Learning Self-Care Skills With Preschool Power

Has anyone else out there used the Preschool Power videos with their kids?  Have you heard of them?

We have checked them out of the library for each of my kids and I just absolutely love them. They are a Montessori-based set of videos that are about 20 years old with corny but catchy tunes, showing toddlers and preschoolers doing all sorts of independent activities, like the jacket flip, pouring juice, making a peanut butter sandwich, caring for pets, learning to zip and button their clothes, setting the table, folding clothes and more.

They are hard to find, but there are a few on Amazon. Your best bet may be your local library. Or, if you have a VHS player, there are more copies to be found out there.

What I do know is this:  Every time I’ve shown them to my kids, they’ve immediately had a surge in independent skills.

So we got our usual library copy and I showed it to Love Bug, my 3 1/2 year old. As soon as it was over, he asked to make a peanut butter sandwhich. He did each step from getting a plate out of a cabinet to spreading the peanut butter on the bread. And then he ate the sandwich with a big grin on his face.

Another day, I set up a basket of supplies for setting the table. Aren’t these set-the-table placemats great? (Affiliate Link) They are by Melissa & Doug.

He set to work happily, putting everything in place.

I showed him how to fold a napkin and he was able to fold the next one by himself.

Then he poured milk using the technique from the videos: using 2 hands, pouring into the middle of the cup’s bottom, telling me which was the spout and which was the handle of the little pitcher.

Have you used these videos with your child? I’d love to hear about your experience.

Follow my Preschool pin board on Pinterest for more ideas on learning with preschoolers.

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F.I.A.R. The Giraffe That Walked To Paris

We’re back in the swing of things with Five in a Row! Although we didn’t complete all the Volume I books, I decided to delve into Volume II with this wonderful story by Nancy Milton.  The Giraffe That Walked to Paris is based on the true story of a giraffe given by the Egyptian Pasha to the King of France in 1827.  The giraffe travels by boat from Egypt to the south of France, then walks to Paris with her handlers. La Girafe, as she is known to the people of France, was very popular. Most people in France at that time had never seen a giraffe.

It was challenging to find this out of print book. Prices on Amazon and other sites for a used copy were too steep. Our library didn’t have it. We found it a library in a neighboring county and did an informal inter-library loan, wherein a friend that lives in that county, ahem, checked it out for us. Thanks, JavaMom!

I decided to have the kids make a modified lapbook.  What is that, you ask?  Well, lapbooks are usually a two page spread in an open file folder.  This is more like a multiple page lapbook.  It also can contain all the other paperwork that accumulates for the work we did for this particular book (coloring pages, maps, etc.).

I found this beautiful cover and a couple of items for the inside at Aussie Pumpkin Patch. Other lapbook items were found here. And some I made on my own, like the stagecoach picture and the “patient” and “impatient” vocabulary words.

 Social Studies Activities

  • We made French and Egyptian flags for our lapbook.
  • Discussed citizenship and watched a Citizenship video on BrainPopJr. (subscription required; check out their free trial).
  • Pin-punched around the perimeter of a map of Africa. This is an easy continent to memorize by seeing the mere shape of it, so I wanted my kids to remember it. A friend told me about the Montessori activity of pin punching for geography. A great sensory experience and the kids are much more able to be accurate with the little curves around a continent vs. using scissors (see photos below).
  • Looked at images on the internet of stagecoaches.

Pinpunching around the continent of Africa, using an unfolded paperclip on a foam mat.

Pinpunching also works great on the carpet.

The kids then glued their pinpunched African continent to a piece of paper and wrote Africa on it. I also had them find and label Egypt before placing this in their Giraffe lapbook.

Language Arts Activities

  • We watched a French language DVD from our library, called Little Pim.  Sort of like a Baby Einstein or Signing Times type of format, spoken in French with English translation subtitles.
  • We listened to an on-line audio of Arabic (the language of Egypt).
  • Used Google Translator to translate simple sentences into French and Arabic (“Hello, my name is ________.  I am ____ years old.”)  I love exposing my kids early to other languages. My parents did that for me (with French) and I remained interested in it throughout my entire childhood.
  • Vocabulary words:  Stagecoach, patient, impatient, citizen.

Measuring La Girafe and more.

Math Activities

  • On a long piece of butcher paper (less than $10/roll at Costco and oh-so-many uses), we measured 11 feet (the height of La Girafe when she traveled to France), 15 feet (the height of the average full grown female giraffe), and then the heights of everyone in our family. We then hung this from our upstairs hallway, which overlooks our family room. The kids were thrilled to know that if we ever get a pet giraffe, it can live in our family room. Had we not been able to hang this up inside, I think we would have (temporarily) hung it outside from a second story window. Hey, the neighbors already think we are “those weird homeschoolers”, so why not?
  • Counting with my 5 year old:  41 days (the time it took for La Girafe to walk from Marseilles to Paris).
  • Counting with my 7 year old: Using a set of base 10 counters, figured out 425 (miles on foot that La Girafe traveled) and 1700 (miles she traveled by sea). This is just where he is at with math right now, learning about place value, so this was a way to incorporate that into our Five in a Row studies this week.

Base Ten counters: 4 hundred, twenty, five.

Science Activities

  • Learned all about giraffes by watching an on-line National Geographic video and looking at a website with lots of giraffe facts.
  • Made a fold-out for our lapbook on what giraffes eat and drink.

Art Activities

Other Activities

  • Character Traits: Impatience and Patience. We defined these as “having a hard time waiting” and “able to wait”, respectively. As a go-along for this concept, we watched some very odd videos of The Tortoise and The Hare on YouTube. I recommend getting the book from the library instead.
  • Supplemental Book:  Zarafa by Judith St. George.  This is basically another version of the same story, and a very enjoyable one.

You can find many of the internet links that I used for rowing this book on my “Giraffe That Walked to Paris” Pinterest Board.

We really enjoyed this book and we look forward to seeing some real giraffes sometime.  Unfortunately, the zoo nearest to us does not have giraffes. Isn’t that sad? A zoo without giraffes. What would the King of France think about that?

A Peaceful Time-Out Alternative

A few years ago, realizing that “time out” was not making much of a difference in some concerning behaviors of my then-three-year-old, we were inspired by the concept of the Montessori Peace Table.  Our adapted version are the Peace Flowers, which we use in our house when someone has been hurtful, disrespectful or otherwise unkind to another family member and is unable to resolve the issue in the moment.  The idea is to go to a quiet place, calm down, and then make amends to the person they hurt, by offering a flower from the vase.

I like the idea of “making it right”.  This gives “I’m sorry.” a little more substance.

Here’s an example of how we use it:  My four year old has repeatedly taken toys from her younger brother.  Mom has intervened several times, requesting that she give the toys back and not take them from her brother again. The situation has escalated to where the four year old is yelling or refusing to listen to Mom.

She is directed to a quiet spot in our house (I always try to give her a couple of choices about that), to calm down.  When she is calm, we talk about what happened.  She can then  “make it right” with her brother and/or Mom by offering a flower, which she usually comes up with on her own.  Or she can, and often does, choose to draw a picture, and give that as a token.  She can also offer to do something nice, like help her brother put away his toys or get him a snack (which also helps Mom).

I’ve also given a Peace Flower when I’ve lost my temper or my patience with one of my kids.  Demonstrating the “make it right” principle in this way has proved very effective, rather than simply telling them that this is what they must do when they’ve made poor choices.  It shows that we all make mistakes, even Mom.

Things are far from peaceful in our house much of the time.  Chaos and loudness are in plentiful supply.  But this is one thing that helps us stop, breath and take the time to make amends.