Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Our Daily Routine with 3 Children

After months of being off track and having no routine we have finally settled into a routine that works great for our family of 5 including 3 kids with very different needs. My oldest, Alex, is 6 and attends school all day. My middle son, Matisse, is 3 and attends half days. Both Alex and Matisse attend a Montessori school and they are in the same class this year. My youngest, Theo, is 11 months old and stays home with me. With 3 kids our routine often gets a bit (or a lot) off track, but here is our ideal routine on school days, it is what we strive for:

Morning wake-up and getting ready for school 6:30-7:30 am
Everyone wakes up around 6:30 am sometimes even before the alarm but we often have to wake up Alex who is not a morning person. The first ting we do is eat breakfast, then everyone brushes their teeth and gets dressed. My husband leaves home for school with Alex and Matisse at 7:30am and drops them off at 8:00 am. He has always done the drop off (even when I worked) and I a thankful for that!
Theo's playtime 7:30-9:00 am
Theo generally gets hungry for milk as soon as the big boys are out of the house so we nurse for a few minutes. This is the time I play and interact with Theo the most, we do some of the work on his shelf then usually we head outside for some free time and exploration of the backyard. Sometimes we take a job outside too. At this time he is very much into gross motor so he loves going up and down the stairs and walking with the help of his tricycle. He does not need my help so I enjoy observing him, reading a book and drinking my morning cup of tea.
Theo's naptime 9:00-10:30 am
Theo still takes 2 naps a day so this is the time for me to do some cleaning, work and prepare new activities.
Wake up and Matisse school pick up 10:30-11:45 am
We like to cuddle for a little bit when he wakes up and read a couple books. Then he has an early lunch and he feeds himself some solids. Then we leave home to pick up Matisse at school.
Afternoon outing with Matisse and Theo 11:45-1:30 pm
Once I pick up Matisse I ask him where he wants to go. The weather has been amazing lately so we have been going mostly to the park. He likes to pick the same park, the one next to the school. I bring everyone a lunch and we have a little picnic then a lot of play. Once the weather cools down and rainy season is here, we will likely be going to the library, the aquarium or the children's museum.

Drive back home and free play 1:30-3:15 pm
At 1:30pm Theo starts getting tired again so we head back home. He sleeps in the car and usually wakes up when we get home. Once at home we usually play in the backyard which is more exploring for Theo and messy play for Matisse. Also Matisse enjoys play-dough, sensory play and painting at that time.
Alex gets home 3:15-5:30 pm
When Alex joins us at home everyone gets snack. Then Alex usually likes to relax and read or play with his Legos. Matisse and Theo resume their play and eventually Alex joins them outside. Once in a while I invite them to help me prepare dinner. Sometimes they will join me and sometimes not.

Family dinner  5:30-6:30 pm
At 5:30 pm we have our dinner, we eat all together at the dining table with Theo in his high chair as it is important to us to have a family dinner. We also read our questions from the after-school questions jar. At the end of the dinner Theo generally gets a bath and we dress him up in PJs. While he gets his bath the big boys help at the table, they really enjoy cleaning their space with a spray bottle and a wipe and also cleaning Theo's high chair. They also vacuum the floor with a hand held vacuum.
Evening walk 6:30-7:00 pm
Once the dining table is clean and Theo is in his PJs we head out for our walk. Theo rides in his stroller and Alex and Matisse sometimes walk, or bike, or take a scooter. And lately Alex has been taking his brand new telescope to look at the view outside. This is a great time for us to relax, breathe some fresh air, have fun all together and reconnect.

Bedtime 7:00-8:00 pm
As soon as we get home. Theo goes to bed. I still nurse him to sleep so my husband takes care of the boys' bath, teeth brushing and getting into PJs. They also each get to pick a book to read with their dad. When I come out they each get to pick a book to read with me, then Matisse heads to bed. Alex stays up a little longer and generally likes to read or draw and goes to bed at 8:00 pm.

Mom and Dad time 8:00-10:30 pm
Once everyone is in bed we finish any clean up we have to do and chat about our day, then I sometimes do some art while my husband works or we watch a TV show. But this is our quiet time!

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

After School Question Jars - Free Printable

My boys have been back to school for about a month now and I don't know if it's the same in your house but if I ask how school was or what they did at school I often hear "fine" or even ...silence... So after trying this for a while and being mostly ignored we decided to change it up a bit and asked for advice and looked up ideas.

The best advice I received was from the boys' teacher last year. She said to first tell them about our day and by doing this it would model how we want them to behave. So now when we pick up the boys we feed them a snack (I have some hangry boys) and love on them, cuddle them, just randomly chat in the car and let them unwind. And, we do not ask anything about school until dinner. Once it is dinner time I'll ask my husband what he did today then he asks me what I did today. Then sometimes the boys will tell us on their own, sometimes they won't so we prompt with a few specific questions on their day about things we know they are working on, their friends... we never ask open-ended questions because it usually backfires (you get a yes or a no and it ends the conversation).
To make this process more fun I wrote down a list of the questions we ask, plus some more we should ask, both in French and English, printed the strips and put them in jars. This way every night the boys can pick one strip randomly and it is their question for the evening! It makes it a fun game now and we are hoping it will make it more fun for them to tell us about their day!

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Sunday, September 8, 2019

Learning about Insects


We lived in a very rural area over the summer and started studying insects after Matisse, my husband and I all got stung by wasps. Alex, who was not stung, became very scared and refused to go outside. Since we spent a lot of time outside and the fear of the unknown can be worse than reality, I figured we should learn more about insects!


