Theme Layout


Boxed or Wide or Framed


Theme Translation

Display Featured Slider


Featured Slider Styles

Display Grid Slider


Grid Slider Styles

Display Trending Posts


Display Author Bio


Display Instagram Footer

Powered by Blogger.

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

 Learning Through Play | Our Favorite Toys

Learning Through Play | Our Favorite Toys

Sophia started showing interest in puzzles around 9 months old and as every excited parent would do, we shared videos of her completing puzzles and showed enthusiasm for wanting to buy more. However, we were told eventually children will get tired of a puzzle and lose interest so the advice was to not buy many puzzles as it would be a waste of money. Well, if you know me very well, I don't listen and that's what we did. We did not listen.

Sophia's early interest in puzzles was never forced on her, puzzles were made available to her when her PawPaw bought one and as we saw interest, we added more to our collection. We absolutely do not regret it and it was not a waste of money. Sophia is now 6 years old and still loves puzzles even the ones she has outgrown and Bubba also benefitted from all the puzzles and now has a love for them as well. Often times, they go pull out a puzzle on their own and can do the same one repeatedly without ever getting bored no matter how simple or complex it is.

Which leads to the point of this post - I think a lot of times, we, as parents, think because something is not fun to us, it must not be fun to kids. It must be torture for them because it is to us.

In this thinking, I also think we try to overcompensate these “boring” toys with toys that make all the noise or relate to a popular character on kids tv shows (nothing wrong with those as we enjoy some of those as well). However when we project our despising feeling of something on them, we don’t give our children a chance to discover something they would truly love otherwise. 

We also take away their imagination with toys that do it all or relate to characters only and I believe that is why kids get bored with those toys. I often hear parents say: 

"My kids never play with their toys."

Maybe, just maybe, because the noise making toys aren’t open ended, allowing them to move from one storyline to the next as their imagination runs wild.

The toys that look boring to you, allows them to be creative and set a scene and change the scene as they want because that toy goes beyond the beeping noise (that can also get overwhelming). The quiet of a toy allows their brain to focus on being creative and them making noise for the toy (which helps with speech and dialogue building, btw). At least that’s how I have witnessed it in watching children at play in numerous settings over the last 10+ years.

So you may be thinking, then which toys should I buy? 

There are so many great toys but you definitely don't need them all. In general I think it is great to have living books and some type of building blocks (legos, magnatiles, wooden blocks, etc.). That's literally it. 

However, I will share our favorite 2-3 toys per age group, which almost every single toy we still own and has lasted us through each age group and beyond.

6-12 months

1-2 years old
School age children, generally know what they like by now but I found they still enjoy legos and magnet tiles if you have not already introduced those to them. Those two were always big hits when I worked with an after school program.

Also keep in mind, you do NOT need to overhaul your child's toys overnight. Instead keep a running list of what you currently have at home and what toys you would like to add in when it works for your budget. You could also create an Amazon Wishlist and when friends and family ask for gift ideas around birthdays or Christmas, you can send them the link. 

If you are tight on space, consider donating or selling some of the other toys that you know your child doesn't reach for, to make room for the new open-ended toys.

Any questions? Leave a comment!

If you found this post helpful or know someone who would benefit from this post, please feel free to share. I also created a pinnable image so you can bookmark this post to come back to view later on.

Read the rest of the story »

Thursday, August 18, 2022

Homeschooling the Early Years

Homeschooling the Early Years

This post has been two years in the making..

I often get asked about our worksheets or curriculum we use whenever I share stories on Instagram of my kids working on something or a new academic skill they learned.

I first want to start off that we are very relaxed when it comes to any "schoolwork" and I try not to force anything on my kids since they are still young. The only reason we started "schoolwork" was at Sophia's request when she saw me studying for my classes in Fall of 2019. 

I prefer simplicity when it comes to early learning and am a big believer in children learning through play (read more here) without the fuss of having to sit at the table for a formal lesson. Sophia however LOVES sitting at the table to do "schoolwork" so I gladly follow her lead and am very flexible with our learning time. Our table learning is always less then 30 minutes for the entire day. I like to end "lessons" on a happy, hungry for more note. The rest of the time we learn by playing, reading, screen-time and even more playing. 

To answer the big question, I don't have a set curriculum I follow. I pieced together different resources the past few years however I discovered a favorite through a friend - these ABC and Number books from Let's Play School which is a great early introduction to all the alphabet and numbers 1-20. I love that we are able to flip through and pick out which pages we want to work on - although Bubba can finish a whole book in one sitting. 

Overall, it fits my desire for simplicity and flexibility and my kids enjoy doing them. I also enjoy this Alphabet Cut and Paste worksheet by Teaching RichaRichi and this Alphabet Count and Graph by A Spoonful of Learning and the kids do very well with them. I love that each include more skills beyond just the alphabet such as cutting skills, sorting, counting, graphing, etc. 

