping from someone's lips. Why are we like this? I've pondered this for months.  Here are just five of the reasons why moms are too hard on themselves that I've come up with.
 
Baby Jessica vs. Baby Lane
I was seven when Baby Jessica McClure fell down that well in Texas. Along with my family, I watched the rescue attempts, the news updates, and saw the countless newspaper stories regarding the situation. The nation rallied around her family, providing support, prayers, and a lack of judgment. I don't remember at any point hearing someone ask why her parents were not watching her. No one
publicly ridiculed the McClures on their parenting choices. No. The country just waited, with bated breath, until that little girl was safe.
 
Fast forward to 2016, the Year of the Perfect Parent. A sweet little boy and his family are visiting the happiest place on Earth when the unexplainable happens. After news of Lane Graves' death due to an alligator attack at a Disney Resort hit the Internet, it seemed that a large majority of commenters on online articles and Facebook threads were all parenting professionals or alligator experts. Gone was the compassion that Baby Jessica's family received. Instead, the Graves family was berated for choices that they will forever live and struggle with.
 
Where did our compassion go?  Society no longer gives grace for anything less than perfect parenting, which entails being a future-seeing, accident-preventing, never-failing superhero. So we perpetually fear that anything our children say or do is going to result in someone judging our parenting skills and love for our children.
 
It's Hard to Let Go
After we bring our babies home, we are responsible for their care. The baby cries and we have to figure out what WE must do to fix the situation. Baby's behavior is quite frequently contingent on how well we do in our job of caring for them (colic, medical issues, etc aside). As Baby grows into Toddler, their moods start to fluctuate on other internal and external sources outside of the basic human needs. Tantrums happen. Behavioral issues bloom. I don't know of any moms that have struggled with their children's behavior and not questioned, "What did I do wrong?"  At some point, we have to let go and let God... to understand that our children's choices and behaviors aren't always a reflection on us.  Momma Guilt is real and it's a beast.

The Art of Competitive Parenting
Life in the "every one gets a trophy" age has seemed to only increase competitiveness amongst children and parents. We've turned from a society that focuses on "It doesn't matter if you win or lose, it's how you play the game" to "It doesn't matter how you play the game, you're going to feel like a winner no matter what." Now I know that statement might cause controversy.  But it's true.  I don't believe for a second that losing a soccer match is going to have a detrimental effect on how productive of an adult a child will grow to be.  No longer can our kids (and us as parents)  be satisfied with them going out there and giving their best, win or lose. Through this new phenomenon in children's sports, we are seeing a generation that does not know how to fail and parents who feel obligated to ensure their children feel successful, no matter what. It's not healthy.  Sure, we all want our children to be empowered and feel capable.  But they also need to know how to handle failure.

Conversations then seem to turn to how many activities fill up their family schedule. A busier schedule is seen as a higher success at parenting. But that's not true. You know your children.  You know if they thrive best immersed in activities, with minimal structure, or with lots of family time. I'm telling you this: The amount of activities you have your child enrolled in has no correlation to your parenting skills.

The Fallout from Mommy Wars
Breast vs. Bottle. Vaccinations. Circumcision. Right there are 3 hot topics guaranteed to start a Mommy War.  There are so many hot topics that pit mothers against each other.  And it seems that some use these controversial issues to make themselves appear/feel better than other moms.  Case in point... I actually had a Facebook friend private message me links to articles on the dangers of vaccines after I had posted pictures of Sunny playing joyfully after getting her shots.  We use an alternative vaccine schedule (only one live vax at a time, spread the others out so it isn't 4 at once). Yet, she still felt the need to literally tell me that she couldn't believe that I was "subjecting" my child to such things.  When did we feel this was okay? What has been fed to us that we feel we must challenge other's mothering styles? No wonder we constantly apologize... We constantly feel as though we are being judged.

The Online Community Awaits
Can you scroll through twenty posts on Facebook without seeing someone sharing how (insert complimentary word here) their child is? It can be virtually impossible for some. And while I'm not trashing it, (because I do it, too), it can be disheartening. Social media has allowed us to stay in touch with friends and family who live far away, share pictures of our meals with a few clicks, and catch the latest breaking news. But at what cost? Most moms don't post pictures of their toddler having a meltdown because they got a red cup instead of a yellow one. We don't post on how frustrating it is that our teenager is being defiant and disrespectful. And we certainly don't proudly post pictures of our beds that are rarely made or the dishes piled up in the sink. So much of our online lives are filtered. We share only what we want to, offering others a censored view of just how we live day to day. This results in an almost shameful feeling when we interact with people face to face. Our apologies could very well be based on the fact that we cannot filter out the realness of our lives.


