Monday, July 27, 2009

Homemade Birthday Presents

J decided he wanted to make M a homemade gift for her 2nd birthday on Thursday. He decided on sock puppets, and settled on making Elmo and Abby from Sesame Street. He drew the designs, selected felt to be his medium, and cut them out and glued them on himself. I thought they turned out so well for a 9 year old, and I know M is going to love them!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Tot School: Rainbows

We had some rain at the beginning of the week- much needed in this part of Texas. So, to celebrate, we did a rainbow themed week.

We used many rainbow idea for our trays this week. First, I painted the cups of an egg carton and M matched large puffs to the color cups. We added tongs to turn this into a transfer activity when the color matching got to easy.We did more tissue paper art, I gave M black paper, a glue stick and a basket full of rainbow colored tissue paper scraps. She didn't glue them on in an arc, but still had a blast.This pipe cleaner and foam rainbow idea came from My Montessori Journey. I only did one bead on each so I could keep track of them in case M decided to eat them, although she did very good with them this week so maybe we are ready for more bead activities.
We made a bunch of paint strip and clothespin matching cards that I saw on the Chasing Cheerios blog. This is a version of the Montessori color boxes, and while M was not very good about matching the correct shade yet, she was able to do the clothespins herself and matched the right pins to each color strip.
M loves art, so I always try to do several activities each week. Rainbow theme definitely made it easy to find great ideas, and there were many we just didn't get time to do.

One of those she loved was stringing fruit loops onto pipe cleaners and making bracelets with them.

We did another dot marker coloring sheet from Making Learning Fun. M didn't stick with the colors on separate rows, but she is getting better at making very distinct dot shapes (when she wants t0 that is).

I have seen the spray bottle painting on several different blogs and we finally tried it on a sunny day this week. I found spray bottles with easy triggers and filled them with washable water paints. Then we hung a long sheet of paper on our deck railing and sprayed away. I was impressed that M was able to work the trigger and spent a long time working on her painting. Even J enjoyed doing this one.
We made homemade playdough one day - and added glitter and peppermint scents to make it even more fun.M and I traced her hands and then I helped her glue them into a rainbow. She loved this and kept tracing everyone's hands for several days afterwards.
I had bought the kids a bag full of polished, multi colored rocks. I let them play with them on the cookie sheet one day, and M loved this! She definitely has a fascination with any and all rocks.
Finally, we played with J's spin art machine. M loved this and was quite good at squeezing just the right amount of paint onto the paper.
That was our rainbow week in Tot School. We did do some non-rainbow things, but there are so many pictures already I think I will hold those for another time.

For more Tot School ideas, see Carisa's blog at 1+1+1=1. We will be on vacation next week, and it's M's second birthday, so we probably won't do much Tot School.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Why I Love Dandelions

I love dandelions.

Before I had kids, I admit I thought of them as nothing more than a weed. Then, when J was about 2, he started picking dandelions from the yard and presenting the bouquets to me. We always put them in a vase for the day or so they lasted. Every time I looked at them I remembered my little boy had brought them to me. He continued this tradition for years, randomly coming in from the yard with a fistful of yellow flowers to present to me and brighten my day.

Now, at the age of almost 10, he stills brings me flowers, although he has graduated to azaleas or pansies instead of dandelions. And he has passed the tradition on to M, who yesterday brought me a purple pansy from the yard just like her brother always does!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Grandma's Homemade Playdough

There are as many recipes for homemade playdough as you could imagine. One of the more popular ones uses peanut butter, but since M has a peanut allergy, that one is out for us. We like this version my mom used to make when I was a kid because it is easy and uses ingredients you already have on hand. J, M and I add glitter and essential oils for some additional pizazz.

1 c flour
1 c warm water
2 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp oil
¼ c salt
Food coloring
½ tsp of peppermint/lemon/almond or other essential oil

Mix flour, cream of tartar, oil and salt in a saucepan. (I have a cheap one I use just for these types of projects). In a separate container mix food coloring with water and add to the pot with the glitter and essential oil. Stir and heat over medium heat until smooth (only a few minutes).
Knead until blended smooth.

Store in an airtight container and it keeps for a long time. Food coloring does stain when wet so I use a recycled yogurt carton to mix with the essential oil and water. This is NOT an edible recipe so be sure you use with little ones who won’t eat it.

