Arbor Day Exploration: Musings of Autism



Arbor Day/ International Day of Forests/ Agricultural Week



As we studied the rain forest trees this week, this cute craft from the past came to mind.   I thought it would be a good time to share it here with Arbor Day coming up this month.  This month is also Autism Awareness Month.  A month that will always be observed in my life and heart.  I love being able to use my blog as a sort of journal for all the things my son and I have done together!  For me, scrolling through this post will be a tearful reminder of how much he has overcome.


(Awaiting Feeding Therapy Team appointment with Occupation Therapist, Neurologist, SLP, and Nutritionist he no longer needs.)


Plus, it is wonderful to have this time to write it all out and share with you.  We have been through so much together but I’ve never had the time to write extensively about it less note taking on his progression.



Though I’ve been writing for a few short months, I have been providing support curriculum for my son going on 4 years now.  During that time PJ was diagnosed with “severe to moderate” autism.  He was 3 years old at a developmental level of  a 3 mo. old infant.



We spent much of our days working on basic skills like learning to sit in a chair (without falling), using whole words to communicate, over coming fears (water, sun light, tastes, textures, sounds ect.), pointing at things when asked a question, and generally tolerating others.

 He and I attended many different types of therapy sessions. Our days of learning were intensive.




Through it all I have tried to keep things as fun as possible.  This he knew as going to “listen”.  He had a blast during Integrated Listening Therapy!   




 Pet therapy for “gentle touch”

image image



Reading dog therapy….
Years of Speech…


Phenomenal Speech therapy I might add…Oh how we miss Phenomemal SLP as I called her!



There was no time left to do things like run a blog with a 40 plus hour 7 day a week learning program and several therapy sessions squeezed in between.  Let’s not over look the hours of meal planning for a special diet or home programs for building tolerance.  These programs are often not spoken about but the most difficult for individuals with autism.


“Going Shopping”    A program that started at 5 minutes of tolerance per trip.  The faithful backpack was a necessity that has since faded out of the trip. So has the shopping cart!

image image


“Hair Cutting”.   A program to build tolerance so that cutting his hair didn’t “hurt” his ears and head.  Our first cut with electric clippers and a salt tray graduated to a professional haircut.

image image


“Finger Nail Clipping”.   A program to build tolerance for clipping his nails which I previously could not even do successfully in his sleep.  Now he cuts his own nails!




Now that PJ is catching up to his peers (in the case of science he is ahead) there are very few days of data trials with cards (an additional aide for memory retention), I have more time on my hands.



 4 years old labeling parts of the brain image


Don’t get me wrong.  

Though he has lost a diagnosis of autism, we still have much learning to do.  There are social skills, speech, motor skills to strengthen, and academics in general to work on Afterschool.  But these days CAN be and are now be filled with much more musing over his beautiful personality than wondering what is wrong or what hurts when he isn’t “himself” because he can’t tell me.




 Now there are more moments where he is leading me than in the past during our learning together.   The following activity was one such musing of his curious exploration that led our learning.


Things you will need 

4 pieces of contact paper


washable paint

paint brush

Bottle caps (one for each color of paint your child will         use)



Tape 4 pieces of cardstock paper together at the corners.  Turn the new whole piece of paper over and paint a trunk with sprawling branches.  I helped him do this part but you can let your child complete the task if they are ready.

Arbor Day tree craft


He used bottle caps top side down and dipped in paint to create leaves for his tree.  I remember how much he enjoyed blending the colors of the leaves on the paper.

Arbor Day tree Craft




The finished master piece still hangs on our wall. This year we plan to make one for each season.  Next is summer!
Arbor Day Tree Craft




Now for the fun part!  While the tree craft is drying go outdoors and explore.



PJ took lots samples of tree parts.  He even took samples of things that were growing around trees.

Tree exploration



We explored different types of bark and the insects that live under bark.  I explained vocabulary words, labeled parts, and introduced adjectives as he moved around from tree to tree.  We were at a huge mountain recreational park area.  Tons of variety there!

Tree exploration


He found sticky sap…





and a sapling!  

