Assessing your Preschooler

About once every year or 18 months, Jasper is tested as part of a national longitudinal study. The last time was just about two months ago and since then both my children want to be tested and regularly ask for it. I think this mainly stems from the test lady having a great bag of toys. So whenever I tell Petra that I’m going to test her she gets quite excited… until she realizes I just have a peice of paper in my hand. I guess I need a bag.

This week I was excited to find preschool assessment tools on Carissa’s blog at 1+1+1=1. You can find the link on this page. The test varies and includes  some basic tracing, cutting, counting, and letter recognition.

I know Petra knows all her letter sounds. In fact, Jasper can do almost all his letter sounds – about 21-22 of them. But I wasn’t sure where Petra was on her letter recognition.

So I tested her. And oh, it was not fun. The girl is great when she can be a passive learner. She loves to have things told to her, she loves for you to read books to her. But this required thinking, and she would rather be silly and play. She lacks some focus. You can see her mind wandering. But the results were great. Much better than I expected. She got 24/26 upper case letters correct and 21/26 lower case letters correct. I was very pleased with this.

The test results will provide direction for me for future weeks of tot schools. I now know which letters I need to focus on first. So my plan is to focus first on those letters she doesn’t know, as well as those letters in her name. I hope to have her writing her name before long. She can already write a P, E, and T. Teaching her R and A should be fairly simple addition. And I also know that increasing her work with letters will just make the recognition part easier in the future – so that maybe she won’t have to think so hard.

If you are interested in seeing how your child is doing in other development areas, check out this online development tracker at PBS kids – here.

Our Favorite Christian Toddler Books

I decided to join in with other blogs and friends and post a weekly reading list. I absolutely love some of the books I have found for our children. And others, even some that are popular, I completely dislike. We have a fairly large number of books around our house – between my husband who is an voracious reader and the children’s books we can’t keep enough bookshelves.

My goal is to read at least 15 books to the children every day. Some days we go over that goal, and other days we don’t meet it. But at the end of a year I know that if I ususally read about 15 books a day with the children that ends up being over 5,000 books a year. Most of these books are ones we own, but I’m trying to mix it up some with books we bring home from the library as well.

Last summer I posted this blog entry of 15 of the best baby and toddler books. I could certainly update this list now, and may decide to do so in the near future. But for now, I thought I would share some of our favorite Christian books for our children that we use on a daily basis.

With short stories and entertaining sentences, my favorite toddler Bible is The First Step Bible by Mack Thomas. Both of our children enjoy these Bible stories. Some of the bible books I’ve seen for toddlers are too simple – this one seems just right.


Another fantastic storybook Bible for children is The Jesus Storybook Bible. This book is absolutely fantastic, very well written, and interesting even to adults. After your toddlers outgrows the The First Step Bible this book is a must have. I would say it would be best for children ages 3-8.


Designed by God So I Must Be Special was a given to Petra. She loves the book and I love how it goes through each of the senses that we have and how we use them to enjoy blessings around us. But I most love how it also talks about our heart and spirit.

This book has absolutely fantastic moral lessons for your child. I highly recommend keeping a copy of  Big Thoughts for Little People by Kenneth N Taylor in your personal library. I love, love this book and so do the children. It is an alphabet book, with each letter focusing on a new lesson. I’ve mentioned before Petra loves the C page for crying. This page talks about how its OK to cry if you are really hurt, but if you are not really hurt then smiling can also help you feel better. This week when Petra was upset about something she reminded herself and me that we should smile.

If you are interested in learning more about weekly readings, or seeing what other families are reading you can learn more by clicking the box below.

Raw Chocolate Cake

We celebrated Thomas’ birthday yesterday after lunch with a homemade raw chocolate cake. Yes, I said raw. That means no processed sugars, no flour, no eggs, no dairy of any sort and no heat. Instead it was all natural, delicious and incredibly good.

I found the recipe on You Tube by Raw Explicit Daniella – you can go here to watch the video. This is a three part video series which includes mixing the cake, putting it in a pan, and decorating the cake. Hers definitley looks better than mine. But the one I made still tasted incredible. And even better it was easier and faster than making a regular cake.

