Bugs Galore by Peter Stein is one of my new favorite children's books! The illustrations are so fun and so is the writing. Something about it made my toddler belly laugh!
After reading Bugs Galore, we explored our own bugs in two bug sensory bins. One was filled with coffee beans and the other with paper Easter grass - both were topped with plastic bugs. I didn't think about it far enough in advance to procure them, but a net and/or magnifying glass would have been a good addition to these sensory bins.
I loved using coffee because it had both a cool feel and an interesting aroma - and it seems that smell is a sense that is typically neglected in planning sensory activities, so that was nice for a change. Both bins were fun and offered very contrasting feels and colors. The bugs were fun to feel as well and my toddler enjoyed pointing at each body part and asking "that?," as I identified wings, legs, tails and more. Of course, it was very important to be attentive so that no coffee beans (or bugs) were accidentally ingested.
As a part of our activities about bumblebees, we read a book called Bumblebee by J.V. Wilson and Adrienne Kennaway. I found the book to be interesting and informative, but it really was not appropriate for a toddler, as it was quite long. I think older kids could really enjoy learning about the life cycle of the queen bee, different bee types and how a hive operates - but it didn't hold the interest of my 18 month old. This mismatch was my fault, however, as I put the book on hold at the library from home and picked it up without looking inside first. So while I wish I could give you a better recommendation on a book about bumblebees for a toddler, all I can do for now is say that this one is probably better for preschoolers. Our activities, however, were a little more engaging!
Yes, yes....I know spiders aren't insects. But I decided to include them in "bug week" anyway! I originally planned to call this week "creepy crawly" week to account for this issue, but butterflies and ladybugs didn't exactly seem "creepy crawly." So I stuck with bugs and dealt with the annoying reality that spiders are arachnids and don't belong in this theme!!
The Very Busy Spider
Upon choosing to nix The Very Hungry Caterpillar from bug week, I felt it was only fair to include another Eric Carle book - The Very Busy Spider. This book is everything I expect from Carle - short and sweet, great illustration, and it has the fun sensory bonus of raised images for little ones to feel. The fact that it includes animal sounds made it even more appealing to my toddler.
I was thankful that watercolor painting was so successful yesterday, because I had it planned for spiders as well! Inspired by Let's Lasso the Moon, I drew a spider web on watercolor paper using a white crayon (this was harder than I expected, as I had to be in just the right light to see what I was doing!). I then gave the paper to T to paint with water color.
The watercolor did not adhere to the areas I'd colored with white crayon - so as he painted he revealed a spiderweb hidden underneath. Just as the very busy spider gradually spun her web, his web gradually appeared as he painted over an around the white crayon.
The Itsy-Bitsy Spider
A day about spiders wouldn't be complete without singing the itsy-bitsy spider! I plan to continue singing this (and other songs about insects/arachnids) the rest of the week, as my toddler is really starting to pick up on the hand motions for songs and singing occasional words as well.
We started our caterpillar/butterfly day by reading Percival the Plain Little Caterpillar by Helen Brawley. This was a fun book because it feature sparkly inset colors that were fun for a toddler to feel and look at. It was also a nice bridge between and bug week because it told the story of a little caterpillar who saw lots of colorful bugs/animals/plants around him and wanted to be colorful like them. Percival got a nice surprise when he awoke from a long sleep inside his cocoon. This also fit in nicely with the butterfly craft we did today, as you'll see below.
We also read Good Night, Sweet Butterflies by Dawn Bentley, which we saved for nap time (for obvious reasons!). Again, this story was a great way to continue incorporating colors, as readers say good night to each butterfly, color by color. It was also a tactile book, with butterflies raised out of the pages to feel.
Coffee Filter Butterflies
I have been trying hard lately to choose art projects that focus on process rather than product. I'm finding that process focused crafts are more fun for my 18 month old, more "successful" (because they don't really have a definition of success), and I think they are far more beneficial for little ones than projects that involve gluing together construction paper.
Our coffee filter butterfly craft was a simple project that focused on process, provided a sensory experience (unintentionally) and also yielded a cute product that aligned nicely with Percival the Plain Little Caterpillar. We simply used water colors to paint a white coffee filter, allowed it to dry, and then used half of a brown pipe cleaner to make the body. I pinched the coffee filter in the center and wrapped the pipe cleaner around the pinched section, then twisted the ends together to hold it in place and create two antennae.
This was T's first time with watercolors, but he quickly grasped the concept of moving back and forth between water, paint, and his "canvas." He enjoyed splashing the paintbrush in the water, and I made sure to use a shallow dish rather than a cup so that it was easier for him to reach in. He did sort of make a mess out of the paints (he didn't understand not to mix the colors), but it was easy to fix by blotting off the top layer of each color with a paper towel when he was finished. I did help him a bit to shake some water off before dipping into the paint, and I had to demonstrate the process a few times, but he caught on fast and really enjoyed himself. And the product was adorable! He liked holding the butterfly up in the air and watching it float down to the ground.