Finding the sapling that was planted inside an old cut down tree was the best.  It took his exploration on a side trail of internet searches for ways to help the environment by planting trees.  Really, it was the core of what I hoped he would learn about Arbor Day.  We still check on the growing sapling to this day.Tree exploraion




After collecting “tree” items PJ took them how to sort them by leaves, branches, bark, ect.




I left his art along with containers of tree materials out so that it would be accessible to him for a few weeks.  He talked about his tree exploration trips, labeled parts of trees, and matched parts to his craft.



Both PJ and my daughter love reading “The Giving Tree” as much as I do.  This 20 year old copy was one of the first books I bought for his sister.  It is a great book to read for learning about why we need trees and all they give us.  PJ used his craft and tree findings to retell parts of the story several times.  

Tree book and craft extension



I enjoyed watching PJ learn using all his senses for Arbor Day! We smelled the scent of pine and felt various textures.  He was very engaged and remembered lots of new vocabulary.   It was the start of  a new type of independent style of learning ..his way.


How will your child explore Arbor Day this year?    Please comment below.  I’d love to hear about your plans and experiences!


Places I share…

Christian Montessori Network

“>Learn and Play Link Up


Hip Homeschool Moms

“>Hip Homeschool Moms


Teaching Mama

“>Everything Early Childhood Link Up


Preschool and Kindergarten Community Weekly Link Up




Thank you for reading!


Crystal 🙂





Make Your Own Shamrock Bubbles



A St. Patrick’s Day Sensory Play Activity..

Never under estimate the power of a simple bubble activity!  Playing in bubbles was one of those activities I  decided to skip for St. Patricks Day.  Why?  My son loves bubbles but we had already done lots of activities with bubbles in the past.  Most of  them in prek and kindergarten….I thought we had done about all a family could do together with them.  Besides,  it’s more of a wee little kid thing right?? 


Shamrock bubbles for St. Patricks day






Oh, but part of being a grown up is learning to play like a kid.  Getting down on their level.  Where ever that maybe.  Plus, bubbles are a great way to reconnect with your child.  They cause everyone to smile, get moving, and enjoy a sweet time of unplanned togetherness.  


As a mom, it’s relaxing to watch your child explore bubbles falling to the ground, trying to catch a bubble, or discover how to make the biggest bubble.  AND trying to do that again and again and again.





It’s simple to do and make which is pretty important when thinking of an easy Afterschool activity that you will enjoy doing as much as them:). 

Hmmm.  Now were talking.  Super fun.  Everyone (all ages) laugh will laugh.  Simple and Easy to do. Check.  How to add a St. Patrick’s Day kick?


Our Simple Supply list:

  • 4 and a half green pipe cleaners
  • 1 whole cup of Palmolive Dish Detergent (it works better than Dawn) 
  • 1 and 1/2 cup of warm water
  • wide container to hold bubble solution


Pour dish detergent and water in wide container.  Make sure to measure out water and not add from tap.  Your solution will have too many little bubbles.  He did this and discovered the solution didn’t allow him to blow big bubbles.  Good observation!  We made another solution with the above measurements.  Then, he  played in the first batch of solution while I figured out how to make a wand that would withstand lots of dipping.

St.Patricks Day bubbles


Make a Shamrock Bubble Wand!:


Make 3 heart shapes using three green pipe cleaners.



I connected the three hearts by twisting together at their bottoms.  I used the whole pipe cleaner to make a stem and help tie the heart leaves together, too.  He was able to make his own with a little help towards connecting parts.  Every child is different. 

St. Patrick's Day bubble wand


There is a technique in this last part!  I twisted a half of a pipe cleaner around all the leaves and down the stem.  This reinforced the part he held while dipping.

St.Oatricks Day bubble wand


All finished and ready to blow bubbles!

St. Patrick's Day bubble wand


AND what BIG bubbles he made!  I think we were both surprised about the size bubble after bubble was.




We had so much fun doing this simple activity.  Grant it there was a little getting wet but only with soap and water.  


This post is linked up with…


Christian Montessori Network




Thank you for reading!

Crystal 🙂




3 Must Try Math Visuals

Easy Math Visuals….


3 math visuals


Today I want to share with you a few basic math helpers that we loved during Kindergarten year!  