 
So here we are... Stuck in the rut of feeling like we need to apologize every time our toddler has a meltdown in Target, when the kids are a bit too loud at a restaurant, or when we feel like our attempts to make things special fall flat.  No. Nope. No. Enough.  Enough of that.  Stop apologizing to other people for your parenting and for your kids being kids. 

There is one person that you should be saying "I'm sorry" to, and that's yourself. 

Apologize to yourself for wishing you could be the momma that you aren't.
Apologize to yourself for being so hard on the momma that you are.
Apologize to yourself for letting the world make you think that you are less than amazing.

Because you are.... You are amazing. You. Are. Amazing.  And don't you let anyone make you question that. 




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Friday, September 23, 2016

Toddler Playschool: D is for Down on the Farm Lesson Plan {free printable}

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Well, we're on week 3 of our Toddler Playschool adventure. We're doing Farm themed activities for toddlers, and I'm sooo excited!  Farm units were always my favorite when I was teaching preschool.  They offer so many avenues of exploration as far as various animals, lots of machinery, and food.  I also think it's a wonderful opportunity for children to learn where their food comes from!

If you missed the first two weeks, you can find them here:
 
This curriculum is ideal for 2-3 year olds. We'll be reinforcing colors and shapes and introducing letters and numbers. We'll be exploring a different theme each week as we proceed through the alphabet. It provides us with a framework of activity ideas we can use and expand on.  Very soon, I will be providing links to activities on these posts... There's just not enough time for me!
 
 
Click the link below to download 


I'd love for you to join us on our adventure! If you share on social media, use the hashtag #toddlerplayschool so I can see all of your wonderful activities!
 



Follow Crayon Freckles on Facebook to get post previews and hear about other great activities! You can also follow Crayon Freckles on Pinterest, Instagram, and Twitter.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Toddler Playschool: C is for Community Helpers Lesson Plan {free printable}

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Well, we're on week 3 of our Toddler Playschool adventure. If you missed the first two weeks, you can find them here:
 
This curriculum is ideal for 2-3 year olds. We'll be reinforcing colors and shapes and introducing letters and numbers. We'll be exploring a different theme each week as we proceed through the alphabet. It provides us with a framework of activity ideas we can use, but if we don't get to them all, I'm not super worried.
 
 
 
Click the link below to download 


I'd love for you to join us on our adventure! If you share on social media, use the hashtag #toddlerplayschool so I can see all of your wonderful activities!

 

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Easy Sensory Bin Idea for Toddlers

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Well, we did something a little bit different today.  I got a new sensory bin set up and the mood struck me to share it with you all... right then and there.  So off to Facebook I went and did a live video.  If you missed it, you can watch it here. Don't forget to like the Crayon Freckles page while you're there for more great ideas!
 
If you missed the video, here's the jist of it.  It's a super easy sensory bin for toddlers.  I dumped 6 bags of popcorn kernels into an under the bed storage bin, tossed in a few caps from fruit squeeze pouches, some scoops and let Sunny (27 months) explore.  This activity is also fun because it has a fall feel to it with the corn and the red caps that resemble apples.  It could definitely be used with an apple themed curriculum.
 
After a bit of self-exploration time, play with this sensory bin can be expanded by using the following ideas:
  • Hide the caps in the kernels and then go looking for them. 
  • Use an ice cream scoop to dig the caps out and put them in a bowl.
  • Count how many scoops it takes to fill up a small bowl.
  • Use tongs to pluck the caps out of the kernels.
  • Take turns "burying" each other's hands.

It's such a struggle when I hear moms talk about how hard it is to find the time to plan and set up activities for their kids.  Don't let social media trick you into thinking that anything less than Pinterest-Perfect isn't acceptable. Our kids won't remember all the details.  They're going to remember spending time with you.  So go easy on yourself.
 



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Friday, September 9, 2016

Toddler Playschool: B is for Bugs Lesson Plan {free printable}

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Last week, I shared our A is for Apples Toddler Playschool Lesson plan. The past week has been a bit of a struggle as we focus on more planned, structured activities. But she seems to have enjoyed our activities thus far... So we're onto B is for Bugs. This girl has  a slight version to creepy crawlies, so I'm hoping these activities help a bit.
 
