Tot School: Pencil Week

by Melanie on July 30, 2013

21 Months Old

what else pencil

That’s the “Ooh, a pencil!” face.

We did a lot of reviewing school supplies these last couple of weeks. I loved this theme because it was easy coming up with ideas for trays and activities. After all, the house is already full of school supplies! Some of the themes are quite challenging for me to plan, but there was no need to buy any new learning materials for this one.

And of course, being simple for me did not mean any less of an experience for Rocket. We had just as much fun as we do with any theme! Toddlers find the joy in everything. I think most of us grown-ups could learn a lesson or two from them!

Letter: Pp

Object: Pencil

Vocabulary Development Theme: School Supplies

Shape: Heart

What’s on the tot trays?


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Left to right, top to bottom: 1. Eraser Scoop Transfer, 2. Rice Pour, 3. Dry Erase Board, 4. Letter Pp Printables, 5. Crayons & Paste Sorting, & 6. Counting Bears Transfer

The tray activities and the skills they’re aimed at exposing are:

  1. Eraser Scoop Transfer (spooning/transferring)
  2. Rice Pour (pouring)
  3. Dry Erase Board (using writing utensils)
  4. Letter Pp Printables (Pp recognition/vocabulary exposure/using writing utensils)
  5. Crayons & Paste Sorting (color recognition/sorting)
  6. Counting Bears Transfer (transferring)

I’ll start with the counting bears transfer because it’s been his latest interest and is fresh on my mind!

At first, he did give an attempt to use the tongs that came on the tray to transfer the bears from the bowl to the box.

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But after the tongs started frustrating him, he tossed them aside and resorted to transferring with his hands! That was fine with me.

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Then he figured out that it was even faster to pour the entire bowl straight into the box. This one is a problem solver!

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He loved this tray so much that he worked on it constantly over the two weeks that we had it out. Eventually, he added coins from his piggy bank.

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Filling up the bowl with handfuls of coins and bears.

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Filling up the cup with coins and bears from the bowl.


He enjoyed pouring back and forth between the cup and the bowl. I was quite impressed at how stable those tiny hands have become!

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A box full of treasures.

He also did some good work on the dry-erase board. We brought it out to the living room on more than one occasion.

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He uncaps the markers himself and shoos me away if I try to help.

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Coloring. He seems to really like the color orange!

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Erasing his markings.

He got more writing utensil practice in with the letter Pp printables from 1+1+1=1.

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Left-handed coloring.

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Right-handed coloring.

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Dot painting.

For the eraser scoop transfer, I brought out our collection of fruit and vegetable erasers, grouped them together in a cup with a measuring spoon, and set an egg carton on the side. He abandoned the scoop entirely (which was surprising to me, as he has shown interest in this type of spooning before) and used his hands to transfer the erasers instead.

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He also discovered, as he had with the counting bears, that the transfer goes much faster when he pours the whole cup.

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He also made me laugh when he pretended to eat the food pieces!

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I think I’ve mentioned before that the rice pour, like the water pour, is ALWAYS one of his favorite trays. He just loves the risk (and reality) of making a mess!

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In doing tot school with Rocket week after week, I’ve noticed how much his pouring has improved. I can’t believe what a big boy my baby is!

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Scooping up more rice to pour.

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This tray also included a Parmesan cheese container full of rice so he could try sprinkling it into the bowl as well.

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Oops!! Ha! The Parmesan cheese container wasn’t as easy for him to aim as the measuring cup. No problem! He is allowed to make messes, as long as he isn’t doing it on purpose. I vacuumed every day this tray was used.

For the crayons & paste sorting, I placed a mixed bowl of paste tubes and crayons on a tray with two empty cups on the side. I demonstrated for him how to sort the items into the two cups until he got the hang of it and did it himself.

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Our dog is never far during tot school! Here she is making Rocket giggle by sniffing at the crayons.

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Just a few more items to sort.


What’s in the sensory tub?


