Busy Bags

School is back and that means “Tot School” is in session.  This year our “Tot School” is going to look VERY different as Little Miss A now attends Kindergarden 2-3 days a week!

We are also gradually progressing away from “Tot” activities and transitiong into preschool activities like reading and writing! 

One of the most important parts of our Tot school are “Busy Bags”

Busy Bags are;

  • A 5-10 minute activity, contained in a bag.
  • Designed to be independent and self directed. (Once introduced, the child should be able to do the activity with minimal parental assistance)
  • Contain a variety of skills including fine motor,  numeracy concepts, letters, colours, anything! 
  • Inexpensive – Using every day home items or cheap craft items.
  • Hands On – Hands must be kept busy! 
  • Rotated after a week-forntnight.

Each week we put out 5 Busy Bags.  Now that Little Miss A is only home 5 days a fortnight I am planning on keeping them out for a fortnight.  

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#1 – “Cupcake Counting”

  • – Write numbers on the end of oversized paddle pop sticks
  • – child places the right number of cupcake pegs on the stick! 

I love using pegs because they are great for fine motor!  They help to develop grip and control strengthening little finger muscles. 

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#2 “Love Maths” –

  • Place the love hearts in size order! Biggest to smallest, smallest to biggest
  • The random hearts are for matching, patterning, sequencing, sorting! Possibilities are endless! Can they sort them by colour/pattern? Sort by size?
  • Make a size pattern (big, small, small) Make a colour pattern? (Pink, purple) 

This one is especially for Valentines Day coming up! I often like to theme the activities depending on special days, seasons, holidays.

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#3 “Peg My Name”

  • Make a laminated card with your child’s name on it.
  • We “beautified” it by adding her name onto a pony picture
  • Write the letters of their name onto some pegs. One letter on each peg! Don’t forget to use a capital letter for the first letter and lowercase for the rest! –
  • Now they select the right letter peg and add it to the corresponding letter on the card!

Screen Shot 2014-02-04 at 7.50.23 AM#4 “Learning Letters” – I bought this great little book from Kmart for $2!

  • I tore out the pages and laminated them, making them reusable!
  • I only place 3-5 cards in the bag with a whiteboard marker.
  • I only put the cards in, once we have gone over the letter one on one*
  • Once she has written in the card she wipes it off with a baby wipe!

*As part of our tot school we are focusing on 3 letters a week.  Once we have completed a few introductory activities on this letter, I put the corresponding card into the busy bag.

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  • I have had these laminated colour cards from my classroom for years!
  • Little Miss A lives to line them up, match them and add the same colour button! Easy!

I create the bags each Sunday and place them on top of our toy rotation trolley in a little basket.  


I collected the little clear pencil cases from various cheap shops! Once the activity is finished for the fortnight I place it into a clear snap lock bag and into a large storage container ready for in a few months to place out again!

Little Miss A (and sometimes even Master O) are free to grab a bag and complete an activity ANYTIME they want to.  There are also times I “madate” they play with a busy bag.  During Master O’s homework time or when they need a little quiet and calm time or in a month or two when Mummy is feeding the baby! I don’t “prescribe” an amount of time they play with the activity as generally it is just until they finish the activity which is usually 5-10 minutes.  Somedays like Monday’s she wants to do all the bags at once and by the end of fortnight she is showing little interest in ANY of them.

We love busy bags, as they give us a quick, educational, answer to “What can I play Mum?” as well as ensuring that some of the time during the week is devoted to play based  activities that cover a variety of educational concepts. 

As we change our activities around I will be sure to share them with you! 

Best Books for 7 – 12 Year Olds

By now you will know that I am passionate about the joys and benefits of children reading.  Every Day, Every Where, Every Thing.  

Christmas is the perfect opportunity to stock up on books for the year ahead.  For me growing up Christmas holiday’s meant uninterrupted reading time!  EVERY Christmas I asked for books and then later on Magazines.  The Baby Sitters Club (or anything by Ann M Martin) Roald Dahl, Enid Blyton and then later the Bronte Sisters.  Oh how I hope my children love books as much as I do!!!