What I love most about these visuals are how super easy and inexpensive they are!


The first of these has been around for years but had recently made a BIG come back.  There are many variations of the traced hand used for counting on fingers.  I posted our version below.  






Counting On Fingers

For our version simply trace a hand and cut out several small squares of white card stock. You will need 2 of each number up to 10 for beginners.  Using a crayon print each number then print it again on a separate square in trace it fashion.

You will need:

3 pieces of  plain cardstock


A clothes pin

1 piece of colored cardstock

A crayon 

                                SUPER EASY!!



Here, I was helping my son practice number identification, writing, and matching.

Hand tracing for number ID, tracing, and matching
Hand tracing for number ID, writing practice, and matching.


More Ideas

  • Trace and cut out 2,3,or 4 hands to count past 10!  LAMINATE and use VELCRO DOTS for tons of practice.
  • Draw a TENS FRAME on the top of the paper and have your child use a dot marker to dot the frame with corresponding number of dots.
  • put the number squares in order and ask your child to COUNT FORWARD from a given number sequence
  • Ask your child to draw TALLY MARKS for the corresponding number.  (Only placing 1 number at a time on the hand.)
  • Crayon an ADDITION, SUBTRACTION, and equal sign to add or subtract numbers to 10.  Cut and trace as many hands as needed.







DIY Counting or Number Rods

DIY Counting Rods are wonderful to have on hand!  We started using these before I learned about Montessori Math Methods (I’m still learning) and have been using them ever since!  Counting Rods can be used as soon as your child can count 2 numbers in a row or identify 2 different numbers for sequencing.


There are several ways to make counting rods but the most popular version is shown below.

You will need:

  • wooden craft beads (purchased from Walmart, Micheals, or most any craft store.)

Wooden beads: counting rods


  • pipe cleaners (Ours were 1$ for 20 at a dollar store.)   

Pipe cleaners: counting rods





Fold one pipe cleaner in half

Counting rods: DIY beads and pipe cleaners

Pinch the two ends together and add desired number of beads.  Ten beads will fit with a small to large mix of beads.  The container I purchased at Walmart above has a nice mix of sixes and textures!

DIY counting rod: beads and pipe cleaners

When finished adding beads, make a loop for holding at the top and bend the loose ends inside the last bead.

Counting Rods





More Ideas


Use the rods for simple 1:1 counting, number ID, and simple addition/subtraction..  






You can also form tens rods for skip counting.  

DIY counting rods
Don’t mind that 15 in there. He was probably holding the fives rods:)


If you are like my family and can see using rods for some time to come,  check out these other helpful Montessori Math post:


Learning Montessori Multiplication – Every Star Is Different


DIY Number Rods and Alternatives – Living Montessori Now





Counting and Tracing Numbers with Dot Stickers 

The last super easy visual is just this…

You will need

  • a dry erase marker or some other marker that writes brightly on foam
  • yard sale stickers
  • foam 5 x3 inch squares from the dollar store ( use glitter foam for a softer than sandpaper texture)

Simply draw a diving line with dry erase marker on the foam piece.  Write your number.  Your child can trace the number with their finger on one half and place dot stickers on the other half.  Very easy to make and your kids will love the glitter texture when tracing each number!

3 math visuals


More Ideas

Your child can have fun using a VARIETY of STICKERS, LEGOS, CARS, or balls of PLAYDOUGH to count with. 

Tracing can be equally fun if they like to rainbow write tracing each number again and again with separate colors.  

I hope these visuals and ideas have been helpful to your family!

This post is part of the

Learn and PlayChristian Montessori Network

“> Link Up

We are also linked up with


After School Linky


Frugal Moomas Friday Home and Garden Link Up

Frugal Mommas Friday Home and Garden Link Up


Bless you and thanks for reading!

Crystal 🙂


Books About Cavities, Toothaches, and Dental Health Month



My son lost another tooth today.  Or rather, he pulled his bloody tooth out and directly put it in my hand.  


I was grossed out momentarily before getting excited all over again about him losing another tooth. …But not excited that he pulled it.

Dental health month books for children


Pj after he lost his tooth..Very excited
Pj after he lost his tooth..Very excited

In our house, the tooth fairy is highly decorated;) 


He writes letters to him/ her, he makes crafts, and he really learns more about Dental Health each time he loses a Tooth. 