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  • Shredded paper
  • Markers, pens, pencils, and crayons
  • Erasers
  • Paste
  • Scissors
  • Notebook
  • Calculator
  • Stickers

The only tool I included for exploring this tub was:

  • A jumbo writing pad (on which the tools can be used).

He really dug this sensory tub! He had so much fun exploring the different objects in the bowl.

sensory tub

Testing out the purple marker.

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I did some guided cutting with him right after he pulled these scissors from the tub. He still isn’t able to cut on his own quite yet and needs supervision, but he loves working with the scissors. Hence that big smile on his face!

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I made an exception and let him do something he NEVER gets to do with the sensory tub filler material… MAKE A MESS!

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When he found the stickers, he immediately decided he deserved one.

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So he peeled a gold star and placed it neatly on his hand! After that, he gave me one too.

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He also enjoyed writing in his new notebook.

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He tried to write on the pad after covering it with shredded paper.

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Then he made it rain!

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Seeing the joy in his face, I knew I made the right decision to get messy with this tub!

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With a confettied head, he took notice to the light-up pen he’d missed from the sensory tub. What fun we had with this one!


What other toys were in the schoolroom?


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Still covered in confetti, Rocket moved on from the sensory tub to some of the other things that were out in the schoolroom.

He found a  big letter P from our oversized alphabet floor puzzle (similar to this one) and he decided it belonged on his wrist. Adorned with shredded paper and a P bracelet, he refocused his attention to the jumbo calculator we use to review numbers. He can count to 4!

other toys

The calculator became a floating toy, making its way to the living room and the bedroom at various times over the last couple of weeks.

He also played with the Melissa and Doug See Inside ABC Puzzle, which is great for letter recognition and identifying objects.

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The Reading List


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We had a handful of books to go with our school supplies theme and a couple of them turned into favorites. Below, I’ve included Amazon links to the two books on our reading list that I would love to own for Rocket one day. Esto No Es is a Spanish book that inspires imagination and The Bus For Us became THE big hit in our library collection for this theme! Rocket quotes it even when we’re not reading it and he loves to “read” it himself as we go through the pages. It’s one of those books with lots of repetition, so it’s easy for him to predict what it’s going to say next!

  1. Book! by Kristine O’Connell George and Maggie Smith
  2. Esto No Es by Alejandro Magallenes
  3. The Bus For Us by Suzanne Bloom
  4. Homework by Arthur Yorinks and Richard Egielski
  5. Some Dogs Do by Jez Alborough

reading list

Children have a remarkable capacity for understanding language. Get them started young on foreign languages! 

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Turning the page by himself as I read to him.

After discovering a library in my city with an arsenal of Vietnamese board books, I’ve begun incorporating a new reading basket in our house just for Vietnamese books. I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned it on the blog before, but my mom’s first language is Vietnamese and she speaks it exclusively to Rocket. These books will help to take his learning of the language to a new level and allow for some excellent bonding time between O Pho and grandson!

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The books currently in our Vietnamese basket are:

  1. What Happens Next? (Vietnamese Edition) by Cheryl Christian and Laura Dwight
  2. Opposites (Vietnamese Edition) by Kati Teague
  3. Home (Vietnamese Edition) by Milet Publishing
  4. My Face Book by Star Bright Books
  5. Smiling (Vietnamese Edition) by Gwenyth Swain and Ahmed Al-Hamd


Arts & Crafts


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This was a creative project that I let Rocket lead completely using various school supplies I had set up for him in the schoolroom one day.

When he entered, the invitation he found was this one:

arts and crafts

This lapdesk was loaded with the following materials:

  • a bowl full of writing utensils- pens, pencils, markers, crayons, etc.
  • a blank sheet of notebook paper as the canvas
  • a colors sheet from the 1+1+1=1 pencil theme printables (for cutting, pasting, and coloring)
  • scissors
  • paste
  • tape
  • a cup full of pom poms

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He began by coloring with crayons and markers.

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Then we worked on cutting and pasting. Here he was putting a color sheet down after slathering the back of it with paste.

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After we were done with that, he colored some more.

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We finished the masterpiece by taping on colorful pom poms!