Here is what J made with this the other day - a castle.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Rainbow in a Glass

We have had rain this week! This is much needed in this part of the drought-stricken South and is a cause for celebration. So, in honor of the rain the kids and I are doing rainbows this week.

I usually try to find some way to work a special project in just for J, in addition to the fun crafts we do that include M. To go along with rainbows, we did a science experiment to make a rainbow in a glass. This idea came from The Exploration Station, who has great instructions on her site here so I am not going to reprint them. Essentially, each color has the same amount of water but varying amounts of sugar causing differing densities in each solution. It takes a lot of patience to very carefully pipette each new color layer on top, but it was very fun to see them layer and not mix! It was hard to show in a photograph, but they did layer like a rainbow.
This is definitely an experiment for older kids requiring a delicate hand and patience (and a lot of cleanup due to dripping pipettes), but well worth it and leads to some great conversations on scientific topics including density, concentration of solution, color mixing, dilution and surface tension.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Tot School: Chicka Chicka Boom Boom Edition

I have a confession to make: I don't like the book Chicka Chicka Boom Boom. I find the pictures boring, the rhyming doesn't work for me, and I think there are so many better alphabet books out there (I love Alphabears). However, both my kids LOVE this book, so I agreed to do a Chicka Chicka Boom Boom-themed week for them.

Chicka Chicka Trays: We started by putting away M's usual Montessori trays and instead making five Chicka Chicka trays. First was a palm tree and number three printout from Making Learning Fun. The point was to fill in the empty dots using dot painters (bingo markers). M loved this one, and we did several sheets each day!

Next was a print out of the palm tree which J colored and M decorated with alphabet stickers. Third were a set of sequencing cards (0-3 coconuts on each) that you had to put in order. This one bored M, so later we just started adding brown pompoms onto each card to match the number of coconuts and counting them.

Next, we cut strips of pink and orange paper using toddler scissors. This was M's first time using scissors herself (I usually help her) and yes, I do realize she is gripping them all wrong. We're working on it.

Finally, I took the palm tree printout from Totally Tots, taped it to her cookie tray and gave her some magnetic letters to use. M made them go "up and down" the tree all week, and we worked on saying the sounds of the letters as they went up.

Chicka Chicka Art: Since M loves anything to do with paint, we did a hand and arm painted tree that we saw at Preschool Rock, and then added some letters with out sponge stamps. It was messy, but M had a lot of fun with this (she actually made three trees).

We also made alphabet collages using letters cut out from junk mail. M is very good with the glue stick now and can do it all herself. We talked about the sounds of the letters she chose.

Chicka Chicka Games: To make our week more interactive, we played with our sidewalk chalk. I drew circles with a letter in each, and M hopped from letter to letter. We said the sound of each letter as she landed on it. Very fun!

We also did some coconut bowling using a fresh coconut as the ball and partially filled plastic water bottles as the pins. Later, we broke the coconut open to make our snacks.

Chicka Chicka Snacks: We used fresh coconut to make a snack one day. We made coconut blueberry muffins and pineapple coconut smoothies which we drank out of plastic coconut cups. Very yummy!

We also did many fun things not related to our theme like playing with playdough, in our sandbox, with our dress-up beads and with our water table.

M also loved playing the harmonica this week. It belongs to J, but he lets her borrow it and she has gotten quite good at sustaining notes. So, J plays Daddy’s trumpet or his guitar and she plays her harmonica and they put on little concerts for us. Very cute, and loud!

That was our Chicka Chicka Boom Boom themed week at Tot School. Go to 1+1+1=1 to see what others have done for Tot School this week.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Coconut Treats

Continuing with our Chicka Chicka Boom Boom theme, today's snack was blueberry-coconut muffins and pineapple-coconut smoothies drunk out of coconut shell cups. So tasty!

Blueberry Coconut Muffins
1/3 cup milk
1 egg
1 egg yolk
6 TBS coconut oil
3/4 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
2 cups whole blueberries

1/4 cup flour
3 TBS sugar
1/4 unsweetened coconut
3 TBS butter softened, not melted

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease muffin tin or use paper liners.

Combine wet ingredients until smooth. In a separate bowl mix the dry ingredients together. Add the blueberries and stir to coat. Add the wet ingredients and mix until blended (batter will be thick.) Spoon batter into muffin tins (makes 12 muffins.)

