For Father’s Day, I made “A Book About My Daddy” workbook for the Dumpling to fill out as a personalized gift for jigg. The template contained typical sections to fill in her dad’s name, age, eye color, reasons she loves him, etc. Unlike typical “feel good” versions, however, I made sure mine contained opportunities to have a few laughs at my husband’s expense. She got to rate jigg’s skill in various categories, compare his abilities with mommy, and divulge what he sucks at doing.
The Dumpling’s brutal honesty did not disappoint! My kid is savage. Never ask her any questions that you do not want to know the answers to.
A number of people has asked me to share the book template, so here it is! I made a few edits to my original version so that the questions and answer options can be applicable to more people. Even though Father’s Day is over, this would make a funny birthday gift for dads as well.
I enjoy re-reading books that I once read as a kid with the Dumpling because I now get to see the story from an adult’s perspective. Almost 30 years after my first reading of “Harold and the Purple Crayon,” I was finally able to understand the abstract (and even dystopian) ideas in the book. To the Dumpling, however, it is understandably just a story about a baby doodling with a crayon. As I compiled our lesson plan, I decided to sneak in a few abstract discussions to see her response…
Click here to download “Harold and the Purple Crayon Lesson Plan.” Please note that the content was tailored specifically for my four year old, so it may not reflect typical classroom material for a kindergartner.
I began using PowerPoint for the Dumpling’s Covid-19 homeschooling because I wanted to create custom games and interactive activity sheets without any coding knowledge. Since PowerPoint was not intended for such use, please note that there are limitations and extra behind-the-scenes work involved in using the file. I toggled between “normal” and “presentation” mode as I went through the deck. The drag/drop and draw functions needed to complete the activities were done in “normal” mode, where content is editable, so I was constantly on Ctrl + Z (“undo”) duty.
PowerPoint also did not automatically load the “Draw” toolbar for me if I did not have my drawing tablet connected. To manually pin this on, go into the “customize ribbon” settings and make sure “draw” is checked.
There is also a pen option in “slide show” mode located in the lower left corner; this is great for any drawing/tracing/writing activities but note that objects cannot be dragged/re-arranged here.
The Dumpling and I reviewed what two colors make up purple and tested mixing different proportions of blue and red food coloring to create it.
As we experimented, I sneaked in a discussion on color symbolism and psychology. These were not new concept since we have a copy of Kathryn Otoshi’s One at home, so I was hopeful. I mentioned the commonly perceived associations of purple, such as “royalty”, “spirituality”, “magic”, and “creativity” but unfortunately lost her completely within seconds. She asked to “do her own thing” and emerged 30 minutes later with a glass of purple “wine” for me.
Harold literally creates his own reality with just a purple crayon and his wit, so I included a few drawing tutorials and a blank canvas for the Dumpling to release her imagination. These slides are best done using the pen function in presentation mode so that the timing of the animated steps can be controlled.
Because I always get shafted when sharing food with the Dumpling, I thought teaching fraction would be a path to more equally divided portions. As a side project, we made pies out of play dough and practiced slicing them into halves, thirds, and quarters.
We reviewed consonants, blends, and digraphs sounds.
The Dumpling used to be all over the place whenever she told stories, so we practiced recounting events in sequential order.
Since the book blurs the line between reality and make-believe, I included a few choices to reflect this duality. There was no “wrong” answer as long as the Dumpling explained how a selected item could be used to perform the task. Her answers did not disappoint; she called on magical creatures to her aid and opted to shoot herself across the ocean on an arrow.
Reality vs Make-Belief
Having a philosophical discussion with a four year old was trippy, but interesting nonetheless. According to the Dumpling, her drawings are not real because they are just pictures.
When questioned about her sketch of something that made her happy (stick figure of her dad), however, she said that was real. From what I could gather, only drawings of people, places, or things that she had direct experiences with could be considered real.
I then asked what about Harold’s doodles? She replied, “Harold’s adventure was make-believe but also real, because of magic!”
I have been homeschooling the Dumpling since February due to Covid-19 school closures, and playing teacher has been one of my toughest (and to be honest, crappiest) SAHM tasks.
With the Dumpling resisting me every step of the way, I have bribed, threatened, pleaded, yelled, and gave up countless times in the last three months…only to renew my efforts the following day. Under different circumstances, I would have aborted mission completely and just let the Dumpling enjoy her days off — she should be playing with her friends and exploring the great outdoors. Everyone, unfortunately, is stuck at home; everything is cancelled; and I was going mad listening to Blippi on YouTube all day.
The first thing I did was enforced a daily routine and dedicated a slot every afternoon for our “classes”. Secondly I stopped following the school’s curriculum because I am unable teach the way her teachers teach. Instead I prepared my own lesson plans and activity sheets using a tool that I am familiar with — PowerPoint.
