Tot School: Key Week

by Melanie on May 31, 2013

19 Months Old

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I knew this would be a fun week for Rocket because it was centered around things he loves to notice around the house. Vacuum cleaners, scissors, lamps, telephones, laptops, brooms, household items. We also focused on the “anatomy of our house”- the roof, the walls, the doors, the windows, the rooms inside, etc.

We didn’t need a whole lot of extra activities to talk about our vocabulary words. Most of our tot school plans this week were the routine household chores that I always do anyway. I learned a thing or two from my 19 month old too… such as finding the fun in glass cleaning and vacuuming! Apparently, these things are fantastic.

Letter: Kk

Object: Keys                                                  

Vocabulary Development Theme: Household Items

Color: Purple

Other Focal Area: House (parts of a house & rooms inside a house)

What’s on the tot trays?



Left to right, top to bottom: 1. Letter Kk Printables, 2. Sweeping Porcupine Balls, 3. Lacing Keys, 4. Using Paperclips, 5. Using Scissors, & 6. Marble Transfer

The tray activities and the skills they are designed to expose are:

  1. Letter Kk Printables (Kk recognition/vocabulary exposure/using writing utensils)
  2. Sweeping Porcupine Balls (life skills)
  3. Lacing Keys (stringing)
  4. Using Paperclips (life skills/number recognition/fine motor skills)
  5. Using Scissors (life skills)
  6. Marble Transfer (transferring/sorting)

He is always thrilled when the miniature broom and dustpan come out. He sweeps everything in sight. Sometimes even my feet get swept!

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tray sweep

He worked on his printables plenty, coloring the keys on the pages mostly with markers. The lacing key, on the other hand, received no attention from him this week.

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He concentrated hard on learning how to use the jumbo paperclips. I cut up card stock paper and wrote numbers on them just so that there would be something secondary we had the option of reviewing while he worked on his fine motor skills.

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Cool, a turtle!

His definite favorite tray was the marble transfer. This was no surprise to me! He has always been a big fan of marbles. I included a measuring spoon for scooping the marbles and a new container on this tray- one of those weekly pill boxes. It’s a great container for tot trays, as his tiny fingers can easily open and close it… and they did often!

Note: If you use pill boxes for medicine in your home or your child is sometimes in the care of anyone who does, it’s probably a terrible idea to replicate this tray. It might accidentally teach young children that it’s okay to get into your pills. This could be dangerous. I am Rocket’s sole caregiver and even though we don’t use pill boxes, I still go out of my way to tell him never to open this container unless it’s in the schoolroom, just in case he ever sees one anywhere else. Use your own discretion!

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He loved to scoop the marbles with the measuring spoon and transfer them to the pill box.

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Some of the big buttons from his sensory tub wound up in the pill box too, but he got frustrated when he learned that it couldn’t close with them inside!

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We worked with the scissors too. Like last week, this activity involved a sit-in-mom’s-lap, hands-over-mom’s-hands type of supervision. He enjoys learning how to cut, but after a while gets flustered that he can’t do it on his own yet. When he starts to get upset, I redirect his attention to a different tray that can be worked independently by him instead.


What’s in the sensory tub?


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  • Colorful pom-poms
  • Colorful buttons
  • Items from around the house (giant sunglasses, calculator, fan, spinning top, etc.)

The tools that went with this tub were:

  • A bowl
  • A measuring cup

The first thing he chose from the sensory tub was the spinning top.

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Every time I got the top spinning, he preceded to try to stop it by crashing into it with big buttons.

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This amused him greatly!

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Got it!

He also checked out the other items in the sensory tub, but wasn’t interested in using the bowl or measuring cup. That’s perfectly okay! There’s nothing wrong with some raw hands-on exploration.

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Sweet, giant glasses!


What other toys were in the schoolroom?


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KEYS!! He has two sets: a wooden teething set and a real set.

