By Shannon Cannon

      Ever since I became a mother, and for about 9 months before and I'm sure for an eternity to come, I have come to the harsh realization that my mother has gone through her life largely unthanked. Every time I have a new experience that makes me wonder just for a second why I chose this profession, I have to call my mom and tell her thanks for everything she's done for me. Now I'm not a totally ungrateful child. I made Mother's Day cards that read, "If mothers were flowers, I'd pick you" and "You are my favorite mom!" I attempted breakfast in bed a few times before I think she convinced me that it was more work for her than actually getting up and fixing breakfast herself. I even gave her big hugs in front of my friends when I was a teenager. Gratitude doesn't get bigger than that, right? It wasn't enough. From the first twinge of morning sickness, I knew there were things I had never even considered thanking my mother for. So, you'll have to pardon me for a minute this Thanksgiving while I give thanks where thanks is due.

      Thanks mom, for enduring months of me kicking you in the ribs, from the inside. Thanks for listening to me throw tantrums without carrying through on your threat to string me up by my toenails, although I'm sure now that I deserved it. Thanks for being so patient with me during potty-training and for giving me little treats when I did good even though you were the one that should have been getting the treats. Thanks for listening to me tell you the long version of the 519,324 books we read at school. Without yawning. Thanks for changing diaper after diaper and doing mounds and mounds of laundry and washing the dishes over and over and over again (by hand) and a thousand other things that I have yet to realize. Just so I could be a kid. Just because you loved me, even when it was hard.

      Okay, to get back to my point, if you are starting to figure out that parenting isn't cake like you thought, spend a few minutes this Thanksgiving telling your parents thanks for the things that they made look so easy. And maybe someday your kids will come back to thank you. At least that's what I'm holding out for.

      Here's a little side note: if you are teaching and emphasizing the letter sounds as you do these activities, start out with the 'short I' sound (as in insect), then the next time you do the letter I, talk about the 'long I' sound (as in ice cream). Hopefully it will be less confusing that way. And if not, sue me.

      • Help each child make their own I.D. card using a 3x5 index card. Glue their picture in the corner and then write on it some things that describe them, such as hair color, eye color, height, weight, hobbies, favorite foods, movies, etc.

      • Look at several books by your favorite illustrators. Use some you can identify just by looking, i.e., Mercer Mayer, Tomie De Paola, Eric Carle, etc. Talk about the pictures and how they make the story come alive, then trace some of the characters and write a story to go with it or illustrate the story yourself.

      • Using pictures of different kinds of insects, talk about the characteristics of an insect (3 body parts, antennae, 6 legs, etc.). Go on a nature walk and study the insects you find; inspect them to decide if they are insects or not.

      • Look at pictures of several instruments (Eyewitness: Music from the Dorling Kindersley series, is a good book to look at) and try to guess what kind of a sound they make. Listen to a tape of band or orchestra music, such as "Peter and the Wolf", and try to listen for the different instruments. Can you name each of them? What do they look like? For a fun field trip, go to a music store and look at all of the instruments. Be careful to supervise closely or you may come home looking for tuba lessons.

      • What is your favorite kind of ice cream? If you could make up your own name for a flavor, what would it be? What would be your favorite kind of ice cream if you were a cat (Mouselate Chip), or a cow (Green Pastures), or an elephant (Peanut Butter)? Think of others and have fun being creative.

      • How tall are you in inches? How many inches long is an inchworm? With a ruler, measure several different objects in inches. Put the objects in order from longest to shortest.

      • Look at a map of the world and find an island. What makes it an island? Make your own island out of play dough and water, or peanut butter play dough (using the following recipe) and milk, or a mud puddle and rocks.

Peanut Butter Play Dough:
1 cup peanut butter
1 cup white corn syrup
1 cup powdered sugar
3 cups powdered milk

In a large bowl, mix peanut butter, corn syrup, and powdered sugar together. Add powdered milk and knead until smooth. (Add more powdered milk if you need to.)

      The children can mold dough into any shape they wish. Additions: provide children with various materials to decorate their islands with, (raisins, chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, shredded coconut, dried fruit, pretzels, Smarties etc.) This is food, so have the children wash their hands before touching the dough and only touch the dough on their plates.

      Just a thought about playing with playdough. We started today by shaping blocks and stacking them into igloos and by the time we were done, they were mostly just making tons of little snakes to go into the igloos. Now if it had been a room full of sixth graders, I may have asked them to stick to the task at hand. But with preschoolers, as long as they're creating and having fun, who cares?


Few things in life are more fun and rewarding than curling up on the couch with your kids and a good book. If you truly want your kids to learn to read well, then READ TO THEM EVERY DAY! There is no better way to teach your kids that reading is fun and interesting.
Click here to see a list of ALL the books we have read to our children.

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