Archive for September, 2011

Grandma School – Lunch Time

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

Our Grandma School morning ended with lunch time.  The children liked to help prepare lunch so they would get their step stools, and we would go to work.

Actually our menu did not vary much.  My grandson always wanted a peanut butter and jelly sandwich; my granddaughter wanted mac ‘n cheese.  Only if there was leftover pizza in the frig did our main dish vary.

My grandson made his own pbj sandwich and one for me also.  I would cut the sandwich into triangles or rectangles for a variety of shapes.  My granddaughter put all the “fixings” for her macaroni and cheese into the bowl that was then put into the microwave.

We always had fruit.  Sometimes it was from their garden – blueberries, blackberries or strawberries.   If we had watermelon or grapes, we would make fruit kabobs using 10 inch long bamboo skewers.  My granddaughter always put her fruit on the skewer in a pattern.  My grandson just put the fruit on.

From time to time we would make “people salads.”  These were big hits and lots of fun.  The face was a canned pear half.  I dried the pear so features would stick to the surface.  Then I put out an assortment of items that the children could use to make eyes, nose etc. on their salad person.  For hair I offered either grated carrots or cheese.  On the plate were often carrot slices, small pieces of raw broccoli, slivers of cherries or grapes or kiwi or lemons.  I usually also added some chocolate chips to the mix.  They made good eyes because they were easy to insert into the pear and they stayed in place plus they were tasty treats for the children while we prepared our salads.

My grandson made this “people salad.”

My granddaughter created these.  She liked to add earrings and decorations to the hair – little embellishments, you know.

Time to serve lunch – in our restaurant.  The children would get out two trays and carry lunch to our dining spot.  In nice weather we would eat outside at the picnic table.  We once ate under the table in our “tent.” 

I am a cat person and have little experience with dogs.  Once when a sudden downpour of rain canceled our outside lunch, I said that we would have an inside picnic lunch on the floor next to the sliding glass door.  We carried our food to the picnic spot and went back into the kitchen to get napkins and silverware.  We walked back to our indoor picnic spot to find the family dog finishing up a pbj and getting ready to start eating macaroni and cheese.  Grandma learned a lesson that day. 

Most meals were in the dining room.  After we had the meals on the table, I would often pretend to be the manager of our restaurant.  I know a smattering of Italian and a smattering of French so with my fractured foreign language I would inquire about their meal.  The children always thought that was so funny.  There was lots of laughing at those meals.  As I cleared the table, I would inquire if they would like anything else.  My grandson often would respond – yes, Chex Mix!  So we would end the meal with a handful of Chex Mix, his favorite treat.

After lunch it was time for my granddaughter to go to pre-K or kindergarten and for my grandson to take a nap or have some quiet time and time for Grandma to sit down and put her feet up.

Grandma School  provided so many great memories that I shall forever treasure.

Soon it will be October.  That means Halloween and Halloween postcards into the mailbox.  Please stop back to see what cards and riddles I have found for my grandchildren.

Thank you again for visiting Grandma in the Mailbox.

Grandma School – Craft Time

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011

Craft Time was the hands-on,  fun part of Learning Time in Grandma School.  Almost every week my grandaughter would ask, “Grandma, can we have craft time today?”  We didn’t have craft time every week.   If I had an involved activity planned, crafts replaced worksheets for the day.

Obviously during two years of Grandma School we had many, many craft activities.  I would be writing for weeks and weeks to talk about all of them.  Today I tell you about a few that the children really enjoyed.

A bouquet of flowers.  This was a project that we did in the spring or sometimes in the middle of the winter when the snow was in big drifts outside and spring and flowers seemed really far away.

I cut an assortment of flower parts in various colors from construction paper.  They were spread on the table.  Each child selected the parts of his/her flower or flowers.  My grandson’s favorite color was yellow at that time.  Needless to say, he tried to “corner the market” on all parts that were yellow.  I put out sheets of construction paper and glue sticks.  Then they went to work creating flowers.  “I’m giving this to Mommy when she comes home” was a remark that I frequently heard.

I put these posies together.  I don’t have any of the ones my grandchildren made.

For craft ideas I often used books written by Kathy Ross (  Ms. Ross has put together a huge assortment of craft books for children.  There are books with ideas for holiday crafts and seasonal crafts.  My granddaughters have enjoyed Things to Make for your Doll and Fairy World Crafts.  My grandsons thought Crafts for Kids Who Are Learning about Dinosaurs and Make Yourself a Monster were fun.

When we were working on recognizing and writing letters of the alphabet, I used Kathy Ross’ book Letter Shapes.

