Simple Valentine’s Day Tot Trays

Valentine’s Day is such a fun (and simple) theme for Tot School! The girls and I took a quick trip through Dollar Tree last week, but we already had most of these materials on hand.

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Simple Valentine's Day Tot Tray Activities from Lone Star SignersThis simple activity cost less than four dollars and has consumed our three-year-old’s attention for hours at a time. My original intention was to have her sweep the tiny hearts into the outline or place them on the line (as seen here and here), but sometimes children just want to play their own way. Kate loves little gems (similar)–she’ll transfer them between a creamer (found at Goodwill, similar) and an empty glass jar (reused from the kitchen), put them into ice cube trays and muffin tins, and scoop them into small flower pots with a scoop.

Simple Valentine's Day Tot Tray Activities from Lone Star Signers

Kate’s favorite accessories

Since we have little ones attend signing classes each week, I wanted to find a simple activity for babies. The Educators’ Spin On It suggested cookie cutters in a metal bowl, and the fun sound caught the attention of little ones all over the room! (We bought this pack of cookie cutters a few years ago and use them nearly every week for play dough and sensory play!)

Simple Valentine's Day Tot Tray Activities from Lone Star Signers

Our muffin tin gets a lot of use in sorting activities. I bought heart foam stickers (similar) and placed one in each compartment for a simple tot tray. Our IKEA tongs add an extra fine-motor component.

Simple Valentine's Day Tot Tray Activities from Lone Star SignersHere’s a variation from the previous tray: sort two colors into cups using a measuring spoon.
Simple Valentine's Day Tot Tray Activities from Lone Star Signers

I have a set of clothespins with each letter of the alphabet, so I grabbed three craft sticks and wrote out short words for Kate to practice word-building. An older child could also put the letters in ABC order or follow a simple pattern.

Simple Valentine's Day Tot Tray Activities from Lone Star SignersI made this ABC set last year–it’s such a simple way to practice letter recognition! You could also make a second set (upper or lower case) and play a matching game.

Simple Valentine's Day Tot Tray Activities from Lone Star Signers

Our package of pony beads is used regularly. I pulled four matching pipe cleaners and left the whole set out for exploration. I thought Kate might sort by colors or make a pattern, but her older sister just wanted to make a bracelet.
Simple Valentine's Day Tot Tray Activities from Lone Star Signers

No Tot School theme is complete without a handful of books! Here are our favorites for love & friendship: How Do I Love You?, I Love You Through and Through, Time for a Hug, and Hug Time

Favorite Valentine's Day books (LOVE & FRIENDSHIP) from Lone Star Signers

Exploring with paint was another fun activity! I added different amounts of black or white paint to plain red and let the girls create. Both of them LOVE our weekly art time.

Simple Valentine's Day Tot Tray Activities from Lone Star Signers

We wrapped up the week with this simple craft that will go with dad to work. (We made the same craft last year, so it will be fun to see how they’ve grown!)

Valentine's Day Tot Trays (11 of 11)You can see more Valentine’s Day activities on my Pinterest board! I always find more ideas than we can conceivably do in a week’s time.

Happy Valentine’s Day from Lone Star Signers!

Simple Valentine's Day Tot Tray Activities from Lone Star Signers

Our Favorite Toys: Teaching Colors to Toddlers & Preschoolers

It’s been nearly a year since we started our toy rotation system, and I still love it! After Christmas, I rearranged the girls’ closet, adding in a tall bookshelf and stacking all our IKEA Trofast tubs next to it for more storage. I feel like our toy stash is *very* nearly complete for this age/stage that we’re in right now!

Weekly signing classes started back up this week, and our first theme was COLORS. I love to teach colors first because we sing the Rainbow Song in every class, and because colors are an easy way to start building two and three word phrases with young children. “Yellow banana, please.” “Want red shoes!”

Our Favorite Toys for Teaching Colors to Toddlers and Preschoolers | Lone Star Signers

In preparation for this week’s classes and corresponding homeschool theme, I pulled out our favorite toys that help teach/reinforce colors. (Please remember that this blog uses affiliate links, but all opinions are my own.)

  • Bristle blocks are great for building and imaginative play. It’s easy to reinforce colors with this fun toy: “Please pass the orange block.”
  • Magnetic fishing puzzles are a great way to build hand-eye coordination! I also wrote the color word (using colored markers) on the inside of the puzzle board to add a literacy component.
  • Busy Farm and Tac-Tiles are two of our FAVORITE Discovery Toys products. The animals are perfect for sorting, patterning, and counting; Tac-Tiles are great for building hand strength as your child pushes the pieces in and out, plus they’re great for older children to practice tracing.
  • The caterpillar gear puzzle is great for young toddlers to learn about cause and effect!
  • Our xylophone has been a favorite toy for years!
  • Jumbo magnetic letters are great for building words–and as a bonus, this set comes in rainbow colors! (My girls use this “chip and dip” container from Dollar Tree to sort all of their rainbow manipulatives.)