You pretty much throw everything in a food processor and mix. It is super easy. The recipe calls for:

  • 2 cups soaked pecans
  • 1 1/4 c dried coconut flakes
  • 1 c raw cocoa
  • 10 dates
  • 3 T vanilla extract
  • 3 bananas
  • 5 T coconut oil
  • 1/2 T maca
  • 2 T water
  • 2 T gogi berries – optional

Our local co-op is out of gogi berries so I wasn’t able to include those. And for some reason they don’t carry raw cocao – so instead I used the cocoa powder in a can. But all in all it was very good. And I shared some of the leftovers with friends and I think it was well received. Everyone said it was good. To us it tasted like a german chocolate gooey cake that was sort of fudge-like.

(Jasper fell asleep and missed the celebration.)

Tot School – Letter E (week 1)

Current ages – Jasper is 20 months, Petra is 31 months.

We had a slow week for tot school this last week. Jasper was not the least bit interested in doing much of anything, instead he wanted to play with his trucks and climb on things. I was really surprised to see how uninterested he was and I’m beginning to realize I need to focus him differently for tot activities … more to come.

Petra was eager to do activities- more than I had planned. But I was too tired some days to do much of anything once I got home from work – I’m sure its because of first trimester fatigue.

As a result, we will be working on Letter E for two weeks, along with our other tot school activities.

I was really excited about an egg activity this week. One of the ideas we had was to do a memory game with Easter eggs in a carton. I wrote capital letters and lower case letters on the bottom of the eggs and tried to get the children to focus on either 1) matching the capital letter with the lower case letter or 2)keeping them in alphabetical order and figuring out which egg was which. Neither game worked. They are too young still.

But here are some of the activities we did:

Circle the Letter E or e

Work on putting the barrette clips on the container … they weren’t able to squeeze these though. I’ve been looking for easy clothespins and can’t find any!

Coloring in her Kumon coloring book and also Kumon mazes.

Matching capital and lower case letters on the chalkboard. She actually drew the line here down to the little c – she just went through the e to get to it. Later in the week I focused on teaching her not to cross over other letters.

This one really cracked me up. This is a Match It! puzzle for upper and lower case letters that I found at Ross last year for $5.  Petra was able to do this some, I just gave her a few letters at one time. And Jasper practiced putting them together as well if I gave him the pieces for one letter puzzle.  After Petra put each one together, I would ask her to point to the capital letter, the lower case letter and then asked her what starts with that letter. For the letter B – she told me “Barber, baby, bubble, and a bumblebee.”  If you don’t recognize this – it comes directly from a book – Dr. Seuss’ alphabet book. I guess we have read it a few times.

We did our dot art letter.

And we played at the park and outside. Went for a tour at the hospital. Read a lot of stories. And had lots of blueberry/spinach shakes. Yum! And this doesn’t begin to cover all the activities the nanny did with them while I was at work – like taking them to the Tallahassee Museum to see the animals!

For more on Tot School GO HERE.

Crayola Dry Erase Activity Center

If you are looking for a great new tool for your tot, preschooler or young child you need to check out the new crayola dry erase activity center. I recently found this at Publix on the half price shelf and quickly scooped it up. After bringing it home and trying it out, I wish I would have bought all of them–enough for my children and as gifts for my friend’s children.

The center will fit perfectly on a lap, as well as a tabletop. But my favorite part is that you can simply insert different pages/worksheets into it and change them out as needed. We tried it out by letting Petra practice tracing her letters on it. (using tracing pages that can be found online at Confessions of a Homeschooler). I just inserted the appropriate worksheet and she was able to do the rest. At 2.5 years old I was surprised she could open the markers and erase everything by herself.The markers are also fabulous – some of the best wipe off markers I’ve used. And the eraser takes it all off.

I’m very excited about this tool because we are able to use it now, but I know that as she gets older it will even more useful for us both.

Soggy Pound Cake (Raw)

Here’s a festive parfait that is perfect for the upcoming holiday – if you are ready to try a raw dessert. This parfait includes three distinct layers – Ani Phyo’s Fuzzy Navel Smoothie, a raw cashew whipped cream, and fruit. After making each item, layer in a bowl or parfait dish with fruit. I stored ingredients separate in the refrigerator and then made the desserts when it was time to eat. A friend gave me the fuzzy navel smoothie in this recipe and I came up with this dish. It seemed like a perfect way to use it.