I like being able to easily customize the content to the Dumpling’s interest and progress. It took a few days for her to get adjusted to using a mouse and drawing tablet, but she loved the interactive aspect once she got the hang of it. The downside was that we were working in an editable mode within PowerPoint (more on this below), so the Dumpling would sometimes accidentally change things on the slide. As a result, I was constantly on Ctrl + Z (undo) duty.
We’re Going On A Bear Hunt
The first deck I prepared was a lesson for “We’re Going On A Bear Hunt”. Its content was tailored specifically for the Dumpling, so it may not reflect typical classroom material for a kindergartner. It took us about a week to go through the slides, sometimes the same ones on repeat across several days.
Before diving into the content, here are a few administrative tasks I did on the sidelines:
Throughout our lessons, I toggled between “normal” and “slide show” mode. Activity slides were completed in “normal” mode, so that the Dumpling could draw/write or drag/drop objects. It is important to note that these functions can only be done in “normal” mode, where content is editable.
PowerPoint did not automatically load the “Draw” toolbar for me if I did not have my drawing tablet connected. To manually pin this on, go into the “customize ribbon” settings and make sure “draw” is checked.
There is also a pen option in “slide show” mode, but note that objects cannot be re-arranged here to complete most of the activity slides.
We discussed how to read a map and its major components, such as the title, legend, scale, and compass. Thanks to Blippi, the Dumpling already knew what a compass is along with the cardinal directions.
As a side project, I magnetized a pin and floated it on water to show the Dumpling how one works. The pin head pointed to north no matter where it was moved — as verified by the placement of the morning sun and our compass app!
The story text contains many opportunity to introduce digraph (sh, ch) and blend sounds (sp/spl, sq, st, sw, tr).
The Dumpling used to be all over the place whenever she told stories, so we practiced recounting events in sequential order.
As part of building up her storytelling skills, I encouraged her to use more adjectives. We reviewed the descriptions the author used for each destination, and I asked the Dumpling if she could think of others.
We reviewed “over”, “under”, and “through”.
I have included a maze, word search, image arrangement, and pattern completion activity throughout the deck to keep the sessions interactive. There were certain puzzles that the Dumpling wanted to do more of, so I made additional versions that are included as extra slides in the back.
As part of our homeschooling curriculum, the Dumpling and I have been learning about space the last few weeks. When I say homeschool, I really mean watching YouTube videos on the subject…the same ones over and over and over again. Repetition is key, folks! Even better if the information is in a song.
For the art and craft portion for our theme, we made a tunnel book of the solar system. I was inspired after seeing one on Pinterest, but it had no tutorials so I’m sharing mine.
According to Wonderpolis.org:
“Tunnel books are made up of a series of pages that are held together by folded strips of paper on each side. In fact, the sides of a tunnel book might make you think of an accordion. The overall effect of a tunnel book is to create the illusion of depth and perspective.
Tunnel books are “read” through a hole in the cover. Each page features openings that allow the reader to see through the entire book to the back cover. The images on each page work together to form a three-dimensional scene inside the book that helps to tell the story.
Making one is actually easier than it looks. My version, however, differs from the traditional form because it is only bounded on one side. I left the right side open so that we could flip though it like a book.
Cardstock (8.5″x 11″):
Blue cardstock (10x): we used a mixture of different shades
Scoring tool (alternatively, an old credit card, ruler and towel would work as well)
Coloring materials (we used craft paint)
Scissors and/or X-Acto knife (recommended)
Print out the templates — “solar system” template on white cardstock and “orbit” template on blue cardstock.
* Please note that while the templates include a page for the sun, I decided to exclude it from my book (I used my phone’s flashlight to represent our star instead), so you will not see it in my pictures.
Color and cut. We used craft paint and also splattered/smeared some white on the blue cardstock to represent faraway stars. Only cut the shaded circles from the middle of each page on the “orbits” template (an X-Acto knife is recommended). Mark the page number, which are in brackets, for each cut item with a pencil for future reference.
DO NOT CUT OUT THE CIRCLE FOR THE SUN on page 9 of the “orbit” template.
Glue the planets onto the orbit circles by matching the page numbers. Play around with placement — spread them around so that they are not bunched together and have at least 50% of each planet “stick out” of the circle cutouts. The goal is to have all eight planets visible from the front page.
Glue the sun cutout in place as indicated on page 9 of the “orbit” template.
Create the spine. Using the last blue cardstock placed in portrait orientation, draw vertical lines that are 0.5″ apart and score along the lines. Scoring is extremely important when working with heavier paper because it helps create clean, crisp folds. If you do not have a scoring bone, place the cardstock on top of a towel, align a ruler along the lines, and run an old credit card along the ruler to create a score.
