Lunchbox Surprise

I remember as a kid I would often take my lunchbox to school. Pretty frequently I would receive a handwritten note from my parents on the napkin they put in my lunchbox. I was always really surprised and excited when they did.  Looking back, it was just a simple, sweet gesture that really didn’t take a whole lot of effort to do, but as a kid it would really make my day.

Now that Owen has been in school an entire two days, I have carried on the tradition and have included a note in his lunchbox everyday that he has chosen to take a lunch which has been both days.  He’s in kindergarten but can read pretty well on his own.  The first day of school when I picked him up he was sitting outside holding his note.  He was so tickled that I had written a little note.  The next day when I picked him up, he asked me why I had put another note in his lunchbox.  I asked him if he wanted me to stop and he said no.  The notes have just been short, one to two sentences that are quick and easy for him to read.  I have now set an expectation that there will be a note included in his lunchbox everyday so I was trying to think of ways to get creative.

I decided to ask each of his grandparents to write a handful of notes that I can rotate in his lunchbox the next couple of months.  I know that he is going to be so excited and tickled when he opens his lunchbox in the morning to find a letter from his Grandma.  I’ve included some of the cute notes that my mom came up with.

This is such a quick and easy thing to do and I have loved seeing the reaction of my little one coming home each day clutching his handwritten letter.  Consider trying it and seeing the excitement on your little one’s face! Get your family and friends involved too!

Kindergarten Blues

So it’s finally happening.  It’s been five years in the making but my little baby boy is going to kindergarten.  He is so incredibly excited for Thursday while I am planning on pretty much boohooing and moping around the house until I go pick him up at 2:45.

I used to be a kindergarten teacher before having children and never really understood why parents would be crying as they left their little ones with me on the first day of school. I always thought they should be excited to get a little free time to themselves.  I would always have a few parents that seemed even more upset about leaving than their children were to see them go.  But now… I’m that parent.  I’m that parent that is going to be sadly walking away from my son’s classroom after I drop him off, trying to keep myself composed until I can at least make it back to my car before completely losing it.

 

As the days have flown by before the big day, I reflect back on the past five years and wonder if he’s adequately prepared for such a big step.  Will he make friends? Will he like school? Will he listen to the teacher?  What if he gets lost? What if he can’t button his pants back after he uses the potty?  The mommy stress really does start to set in.  For all the questioning I do with myself, I am confident that he is academically prepared for kindergarten.  That’s one thing that I know I’ve done right.  He’s been reading since he was about 3 and has really developed a love for it.  I can rest easy the first few months of school knowing that he won’t struggle academically, but hopefully can put some of his focus on building friendships and gaining confidence socially.  School can be tough and I want it to be the best experience possible for him.

 

Tonight was Meet the Teacher and I’m pretty sure I signed up to volunteer for pretty much everything they had requested.  I even volunteered to be home room mom.  I’m not really sure how I’m going to pull that off running two businesses, doing volunteer work for Drive a Senior, being the teacher appreciation coordinator at my other two children’s school, oh yes… and still parenting the other two children I will have home with me most of the week, but a girl can dream.

 

To all the other parents sending off their babies to kindergarten or preschool this week for the first time… I feel for you.  I will be crying and sad all day Thursday so feel free to join in.  But come 2:45 when I see my sweet boy and get to hear all about how exciting his first day of school was, my heart will be smiling and I will wipe up my tears and join in his excitement about going back again the next day.

Five Summer Preschool Activities

As a mom it can be difficult to keep your little ones entertained throughout the summer.  Don’t get me wrong, letting kids be bored can be a good thing.  It forces them to come up with things to do on their own.  They have to use their creativity in order to come up with new ways of playing or new ways of doing activities they have become bored of.  It is nice though to have some planned activities for them so you both don’t drive each other crazy over the 3 months of summertime. In case you missed it, I also wrote about 3 Preschool Activities to do Outside.  Here are Five Summer Preschool Activities that will keep your little one busy and entertained.

 

Melting Activity

Summers can get pretty hot, especially if you are a Texan like myself. Temperatures during the summer tend to get up into the 100’s pretty quickly come June and July.  This activity can be more of a science experiment in which your child becomes a scientist, making hypotheses and conclusions based on the results of their experiment.  If you have an old cookie sheet or muffin pan, that would be best for this activity.  Have your child pick 5 or 6 different items from around the house, some of which will melt and some that won’t.  Assist your child in picking a few objects that you know will melt in the sun.  A few good items to use would be a crayon, icecube, a piece of chocolate candy, a marker, a penny, a squirt of toothpaste, etc… Have your child lay the chosen items on the pan and place in direct sunlight.  Have them guess which items will melt and which will not.  Come and check on the pan after about an hour or so and then again after 3 hours.  Have your child determine if they guessed correctly about which items will and will not melt.