I must admit, in this technological age, finding books that children love, and getting them to read them is getting harder.  I strongly believe it doesn’t matter what they are reading as long as they are reading!!!!  Especially for boys, find a topic that interests them and find any book you can on the topic and suddenly you will find them immersed in books! 

So here are some of my favourite for that tricky 7 – 12 Year old group we suddenly find ourselves entering!

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1.  Dork Diaries.  This is currently an International Bestseller.  A series of chapter books that is so relatable it’s got that tween market captured.  They are a classic coming of age series dealing with not fitting in, feeling like a dork, heartbreak and embarrassing moments.  This is like a “girlier” version of Diary of A Wimpy Kid.  These are flying off the shelves and I would personally invest in a book set.  I would have loved this series as a child! 

2. Hey Jack.  This is where Master O is at.  Perfect for early readers the contexts are age appropriate and appealing to 6-9 year olds and the large print and simple vocabulary make them a great series of first chapter books.  Jack is a character from the hugely popular Billie B Brown series. He has made the transition over to a more boyish series and the stories are full of grossness, pranks and friendship dilemmas   We went with the box set as part of our “Something to read” Christmas gift giving.

3. Skylanders.  Remember what I said about finding an interest?  Master O Loves Skylanders as do most children in the 7-12 age bracket.  There are numerous books that give great insight into the lands, characters and strategies of Skylanders.  These books contain great facts about each character and my two love to look at the pictures and have Master O read out all the information.

4. Boy Vs Beast.  These are a step up in difficulty and context from Hey Jack.  The monster/alien/robot/beast theme is extremely appealing to the 7-9 year olds.  These books are a hit in the Grade 1/2/3 classroom and have a line up at the library.  The story lines are surreal and supernatural but have kids, especially boys hooked on this popular series.

5.  The Magic Faraway Tree or anything by Enid Blyton and Roald Dahl. These are the children’s classics. The characters and story lines are as appealing now as they were 30 years ago.  These make for great bedtime read aloud stories or perfect to set the imagination running wild of more independent readers.  Do not rely on the movies to tell these stories.  They really are at their best when read!

6. The Baby Sitters Club.  Well just BECAUSE!!!  Oh how I loved this series!  I was slightly obsessed and even had a small collection of related paraphernalia   Not sure that many 11 year olds actually baby sit in this age but the friendships and new story lines in each book have you dying for the next one! I still have a few oldies in my collection but will definitely be buying THE WHOLE SERIES for Little Miss A.

So they are my hot book tips for this Christmas.

 Books immerse your child in  another world, introduce new vocabulary and concept, strengthen reading skills and strategies and give them some valuable SCREEN FREE TIME!!!  

A perfect gift for your child at any time of year. 


This post was sponsored by Dymocks.  I was paid to give my opinion as a Mum and Teacher on some of the best book buys this Christmas!  All books mentioned above are currently available at Dymocks. 

8 Perfect Paint Recipes from Pinterest

There are some VERY clever Mums out there on the Interwebz.  Unlike me who has been a teacher for a long time and a mum, they have manage to fine tune the most amazing “Homemade Paint” recipes!   




This one comes from Kidspot. It is perfect for using on the driveway, footpath, concrete or pavers. The paint is an unusual fizzy consistency that the kids go crazy over! It is easy to wash off and can be made with things you probably already have in your cupboard!



Who wouldn’t love glow in the dark paint! If you are looking for ANY kids craft ideas, Growing a Jeweled Rose is the blog to go to! You can buy flurescent paint but glow in the dark paint works best for this. Besides the glowing ingredient everything else you will be able to find right at home.


Source: kiboomu.com via Larissa on Pinterest




Years ago I bought some ice cube trays from ikea that were a long cylinder shape. They were intended to be able to be used to stir your drink with the ice cube, but i have found a different use… Bath Crayons! We LOVED bath crayons but unfortunately the black and blue got into the grout and has stayed their ever since. These are easily made, much cheaper and cleaner too.