Make accordion folds along the scored lines.
Glue each page onto the spine. Start with Neptune on the first page and work your way back. Imagine each accordion fold as a hill, and glue the pages onto the downward slope.
I always bear a tinge of guilt whenever we use food for play because it feels so wasteful. My mind goes through an internal debate, taking into consideration such things as how much food is used, what the alternatives options are, and whether there is replay value, before I either move forward or pass up such activities.
Decorating real Easter eggs has never made my “move forward” list because the eggs normally go straight to the bin after the egg hunt — I personally would not eat them since not all dyes are edible and the eggs may not be safe for consumption after sitting in room temperature for so long. As alternatives, we have used plastic and styrofoam eggs in the past, but they are not the most environmentally friendly options either.
This year, we moved onto no-waste, biodegradable Easter eggs by decorating just the egg shells. We poked a small hole into raw eggs with a pointy scissor, emptied the contents with a few shakes (which we kept for cooking later), and rinsed the insides of the shells.
Due to their fragility, we opted for a gentler decorating method that did not require too much handling. I did not want to just soak the eggs in food coloring so we dyed them with bleeding tissue paper instead. Bleeding tissue paper is colored tissue paper that “bleeds” its color when wet. This is not some fancy art material as many regular tissue papers do this.
The Dumpling cut up strips of tissue paper and layered them onto the shells.
We occasionally coated the shells with a light spray of water so the tissue papers stuck on better and continued wrapping until the eggs were completely covered with several layers.
We waited overnight for everything to dry and unwrapped the tissue paper to find beautifully dyed eggs!
The shells endured under the hands of my four year old better than expected because only one broke after several rounds of egg hunting.
WARNING: This activity uses small magnets, which can pose a serious choking hazard. If swallowed, they can cause serious injuries and even death. Adult supervision is required.
I made a self correcting game to help the Dumpling identify odd and even numbers using upcycled bottle caps and magnets.
While the game was designed to help her memorize odd and even numbers, it was also important that we discussed what the concept means. I explained that an even number is like when everyone buddies up and has another person to play with. When there is an odd number, however, there will always be someone who is by himself — the odd person out. We were eating breakfast during this math lesson, so I visually demonstrated with a handful of Cheerios on the table and grouped them in pairs to determine whether there was an even/odd number. Once she understood that, I told her the shortcut was just to memorize which numbers are odd and even…and mommy made a game for it!
Label the bottle caps “0”, “1”, “2”, “3”, “4”, “5”, “6”, “7”, “8”, “9”, “odd” and “even” with a sharpie.
Arrange six magnets with the positive side facing up and six with the negative side facing up. To do so, first stack all 12 magnets together. Next, pull apart six so that you have two stacks. Then, flip one of the stacks over. Now you have one stack that is positive and one that is negative.
Take one of the stacks and separate each magnet about an inch apart — let’s call this Group A.
Do the same thing with the second stack — this is Group B.
Secure magnets onto the insides of the caps with strong tape. Bottle caps labeled “1”, “3”, “5”, “7”, “9” and “even” (yes, “even”) get Group A magnets. Bottle caps labeled “0”, “2”, “4”, “6”, “8”, and “odd” get Group B magnets. Make sure the magnets are securely attached though, because the attraction can be strong enough to pull the magnets and tape off!
Hover the caps labeled with “odd” and “even” over the numbers and watch as they either attract or repel each other. Please note that the “odd” and “even” caps need to be held with the text facing down — meaning the inside of the cap faces up.
During the height of the Dumpling’s obsession with Baby Shark, I thought it would be a fun idea to teach her how to play the song on the piano. It was an idiotic move on my end because the main tune, which only consist of four notes on repeat, was even more annoying without lyrics…especially when played incorrectly, as my then three year old did regularly.
The Dumpling was only interested in replicating the melody, so I helped her identify the keys by writing the name of each note, starting with middle C and ending with high C, on painter’s tape and taping them onto the keys. Our “lessons” were unstructured, a few minutes long, and on an impromptu basis. My goal was to expose her to music, not formally train her. Repetition was essential. For the first month, I listened to her play Baby Shark on repeat until my ears bled.
“Baby shark, doo doo doo doo doo doo…”
Luckily she also learned Twinkle Twinkle Little Star to give me a bit of variety.
Her enthusiasm for the piano soon stopped just as suddenly as it started, and a year would passed before we made music together again. This time around, her instruments of choice were an out-of-tune toy xylophone and a set of handbells. With a little refresher, it was not long before I found the same two songs on an infinite play loop again.