For topping: Mix ingredients with fork until resembles crumbs.

Sprinkle the topping over muffin cups. Bake 18-22 minutes until top is brown and toothpick inserted into center is clean. Cool for 10 minutes in pan. Remove from muffin tin and cool to room temperature.

Pineapple-Coconut Smoothie

10 icecubes
12 ounces crushed pineapple with juice
14 ounces coconut milk
Blend until smooth and serve immediately.

These made a nice treat for mid-week!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Fingerpaint Tree

We are doing some story extenders with the book Chicka Chicka Boom Boom this week. Today's project was a finger/hand/arm painted tree and foam stamped letters. I saw this idea on the Delightful Learning blog, and since M loves anything to do with paint I knew we'd be trying it some time soon. Here is M's version:

Of course, a bath was needed when we were done, but that just means she had fun!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Tot School: July 5-11

This was a very busy week for us so we didn't do a lot of planned activities. Tot School for us this week included a lot of our old favorites like playdough, coloring, the sandbox and of course, swimming.

We used colored salt and glue to make bright, textured collages for art this week.

When we were done, I added the extra colored salt to M's sensory box along with her rocks, which was a lot of fun.

I saw this project over at What Do We Do All Day and had to try it with M. I filled a jar with colored paperclips, washers, and rice until it was about ½ full. (That’s purple duct tape on the lid to keep it from being opened). M then used a strong magnet -- the back of a fridge clip so she couldn’t put it in her mouth -- to lift the paperclips and washers and move them around the jar. She loved this!

We also did alphabet bowling. I covered empty water bottles with paper and wrote a letter on each of them. M would then bowl and we'd talk about the sounds of the letters she knocked down.

M keeps trying to be like her big brother. Here, she is trying to play Wii with him (her controller was not active, but she didn't care.)That was our week in Tot School. You can see what others did in Tot School this week over at 1+1+1=1.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Making Clouds

A recent Texas storm (hail on a 103 degree day) led J and I into a discussion of weather. He already understands the water cycle and how clouds are formed, but it was a good time to review. We also discussed why clouds appear black or white, and reviewed the different types of clouds. J asked what a cloud felt like, so we did a little experiment to find out. (From our Hands-on Science book; the hot water evaporates water particles which meets the cold ice-cubes and makes a cloud in the jar.)

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Think Fish

When J was complaining he was bored the other day, I quickly looked in the archives of one of my favorite site Think! and came up with this idea. Think! is a great site for creative, hands-on engineering projects for kids, and they post a weekly challenge for kids to create. For this project, J had to grab 5 items from the recycling bin and using those items and tape make a fish that really floated. He had a great time figuring out how to make it work. We will definitely be doing more Think! projects this summer.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Salt Art

We saw these textured art projects in Family Fun magazine and had to try them.

First, split regular table salt between several Ziploc bags (about 1/2 cup per bag) and add 10 or so drops of food coloring to each bag. Seal the bags and let the kids mix around until the salt is all colored. My two had fun mixing their own colors as well as using the regular dye colors. Open the bags and let dry overnight, or spread onto newspaper to dry for 2 hours or so.Take regular construction paper, and draw designs on it with glue and a q-tip (a glue stick would work also).

Sprinkle the colored salt over your design. Let dry and shake off the excess. We used spoons and small bowls to sprinkle our salt, but empty spice shakers would work even better if you have enough.You get some bright, colorful textured drawings this way.

The leftover colored salt went into M’s sensory tub along with her rocks for added fun .

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Works for Me Wednesday: Ten Art Clean-up Tips

If you've looked around my blog, you've noticed that my kids love to do arts and crafts. I don't like to stifle their creativity by worrying about making messes, but neither do I want all of my furniture covered in paint, glitter and glue. So, here are a few tricks I have learned for avoiding messes and quick clean-up from art projects:

1. Q-tips are great for spreading glue. They can be thrown away afterward, eliminating the need to clean out brushes.

2. Excess glitter can be picked up with a lint-brush roller, and the kids will have fun cleaning up.

3. Often, I just let M paint in just her diaper, rather than worrying about her clothing. An old towel with a neckhole cut out makes a quick, free paint smock for older kids.

4. Whenever possible, I have my kids do their messiest art outside. A quick rinse of the deck with the hose and you can't tell where they spilled their paint.

