Oh Where Are the Trays?


I have gotten several emails lately from readers looking for the trays I have and recommend on my Tot Trays page.  I searched and searched Oriental Trading and sadly could not find them. These trays often go out of stock. Search “plastic trays” on the Oriental Trading website to see if they are in stock!

In the meantime, I thought it might be good to start a discussion to share alternatives. I know several of you {me included} are in planning mode and ordering supplies to prepare for a new year. I just got a new OT catalog and immediately began hunting and this seems to be the best alternative…

imageEasy Clean Flat Trays MK-62/110 $19.99 for 6


I also found trays at Discount School Supply.

Brawny Tough Plastic Art Trays, Item # ARTRAY $16.99/5 trays


They also have these, which are definitely smaller but may be perfect for some of you.

Colorations Mini Art Trays, Item # MTRAY $21.95/12 trays



If any of you use something different for Tot Trays, please feel free to leave a comment below with your thoughts or suggestions.  If you have a post on your blog showing them in action, that would be helpful and I invite you to link to it.

Many people have also asked where I got the bins pictured in this post.  Unfortunately those were from the $1 section at Target a few years back, so they aren’t available either!

Tot School

~Ladybug is currently 14.5 months old~

Learning Toys

Ladybug loves the Wedgits even more than Krash does!!! I am showing her bit by bit, how they fit into one another. She loves to put the white ones into the green ones!IMG_2476

We got out her stacking bowls and I showed her how to stack them in order. She had fun copying me and stacking them herself ;-).IMG_2608Then I gave her some unifex cubes to put in them and she loved that! We counted, named colors and giggled a lot!IMG_2618

I switched out her magnet set on the dishwasher to our Leapfrog sets and she loves them!!!!


She continued to play with her magnetic dress up doll, I added in the magnetic chalkboard for her to put the pieces on, she loved it!


Her beloved brothers came home this past Friday and brought K’s old Leapfrog table with them {it was at my parents’ house}. Now that she is a standing champ, she loved it!IMG_2783

We play ball a lot, this particular time she was “loving the ball” soo cute!IMG_2724

She continues to LOVE books!!! I continue to watch her when she reads ;-).IMG_2736


Life SchoolMy little standing machine!!!IMG_2704

I got some shots of her enjoying Elmo ;-)IMG_2454





Moms FavoriteRare shots with me in them ;-)



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Preschool ~ More Planning and Organizing

Organizing Preschool Units

I got my hands on this wonderful organizer for free and my brain was instantly spinning!!!! Oh the things I could do with many, MANY little compartments like this! Organizing preschool units was a need, I wanted a place to sort my RRSP and file folders and/or boxes just weren’t doing it for me. Here’s what I came up with and I am in L-O-V-E.

I hung a small sticky note on each cubby in the order we will be dong the units. I am then not only placing the printed unit from RRSP in the slot, but also extra printables we will be using, books for the week, and any craft supplies we will need!!! If you can get your hands on one of these babies, I highly recommend it!!!

Organizing Preschool Units~I did tons of searching online and I believe this seems to be the best quality for the price if you are looking to purchase something like this.

I have been a foam-cutting-fool lately. I have prepared just about all of the Crafty ABCs that we have yet to do. We are now going to do them along with the letter of the week, so I sorted them all in little baggies and now the baggies are in their proper cubby!IMG_2573

Here is a shot of our main preschool “wall” where most of preschool takes place now. I got it all cleaned up and organized for K’s return ;-)IMG_2565

We will actually be moving out of this room soon {projected date is October, we’ll see!}, so things are as organized as they can be while we wait and prepare for the big move {which I will share in detail when the new school room is complete}! If I were to turn the camera around and show you the wall on the opposite side, it would be embarrassing!

Another new feature I have added is a baggie system to our calendar routine. You can see our calendar board here, and all we do during this time. {the board itself actually hangs on hooks in front of the RRSP board, I just took it down for the photo above} I put each small calendar time supply in it’s own little baggie and clipped them together and hung them on a hook. I am hoping this will help me stay neater ;-) and not forget certain things that don’t fit on the board. The one thing I added to our morning routine is these awesome ABC movement cards. I plan to have each boy choose one card a day for us to do! They are larger cards but I scaled them down to print and the all fit in a tiny baggie now.IMG_2558

I also added a hook for K’s RRSP review materials, so they can be easily accessed.IMG_2559

~ The white shelf you see above the board is the same one that is on the floor in Ladybug’s room in this post. It is from the picture frame department at Ikea, here it is online. It is awesome, I plan to get more!