The Dumpling claimed that she could actually play five songs because The Alphabet Song (ABCs) and Baa Baa Black Sheep share the same tune as Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. While technically true, it was nevertheless a good time to add new ones to her repertoire.
Handbells: I found handbells easier to work with than the piano. First, they look more fun and can be either rung or struck with a mallet (although the sound is a bit muffled). In addition to the labels on the handle, the different colors provide an easy identifying visual. Finally, because the Dumpling must deliberately select a bell and ring it, this prompts her to be more careful. The biggest downside, however, is that we are limited to working with only eight bells.
Using the bells in practice exercises, we shuffled and arranged them in proper order. We also compared the sounds of two or three randomly selected bells to determine which was lower or higher. Our collaborative playing, where the Dumpling and I took turns being responsible for ringing different notes, was probably my favorite part. For example, she would have bells C and D while I would have E and G on Mary Had A Little Lamb, then we would switch off on the next round.
Noteflight: Most of the music sheets I found were too complicated for what we were trying to do, so I re-arranged my own using Noteflight. I kept only the notes (I also included note values, but have not gone over the concept with the Dumpling yet) and the corresponding note names. Everything was enlarged and spaced out for easier reading. The premium version of the website also provides color coding, but I opted to only use the free version.
I am not sure how long this round of the Dumpling’s musical aspirations will last, but I might as well make the most of it. In the meantime, if you cannot beat them, join them! “Baby shark, doo doo doo doo doo doo…”
When the Dumpling was around two and a half years old, there was an incident that forever changed how cooking was done in our household. My toddler was then looking for me, found me standing in front of the kitchen stove, and became thoroughly confused.
“Mommy, what are you doing?” she asked.
“Cooking,” I replied.
“No, mommy,” she said shaking her head. “You cook over there.” By there, she pointed at the microwave.
Kids say the darndest things.
In my defense I did proper cooking — from scratch with fresh ingredients. The only opportunity for me to do so back then was while she napped, so she almost never saw me in front of the stove. My M.O., however, was to make a giant batch and eat leftovers for the next several days. So whenever the Dumpling saw me in the kitchen, the chances of me being in front of the microwave were high. Very high.
After the Dumpling’s savage microwave shaming, I realized that I needed to show my toddler there was more to cooking than reheating leftovers. As I attempted to prepare fresh meals more frequently, I also got her involved in the process. At first I asked her to help with her own snacks, such as:
Peel boiled eggs: It was her chance to finally break something without getting in trouble. For easier peeling, soak the egg in cold water first.
Peel clementines: Clementines are small and have thin skin, making them easy to hold and peel with little hands. I rolled them around my counter first to help loosen the flesh from the skin.
Slice bananas: It was a bit scary to see my kid with a knife…even if it was just a butter knife. Luckily no one got stabbed. As with all activities, adult supervision is required.
Pick grapes: I still slice grapes in half before serving them, so I would ask her to help me pick them off the stems and soak them.
As she grew older, we started experimenting with various recipes — mostly dessert-related because they are enticing motivators. Below are a few of my favorites. Depending on their complexity, I separated the steps into multiple activities or only involved her in what she was able to do (ex: whisking/sifting flour, mixing ingredients, kneading dough, etc.).
Ice Cream Without Machine: A three ingredient recipe (heavy cream, condensed milk, and vanilla extract) that is super easy. We were amazed to see heavy cream turned into whipped cream before our very eyes!
Sugar Cookies: We bake sugar cookies three to four times a year because the Dumpling loves decorating them. I stretched this into three separate activities: 1) making the batter ; 2) cutting the shapes and baking; and 3) decorating.
Oatmeal Cookies: This is such a versatile cookie because I can add whatever in there (nuts, chia seeds, etc.) and the Dumping would eat it without questioning.
Banana bread: This bread could be made without an electric mixer. Overly ripened bananas were easy to mash and the batter could be mixed by hand.
Rice: It is a fun water and scooping activity. I had a strainer on hand in case half the rice got poured out during the rinse.
Jello: I absolutely hate jello, but felt the need to add it to my list. I made this once with her, hated it so much, and ended up using the rest of our gelatin to make plastic.
Although I enjoyed having the Dumpling as my little sous chef, our culinary endeavors were not all picturesque Instagram moments…and they should not have to be. There were often huge messes, a few failures, and occasional bouts of frustration. If the activity went awry, I would sacrifice a small portion of the ingredients to let the Dumpling have her way while I finished up. Sometimes I questioned whether something was safe for human consumption after the Dumpling manhandled whatever she was “cooking”. Luckily no one has gotten food poisoning…yet. In the end of the day, the most important thing was not how delicious our creations were, nor how fun, educational, or enriching cooking can be; it was that I have successfully disassociated mommy’s cooking from the microwave.