I LOVE THIS PAINT. It is a staple in our paint collection as it is so easy to make and use. A tip is to use it on cardboard or buy some art paper books that have a thicker cartridge paper in them. We bought squeeze bottles from Riot Art and Craft but sauce bottles from your local discount store work just as well.



When I say edible, it really mean non toxic. This recipe uses items from the kitchen cupboard, so although not tasty it is totally safe for accidental finger suckers. Finger painting is brilliant for fine motor strengthening and I have to say, besides the mess, I find something soothing about finger painting. Finger paint on some plastic sheeting (available by the metre at Spotlight) and then “print” their creation onto a piece of paper by laying it on top!



I haven’t attempted this one yet as I am still trying to figure out what corn syrup would be equivalent to here in Australia. We love watercolour paints mainly for the easy clean up factor. They dont stain, last forever, and give the most beautiful effect especially over the top of a drawing.


Source: havingfunathomeblog.blogspot.com via Larissa on Pinterest

This is the first paint recipe I ever made! It was such a favourite with my Preschool class it saw many reincarnations. Green St Patricks Day paint, Red Christmas paint….the list goes on. Once again I love this recipe for it ease of creation and clean up. The kids go ga ga over this. It feels so nice in their little hands! Best bit is you can even play with it in the bath. The main ingredient is shaving cream. The cheaper the better I say. Just make sure you buy Shaving CREAM, not shaving GEL. Yes I am speaking from experience!



This one is not for the littlies. Chalkboard paint can get quite expensive but not if you make it yourself. All the ingredients for this recipe can be found at the local hardware store. This is great for reusing and repurposing household items or would be great for mother’s Day or Father’s Day gift making at school. Or even for some decorating projects around the house!

You can find all of the original links underneath each image. These blogs are ALL AMAZING! So what paint are you keen to try first? Have a recipe to share?

Easter Activity – Lacing/Threading

Ok Tot School peeps, here it is an “Eater – Bunny Lacing” card.  

Lacing (or threading) encourages pincer grip, finger control and hand eye coordination, all of which are essential pre-school and school skills.   There are many ways you can encourage these skills, at home, everyday.  Cutting, Pegging, Using Eating Utensils, Using tongs, chopsticks, Lacing, Threading bracelets or necklaces,Tracing, Colouring, PLaying with play dough the possibilities are endless…..

Or of course you could just…..

1. Download and Print using the link below

2. Laminate and Cut

3. Hole Punch the dots

4. Use a ribbon/shoelace/thread/elastic to weave in and out of the holes (lacing)

5.  We like to start and finish at the bottom giving this little bunny a cute bow tie! 

My Pigeon Pair – Easter – Bunny Lacing Card

 Enjoy learning together! 


Easter Activities – Size Sequencing

The next activity in our Easter “Tot School” is sequencing according to size.  Although size is generally a maths concept, sequencing itself is a cross curricular skill required in Maths, English, Science and History.  When you are teaching this activity be sure to use and encourage vocabulary such as;

  • Ordinal Numbers – First, Second, Third
  • Positioning – Next to, In front of, behind
  • Size – Larger, Bigger, Smaller, Medium.
This activity is very simple!!!!
1. Download and Print
2. Cut and Paste or Cut and Laminate for longevity.
3. Ask your child to sequence the chicks from smallest to largest, or largest to smallest.
You could also;
  • Count the chicks
  • How many chicks would there be if you took one away, or two away?
  • Velcro the back of each chick card and use on a felt board to create a story or song 
  • Instead of singing 5 Little Ducks how about singing 5 Little Chicks went out one day, these song introduces great subtraction skills!
  • Use hands on materials to count with the chicks.  For example “Can you give each Chick one button/peg/counter?”
  • Can you find something the same size or colour for each chick?
Just another easy and cute way to reinforce some pre-school skills at home!

Easter Activities – Patterning

An often over looked, but perhaps one of the most important “educational” skills children acquire is patterning. Learning how to recognise, create and extend patterns is not only an integral maths skill but helps your child acquire language, process words and recognise text structure when reading.

There are many ways you can practise patterning with real life objects around your home.  This easter we are patterning with coloured plastic eggs, fluffy chicks and of course this worksheet I created.