This curriculum is ideal for 2-3 year olds. We'll be reinforcing colors and shapes and introducing letters and numbers. We'll be exploring a different theme each week as we proceed through the alphabet. It provides us with a framework of activity ideas we can use, but if we don't get to them all, I'm not super worried.

 
 
Click the link below to download 


I'll be posting our Toddler Playschool lesson plans weekly on Fridays. There will be a post on Monday with more details about some of these activities.
 
I'd love for you to join us on our adventure! If you share on social media, use the hashtag #toddlerplayschool so I can see all of your wonderful activities!




Follow Crayon Freckles on Facebook to get post previews and hear about other great activities! You can also follow Crayon Freckles on Pinterest, Instagram, and Twitter.

Monday, September 5, 2016

35 Apple Activities for Kids

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It's apple picking time!!!  This week, we are doing an apple theme for the letter A in our Toddler Playschool.  You can find our free printable lesson plans for this week here.  I wanted to also share with you some of the amazing fun and educational apple activities from some of my favorite bloggers.  On Friday, I shared our A is for Apples Toddler Activity calendar. Some of these activities are ones that we are using this week!


Spice up your playdough fun with homemade apple pie playdough.
Work on matching upper and lower case letters with this free printable.
Practice lacing skills by making stuffed paper apples.
Have some science fun with these apple volcanoes.
Use this apple printable to practice counting through a fun game.



Make some gorgeous apple suncatchers to spruce up your windows.
Go bobbing for apples using a method that works on fine motor skills.
Crate a festive apple garland with yarn.
Head to your local library and check out some of these apple books for kids.
Mix up your sensory bin with this apple pie version.



Practice one-to-one correspondence with this apple counting activity.
Have fun working on color matching and fine motor skills with this apple sensory bin.
Get one-to-one correspondence and fine motor skill practice with this easy to make apple game.
Change up your playdough station with some homemade green apple scented playdough.



Work on cutting skills and name spelling with these super cute apple name puzzles.
Make a yummy apple themed snack like these crunchy apple boats.
Spruce up your dramatic play corner by turning it into an apple stand.
Practice letter recognition and name spelling with this free apple printable.



Have some snacktime fun by making some apple slice "cookies".
Use these free apple number puzzles to reinforce counting skills.
Practice name spelling with this inventive felt and button apple activity.
Have some dramatic play fun after making your kiddos a felt apple pie making play kit.


Spend some time in the kitchen and makes these yummy apple pie bites for dessert.
Add some apple songs into your circle time or during free play.
Get to building with some block play inspired by an apple book.
Log on and check out these apple-themed videos.
Start prep early and make some crock pot applesauce to eat with dinner.



Use this apple counting activity to practice counting skills with fingerprints.
Mix science with your sensory bin with this magnetic apples sensory bin.
Work on fine motor skills by setting up an apple tree playdough table.
Build cutting skills with these free apple cutting practice pages.
Have some family fun and play this ten apples up on top math game.





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Friday, September 2, 2016

Toddler Playschool: A is for Apples Lesson Plan {free printable}

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Here we go!  I'm so excited about starting Toddler Playschool with Sunny. She seems to be excited to do "school" as well.  It's so tough to be the littlest left behind when the big kids go to school.  So I've planned some activities that we can do to fill our days and give us a sense of structure.  Commence Toddler Playschool.
 
This curriculum is ideal for 2-3 year olds. We'll be reinforcing colors and shapes and introducing letters and numbers. We'll be exploring a different theme each week as we proceed through the alphabet. It provides us with a framework of activity ideas we can use, but if we don't get to them all, I'm not super worried.

Click the link below to download 


I'll be posting our Toddler Playschool lesson plans weekly on Fridays. There will be a post on Monday with more details about some of these activities.
 
I'd love for you to join us on our adventure! If you share on social media, use the hashtag #toddlerplayschool so I can see all of your wonderful activities!




Follow Crayon Freckles on Facebook to get post previews and hear about other great activities! You can also follow Crayon Freckles on Pinterest, Instagram, and Twitter.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

When Motherhood is Lonely

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Motherhood is isolating.

Amidst the laughter, toothless smiles, and sticky, sweet fingers, there is a loneliness that pervades and snatches a bit of the sunshine.  So often a thankless job, we get paid in boogery kisses, paint smeared on papers, and meals devoured for their yumminess.