A trip to the Butterfly Farm
At first I had no idea what outing to plan for bug week. With a little searching I found that butterfly farms/gardens/houses were a popular attraction near us - there were three located less than an hour away. Only one was operational at this time of year (the others aren't in full swing until the end of June), so we made our way there to see some butterflies. We had such a great time! It was a family operated butterfly farm that raised butterflies and grew gardens to attract them. My husband and I learned about the butterfly life cycle and anatomy and T had a great time feeling caterpillars and chrysalises, holding butterflies, and planting a butterfly host plant to take home with us.
I expected color week to be one of the easier weeks to plan - but it turned out to be really challenging. The sheer number of activities to choose from combined with the fact that my son is not understanding the concept of colors quite yet made it difficult to put together a plan for cohesive activities that he would actually learn something from (which was my hope). Instead, I settled for activities that I thought would be fun and engaging and would give us the opportunity to talk about colors more than we usually do. Read more below to see which activities did for color week.
Books for Colors WEek
Choosing books was the easiest task for our color themed week~ We already had quite a few books that incorporated colors into their stories and found two new books to check out at the library as well. It is also easy to incorporate a discussion of color into many stories by pointing out colors in illustrations.
Songs about Colors
Because colors area a very (i.e. completely?) visual concept, it was much harder to find songs that incorporated color and were appropriate for a toddler. We ended up primarily just singing one song, and did include one other song that was good for a group on a day we were doing our activities with some older kids.
The song we were able to sing alone was called I See Colors Everywhere. We didn't actually watch the song on YouTube, but it was really easy to remember, so I was able to sing it with T on my own. As I will detail in my next post, I created some rainbow shakers/sensory bottles with dyed rice and beads this week. We used them when we sang this song to display each color. Because they doubled as shakers, these sensory bottles were a nice addition to the song as both a visual aid and musical instrument. I just held up each appropriate color as we said hello and goodbye to it, and they held his attention well thanks to the shaking sound.
When we had some other, older children participating with us, we sang The Color Song, which incorporated actions depending on what colors you were wearing (for example, if you were wearing red you pat your head). My toddler definitely did not understand the concept of the song, but he had fun doing the actions anyway and it was still a good opportunity to reinforce color vocabulary.
As our outing for Forest Friends week, we took a trip to a local state park for a walk on a hiking trail. I did some research on the state park website before going to get an idea of what trails would be an appropriate length and terrain for our novice walker. Of course...none of that research mattered because we couldn't find the trail I picked out when we got to the park and ended up on a different one anyway. It was a nice easy "trail" around the lake, but unfortunately didn't offer as much of a "forest" atmosphere as I had hoped for, given our theme.
We did, however, spot lots of wildflowers, trees, reeds, and some wildlife - including a family of deer and beautiful male red-winged blackbird.
I was looking forward to our "Forest Friends" theme because we have two favorite books that I knew I wanted to include - We're Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury and The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler. Both tell fun tales of adventures through the woods and I was really excited to bring both to life with some fun activities I found.
Continuing with our "Things that Grow" week we read Eric Carle's The Tiny Seed. As always with Eric Carle's books, the illustrations were beautiful and the message was sweet.
We had fun counting the seeds as they drifted and were lost, one by one. It was a great book for older kids to explore seed dispersal, the conditions needed for seeds to germinate, and the things that can happen to a seed before it is finally able to grow.
Planting "TINY SEEDS"
What better way to follow up a book about growing seeds than to plant some ourselves! In an effort to limit the number of supplies we were purchasing, we used some empty, cleaned out yogurt cups as our "flower pots." I was hoping to decorate them with markers as an easy craft, but unfortunately the washable markers wiped right off. Permanent marker or paint would both be good alternatives, but in a pinch I went with a simpler type of decoration. We cut up some bits of construction paper and glued them on the cup, then covered it with packaging tape. My toddler had a lot of fun moving the papers from cup to cup, which was great (unplanned) fine motor work!
After finishing our flower pots, we took them outside and filled them with some potting soil and zinnia seeds, added some water with our watering can, and let them out in the sun. We've had lots of rain since then, so there's been no need yet to return to give them more water. I hope we will see some sprouts in a few days.
Feeling the dirt, seeds and water were fun sensory experiences and scooping the dirt to fill the cups was good fine motor practice. Overall it was a pretty straightforward project and we look forward to seeing the results!
Former science teacher. Work-at-home mom to a toddler. Attempting to enrich our days with intentional play and exciting experiences to expand a growing little mind.