My Pigeon Pair – Easter Patterning

You can use this sheet in many ways!

  1. Download, print, complete! Ask your child to read laud the pattern created by the pictures for example “Rabbit, Flower, Rabbit, Flower, Rabbit….” Ask them what would come next?  Cut out the picture of the item needed to complete the pattern and glue it on.
  2. Download, Print, Laminate, Velcro Complete!  I use this method most often as it means I can use the same sheet over and over again!  I simply print the sheet, cut up the answer pictures on the bottom and laminate them all.  I than attach a small velcro dot to the laminated sheet and onto the back of each “answer” picture.
You could also;
When you are finished, cut up the whole sheet and have your child create their own patterns! 
Line up some objects in a pattern and take a photo of them.  Print off the photo and ask your child to match the pattern!
Find some patterns in the environment; these could be the lines on a the pedestrian crossing, ribbons on a dress, tiles on the ground. 
Patterns are everywhere! 

Easter Activities – Cute Chick Counting

Over the coming weeks our “Tot School” will have an Easter theme.  

The first activity I have created is a “Cute Chick Counting” 


My Pigeon Pair – Cute Chick Counting

  • Simply Download
  • Print
  • Cut each card
  • Laminate and cut again (for longevity)
  • Put in a “Busy Bag”
To teach: 
  • Lay all the number cards out in front of the child.
  • Say the numbers out loud together.
  • Now introduce one “Chick” card at a time.
  • “How many chicks are on the card? Use your finger to point to each chick and say the number out loud for me”
  • After the child has counted the chicks correctly ask them “Can you find a number card that matches?”
  • Pair the cards together as you go!

You could also;

  • Line the chicks up from the smallest to the largest number
  • Line the number cards up from the smallest to the largest number.
  • Ask your child to close their eyes and remove one card.  See if they can guess and then count to see which card is missing.
  • Write over the numbers with a white board marker
  • Get some of the fluffy little chicks available at Easter time and count them out placing one fluffy chick on one chick picture! 
  • Describe the easter eggs the chicks are in use colours and descriptions of lines or dots.
The possibilities are endless! Simply click on the link above and get counting!
Please feel free to share this activity,
just remember to tell you them where you found it! 


TOT SCHOOL: Lesson 2 – Letters and Numbers

So how did you go with Tot school lesson 1?  Today it is all about learning the difference between letters and numbers.  This lesson will require some assistance for children under 3 and a little prctice for older children but it is a skill that will only get stronger and stronger the more you practice.  REMEMBER: As you are teaching, talk, talk, talk.  The more you repeat each letter or number name the more it is reinforced! 

The Letter and Number Machines/Robots/Houses. 

This Tissue Box Robot would be perfect! from partselect.com

You can turn the boxes for this lesson into a Machine/Robot/House depending on your child’s interests.  Keep the top of the box open for the letters/numbers to go into.


A Variety of letters and numbers (we buy a whole bag of assorted letter and number foam stickers for $2 form a dicount store)

Two boxes or bowls.

For Littles and Tots: An alphabet refenrence chart.  Anything with the alphabet on it.  Even if you just type up the alphabet on a piece of paper and print it out.

The Lesson Plan

Explain that we uses symbols to write.  Their are three kinds of symbols (numbers, letters and punctuation) today we are only looking at letters and numbers.

Introduce the story/concept.  If you are using Robots – One Robot is the number robot and he only eats numbers, the other robot is the letter robot he only eats letters.  You need to feed the robot the right food!

Houses – These houses are sad as their families are missing.  One house is the Letter Family’s house one house is the Number family’s house.  Can you help put the family’s in the right house?

As the student picks up each symbol you ask them Letter or Number?

If it is a letter it goes in one bowl/box and if it is a number it goes in the other bowl.

As they do each one you can also ask them if they know the name of the symbol?  If they don’t you can tell them “This is a LETTER, it’s name is B”

For Littles ask them to find each symbol on a reference card.  Can they find it?  Is it with the letters or the numbers? 