And the timing of this pulled tooth was great!!…Except that we were writing spelling words and blood got on his fingers which got on the table… which got on his spelling work…Honestly, I didn’t remember the bloody part of teeth loss until that.  None the less,  I did get pretty excited because…..


February is Dental Health Month.   Plus, I haven’t  taught him nearly enough about Cavities or Tooth Decay.   These are topics every kid absolutely needs to fully understand, right?!  They are also things WE can explore BEST by reading books.  His Favorite past time EVER!


 Books are great!!  Reading books help my son wind down (self regulate) from a busy day at school.  He is still, quiet, and I can even see his breathing slow when he reads by himself!  I make them very accessible so he can pick one up when he feels like its time to clear his head.  There are 5 children’s books on my kitchen table, 2 on the living rm floor, 1 on an end table, 1 in the bathroom, a stack more in his book nook area, and a self full in his room right now.  Let’s not forget the wonderful connection we get from reading to him at bedtime or the creation of life long memories and the instillation of educational values.   What’s not to love when he picks up a book to read?!?!

Books help regulate kids



In honor of my son and all the little book worms out there, I’m posting this book list.  This list will be about Tooth Decay and Cavities for Dental Health Month and Toothache Day.  Each month I will post a new list of books relevant to that months calender observances.  I hope his list will help your family enjoy reading as much as we do!!


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Thank you for reading!

Crystal 🙂



If You Need to Study Groundhog Day More Than Once A Year…..

Can you feel it?  

We’re feeling the need to celebrate Groundhog Day all over again:).  Groundhogs are so cute and fuzzy!  They play peak a boo, nibble food like a gerbil, and have the sweetest little babies!  But we don’t get to celebrate them again until next year!?!?  



This post was originally wrote Feb 2, 2016


That’s why my 6 yr will come home from school asking to watch them on you tube or me to read another book about them.  I already see it happening:) 



What IS Groundhog Day?

Groundhog Day is the day we watch for the groundhog to come out of his burrow.

All about Groundhog Day –

Groundhog Day Fun Facts



Why And How Do We Celebrate it?

PJ: “To celebrate the Mama haven babies” eeee ” so Cute!!”

To watch the groundhog.  If the groundhog sees his shadow and returns to his burrow, we will have 6 more weeks of winter.  If the groundhog doesn’t see his shadow, then we will have an early spring.

Groundhog coming out..shadow – You Tube

The history behind Groundhog Day – Why We Celebrate Groundhog Day



What is a groundhog?

Groundhogs are in the squirrel family – National Geographic

Groundhogs are also called Woodchucks – Tennessee Aquarium




//“>Informational Text Link





Foot And Hand Print craft – Play With Me Mommy

Cupcake liner art – I Heart Crafty Things

Hearts Groundhog – Kids Soup Blog



All About Burrows – Highlights Magazine



Exploring Shadows – Share It! With Science

Simple Groundhog Day Science – Enchanted Homeschooling


Groundhog Day Packets

3 Dinosaurs

Enchanted Homeschooling Mom



Punxsutawney Phil – You Tube


Emergent Reader

Teach With Me


This should keep us busy just in case….But I will add more if needed!

Thank you for reading!










Make A Penguin Labeling Activity



Informational Text Features: Make A Penguin Labeling Activity…..

I’ve extended our informational text feature study with maps (or should I say penguins) another week.  My little guy is intrigued with the maps we are using for locating penguins on a world map.



We’ve read a number of books with maps now.  Here is his ultimate favorite…


We’ve read it a dozen times or more.






This book has a few maps in it.  It has visuals in the GLOSSARY that include additional maps.   

The best text feature was this 4 page CHART of all 17 types of penguins from smallest to largest.  PJ  looked at the pictures of penguins for a good hour in total.



I knew we had to go over each type of penguin rather than penguins as a group of Antarctic animals.  

I started by trying out a few homemade black Playdough recipes because black is a hard color to find if not ordered on line.  