More Preschool Links…

How do I Teach My Child to Read?

How Do I Teach My Child To Read

This is a question I get a lot, via email and in comments ~ “How do I teach my child to read?”  Although I have only taught one child to read from birth ;-) and am working on my 2nd and 3rd, I did teach many children to read while teaching Kindergarten for 5 years! Teaching reading is one of my favorite things in life-I just love when a young child finally makes the connection and gets excited about the new world opened up before them in BOOKS!

My answers may not jive with you, and especially those of you who have different views based on your own successes and failures with teaching reading. I’d love to open up the comments below so we can all share together. There are no RIGHT or WRONG ways to teach reading-every child is different and every teacher/parent is different. There are many ideas and we can all glean wisdom from one another. I am even open to learning still-although I am college educated in this subject! Learning as a teacher is never ending!IMG_3670 copy

So, how did I teach public school children and my own son to read {and how am I currently teaching Krash}?

I use a mixture of a Whole Language approach, along with phonics . For those of you unfamiliar with the different approaches, here is Wikipedia on the topic of Whole Language. Here is a basic definition,

A whole-language approach represents a philosophy about reading rather than any one instructional method. According to this philosophy, language is a natural phenomenon and literacy is promoted through natural, purposeful language function. It has as its foundation current knowledge about language development as a constructive, meaning-oriented process in which language is viewed as an authentic, natural, real-world experience, and language learning is perceived as taking place through functional reading and writing situations.” (p. 458) (Lapp, D. & Flood, J. (1992). Teaching reading to every child. (3rd ed.). New York: Macmilliam Publishing Company.)

Here are a few more links if you want some in depth info about the subject and the different methods…

I taught Kindergarten for 3 years with a Whole Language approach and for 1 1/2 years with a Phonics approach {the school I was teaching with switched to Open Court} so I have seen all types of kids use both methods. Since I was college educated during the Whole Language movement, I was actually taught to an extreme. I remember being at the NAEYC conference and sitting in a workshop about how horrible Letter of the Week programs were! Anything that pulled letters, sounds, etc. out of natural context was BAD BAD BAD! I didn’t completely buy into that theory and then a few years later when a phonics method was forced upon me, I naturally learned to balance the two.

When it came time to teach Pac Man to read, I knew I had actually already started to teach him. When literacy is integrated into a child’s life from birth, reading is a natural progression. Pac Man was not an eager reader, and did not read early, but he is a wonderful reader now. I believe strong comprehension makes a wonderful reader! This is where I feel a Whole Language approach greatly benefits children. Pac Man has good phonics knowledge and continues to learn more and more, but most importantly he has great comprehension.


What exactly do we do?

We READ!!!!! Seriously, that is the very best thing you can do to teach your child to read. Teach Mama has a wonderful reading section on her blog. Another great blog to read is This Reading Mama, who also shares a very similar philosophy.

Here are a few basic pointers to get you started…

  • Read to your child multiple times daily {I know this seems like a DUH point, but seriously, don’t slack on this}. Read with enthusiasm, talk about the text {increase comprehension}, ask questions, discuss the pictures, point out letters and words, and enjoy the read aloud time together!
  • Integrate reading and literacy activities into normal life as much as possible, in a fun way! One simple idea is to begin doing a Morning Message with your child{ren}. This is something I did as a Kindergarten teacher, and then adapted for P when he was younger. I need to start this back up now that K is in this stage!
  • Have some easy readers available for your child who is interested in learning to read. If you are short on cash, print off your own or even make your own. I include a free printable easy reader with each Raising Rock Stars Preschool unit! Even if you don’t use the entire program, you can print just the mini books! There are also many online for free, here’s a few on Hubbards Cupboard. If you are interested in purchasing some easy readers, here is our Amazon bookstore with our favorites {you’ll notice some are phonics based, some aren’t}.
  • Work on sight words! Learning sight words is a big part of learning to read and really helps a child with confidence! The You Can Read program I developed is focused completely on teaching sight words in a fun way to young children.image
  • Integrate phonics into your teaching, but not in an unnatural and forceful way…try to make it fun! Work with word families {cat, mat, rat, pat, etc.}, teach phonetic sounds, watch Leapfrog Letter Factory, Talking Words Factory, and Code Word Caper. Bob Books are a great tool for working on letter sounds while learning to read! Here’s a post I did about teaching short vowel sounds. Word Families are another way to emphasize phonics.
  • Starfall.com  Starfall is an amazing and free website that we used TONS with Pac Man and now use with Krash and even Ladybug a little bit!