Splash Pads

I don’t remember having these amazing things around as a kid, or maybe we just never visited one, but these things are amazing.  As a mom of 3 it can be a bit intimidating to take the kids to the swimming pool by myself. Splash pads have been a lot less stressful for me and the kids have really enjoyed going to them this summer.

Nature Name Activity

 For this activity you will need to write your child’s name in large letters on a piece of construction paper.  Have your child go around the yard or a park and collect objects from nature such as grass, sticks, flowers, and acorns.  Glue the objects onto the construction paper to create your child’s name.  This is a great activity for letter practice and fine motor skills.

 

Water Table

We just recently purchased a water table for our kids.  The average cost is around $30-$40 depending on what kind you get.  My kids have absolutely loved their water table.  It’s so simple, so on the days when I’m feeling too lazy to actually take the kids to the pool or get them in their swimsuits and all sunscreened up to put them in their kiddy pool, I just bust out the water table.  They enjoy scooping and dumping out the water.  They do get a little wet depending on your kids, but it’s a great alternative to the swimming pool when I just don’t want to put in a whole lot of effort.  I also picked up a few floating frog and animal squirters from Dollar Tree which the kids really enjoyed too.  When they got bored of those after a while, I threw in some orbis they loved as well!                   

 

Paint a Birdhouse

Incase you have been unfortunate enough to not know about Target’s Dollar Spot, Target has this amazing section of their store usually located near the front that has the best things.  I found these cute birdhouse crafts there for $3 each.  I bought them a while back and have been saving them for a rainy day, and what do you know? Today is a rainy day.  Literally.  Texas weather has been weird lately and we are actually getting a good amount of rain in this summer.  I purchased each of my kids a birdhouse to paint.  Each one came with a cute little brush and paint set.  If you don’t have a pre-made birdhouse, making one from scratch can also be fun.  You can probably also find some similar craft kits at places like Hobby Lobby or Michaels.  The kids had a blast getting to be creative with their little art projects and they were so excited to hang the houses in our backyard trees when they were done.  We will keep an eye on them and maybe we will get lucky enough for some little birds to move in!

3 Preschool Activities to do Outside

It’s summertime and my kids are already going a bit stir crazy. We try to go outside when it’s not scorching out there, but we live in Texas and summers here tend to be hot. I’ve been trying to keep them entertained and they have already tired of the normal bubbles, bikes, and sidewalk chalk that we often resort to when we do make it outside. Here are a few fun preschool activities that you can do outside to change things up a bit.

 

Magnets on the Garage Door

If you have a metal garage door, bring your magnets outside. We have alphabet magnets, animal magnets, shapes, numbers, etc. Take them outside and let the kids use the garage door as a new play setting for their magnets. If you want to throw in some fun educational time, have your child practice making words with the magnets. For my 3 year old, I would tell her a word and she would have to find the letter that makes the first sound in that word. They also enjoyed some free play with the magnets and came up with their own activities and ways of playing with them on such a large magnetic surface.

 

Shadow Drawing

This activity was great for my 5 year old. Grab a piece of white paper and some fun small toys. Go outside and let the toys cast a shadow on the paper. Have your child trace the shadows. Let them pick different objects to trace. A pencil would be good for older kids.  If your child still has difficulty gripping a pencil, allow them to use a crayon.

 

Chalk writing on the fence

Normally we have a “no writing on the walls” policy at our house, but a little sidewalk chalk on the fence doesn’t do any harm. The kids looooved this activity. They had fun getting creative on a new art canvas. We also did some letter writing practice and worked on reading some sight words as well. We made a shape section and practiced recognizing and tracing the shapes with my 3year old. Of course Charlie (23 months old) got in on the fun too!

It can be hard keeping little ones entertained on a daily basis, but hopefully some of these preschool activities will help keep your little one occupied and learning through play while getting some outside time in as well. If you are looking for more activities check out Five Summer Preschool Activities.

The “F” word Dilemma

So it happened.  I couldn’t believe it when it did.  My four year old said the “f” word.  In fact, he called me the “f” word.  That’s right… fat.  He told me my belly was fat.  And I cried.

Now, he is a very sweet boy and I know he didn’t do it with mean intentions.  In fact, he was smiling when he did it almost like he was teasing me and trying to be funny.  When he saw the reaction on my face, I knew he immediately felt bad although I don’t think he completely understood why.