Learning activities about insects - hands on learning for preschoolers
Insects Collection 
We started by collecting dead bugs from around the house and yard and we placed them in hand sanitizer in little plastic containers. These were a huge hit! After a while the boys started to bring me all the dead bugs they found. We had wasps, fireflies, beetles, ladybugs... it was really interesting. Some of them kept well for the entire summer but some did not last very long unluckily. It really helped my oldest get more confortable with bugs. 
Learning activities about insects - hands on learning for preschoolers
Insects Shelf
Then I made an insects shelf with:
▪︎ books (see below for more information on the books used)
▪︎ French insects 3-part matching cards
▪︎ insects TOOBS 
▪︎ a Melissa & Doug insects puzzle; we realy like this one because it is very realistic and showcases a lot of different insects.

We all worked on the puzzles together and spoke about the all insects. We did a lot of matching with the cards and the TOOBS.

Learning activities about insects - hands on learning for preschoolers
Insect Books
We read a lot of insect books, and here are our favorites:
▪︎ Little Kids Big Book of Bugs by Catherine D. Hughes - As all books from the National Geographic Collection, it is great!
▪︎ The Very Quiet Cricket by Eric Carle
▪︎ Insect Emporium by Susie Brooks
▪︎ The Beetle Book by Steve Jenkins - If you want to know everything about beetles, this is the right book
▪︎ Les maisons des insectes by Sabine Krawczyk | English: Insects Torchlight - It is part of the first discosveries collection which we love. You can use the torchlight to see inside different bugs homes, lots to learn
▪︎ The Buggliest Bug by Carol Diggory Shields - This is a fun little fictional read with a lot to learn about insects and arachnids
▪︎ "Les Insectes de mon Jardin" by YOUPI! La petite encyclopedie des grands curieux (French only)


We really enjoy adding art, small world and sensory activities to our learning. I have found it is a great way for my boys to replay and recreate what they have been learning and also it often raises new questions and expands learning.
Learning activities about insects - hands on learning for preschoolers
Homemade insect rubbing plates
I made these with hot glue and cardboard. What is great about these is that you can make any rubbing plates you like this way! We used rock crayons with it (turned flat) but you can use any crayons.
Learning activities about insects - hands on learning for preschoolers
Taste-safe and nature insects sensory bins
I wanted to make a sensory/small world for the 2 big boys but I also wanted Theo to be able to participate, however he mouths everything so I made 2 trays:
▪︎ one with nature items: lots of branches to hide the insects, leaves, moss, rocks...
▪︎ one with only edible items: edible dirt (cornmeal, flour, water and ground coffee), edible water beads (soaked basil seeds with blue food coloring) and non-edible (too large to swallow) rocks.
▪︎ then I added our Insects Safari TOOBs to the trays.

They all went right for the basil seeds and Matisse may even have eaten handfuls of them (they are tasty! I tried!). Theo played for a little and was over it pretty fast. The big boys really enjoyed it though and enjoyed building insect houses.
Learning activities about insects - hands on learning for preschoolers
Nature insects on cardboard
We went to collect some nature treasures and glued them to cardboard. We talked about the number of legs, antennas and wings, as well as the general anatomy of insects. We looked at the insects TOOB as a model.
Insects Mini World
This one was a fun project I made for the boys! I made a mini world in an Altoid box using felt, rocks, sticks, beads, Good Luck Mini TOOBs and a lot of glue! They really enjoyed it and it fared pretty well, however the animals disappeared pretty fast!


After a while Alex started picking our ant books to read and started drawing ants everywhere! He even drew a full ant nest with corridors and the different rooms for the queen, the eggs, the larvae and the room where the aphids are milked. He also added arrows for them to know where to go (don't you love kids imagination?)!
To keep this interest going I pulled out all the ant books I had, added the TOOBs life cycle and printed the French lifecycle cards from Maman Happycultrice (Milestory) which are stunning!
After a while Alex went back to drawing and the ants went in an adventure, on a boat, in space on a rocket.
Learning activities about insects - hands on learning for preschoolers
Here are the ant books Alex loved:
▪︎ Déluge chez les Fourmis by ElmoDie (French only)
▪︎ Ohé, petite fourmi by Phillip M. Hoose | English: Hey, Little Ant - It discusses the value of all life forms, including a little ant
▪︎ Les maisons des insectes by Sabine Krawczyk | English: Insects Torchlight 
▪︎ Les fourmis by Valerie Videau (French only)
▪︎ Those amazing ants by Patricia Brennan Demouth - Very detailed book about ants with a lot of information, even the adults learned a lot
▪︎ Mina La Foumi by Anne-Marie Chapouton - We love this story of a little ant not like all the other (she is missing a leg), looking and finding her place in her anthill. Plus the boys call their aunt "Mina" since "Marina" was hard to say, which makes the story even more special!
Learning activities about insects - hands on learning for preschoolers
Playdough ants
Still following this strong interest, I gave the boys some homemade black playdough (make sure you use gel black food coloring, it gives the best black results and even though it is a quite greenish) and googly eyes and let them run around the yard for sticks! I asked them if they could make ants and here is what they made!

It was easy and fun, and everything is better with googly eyes anyways! Alex made quite a few and Matisse made the "queen". It is so much fun seeing their play evolve with what they have learned!

For more on insects, check out my post on Bees.

Learning activities about insects - hands on learning for preschoolers

Our Favorite Art Activities

When we are home we have a few to go art activities that we enjoy doing. But first, we always have an art cart with art supplies availabl...