When you are finished (don’t feel like you have to do the whole alphabet in the first lesson!) empty out the boxes and show your child how many letters and numbers they matched! 

To be able to decode text and learn to read your child needs to know that letters make words and numbers help us count.  To them they all like the same squiggly lines on paper!  After a while this activity becomes great independent learning activity!  For older children you can do this activity with words.  Identifying initial sounds (all the words starting with “s” in one box and starting with “k” in another box.  Or vowels and consents or even 2 syllable or 3 syllable words.  The opportunities are endless!!!


Don’t forget share your pics on Instagram simply by adding the hashtag #MPPTotSchool


Welcome to Tot School.  Each week I hope to provide you with some lesson inspiration!

The popularity of Tot School has kind of hit me by surprise and yesterday we spent the morning at the beach and afternoon at Zumba so time has gotten away from me!  I hope to create each lesson as a printable for you!  But for now here are the details.

“Peg Me A Number.”


  • Paper Plates
  • Pegs
  • Pen or Stickers.

The Lesson Plan.

1. We introduced the lesson by sining the song 1,2,3,4,5 Once I caught a fish alive.  Any number song will do!

2. Write a number representation onto a paper plate.  There are three ways you can do this and it will depend on the age and ability of your child. you can;

Pictorial Representation (For Littles and Tots): Stickers (on one plate put one sticker, next plate two stickers, next plate 3 stickers) Ask your child to help you do this.  If you dont have stickers you could draw dots instead.

Numeral Repesentation (For Tots and Kinders): For children ready to learn numbers. Draw the numbers 1-5 on 5 plates.

Written Representation (For Schoolies): You can even do this activity with school aged children.  Write the number “name” on each plate.

3. Ask your child to count the stickers, or say the number or word.  

4. Now your child has to count out the same number of pegs as the number on the plate.   The lesson is in the detail here. The child must pick up each peg, move it to a new place on the desk and say aloud one number.  We are trying to help them assign a number to EACH object.  This is called one to one correspondence and is VERY IMPORTANT.

5. Once the right number of pegs are counted out,  peg each peg to the outside of the plate. Once again count each peg as it is pegged on to the plate.

6. Now that the pegs are on the plate, count them AGAIN!

For Littles this is where the activity ends.  Your ATTENTION SPAN TIME LIMIT has expired! They have used their  number skills to count at least 3 times!  They are also demonstrating in a hands on manner that they can represnt numbers in different ways. Their fine motor skills have gotten a work out strengthening their pincer grip and developing finger control! Pegs are great for this! Most importantly your child is learning one to one correspondence which will help them count, add, subtract, multiply and divide in the years to come! One to one correspondence is also a valuable literacy skill!

For Tots.  Can you now lay the plates out on the floor in the right order?  Sing the fishie song whilst pointing to each plate!

For Schoolies: What number would come next?  Can you write that number? Can I add to plates together to create a new number? Use the pegs to create an addition or subtraction sum!

If words don’t cut it for you and you need a visual..

Check out when Master O did this activity a few years ago! 

OR Even Better

Today in the “My Pigeon Pair’ Tot School this activity is on the agenda!  View our step by step pictures on Instagram #MPPTotSchool or on our Facebook page! Please share your pictures with us too!


How to Start Your Own “Tot School”

Let’s start at the very beginning…..because it’s a very good place to start.

Well actually to easily explain what “Tot School” is we need to start from the end and work backwards!  The end being when you hand your child over to a “Teacher” at “School.”  Might I add that a parents role is to be the PRIMARY teacher of their child but once they are at school your time at home with your children is limited!

As we discovered on the “My Pigeon Pair” Facebook page the name for the first year of school is different in EVERY state!  But we will use our family as an example!

Prep – First year of formal schooling, As of the first day of school students are aged between 41/2 and 5 1/2.  They turn 5 by 30th June that year.  Prep covers the “Foundation” phase of The Australian Curriculum.  This includes phonics, sight words, reading, counting to 20 and beyond, simple addition and subtraction, science and history.

