I've been trying to use my toddler's afternoon snack time as a learning time ... rather than giving into her requests for Elmo or George. I also find that she eats healthier if we are engaged in an activity together rather than plopped in front of the tube. If I blog about it, I am more likely to form a habit ... and perhaps it will inspire your own placemat lessons :)
Today, I pulled out a large sheet of paper (like the one I used in this 5-minute Activity) and the crayons and a sheet of stickers.
We started with a game of take-a-bite, stick-a-sticker. I asked her the name of the animal as she put it on the placemat.
Then I picked up a crayon and asked her to watch me draw. After each shape (circle, triangle, square), I asked her to tell me the shape as I colored it in and then asked her the color.
Next, we counted the number of carrots on her plate, and I asked her to take two bites (with hummus - yum).
Back to the paper, I wrote the letters of her name - one at a time - while she ate her Veggie Booty and told me the letters. I asked her, "What does that spell?" Mainly because I want her to start understanding that letters work together to spell words. Not because I think she can actually read! But she did recognize the letters of her name - thanks to the N-A-T-A-L-I-E song that I've been singing to her for two years.
Next, I attempted to sketch a tree ... and asked that she watch me while I drew. Before I even made the "leaves," she told me that I was drawing a tree ... the trunk gave it away, apparently. Then I asked her to name an animal that lives in a tree. She answered, "Owl. Hooo. Hooo." So I drew a (very lame) owl. We repeated this question-and-answer until we had three animals total: owl, bird, squirrel.
To make sure that "math" was covered in my little lesson, I wrote the numbers 1 - 4 ... one at a time ... and asked Natalie to tell me the number. To make a visual connection, I drew the appropriate number of dots beneath the number, and she counted them - with some accuracy. Here's a little tactile strategy thrown in; I asked Natalie to take 2 pieces of Veggie Booty out of her bowl and put them next to the number 2. She ate one before it reached the paper :)
To wrap-up, I pulled her attention back to the letters of her name and asked her to point to a letter when I said it ... "Point to the T."
I often rely on this format of shapes, letters, numbers, and animals. The questioning is limitless. But again, I think the visual and tactile components are just as important as the verbal discussion ... that's the teacher in me :)