 Ani Phyo’s Fuzzy Navel Smoothie

A video for Ani Phyo’s Fuzzy Navel Smoothie can be found online HERE.  Be sure to only use 1 cup of water otherwise it becomes too watery to use in the parfait.

  • 2 oranges – peeled and seeded
  • 1 cup soaked pecans (soak in water for several hours and then rinse)
  • ½ cup pitted dates
  • 1 vanilla bean  (or you can use extract to keep the cost down)
  • 1 cup water

Mix all ingredients in a blender. And you are done!


Raw Cashew Whipped Cream

  • 1 cup soaked cashews (soak in water for several hours and then rinse)
  • ¾ cup water
  • Agave nectar to taste – optional
  • Vanilla extract to taste – optional

Mix all ingredients in a food processor. And you are done!

For more information on soaking nuts and seeds, the health benefits of soaking nuts, and also recommended soaking times go to Raw Food Living.

And if you are wondering, the name Soggy Pound Cake came from my dear husband, who loves poundcake and thought this had a similar taste.

Petra at 2.5 years old

I saw two blog entries recently that I loved and wanted to mimic in some fashion. These were entries/updates about the children in the home. One I could never find again if I wanted, but was a list of questions a father had posed to his 2.5 year old daughter as a sort of interview. The other is a great description from a mom on her dear daughter that can be seen here.

What I really liked about them both was that they really showed the child’s personality. I’m going to plan on posting something like this every birthday, as well as half year birthdays – so at 3 years Petra will have one, and again at 3.5 years, and so forth.

Today, this entry is about Petra. She is 31 months – or just over 2.5 years. So, I’m a little late.

For a week now, I’ve pondered on this blog entry. And it has honestly scared me. There is so much to say about this girl I hardly know where to start.

Petra is what I would call an ambitious handful. Or maybe a glowing ball of fire that bounces around our house. She radiates happiness and energy. Her smiles and personality are overwhelming in so many ways. She loves to entertain us – and even more so she loves to be silly. She is constantly searching for ways to get our attention, charm us, or make us laugh. She is a ball of never ending energy that I swear never needs sleep. She is also smart and quick, but usually prefers to be silly rather than smart.  She wants to have a good time. But she does not want to watch TV –watching a video or movie would be considered a form of punishment for her.  She wants to be right next to mommy ALL THE TIME. Helping with dinner, laundry or whatever else needs to be done. She has the memory of an elephant and can recite and memorize entire poems and long stanzas. She loves babies. She loves her brother and wants to hold and coddle him. She is very social and loves to be included with other children, but hasn’t yet grasped playing fairly or nicely. She loves books, loves to read, loves church, and loves tot school activities. She loves to be outdoors and see animals, although you would never catch her rolling in dirt or on the ground. She also loves to sing – to the extent that sometimes she sings her conversation or questions to you. She is becoming very interested in drawing pictures of the family and always wants you to draw pictures of her dad.She is super strong and loves gymnastics.  She is the big sister, our oldest child and relishes the leadership that it provides.  She’s a boss and you will catch her bossing not only her brother, but the dogs, her baby dolls and sometimes just thin air.

I asked her a series of questions in hopes of an interview. She didn’t quite grasp or comprehend, so I’m going to fill in what I can.

What is your favorite food? Her response was chicken, walnuts and prunes. The true answer is cantaloupe, watermelon, banana ice cream, raw chocolate pudding, and so many other things. She does like prunes and other dried fruits. She is a great eater and will try anything at least one bite at every meal without any problems. She even will eat an entire plate of spinach salad now.

What is your favorite book? No response. And honestly, she probably doesn’t have one. She asks for Olivia and the Missing Toy quite a bit. And she also loves Big Thoughts for Little People – she calls it the crying book because she loves the C page for crying. (I love this book and highly recommend it for everyone)

What is your favorite song? Her response was “Hosanna.” This is completely true. She loves this song and we are just learning it. She learned it at church with the other children for the Easter performance.

What is your favorite movie? No response. But I’ve heard there is a Wiggles DVD that she knows all the dance moves to.

Her favorite thing to do? Talk nonstop. She talks all the time. And if she isn’t talking she is either complaining or asking questions.

Her favorite questions? Why? And when’s my birthday?

What we are working on with her: The 3 Cs – teaching her to be caring, compassionate and considerate of others.