Here are a few dependable sites if you would like to try your hand at it:

My dough turned out more a brownish color but I’m not one to waste. The cans I FINALLY found at Walmart were less than 1.00 dollar a piece.  I kept my brown dough for PJ to use in a tropical penguin habitat.

What you need:

  • 5 cans of black playdough
  • 14 plastic eggs (we didn’t use eggs for the 3 smallest species of penguins just dough)
  • 2 cans of white playdough
  • Small amount of orange and yellow playdough


Using the book for reference he formed black dough completely around an egg.  The Emperor Penguin is the tallest and should have more dough than any other egg.  



He labeled body parts of  this penguin without my asking…


webbed feet and flippersimage head and bill
imageEyes and tail



He chose to use googley eyes instead of dough.



He righty put the emperor in an ocean of tissue paper and used the left over Christmas snow I had to decorate the surrounding area!  How creative!!



He made 7 species of  Penguins naming and labeling each according to the text in the book. 



It was a wonderful way to support finding information within his reading and using key text features….Not to mention stir his imagination! 

For more great hands on penguin activities visit Embark On The Journey.

Frog Snails and Puppy Dog Tails– Penguin Snow Globe

Gift of Curiosity– Penguin Printable Pack ages 2-7

Thanks for reading,


Places I Share With





30 Plus Spider Activities for Learning!…Even in Speech

30 Plus Spider Theme Activities….AND How We Used Them!!!



 Wow Wee!!  We have studied spiders in just about every way possible for a first grader to do so!

 AND my son has enjoyed learning with a spider theme so much, that I thought I would share with you all the possible ways to use spiders for a theme study.  So…if you were looking to cover spiders…



     Everyday Afterschool my son has first grade spelling words to memorize.  We practice writing his spelling words in a mock test but also do a hands on activity.  I ended up making my own Spelling Spider Web Art….


Before or I found this hands on activity from….

 A Mom With A Lesson Plan: It’s A Spider Web Spelling Word Search!!!!  


We wouldn’t get very far if we didn’t include reading in his spider theme.  He loves, loves, loves, books! And after a search for reading practice at home I found..

We have made lots of printable books together in the past.  

Even if your children aren’t ready to read chapter books they may still enjoy listening to the classic “Charlotte’s Web”.  My son is still enjoying our study in this book (2 weeks later!) with the many activities I found here:

  • One Extra Degree has a Charollet’s Web Unit Study and FREEbie!
  •  I loved using This Reading Mama’s homeschool experience about FACT or FICTION with Charollet’s Web.  We also used these books below (plus tons of others!) to label fiction from nonfiction, compare and contrast spiders with a Venn diagram, fill in a Can/Are/Have chart and an Know/Want to know/Learned chart..
****NO NEED to see disclosure. There are no affiliate links here but I’m working on it;)



     My son is covering addition and subtraction of  double digits.  We also reviewed more/ less than for mathematic language.  Gotta learn those word problem terms!

  •    You can try my activity for Addition/subtraction with spiders HERE.  It also has a more/less than activity version.
  • I included The Imagination Tree Incy Wincy SPider Counting Activity Resource Pack  in this round up because it was a good resource for Firsters in beginning levels of math.
  • Tiny Tots Adventures has a hands on craft to Practice Number Words.
  • 3 Dinosaurs Printable Packs!!  This needs a category all it’s own!
Warming up with the most adorable spider web number sequencing 11-20 Puzzle! 3 Dinosaurs
Using 3Dinosaurs packet to write facts from the nonfiction spider books we read.
Using 3Dinosaurs packet to write sentences about the fictional spider books we shared reading. 3Dinosaurs
More sentence practice about spiders and fictional books.
More sentence practice about spiders and non fiction books. 3 Dinosaurs
He really enjoyed using the addition printable!
He really enjoyed using the addition printable!
Thumbs up! He used this addition practice printable so many times that he had it he last problem memorized. Hence Thumbs Up!!:)
Thumbs up! He used this addition practice printable so many times that he had the last problem memorized. Hence, he did not have to count it out and we gave each other the thumbs up:) 3Dinosaurs (the numbers are taken from previous The Afterschool House activity and used to help with writing reversals)

  If you haven’t tried her printable packs you are missing out on some of the CUTEST graphics and best all around learning out there!!  We used her FREE Bat & Spider Pack over and over again!!  As you can see above, my son had no problem maintaining attention to tasks in almost every subject.  And the best part about the packs are you can choose your child’s level and practice subject!  (Yes, there are printable s for writing, math, reading, shapes, letters, you name it!) She has each printable labeled so that you can pick and choose BEFORE you download!!