5. When painting inside, I use a disposable plastic tablecloth under the table to protect the floors from drips and spills. It is large, it can be folded up and re-used several times, and I can often find a pack of them at the dollar store.

6. We purchased large plastic craft mats at Oriental Trading Company. For about $1 apiece the re-usable mats keep glue, glitter, paint, clay and other supplies off the table, and can be shaken off over a garbage can and wiped down quickly. Old newspapers or a disposable tablecloth can serve the same purpose.

7. Old playdough jars with holes cut in the middle of the lids make free, less-mess water jars for rinsing paint brushes.

8. Baby wipes are great for getting ink off of stamps, stamp pad lids and nearby surfaces.

9. Old t-shirts, receiving blankets, towels and burp rags do not get thrown out at our house. Instead, they are cut up and re-purposed as art cleaning rags. Providing a rag to wipe up spills and wipe hands or a paint brush off on avoids J grabbing my kitchen towels when a mess does occur. It also helps with the tendency little ones have to wipe their hands off on their clothes.

10. I am very blessed to have a dedicated craft storage closet in our house. However, no matter the size of your space, organization is the key to putting items away quickly. I have small plastic tubs with handles that I found at the dollar store that are filled with supplies - glue and glue sticks, crayons, scissors, markers, feathers and pompoms, and watercolor paints. I also have small jars that hold items like googly eyes, pipe cleaners, and paint brushes. Everything has its own place so it is easy for the kids to return the items when they are done with them. (Having the supplies easy to find helps with a quick set-up, too.)

These are just a few ideas that help keep messy art projects under control at our house.

For more great ideas, see Works For Me Wednesday at We Are THAT Family!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Tot School: Red, White & Blue

We had a busy week this week at Tot School, and Daddy was home for a few days so that gave him an opportunity to participate, which we all loved.

This being the Fourth of July week, we of course marched in the kids parade and saw the fireworks. We also did a lot of patriotic crafts. We beat the heat with our Ice Treasure Hunt (this idea came from our Science Play book). We froze small items in ice (freeze in layers) and then enjoyed uncovering them using a water dropper and warm salt water. This was a good 30 minutes of fun, which led to M then sorting the treaures she found (buttons, wiffle ball, counting bear and googly eyes).
We worked with our hula hoop this week. M certainly cannot do it, but she sure keeps trying! We actually had 7 trays this week. We gave M a key on a shoelace and a padlock, and she had a great time figuring out how the lock worked. She got it by the second day, but continued to love doing this all week long.We played with our homemade letter bean bags. We are introducing letters to M very slowly more as a general recognition that letters exist, rather than actually worrying if she is learning them. We have chosen to do lowercase first, using the phonemic sound rather than the letter name, and not in alphabetical order. I made m, a, s, t, p, e, f, n bean bags for our first grouping. She surprised us by already recognizing F and E - she pays attention when we do spelling with her brother! We mainly tossed them this week, and said the sound as we threw each one.
We gave M some paper fans, and she practiced folding and unfolding them all week, as well as fanning herself and her dolls.
The rest of her trays I didn't get photos of M working on but she strung red, white and blue painted pasta onto pipecleaners, and loved wearing the necklace around this week. We also did a great sticker matching game that we got from a Preschool Activity in a Bag swap we did. This is a fantastic e-book, the swap was so much fun, and we now have 20 new activities to work on!

I originally gave M a lentil bean pouring activity using a funnel, but a dropped tray on the first day resulted in all our lentils getting vacuumed up. So instead, her Daddy came up with this great idea. He used a cardboard insert from a box of drinking glasses. M had the best time putting the insert pieces in and out, and making new designs with the pieces. We stuck the main piece into playdough to hold it upright so she could make this one work on her own.
We changed our sensory tub after M sprinkled all of her rainbow rice out for the birdies. She has had a fascination with rocks lately, so we gave her 10 different colored rocks and about 1 inch of water and she had some fun playing with the rocks and "cleaning" them.
Daddy also made M a great ball drop game. He cut different sized circles so she not only had the fun of dropping the balls through, but had to figure out which hole each ball could fit through. She got pretty good at visually fitting balls by the end of the week. Finally, we bought M a sandbox for her second birthday, and decided to set it up early. The kids had fun playing in it.
That is our week in Tot School. See Carisa's blog to see what others did in Tot School this week.