When I was young, my mom saved all her old keys that no longer fit anywhere to give us as a toy. The other day as I was organizing our junk drawer, I stole her idea and made Rocket his very own set of keys. He’s always playing with our keys, so having his own set really helps keep him happy without me worrying that he’s going to lose it. When we go out, I grab my keys and he takes his along too!

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His aunt just passed down this four wheeler to him and he has been revving it! There’s a button with a picture of a key on it that makes an ignition sound. In this picture, he is pressing the button down with real keys.

O Pho, his grandma, got him a toy vacuum cleaner without even knowing it was household items week! He knows the sign for vacuum, often imitates the noises when I’m vacuuming, and is infatuated in every way by the process. Needless to say, he’s been all over the house with this vacuum cleaner. Unfortunately for me, it doesn’t really clean the carpets.

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Pushing the button to make vacuum sounds with his foot.

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Leaving the schoolroom to vacuum the rest of the house.

I also set out a magnetic sketchpad and he has been doodling away on it almost every day.

other toys write

He made a special request to play with blocks, so I brought them out of storage too.

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The Reading List


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We had few home-related books on the bookshelf, but the ones we had were great ones. Three were by favorite authors: Byron Barton and Tana Hoban.

Our schoolroom books were:

  1. My First Busy Home by Charlie Gardner
  2. Don’t Throw That Away! by Lara Bergen
  3. So Many Circles, So Many Squares by Tana Hoban
  4. Cubes, Cones, Cylinders, & Spheres by Tana Hoban
  5. Building A House by Byron Barton

His favorite book outside the schoolroom is Oh, Baby! by Hallmark Books. This one was a gift we received when he was still in utero. He adores all the sweet baby faces in it!

Oh, Baby

When we ask him to choose a book, he goes straight for this one and says, “Oh-baby-oh-baby-oh-baby.” Ha!


Arts & Crafts



I made some sidewalk paint with a basic recipe of 50-50 water and cornstarch, adding a splash of food coloring. Rocket helped with the mixing.

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There were some paintbrushes to the side, but he wanted to do the painting with the spoon we used to mix it all together. He was keeping it mostly on the paper and in the bowl, so I let him!

When it comes to arts and crafts, I think it’s important to give young children as much freedom as possible. The purpose of making art for our walls is not to follow a protocol (although there are some boundaries, of course), but to hone creativity within them.

To tie in our theme, I placed some keys on the pad so that their shape would come through under the paint. Although this isn’t pictured, we also later used the keys as stamps to add a more vibrant paint to the artwork.

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Rocket decided to bury the keys in the paint bowls and push them around with the spoon. When they were good and soaked, he dug them out and stamped the art pad.

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I accidentally ripped his very wet final piece in half. Ah, well! It’s about the process, not the product.

I cut out a smaller segment of what was salvageable and backed it on construction paper. I cut the shape of a key out on the top border to spruce it up and added it to the wall.


What else did we do?


1) Vacuuming The House.

As I vacuumed this week, Rocket was right behind me getting the spots I missed with his vacuum cleaner. Now these are the toys I like… the ones that teach children to do their chores!

other toys vacuum

2) Transferring Water With A Sponge.

This was simple, yet extremely engaging.

Two bowls, a sponge, and water equals lots of fun for toddlers!

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Feeling the water on his hand.

We will definitely be doing this one again. He was so into it, he didn’t want to stop.

I had planned on doing it outside because I knew it might get messy, but it was raining at the time. I highly recommend using a plastic mess mat of some kind with this activity. We don’t have one yet, but it’s at the very top of our schoolroom wish list!

3) Tot Notebook.

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I’ve seen “tot notebooks” on many blogs, including 1+1+1=1. Rocket loves to see what I’m doing when I write in my home organizer binder, so I decided to make a binder for him too.

I put some of our week’s printables in sheet protectors and slipped them into the binder for him. The sheet protectors are written on with dry-erase markers or crayons and can be wiped clean and reused. How awesome is that!?