The creation of motherhood is trying. Opening our hearts for a child, whether it be our first or our sixth is an easy task.  But there are the anxious, gnawing questions that invade our minds and rattle our confidence. "Will I be a good mother?"  "What if I mess this child up?" "Can I really do this?" No one talks about the anxiety and stress that can overcome mothers-to-be. 

When our child is born, our lives cease to be just ours in a way that is unique from our partners. As mothers, we look into those little eyes and think, "You are my world." And we are theirs. And for those first few months of life, our care is their shelter from harm. Daddies can help, but sometimes Momma is the only one who'll do. And in those moments, we are alone... the sun in their universe. Despite the fatigue, the postpartum depression, the feeling of being touched out, we submit ourselves to serving these tiny humans.

We are surrounded by people who offer advice on childrearing. It's often ancient and doesn't align with our parenting perspectives. We have to learn the dismissive smile-and-nod to these unsolicited helpers who want to know whether or not we have a "good baby" who feeds on schedule and sleeps through the night in his/her crib. I want to rent a billboard that confronts these untruths. It's okay if your baby doesn't sleep through the night. It's okay to feed on demand. It's okay to bed share with your baby (following safe sleep guidelines). These unrealistic, socially sanctified milestones only serve to make us feel as though we are failing as mothers, that listening to that womanly voice inside of us is wrong.  They make us question whether or not we are doing right by our children.

And then, the babies grow.  They spread their wings and go out into the world to start preschool or kindergarten and we are left with handprints on the wall, dirty breakfast dishes in the sink, and a stillness in the house that is maddening.  We have to struggle to redefine ourselves from being constant caregivers, to being simple shepherds.

Motherhood is isolating.

Regardless of our children's ages, there's a force constantly pressing down on us as we weigh the effects of our every word and action on their little worlds.  The question changes from, "Will I screw my child up?" to "Just *how much* will I screw my child up?"  We live in the era of mommy-shaming where you have to selflessly do it all with no complaints or acknowledgment of the mental burden that comes with being a mother. Why can't we be real? Why can't we admit that sometimes we yell at our kids or are too short with them because the pressure is just. too. much?

I blame social media. We put our best foot forward, posting cute Back to School pictures and updates when our children do something we consider amazing.  But we don't post after we've had to haul them out of Target because of a tantrum. Or when the dinner we worked hard on is slid to the floor in a sign of disapproval by our toddler.  Or when it's the end of the day, we're on empty, and just not sure how we're going to get through tomorrow.  No. Most of us don't.  Because what would people think?  I'm not being sanctimonious... I do it, too. We hide these real and raw events because the world has made us believe that anything less than perfection in parenting is failure.

Motherhood is isolating.

It's not as easy to make friends as it was when we were young and it only mattered that we both liked the color pink and the New Kids on the Block. Differing views on hot topics like breastfeeding, cry it out, cosleeping, and vaccinations, (just to name a few) have served to be divisive amongst the mommying community. It's hard to make friends as a grown up. Is someone is being friendly because they're honestly interested in building a relationship or are they just being polite.  How do you know?

So what we're often left with are superficial relationships through mom groups, library story times, and playdates. We don't want to be the one who is always complaining about the woes of motherhood. Let's face it: we are all battling our own personal demons, be it behavioral/emotional problems, sleep issues, allergies, unsupportive spouses, maternal mental health problems, learning disabilities... The list goes on and on. But there comes a point where *not* talking about these struggles maroons us on an island and we begin to question whether or not we are the only ones dealing with issues.

And I refuse to stay silent and be embarrassed about these struggles any longer. 
 
Motherhood is not a freaking Norman Rockwell painting. It's messy, and scary, and full of more decisions than we ever imagined.

Which takes me back to my original statement.

Motherhood is isolating.

So do we have to go it alone? My answer is no, we shouldn't have to. But that means we have to start being real, and raw, and talking about the big freaking elephant in the room. We have to be courageous enough to share our motherhood experiences unfiltered. We have to reach out to other mothers that we see might be struggling.  We have to be honest with ourselves and with society and end the stigma that mothers face when they talk about the struggles they face in parenting. 

Be brave. Be nice. Be real.  You aren't alone...

Sidenote: I'm going to share my #isolatedmom moments on Instagram and Twitter as I experience them.  Some of them might seem silly or trivial.  But they're real moments that make me feel alone in mothering.  I challenge you to join me... Let's build a community of moms that support each other through the daily challenges we face. Love to you all.
 



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