In this book  you transform a capital letter into an object that begins with that letter.  The letter A becomes an airplane.  Unhappily our airplanes didn’t fly.  Two letter Bs become a butterfly.  We decorated them with stick-on jewels and flower stickers.  E was soon an elephant.  H became a horse.  M was soon a mouse. S was a curly snake complete with stick-on jewels.  U turned into a unicorn.  W became a walrus.

The children upon seeing the book wanted to make every one of the creatures.  No way.  We made one creature each week for several weeks.

Very clear step by step instructions were given.

This summer my granddaughter brought out her Grandma School folder that is now two years old.  Tucked in her folder were some of  the letter creatures that she had made.

My grandchildren who live 20 minutes away have a Monarch butterfly garden in their backyard.  On a snowy winter day we made some butterflies from coffee filters. 

To make a butterfly, flatten out a coffee filter on a plate.  Scribble on the filter with washable markers.  Then squirt the center of the filter 2 or 3 times with a squirt bottle of water.  You can watch the water wick the colors over the filter.  Let the filter dry for about 30 minutes.  (We had book time while the filters dried.)  Scrunch the filter in the center and twist a pipe cleaner around the center.  Trim the ends of the pipe cleaner to make antennae and curl them.  Fluff out the wings and you have a butterfly.

Instructions and photos are available at

Here is one of our butterflies.

At Grandma School we ended the morning with lunch.  Please visit again to read about our restaurant and the “people” salads that we made.

Thanks for visiting Grandma in Mailbox.

Grandma School – Learning Time

Wednesday, September 14th, 2011

In Grandma School learning took place even when it was not Learning Time.  While the children were watching their morning TV shows, I would do the sudoku puzzle in the newspaper.  My granddaughter came over and asked what I was doing.  She saw that I was writing numbers in squares.  She asked if she could write numbers in the squares.  At that time she was just learning how to write her numbers so this looked like a “teaching moment.”  I would figure out a number and tell her which number should go into what square in the puzzle.  Sometimes she would become impatient while I tried to figure out which number came next.  Practice time for writing numbers and practice time for being patient while Grandma tried to think.

At Learning Time in Grandma School we would all take a chair around the little tikes table.  My grandchildren are a year apart so I would work on different skills with each child.  It was like a one room school with two classrooms at our table.

While I worked on something with one child, the other one would do a worksheet or a coloring page. 

We worked on writing letters and numbers, matching, identifying shapes, rhyming words, same and different, grouping items by size or color and many other primary concepts.  I had sets of plastic numbers and letters that we would use for counting or sorting. 

Variety was important – not the same worksheets or the same counting games each week.  Sometimes the children would surprise me and ask if they could do something next week that they had just done because it was so much fun.

I used websites to obtain free printable materials to use with my grandson and granddaughter.  Some of my favorites were:,,,

If it was Halloween and I wanted a Halloween coloring page, these sites would offer many options.  I found worksheets on matching, on which one doesn’t belong, hidden pictures – just about anything I wanted to work on.

I also purchased some decks of flashcards that we used in Learning Time.

These cards could be used in a variety of ways.  Those above gave the child a choice of “how many” there were.  Others in the deck had only the pictures of trucks or animals and the student then counted how many there were.  On the flip side of these cards there was a number that was the answer.  I would sometimes spread out several cards with only numbers showing and ask for someone to find a 2 or a 9 for me.

Each of these cards shows 6 items.  I would ask my grandchildren which objects were the same and which were different.  Sometimes I would put out an array of 6 cards and ask if anyone could find a green oval or a blue number 6. 

When it was time to put the cards away, we would count them as we put them back into the box.

We also used workbooks that I had purchased at Target – some in the $1 bins and at Barnes and Noble.   There were worksheets on letters, numbers, reading readiness skills and same and different.  Most of the books had perforated pages so I removed the worksheets that I wanted to take each week for Grandma School.  You know how much children love stickers.  Many books had stickers for the children to add  to their worksheets and also stickers for the “teacher” – Grandma – to put on their completed sheet.  Super.  Nice work.  You’re Top Banana.  Purrfect.  A sticker on a worksheet always brought a smile to their faces and a feeling of pride for having done a good job.

From Oriental Trading I purchased a set of Mix and Match Rhymes.  I would spread the puzzles pieces out and my grandchildren would look at the pictures and find two words that rhymed.  Then they would put the puzzles pieces together.  Taking turns led to a more peaceful activity. 