Simple Tot Tray: Colors | Lone Star Signers

Simple tot tray activity: grab a container full of colored pom-poms and a scooper (a teaspoon/tablespoon from your kitchen set would work perfectly) and help your child sort by color into a muffin tin. * Be sure to monitor for pom-poms in the mouth! 

What is your favorite toy for teaching colors?

Did you enjoy this post? Join us for 10 Days to Refresh Your Tot School, an e-mail course perfect for families who are doing preschool at home with their little ones or considering homeschooling as an educational option!

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Introducing: Discovery Toys now available from Lone Star Signers * San Antonio, TX

When our older daughter was an infant, I signed up with Discovery Toys as an educational consultant. I loved connecting families with these awesome toys, but between our micropreemie’s therapy schedule and my full-time job, something had to give…

Fast forward five years through a move, a job change, another baby, and into our journey as homeschoolers–we still LOVE and play with our Discovery Toys products regularly.  The quality and educational value is unmatched!

Introducing: Discovery Toys! Now available locally from Lone Star Signers * San Antonio, TX

With Kate’s 3rd birthday approaching, I hopped onto the DT website to browse the latest catalog–and oh my goodness! So many of our favorites are still being sold AND the new products look incredible, too. And yes, I took the plunge and signed up as an educational consultant again. (I just couldn’t resist!)

Rest assured, my primary focus has not changed! I am passionate about early education and equipping parents to be their child’s first/best teacher. I feel like Discovery Toys fits in with my mission beautifully, and I am excited to add more quality products to the services we offer here.

I’m happy to announce that my kit arrived this morning, and my ONLINE launch party is scheduled for this Sunday! If you have any birthdays or special events coming up, I’d love to help you choose the perfect gift!

Have you played with Discovery Toys before? Which one is your favorite?

Awesome $1 Items for YOUR Tot School * August 2014

If you’ve been reading here for any length of time, you’ve probably figured out that Dollar Tree is one of my favorite stores. I find our neighborhood store to be well-stocked and well-staffed! And there’s a certain adrenaline rush that comes from seeing how far you can stretch a few dollars…

I have picked up a few educational activities from the Dollar Spot at Target this month, but it’s more fun when you can figure out a great learning activity from something completely random like a folding vase and designer hydrating beads!

Awesome $1 Items for Your Tot School | Lone Star Signers

Here’s what I ended up purchasing:

  1. Folding vase and designer hydrating beads from the floral department
  2. Alphabet beads (for my 1st grader)
  3. Book rings–turn flashcards into mini-books
  4. Jumbo checkers–color sorting, pouring, stacking
  5. Scissor-handle tongs–these are really big for little hands, but they’ll be a good introduction to the open-shut movement
  6. More green “baskets”–perfect for holding small manipulatives or puzzle pieces

Winner of the month: WATER BEADS (“designer hydrating beads”)

Nearly FREE Sensory Play: Water Beads!Watching the water beads grow and shrink has been a fantastic learning experience for both girls. See more ideas for water bead fun at The Artful Parent!

What awesome $1 items have you found recently?

Related: See other Awesome $1 Items from June and July.

Tot Trays: Weather

Weather is a fantastic Tot School theme–there are so many different TYPES of weather that this class tends to be a little different each time I teach it. And of course, our weather here in Texas is simply HOT, but that doesn’t mean we can’t pretend it’s winter!

Toy Rotation, Week 13


Week 13

Great WEATHER Books for Children | Lone Star SignersSigning class theme: Weather

Signing Time video: Baby Signing Time: A New Day

Main book: Bear in Sunshine by Stella Blackstone  (Barefoot Books are fun concept books with colorful illustrations.)

(affiliate links used for your convenience)

Toys with unlimited access:

  • IKEA trains
  • Inchworm Links (rented from Sparkbox Toys)
  • Purple treasure basket (including castanets, pegs, and a light-up spiky ball)
  • ABC two-piece puzzles (out of print)

Weather Sensory Bin from Lone Star SignersWe also have a CLOUDS sensory bin with cotton balls and blue marbles.

Here’s my Tot School: Weather Pinterest board–
Tot School Weather on Pinterest

Follow Melissa @ Lone Star Signers’s board Tot School: Weather on Pinterest.

Weather-themed Tot Trays from Lone Star Signers

Tot Trays:

  1. Umbrella playdough mat
  2. C is for Clouds tracing page (laminated)
  3. Rainy Day number maze
  4. Cloud lacing activity
  5. Colorful Umbrellas emergent reader
  6. Raindrop counting game
  7. Straw pieces & cheese container

All of our printables this week came from This Reading Mama.

What are your kiddos playing with this week?