My first reaction was “why would you say that?”  He of course didn’t know.   My next thought was “Where would he have even heard that being said to someone?” And that’s when I realized it.  He had heard it from ME.  Me, talking about Myself and the imperfections that I have been struggling with.  I try not to say it in front of my kids, but I know I have slipped up.

Let’s be honest here… After having 3 children within a 4 year time period, things don’t just pop back how they used to be.  At least not for me.  My weight has been up and down and my body has carried 3 human beings in 4 years.  Let’s just say I’m not anywhere near feeling comfortable putting on a bikini anytime in my near future.

But this whole being called fat thing really made me reflect on myself… not about my not so flat belly, but the words that I am speaking over myself and also the same words that I have allowed my children to hear me say about myself.

I never want my children to question their self worth based on their appearance, or to judge somebody else based on theirs.  I know we can be our own biggest critics, but we need to stop being so hard on ourselves.  I realize that I need to make a change in my own self- ridicule.  So here goes…  I am making it a goal to not say anything negative about my appearance in 2018- especially in front of my children.  If this is something you struggle with, I encourage you to do the same thing.  I want my kids to grow up being confident individuals, knowing that they are loved, and valuable regardless of their appearance.  I never want them to say the things about themselves that I often catch myself saying about me so I will do my part and lead by example.  Let’s make 2018 the year we focus on true beauty that comes from within ourselves!

Live Grow Play Austin Review

Thanks for the review, Live Grow Play Austin!

Live Grow Play Austin, a family guide to all things kids in and around our hometown Austin, Texas, recently tried out and reviewed our November Preschool Box. And yay, they loved it!
Read their review here.

We’re also listed in their Kids Directory which helps local families find businesses and read reviews to pick the right daycare, school, pediatrician, hospital, dance lessons, soccer league, camp, and much more. If you can spare a minute, we’d love it of you rated and left a review for us on our listing.

Thanks again for spreading the word about The Preschool Box, Live Grow Play Austin!

The “Smart” Kid Myth

Here at The Preschool Box, we believe that all children are capable of reaching their full potential when given the proper tools and opportunities. Every child has their own unique strengths and interests but becoming a successful student early on in school can set each child up for a lifelong love of learning and confidence in their own intelligence.

As shown in multiple psychology studies by the American Psychological Association our own intelligence is quite malleable dependent on whether we think we are capable of learning, or rather “believing you can get smarter makes you smarter”. This is why it is so important to us to help each child first discover the joy in learning and then grow her confidence with each activity or game in The Preschool Box.

We all want our kid to be the “smart” kid in class, the one that can help others learn to read or answer math problems confidently, and yet human intelligence is actually quite difficult to describe and measure. Nobody is born with a fixed IQ and our brains are muscles that need exercise just like every other muscle. Early exposure to learning in a fun environment can make every kid the “smart” kid when they get to school and being smart will help them dream large and reach for the stars.

Our goal at The Preschool Box is to help you set your child up for success, so that they will have the knowledge and confidence to believe they can do whatever they dream of achieving.

 

The Preschool Box Press Release

Local Woman Launches The Preschool Box Subscription to Inspire Fun Learning for Preschoolers and their Parents

Austin, TX – A local kindergarten teacher turned stay-at-home mom is taking the guesswork out of preparing preschoolers for school. Austin’s newest start-up, The Preschool Box, is a monthly subscription box that focuses on providing simple activities, games and crafts that will help parents provide a fun, engaging environment for children ages 3 to 6 while preparing them for success at school. The first boxes have already started shipping!

The Preschool Box’s creator, Christina Schnell, had two primary goals in starting the business: share her passion for teaching with others and help preschoolers get excited about learning and reading.

“As a former kindergarten teacher you see so many kids coming into school very unprepared for the rigorous curriculum that kindergarten now entails. You can definitely see the difference between kids whose parents have worked with them before coming to school and those that show up with no prior learning experience,” Christina said. “I think it’s important for kids to have the opportunity to expand their knowledge and see that learning can be fun!”

To meet that goal, monthly boxes contain more than 16 different activities, crafts and games designed to teach your preschooler letters, numbers, colors, shapes and many other concepts they will encounter during that important first year of school. In addition, each box has a book, fun stickers and a parent guide to help parents explain and teach just like a kindergarten teacher would.

Christina adds, “It’s important for parents to invest in their children’s education and The Preschool Box is a great way to not only educate your children but also to spend time with them.”

The Preschool Box can be purchased at www.thepreschoolbox.com. Monthly, quarter-year, half-year, and one-year plans are available, with boxes starting at $25.00.