All children are different and some will benefit from a strong Whole Language approach with minimal phonics instruction. Another child will be totally lost without direct phonics instruction. I think an approach that attempts to merge the two is a great place to start and then you can adjust as you see fit. Also-almost all kids will catch up with each other by 2nd or 3rd grade. Just because your friend’s 3 year old can read and yours can’t- don’t stress!!! Krash is WAY more interested in reading than Pac Man ever was. However even at age 4 I am not pushing Krash. He will learn at his own pace and I am in no big rush to push him. Pac Man caught on slowly but once he caught on he went wild ~ quickly! He now has the most amazing comprehension skills, vocabulary, and reading ability!

As for an actual program for homeschool, I began reviewing All About Reading in 2011 and love it.


You can see more about why we chose to review this program here in our Current Curriculum post, look under FAQ. Ladybug is using All About Reading Pre Level 1, and Krash is using All About Reading Level 1.  If you feel the need to have a complete program to assist you I highly recommend All About Reading.  You can see all of my posts including All About Reading here.

Technology is another great tool when it comes to learning to read!  We personally own an iPad and use it a LOT for schooling.  You can see many great literacy apps for children here in my educational iPad apps post, and also here in iPad Apps part 2!

If you have more questions that I did not answer, feel free to leave a comment. Also-if you have input-please jump in, I am certainly not the only one who knows something about teaching kids to read!!! I highly recommend seeking out other moms online who are also educated in this area {educated either by college or experience}.

A few more reading related posts:

Happy Teaching!!!

This post was originally written in June 2010, it has since been updated in 2012, and again in 2014

Tot School ~ Only Child

~Ladybug is currently 14 months old~

I have been living the only child life around here with the boys gone, so Tot School has been going on TONS!  I have spent so much time just soaking in every ounce of my sweet baby girl.  It’s a wonder I have gotten any work or planning done, she just mesmerizes me with her cuteness.

I gave her spools in an empty pitcher and a paper towel tube.  She played for a long time by herself and then I showed her how to put the spool into the tube, she immediately caught on and loved trying it herself!  She was quite challenged but could do it!IMG_2078

Bubble wrap and balls…so simple yet so much fun!


Then I added in a laundry basket for her to dump the balls in and roll them around.  She was hilarious trying to reach in to get them out!!!IMG_2208


She is in LOVE with my little magnets.  I don’t even remember when or where I got these.  She puts them on, takes them off, stacks them, and adores them!IMG_2139


She is a piggy bank master now!  This is one of her favorite toys and has been for awhile.  I highly recommend this toy for babies {Krash loved it too and still does}. IMG_2129


My mom got her the Melissa and Doug magnetic dress-up doll at a consignment sale recently.  I knew she was too young for it but wanted to show her how the magnets work, I am glad I did—she loved it!  The girl had some funky outfits when Ladybug was done with her!IMG_2214


A metal bowl, wooden spoon, and some play food goes a L-O-N-G way with a tot!  I taught Ladybug how to stir and she was so cute trying to actually stir them herself!IMG_2284


I gave her this watering can we have that has a small hole on the top.  She had LOADS of fun putting things into it.  I found lots of things that just barely fit so she would ahve to work at it!IMG_2258


This is one of her favorite toys. It was also the first toy she learned to “work” many months ago.  She still giggles at it and will push the button over and over again to make them go around.IMG_2110


This girl adores books!  She reads by herself all the time.  This is in her bedroom…IMG_2103 Her new favorite place to sit-the couch.  She loves for me to put her up there to sit and read! IMG_2083


Life School

She is learning to eat with a spoon and doing really well!IMG_2408

She is a standing machine now, not much movement, but lots of pulling up…finally!IMG_2383

On another note-she saw Elmo this week and I do believe we have a fan.  Neither of the boys cared much for Elmo, but I think Lbug might be different.  She was so funny watching it!!!!


Moms Favorite IMG_2269


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