Because Pencil Week was extended into two weeks, we also had a secondary craft.

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Rocket colored a coffee filter and then chose a pipe cleaner for me to tie it together into the shape of a butterfly. Very simple! He kept calling it a french fry for some reason. Ha, silly boy!

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Coloring the coffee filter.


What else did we do?


1. Lacing Pencils.

what else lacing

I decided to stop setting the lacing activities out on their own tray since they no longer receive a lot of attention from Rocket. I still gave him the opportunity to work on it, this time with a pipe cleaner, and it held his attention for just a little bit before he moved on.

2. Vocabulary Magnet Play.

what else magnets

The school supply magnets were so much fun to work with over the past couple of weeks. Rocket knew many of the words going into this theme and he was eager to name them for me! In fact, he went above and beyond and named things I barely even noticed when I prepared the magnets.

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You see that tiny thing he’s pointing at on the desk there? That’s an apple! How observant of him.

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Signing “apple” in reference to the apple sitting on the desk.

3. Heart Shape Play.

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I didn’t have a heart-shaped box for our focus on hearts this week, so I cut out a misshapen heart from red cardboard we had around the house. It’s crooked, I know, but it worked!

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Rocket studying the shapes from the pencil printable.

We didn’t spend a lot of time on hearts. Rocket already knows what the shape is and quite frankly, just wasn’t that interested.

4. Tie-Dye Time!

Alright, this was one of my favorite activities we did. The library held a tie-dying event, so we packed up some white shirts and cloth diapers and headed straight to it.

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Rocket helped by handing me big rubber bands so that I could tie our cloths together to prepare for the dying. 

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Buckets of different colors were set up outside like this. Rocket dyed his own cloth diaper! I helped him every step of the way, so I have this photo of others doing it instead to give you an idea.

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I love how the final products turned out, but this is the last picture I took. I’m sure you’ll see him wearing his tie-dyed cloth diaper in future posts! It’s his favorite diaper (and mine, too).

5. Pencils In The Holes.

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One day, Rocket walked into the schoolroom to find the above invitation.

I showed him how to push the pencils into the holes on the bucket and he completed the task without a single break in concentration!

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When he was all done, he decided on his own to turn the bucket around and do it again, this time with the bucket right side up.

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6. Writing On Loose Leaf.

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It doesn’t get more simple than this, but we actually spent a lot of time just writing on regular loose leaf paper for Pencil Week. We used pens, markers, crayons, and pencils, and Rocket felt like such a big boy scribbling away like Mom and Dad do!



Our song of the week was this School Song from YouTube:

And even though I call that one the song of the week, we also heard lots of other school supply themed songs on our Signing Time video mentioned in the Videos & Technology section below.

Rocket is such a music nut that I’ve been meaning to write a separate post all about musical instruments for tots. He LOVES the drums lately. Until I get around to writing that post, check out how happy he was filling our house with beats this week!

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Videos & Technology


Signing Time Volume 13: Welcome To School was the perfect video for our theme on school supplies. Rocket knew most of the spoken vocabulary words going into it, but we sure did learn lots of new signs together!


Mom’s Favorite Moments


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Pretending to go “nite-nite” on the kitchen floor!

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Taking risks… “look Mom, no hands!”

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His first taste of ice cream.

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Relaxing after a hard day of drumming.

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He sure takes up a lot of space on a king size bed!

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Then other times, he takes up very little space.

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Going over and under the bike rack with his friend.

mom's faves

He got himself into this pickle by monkeying around. I was in the kitchen cooking when I heard “Mommy, help!” Haha!

These photos don’t even include all the wonderful times we had at our family reunion last weekend. Rocket had so much fun on the farm, riding tractors and picking blackerries. I’ll have to save those for another day!

Be sure to check out these link-ups for more great ideas to do with your little ones:


See Vanessa Craft

Rainy Day Mum

Mom To 2 Posh Lil Divas (link-up will resume in August)

No Time For Flash Cards

Living Montessori Now

The Jenny Evolution


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