Kindergarten Readiness

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Back in the day when I was a kid, kindergarten was quite different than it is now.  I remember going to school and coloring the letters of the alphabet, doing fun crafts, and getting to play in centers (the sand and water table being my favorite).  Fast forward 25 years and things have changed drastically.

Now that I have actually worked as a kindergarten teacher, it’s amazing to see how things have changed, and continue to change over the years. Nap time is no longer a thing in most kindergarten classrooms.  Centers and play time is a thing that is occasionally crammed into the end of the day if there’s any time left, or if the teacher is just done trying to teach the poor, exhausted children anything more for that day. 

Kindergarteners are now expected to be reading by the end of the year.  And I’m not talking about reciting a memorized story.  They are expected to actually sound out and blend words to figure out what they say.  They have to be able to read sight words such as “what,” “where,” “do,” and a very large list of others.  They are also expected to be able to write sentences.

The first week of school often seems to leave parents in quite a shock and fluster when they realize that their child may be starting kindergarten “behind.”  I’ve had several students enter my classroom being able to sing the alphabet and their parents think they are fully prepared for kindergarten.  It’s a harsh reality when they come to find out that their child is in fact not fully prepared for the rigorous standards kindergarten now entails. 

As a former educator and now parent, I can’t express enough the importance of working with your child before they ever enter an actual classroom.  Kids that enter kindergarten with prior knowledge and an educational foundation have a much higher probability of being successful in school than those who do not.  I have had several children come into my classroom and really struggle with their first year in school because they have not had their parents or anyone invest the time or energy into their education.  These kids struggle and instead of having a fun, enjoyable first year of school, they are just trying to play catch up the whole year. 

It’s so important for kids to enjoy the learning experience, and in order to do that it is absolutely necessary for them to feel successful.  Working with your kids and showing them that they are smart and are able to learn, is vital in creating a foundation for them to not only build their education on, but also their self-worth. 

The purpose of The Preschool Box is to give parents the tools to be able to easily work with and teach their kids the fundamentals of reading and math.  It’s a great way for them to work with and show their children that they value their education and want to spend quality time with them as well.  Whether you are an active subscriber to The Preschool Box or not, find ways to spend time with your kids doing fun, engaging, educational activities.  It’s super easy to plop our kids in front of a tv and let that do our job of educating, but it’s so much more meaningful and effective when the effort comes from Mom and Dad.  And the kids know it!

My Three Year Old Plays Videogames and I think I’m ok with it

My Three Year Old Plays videogames and I think I’m ok with it

I like to teach my son Owen lots of things.  At the age of two I taught him all the letters and sounds of the alphabet.  We’ve worked on numbers, counting, sight words, digraphs, and all sorts of other math and reading skills.  He’s currently 3 and we continue to extend his learning in many different areas.  I’m very proud of how smart my little guy is.  I have to admit, I’m pretty proud of myself for teaching him all these things at such an early age.  But, there is one thing I’ve struggled to be proud of, and that is this.  My three year old plays videogames.  And he does it well.

Before children, my husband Tim enjoyed playing various videogames in his downtime.  He still enjoys videogames, but now with three children, this whole “down time” doesn’t really exist in our family.  One way that he has bonded with Owen is that he has taught him how to play videogames, not just on one console, but on 3… the Xbox One, the Nintendo 64, and the Game Cube.  Thankfully, since Owen knows his letters, he is able to follow simple directions such as “Press Y to do this” or “Press B to jump.”  (You’re welcome for that by the way Tim).  Slowly but surely Owen was able to make his characters in the games actually do stuff and go places.

Lately Owen has been able to do a lot on the games.  So much in fact, that I don’t know how he knows how to do certain things on his own.  He will often ask me for help with a level that he is doing, and quite frankly I have no clue how to help him.  He has really impressed me with his critical thinking skills when figuring out different puzzles and activities in these games.

As much as I hate to admit it, I think videogames have been an ok thing in our house.  It is definitely something that has to be utilized in moderation, because let’s be honest here, he would be on it all day everyday if I let him. I am totally guilty of using it as a crutch this summer after welcoming baby number three.  We were stuck in the house for about two months to keep germs at bay as much as possible.  Since then, we have created a schedule for days and times that he is allowed to play.  So far, this has worked nicely.  In my opinion, videogames has been slightly better than just allowing him to watch Tom and Jerry all day on the television.  He at least has to use some problem solving skills and is practicing his fine motor skills using the controller.

All in all, there could be much worse things than letting my kid play videogames.

Owen and kind of Harper playing Lego Marvel Avengers
Owen and kind of Harper playing Lego Marvel Avengers