   My son likes science almost as much as he likes books..almost.  He particularly likes life science: ants,bugs,life cycles, ecosystems, plants, water, eggs, babies, and the like.  The best place to explore all these things are outdoors.  So we hunted for spider webs on walks and tried to collect one that turned out too dainty for the task.  Maybe you will have better luck at finding a hardy web with the link below..

  • We worked for several days on this FREE Spider Lap Book from Preschool Powol Packets.  

    We rainbow colored the parts of the spider then drew lines to the matching label/name of the part . A variation from Preschool Powol Packets.
  • To match the parts of the spider to each name of the parts he and I studied and talked about it using these SPIDERS at  This is a fantastic step by step way to label spider body parts!image
  • He wasn’t quite ready for all the printable s in the lap book so I added this life cycle of a spider in addition to the one that comes with the lap book.  We cut The Life Cycle of a Wolf Spider from into puzzle pieces and practiced putting it together several times.  Then we glued it into place on the back of the Lap Book.


  • We studied 4 unique spiders: 2 poisonous spiders the black widow and brown recluse, a wolf spider, and the orb spider family.  This link was one he was uber fascinated by.  It’s a posting of a mama wolf spider caring her babies on her back! EEK!!
  • My son is a super visual thinker!  We utilize you tube for learning extensions in all subjects.  Videos also help bring it home so to speak by repeating what we have already learned in reading or listening to books.  Many times I read a book then find the video reading of the same book and read it again.  I didn’t share a link to those we used for his spider study: There were too many!  


LOTS AND LOTS of writing was done after reading, you tube videos, and  before we started the spider study.  I made a couple of charts using the back of wrapping paper to compare and contrast spiders with him.  I did the same for a K/W/l chart before we started diving into books.  He wrote sentences (above) about facts he learned.  I asked him to recall stories from ficiotional books using a story map.  We wrote spelling words on Spider themed paper and paused videos to jot down key points about spiders..I used different types of paper to keep things interesting. 

3 Dinosaurs  Bat Spider Pack was perfect for sentence practice! (See above)


School Time Snippets has a FREE Spider Verb Noun Sort that we have been working on repeatedly.   NOTE****  If your child uses picture cards or PECS try this with your cards!


  • Speech Peeps is still keeping us busy with an introduction to Synonyms WHICH HE IS JUST LOVING!!!! This Synonyms Spider Craft And Activity is oodles of fun!  This doubles or maybe  triples! for Speech, sentence practice, and language arts!!
  • Playing With Words 365 has an ‘Sp’ prodution at the word level GAME.  We aren’t working on Sp articulation but if you have a spider theme going on you can sub your own sounds at different places in words, phrases, or even reading within text.  

We will be having this kinda spider speech fun from SLP Mommy Of Apraxia well into November!

MORE HANDS ON ACTIVITY FUN…..In between the other fun spider learning of course!

  • Oh, he had a very hard time containing the hardy laughs (he can have a deep voice), YEAH’s!, and general ants in the pants when we played this with our neighbors!!! Thanks Frugal Fun For Boys for your  Back Yard Games Spider Launch.  NOTE****we used this to practice spelling words as well.  Neighbors are also classmates. No pictures. Things were going little boy fast!
  • 123Homeschool4me has a totally “Fly”Glow In The Dark Spider Web! Did you like what I did there;)  Here we are trying our hand at it. Our web is still drying….

    “Fly” Glowing Spider Web
  • If you looking for more Spider Crafts Coffee Cups And Crayons is a good place start.  We are using some for Halloween decor. 


We have done done various color wheels but we have yet to use glue and glitter to make a color wheel.  Artsy Momma has a beautiful design for that HERE.

There you have it!! Tons of stuff to have a memorable time learning about spiders like we did!!!!



Thank you for reading!

Crystal 🙂