This was the most popular learning game.  I made a fishing pond for us using a small plastic bucket.  The poles were two dowel rods with yarn fishing line and magnets tied on for fishing hooks.  I cut fish out of construction paper and gave each one an eye and a letter that I had cut from a newspaper or magazine.  Paper clips were attached to the mouth of the fish and then they went into the bucket.

My grandchildren would take turn fishing.  Sometimes they would “catch” more than one fish; sometimes they would catch the bucket itself with the magnet locking on to the handle.  They would identify the letter on their fish and if they caught multiple fish, they would count how many.

My grandson often brought a pan from their play kitchen.  We would put our fish into the pan.  Then he and my granddaughter would take the fish into their play kitchen and “cook” them for our lunch.  Time out for pretend play.

As you can see, learning time was a fun part of our school day.

Thank you for visiting.  I’ll continue with Grandma School next trip talking about a few of our favorite craft activities.  I hope you’ll  stop by.

Grandma School

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011

For two years when my grandchildren who live 20 minutes away were between the ages of 3 and 5, I spent one day a week at their house while their parents were working. 

When I walked into the house, my grandchildren came running to see what was in my Grandma School bag.  They knew that tucked in the bag were some books, maybe a video, some worksheets, and a snack – all for Grandma School.

Following breakfast,  the children and I  gathered in front of the TV for TV Time.  We watched 2 programs or a program and a video.  Handy Manny, Imagination Movers, and Chugginton were among their favorite programs.  Sometimes we watched a Wiggles video, and the three of us sang and danced to Rock a-bye Your Bear or Can You Point Your Finger and Do the Twist? or Big Red Car or some other Wiggles favorite.

Then it was time to Bend and Stretch.  The three of us formed a circle.   Can three form a circle?  Well, we did.  I led them in bending, stretching, turning around, touching their knees, touching their toes, touching their noses.  A few exercises before we sat down to learn.

In our school someone always had The Favorites Bag.  Of course, with our limited enrollment this meant that the children alternated weeks with the bag.  The person with The Favorites Bag hurried off to his/her room to get a favorite toy and a favorite book to talk about during sharing time.

One day my granddaughter raised her hand. (It was school, you know.)  I called on her and she told me that there was a new student in school.  Suddenly she was the new girl in school.  She told us her name and all about her family.  Sometimes I had a difficult time remembering the name of the new student, and she answered only to her new name.  The children liked the idea of a new student so much that usually there was a new boy or a new girl in school each week.  Once there were both.  It was fun for them – and for me.

Learning Time came next in our day.  In the next few weeks I’ll share with you some of the worksheets and learning games that we played.  At the beginning of the school year I gave each of the children a colorful folder.  They put their completed worksheets or coloring pages in the folder at the end of class.  That helped to keep the house neat and everything was together if they wanted to show Mommy or Daddy what they had done that day.  Last month I was at their house and my granddaughter brought out her Grandma School folder that she still had.  She wanted to show me a craft item that we had made.  I think we had made a memory that day.

Next, it was time for a break so we then had Book Time.  My grandchildren always found two books in my bag and a snack.  We gathered on the sofa while I read them the picture books, and they munched their snacks.  The snacks were ones of the 100 calorie packaged cookies and crackers that are available in the grocery stores.

The books were ones that I had found at the public library.  At holiday times I chose books with a seasonal theme; other times I selected books that I knew were of interest to each child. 

Some that both children loved:  If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Joffe Numeroff, Russell the Sheep by Rob Scotton, Splat the Cat by Rob Scotton.  Berenstain Bears books, Max and Ruby books by Rose Mary Wells.

My granddaughter really enjoyed Fancy Nancy by Jane O’Connor, Angelina Ballerina by Katharine Holabird, Pinkalicious by Victoria Kann, and Mary Engelbreit’s books about Ann Estelle such as Queen of Easter and Queen of Hearts.

My grandson was and is a great fan of Tony Mitton and Ant Parker books.  He requested that I bring one every week.  We went through the list over and over.  Flashing Fire Engines, Terrific Trains, Dazzling Diggers and many more.

Book Time was my favorite part of Grandma School.  I spent many hours at the public library looking at books so that I could bring the children a variety of books.  They are older now, but I still like to look at the picture books and when they come to spend time at my house, we still have Book Time.

Lunch Time  Time to get lunch ready since my granddaughter had  pre-K or Kindergarten in the afternoon.  We all pitched in and fixed lunch together.  I’ll talk more about Lunch Time in future weeks.

Thanks for stopping by Grandma in the Mailbox.  In a few days I’ll tell you about some Learning Time activities.