Kindergarten – Is the year before students attend “school”.  This is primarily a part time program (in QLD) where students attend “Kindy” for a five day fortnight.  Students must turn 4 by the 30th June that year.  There is no compulsory curriculum but many states have their own guidelines. Thanks to the Qld government “Kindy” has undergone massive changes and is now taught by “Registered Early Childhood Teachers”.  As a result many schools are starting to run Kindergarten programs.  In fact all public schools in our area now have Kindergarten. The second biggest Kindergarden program is the C & K program which I HIGHLY recommend. You can also find Kindy programs in childcare centres and run by church groups. 

And before Kindergarten? Well this is where the new gap lies. You are limited to sending your child to childcare centres or hunting out a playgroup run by a teacher. Hence how Tot School in our house came about! I wanted to spend this special time teaching my own child skills at home.

So what is “Tot School”?

Tot School are activities taught in the home, by a care giver (mother, family day care) to children prior to starting school.  In our house Tot School starts from about 2 until they start Prep (both of my children will be just about to turn 5 when they start Prep)

Everyone’s Tot School looks a little different!  It may not even have a name!  

For us “Tot School” is just a name for the specific time and activities that we engage with our children in focused teaching and learning.  We still spend a LOT of time playing and reading but Tot School time is primarily focused on strengthening or gaining a specific skill. In our house it is about 30 minutes twice a day.  It has structure but is fun, hands on and engaging.  

What do you do at tot School?

Tot School focuses on School Readiness Skills. Including;

Matching and Sorting (by Colour, Shape and Size)
Clasifying (same/Different)
Identifying Shapes
Identifying Numbers
ROTE Counting to 10
One to One Correspondence
Represent Numbers with objects
Sequence numbers.
Measuring (Big/Small.) Size Sequencing
Simple Puzzles
Recognising Name
Recognising Upper and Lower Case letters
Reciting the Alphabet
Holding a book
Reading a book (Front to Back, Left to Right, Top to Bottom)
Print Recongition (understands that Print carries meaning)
Retells a simple Story using pictures
Fine Motor
Other Skills
Listening to stories
Learning Nursery Rhymes and Action Songs
Sitting Still
Following instructions
These are just a few!  There are many great checklists out there.  This Kindergarden Readiness Toolkit is American but still offers a great overview!  Remember these are skills to have once they are 5.  So in our case we have at least 2 years to get there so dont be scared!

 What you need to get started.

The opportunities and materials are endless.  I use items from all over the house, you use what you have and it NEVER has to cost a lot of money!  Some basic items that will come in handy are;

  • A Magnetic White Board (We bought a cute small one from Big W for $12)
  • White Board Markers
  • Any kind of counters (buttons, beads, pegs, cars, paddle pop sticks anything you can count with!)
  • Magnetic Letters/Numbers
  • Wool/String/Thread/Shoelaces – anything for threading
  • Children’s Scissors
  • Containers (ice cube trays, cupcake papers, cups, bowls anything to hold a number of objects.
  • Things to match (stickers, magnets, memory cards, snap cards, pictures)
  • Wooden Pegs (the number of times I have used these are amazing)
  • Paper Plates
  • Music (Ipod, Cd Player)
  • Puzzles
  • Blocks

If you want to keep resources long term I also strongly recommend investing in a laminator!  You can get them at most department stores for under $30.  They are great for laminating pictures that children can write on with a whiteboard marker and then rub off and use again another time!

How we structure Tot School in our house

We do two type of activities

  1. Busy Bags
  2. Teacher Time

Busy Bags – Ours are independent learning activities in a little bag that the student can self select and sit down and complete independently.  We have about 4-5 Busy bags out a week.  Often these are themed.  For example our current busy bags are a “Valentine’s” theme! These bags are used at any time of the day and average each activity only takes about 5 minutes.

Teacher Time – A Song or Story (5mins), Focused Teaching and Learning Activity of a skill(10mins),  Play/Movement/Music/Art to finish off (5-10mins) as they get older I also introduce Letter or Number of the day(10 mins)

Over the next few weeks I will take you through some of our Tot School activities! So start getting your materials together, schedule in some time, keep an eye on our Facebook page and Instagram feed and

let’s get learning together!