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He was interested in the binder, but overall still seemed more into the regular loose printables.

4) Purple Hunt & Play.

We scavenged the house for items that are purple and brought several new things back to the schoolroom to examine.

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He took a special interest in the box of macaroni and cheese, shaking it around like an instrument. Mmm!

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And he really got absorbed practicing his fine motor skills by clipping and unclipping the measuring spoon into this chip clip.

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5) Climbing Dad’s Ladder.

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When Dad had to change a light bulb in the bedroom, Rocket wanted to climb the ladder too. Dad held on to him from the back as he checked out the top of the ladder. Boy, was he excited to be up there doing big boy stuff!

6) Painting The Window.

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Rocket did a no-no and started writing on the window with a washable marker. I redirected him to something we have called window paint. He was delighted that there was something we were allowed to use to write on the windows!

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7) Cleaning The Window.

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After we were all done with the window paint, I sprayed the window down with our all-purpose cleaning solution and Rocket helped me wipe it clean.

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We use a 50-50 mix of distilled white vinegar and water as our all-purpose cleaner, so I’m never worried about chemicals and often involve Rocket in helping me clean. He loves it and I love giving him a very early foundation for good cleaning habits.

8) Vocabulary Magnet Play.


The magnets this week were such a big hit that they wound up all around the house. He took a particularly fond interest in the phone, which he held up to his ear and had what sounded like some serious conversations.

He preferred babbling away on this itty bitty magnet this week than his toy phone. What a silly boy!

9) “Go To The Room” Game.

We played a game in which I told Rocket to either go to the living room, the bathroom, the dining room, the bedroom, or the spongeroom. The spongeroom is what we call the schoolroom, because it’s where we go to soak up knowledge!

He had so much fun running around the house to show me that he knows his rooms. We also played this game with his gross motor skills toys like the wheelbarrow, the vacuum cleaner, and the popper (which we call his lawnmower).




This “House Song” by Peter Weatherall was our song of the week. It’s catchy!

His most requested song lately is “The Wheels On The Bus,” which he calls “Bus.” Other songs he loves to sing along to are “The Cleanup Song”, “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star,” “Old MacDonald Had A Farm,” “The Alphabet Song,” and “Row, Row, Row Your Boat.”


  Videos & Technology


We didn’t spend much time in front of a screen this week, but when we did, we were watching Signing Time Volume 4: Family, Feelings, & Fun.

To go with the theme, he also played with his VTech Baby’s Learning Laptop, which teaches common household objects.

He also played with a new electronic driving toy my mom had bought for him, complete with a steering wheel, turn signals, a gear stick, an ignition, a horn, a car phone, and various emergency vehicle sirens. He loves cars and buttons, so it goes without saying that we’ve been hearing ambulances and horns honking a lot around here!


 Mom’s Favorite Moments


This week, Rocket took on a special interest in soccer. There’s a park by our house with a soccer field and he always wants to stop and watch as the grown-ups play. When we saw a soccer ball hanging out in my parents’ backyard, he and Dad kicked it around a bit!

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We even examined the soccer goal at the park up close and personal one day when no one was there.


Rocket (and the rest of us!) also got to spend some sweet quality time with his cousin from South Carolina who was in town for a visit.

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Be sure to visit 1+1+1=1 for other inspiring activities to do with your tots ( was featured, yay!). On 1+1+1=1, you will also find the printables that we use for tot school.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Mrs. B June 8, 2013 at 2:09 am

I love the idea of using the mini broom and dust pan to sweep up porcupine balls. This is definitely going on my Tot School idea list! 🙂 Rocket is about 6 months older than my daughter, so I am getting all kinds of great ideas for the future. Thanks for sharing!


Melanie June 15, 2013 at 1:19 am

That was my husband’s suggestion. Dads are full of great ideas!! 🙂 Also, your 6 month old looks like a sweetheart & I’m glad you’re doing tot school with her!


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