I have also created a few of my own worksheets for the kids. I made a cutting practice worksheet that you can download for free HERE

I also made a name practice worksheet that you can purchase from my Etsy shop HERE.

However, learning doesn't always have to be at the table or even doing worksheets. Learning should be fun and it happens naturally as children play and get bored. That's when their imagination is ignited! Most days our play by learning happens organically but every now and then, I suggest a game (focused play as I talked about here and plan to go into more detail in my next blog post). 

Lastly, we don't have start dates or finish dates, our schooling is very fluid and just flows. There are times we take weeks off and then jump back in when we can. Again, I really believe kids learn so much just from playing and reading good books together and that is just apart of everyday life.

I hope this insight into how and what we use for our "school" was helpful. I plan to write another post talking about the types of toys we have, focused play games we play, etc. as I discussed quite a bit about learning through play and I believe having open ended toys can make the difference. 

As for reading good books, Read Aloud Revival is a wonderful resource I use often as I look for which books to check out from our local library before deciding which ones should be apart of our permanent home "library."

If you found this post helpful or know someone who would benefit from this post, please feel free to share. I also created a pinnable image so you can bookmark this post to come back to view later on. Any questions? Leave a comment!

Read the rest of the story »

Friday, January 1, 2021

I Quit Nursing School

I Quit Nursing School

As I played with the words to share my decision, I realized this may be a very unpopular decision especially in our modern society with high value for career minded women. However I want to be very clear:

I am not JUST a stay at home mom. 

I CHOOSE to be a stay at home mom. 

We make sacrifices in our lifestyle that allow me to spend this time with our children and I wouldn’t want it any other way. You don’t have to understand it and it’s okay if you choose differently for your family and if you don’t have the choice, my heart goes out to you.

I don’t know about you but I process things better with details. I like to know the overall picture which gives me a better understanding so let’s rewind a bit.

My first few years of college, I worked in childcare and ultimately changed my major from nursing to education right when I was about to start the actual nursing program. I loved teaching and being there with these kiddos as they learned and discovered something new (I was an assistant pre-k teacher), I wanted to experience that beyond just a college job. Anyways, every once in a while, I would be asked to relieve one of the infant room workers for their lunch break. Playing with babies and experiencing their firsts - the heartbreak I felt for the moms, that was the moment I knew I WANTED to stay home with my future children.

You combine that experience with my experience of loss and little memory of just being with my parents, this drove my desire even more to be there for every moment with my children especially those early years. 

Fast-forward, add some kids later and Anthony gets sick. Really sick. Our life is turned upside down trying to figure out what is going on. This experience takes me back to three year old Stormie who is about to turn four whose dad dies two weeks before her birthday. My daughter is two years old and in about two weeks (at that time) will turn three as her daddy is in the hospital with some unknown infection. The PTSD and anxiety was awful although I hid it very well from most.

Then we add on no income, unstable job situation for Anthony which leads to him being wrongfully terminated a few months later (he was on sick leave for 12 weeks). He found a new job a few weeks later and within a month back in the hospital with a different major infection.

Amidst this, I decided to return to nursing school because between education and nursing, it allowed the most flexible schedule for me to still be home with my kids during the day and work nights and weekends as needed whenever Anthony gets sick. Therefore I got registered to update a few pre-reqs.

Here we are a year later with everything done, prepared and ready to apply for my BSN program and I decided not to do it. 

I cannot afford to miss anymore time with my kids while they are this little because I am driven by fear. 

These past few weeks as I have dug in, I realized nursing school was my way to control and this backup plan I created became what I was putting my trust in instead of God. A good thing (a backup plan) turned into a god thing and that’s when I ultimately decided it was best to step back, refocus my trust and faith in God and His care for me whatever His plan may be in our life. This decision also allows me the freedom to truly enjoy this time I want to have with my children as they will only be this little once.

If I should have learned anything these past 3.5 years dealing with a layoff, selling our home, sickness, wrongful termination, and more sickness mixed with everything else on our plates in between, it is that God provides. 

The people God has placed in our lives, this city we settled in as a compromise, the church we “randomly” found from a google search, was all preordained by God. If He provided for us through all those dark and murky waters, He will continue to provide for us no matter what the future looks like.

Therefore I am CHOOSING to stay home with my children and actively work on trusting God with the details.

I am not JUST a stay at home mom. It is my privilege and joy to spend the days with my babies. I want to soak up every moment with my favorite human beings and build memories that will last a lifetime.

I encourage you to rephrase the way you look at and speak about YOUR choices, whatever they may be, in a positive way. Don’t devalue yourself.

Read the rest of the story »

Follow @stormieariel