Putting Lilly Belle’s learning shelf together each week has quickly become my favorite thing! I have so much fun watching her learn throughout the week and then doing my best to put together activities that she can do on her own over the next week. I try really hard to put things out that will peek her interest, keep her entertained for more than 10 minutes at a time, and teach her something new. At 3.5 years old, she wants so badly to do all things independently. If it is safe, we allow her to do everything she thinks she can do – even when we know we can do it faster or with less mess. We believe it is so important to allow her to grow in both confidence and independence by letting her do all things she attempts to do. Most of the time when it is something we don’t think she is quite ready for, she can usually prove us wrong.
With her learning shelf, I put it all together on Friday or Saturday night while she is sleeping. When she wakes up in the morning we go over it all together. I like to do it on the weekend so that Matt can be with Lucy and I have plenty of time to teach her each activity and let her try each out on her own independently.
This learning shelf has been great for us right now at this time in our family’s life phase. With a new baby, I am still nursing every 2 hours – sometimes more frequently than that even. Thankfully she is a fast eater, but even still I am always trying to keep Lilly Belle entertained while I’m feeding Lucy. Since putting together her learning shelf, Lilly Belle has been doing so great while I am nursing and putting Lucy down for her naps. She plays quietly in her room with her activities and I am able to have some one on one time with Lucy for about 15 minutes at a time.
It is so interesting to see which activities she enjoys and which she does not. Usually it is the activities that I spend the most time on that she enjoys the least… of course. Matt thinks it is hilarious. It has also been a huge lesson for me in letting go and not being so uptight. Many times she will end up turning all of the activities into something else that I did not plan for. She has such an amazing imagination and I love it so much, but sometimes I have to really tell myself to allow her to do things her way when I so badly want them done the way I had planned. One of the reasons we want to homeschool her is to give her more space and more room to let her imagination run wild instead of learning in a square, so this has been really good practice for me before she gets a bit older and it will become even harder to let go.
This week we started the letter A. I will be setting books out on top of her shelf that go with the letter of the week. We will be spending two weeks on each letter and I will be doing my best to switch the books out every week. We are also putting a big focus on counting and having her learn her numbers 11-20 now, so I have some counting books set out as well. I set out a basket of apples for her this week and we used them to count, do patterns, and…snack on! I caught her chomping on apples all week long and I loved it!
SENSORY BIN: She really loved her sensory bin this week, so much so that I am keeping it out again for next week’s shelf as well. All I did was fill it with oats and some apple mini erasers. She then used some measuring cups I got her from the Dollar Store and some measuring spoons from her play kitchen to practice scooping. During our learning time together, I also talked to her about the different measurements. We didn’t go too in depth on that because she is a bit too young, but it was a good introduction. We will continue to work more on this during our cooking and baking lessons each week. She took this activity and ran with it – literally. She filled a bowl with the oats and then took them to her kitchen to cook them. She kept pretending to make apple pie and was even eating the raw oats. She really enjoyed this activity.
Cost of Activity: $5.00 (Oats & Mini Erasers from Target and Measuring Cups from Dollar Store)
FINE MOTOR SKILLS: I was hesitant to put coloring sheets and colored pencils out for her because prior to this week she had zero interest in coloring in coloring books or on coloring pages. I ripped out only pictures of Aurora and Ariel from her princess coloring book since both of their names start with the letter A. This ended up being something she played with every single day and can now color in the lines. Her and I spent so much time coloring together this week. I’ve been waiting for her to start enjoying coloring because it is one of my favorite activities! We had so much fun together and really got some great quality time with this activity. I plan on having this basket out for her every time we have a letter that has a Disney princess to match. I know that will keep her interested and I love that she is learning to color in the lines. She also loves to write letters now on the top. We have been so surprised by her ability to write letters from memory!
Cost of Activity: FREE
STEM: For her STEM basket, I got 2 packages of mini red solo cups from the Dollar Store. I also set a deck of playing cards in there. She built towers and pyramids with these. I found her playing with this independently a couple times this week. We also played with this together. She really loves to build and we are really encouraging her to go further with that interest. Legos are her jam, so I figured she would love this and she did.
Cost of Activity: $2.00 (Mini Red Solo Cups from Dollar Store)
FINE MOTOR SKILLS: I absolutely love this writing activity. Lilly Belle…not so much. She really didn’t have any interest in this one. I tried a few separate times to get her interested by letting her use different things to write in the salt, but she just wasn’t diggin’ it. I will try this again with her in a few months to see if she will like it more. For this activity tray, I used a Melissa and Doug box from some lacing cards we have. It works perfectly for this! I bet if it were filled with something like pink sprinkles instead of salt that she would have done it…
Cost of Activity: $1.00 (Salt from Target)
FINE MOTOR SKILLS: Valentine’s Day was this past week so I put out this little themed activity for her. Total mommy fail, which I totally knew would happen. I set out an ice cube tray, a tweezers, and a bowl of candy hearts. By the end of the week the candy hearts were almost gone. Hmmm, I wonder where those went? She did play with this quite a few times though and I thought it was cute to find her sneaking the candy. She was pretty hilarious about it. And it was the only Valentine’s candy she had all week so no big deal. She really liked to use the tweezers and she liked when we did this together taking turns. She also liked assigning me colors to get from the bowl when it was my turn. I really like to allow her to lead these activities when I play with her.
Cost of Activity: $3.00 (Candy Hearts from Target) – the ice cube tray and tweezers I had previously purchased from the Dollar Store a few months back.
TOTAL COST OF SHELF (including the apples): $14.00
When I think about how much it would cost to send her to preschool (at least $250/month for 2 mornings/week) – this is nothing. When making these shelves I try to gather as much from home and the Dollar Store as I possibly can. The goal is always to keep it as close to free as possible. Right now I have $50/month budgeted for school. Anything over that gets taken from our monthly spending allowance so I don’t like to go over since I am not working right now.
I am already so excited about this coming week’s shelf. I may have went over board this time and sort of transformed the girls bedroom instead of just a shelf… oops! And next week’s shelf & extra activities I did for FREE! It’s amazing how quickly our school supplies add up and how many new activities I can put together with things we have at home!