Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Our Listening Station is "Ripped!"

Can you believe I still have most of my books on tape from my own childhood? Our kids love having a box full of books on tape to sit and "read" all by themselves. Granted, some are quite dated (remember the "Wuzzles"...or how about the "Little People" series by Fisher Price?), while others are classic. Goldilocks, the Wild Things, the Gingerbread Boy, and Little Red are all in the box.

Finding a cd player with a tape deck wasn't easy, but we have a good one that will hopefully last a long time. I've instructed the kids on how to use it properly, so they can listen to their books independently (KID 2 struggles with getting the tapes into the deck, but she's getting better).

We've been slowly adding to our listening library as the kids' birthdays roll around, and sometimes new books come with a "bonus" CD recording. Our large board book copy of The Very Hungry Caterpillar came with a CD recording of the book read by Eric Carle himself. That one is pretty cool! Gwyneth Paltrow did the recording of Brown Bear, Brown Bear; and James Earl Jones recorded the most recent addition to our library, The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey.

But with the advent of the CD, books on tape are not as easy to find. Most are on CD, which is great for listening in the car, but when you let your kids handle their own audio books, CD's get damaged VERY easily. So, I don't know how legal it is, but I've just finished ripping our entire CD audio book collection onto the computer. This way we can burn a new copy if (WHEN) their CDs get scratched and won't play anymore. I feel much better about letting them handle their own books on CD now that we have a way to replace them without having to repurchase the recordings.

The listening library in no way replaces our reading time together, but in a house with no TV, it's nice to have things they can fill their time with independently and still have the benefit of reading!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Homemade Advent Calendar

This is the Advent calendar I made over the weekend using dollar store finds. I think it turned out pretty cute!

Find out more over at MotleyMoms!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Easy Advent Calendars

I've posted some of my Advent calendar activities over at Motley Moms. Go check it out!

In the meantime, I've seen some really cute ideas for creating your own Advent calendar. You can use mini galvanized buckets, numbered 1 - 24 to hide little treats in. Hang them on a ribbon or cord to create a garland. You can even hang them out of order so the kids have to search for each day's treat.

Another cute idea is to use mittens (use mismatched or find them at thrift stores). Add numbers using felt or stitch them on and hang on ribbon or cord.

I found some really cute examples online by searching for "bucket advent calendar" and "mitten advent garland"...there are lots of ideas out there, both simple and elaborate. Have fun!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Math Munchies: Fruit Loop Number Line

We love edible math around here...I mean, who doesn't, right? So I gave my just-turned-3-year-old a bowl of fruity-O's and some plastic lacing cord, the length of a necklace, and invited her to make a necklace. After finding lots of reasons to eat them before stringing them (this one's broken, I'll have to eat it; these two are stuck together - I'll have to eat them) she got to it and strung about 25 cereals. I tied a knot at the open end and showed her how to slide the loops down to the end as she counted. She let me do about two of them and then told me to "Stop, Mommy! It's my turn!"

It was fun to make, fun to use, and fun to eat. When she tired of counting (she counted the whole strand 4 or 5 times by herself) I tied it around her neck and she set to work nibbling her necklace!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Pumpkin Pie Playdough

Happy November! I'm sharing my super-secret recipe for Pumpkin Pie Playdough to celebrate (okay, it's probably not that secret, but it was new to me and has gotten rave reviews everywhere I share it).

Start with this basic playdough recipe, but add a teaspoon each of ground cinnamon, allspice, cloves, nutmeg, and ginger or use several teaspoons of pumpkin pie spice. Put orange food coloring in the water before stirring it into your dry ingredients.

Mmmmmmmmm! Everytime the kids play with playdough, the house smells like pumpkin pie!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Folk Tale Fun for Halloween

Little Red Riding Hood, The Wolf, Woodcutter, and Grandmother

The kids loved that we dressed up with them. They were fascinated by the way my powdered hair and drawn-on wrinkle lines made me look really old!

We had everything we needed for our costumes except the red cape and hood. I used the leftover gray fur from KID 1's Max costume (Where the Wild Things Are) to make ears and stapled them to his hat.

The cape and hood reverse to a green, scaly dragon...why just make a boring red cape and hood, right? ;)

Hope you had a fun Halloween (or Fall Fest) with your kiddos!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Fall Fun with Sight Words

Found these leaf doilies at the dollar store and just knew I'd find a way to use them...

This is KID 1's placemat:

He was so excited he started chanting, "I've got leaves for sight words! I've got leaves for sight words!"

Gotta love Kindergartners!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Kid-Friendly Way to Celebrate the Season: CUPCAKE LINERS!

KID 2 was hungry before school, so we broke out the cute fall cupcake liners and filled one with raisins for her to nibble. They make great snack cups! I'm brainstorming other ways to use these cute seasonal papers:

  • Craft Corral: great for holding glitter, googley eyes, pom poms, or whatever we're working with

  • Same and Different: I have the kids sort and categorize little items like coins, beads, M&M's, etc.

  • Lunchtime Helper: perfect size for corralling chips or pretzels on their lunch plates

  • Flower Power: flip inside out and snip down the sides to make a paper flower for a seasonal collage.  Glue a button or pom pom in the center.

  • Handyman special: hold the little parts, nuts and bolts in one spot as you assemble those awesome birthday and Christmas toys

Any other ideas? Kids love seeing the season reflected all around them and take joy in the small reminders we incorporate into their day.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Aa is for Apple

Now that KID 1 is spending his days in his Kindergarten classroom, it's up to KID 2 and me to keep the alphabet soup bubblin'!

This week was "Apple Week" here. I only wish we had apple orchards nearby where we could go and pick fresh apples! We studied an apple and all its many colors, then filled in a big apple outline with colored tissue paper. KID 2 had fun tearing the tissue into little pieces for gluing. I watered down some Elmer's and gave her a paintbrush to apply her glue. She really enjoyed this project!

This one is MY apple project. I want to make a banner for each month so we can hang it on the mantle to mark the beginning of the new month. Here is September's banner:

How do you celebrate the month of September?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Summer Fun: Build a Teepee!

We're spending some time in the woods this summer, looking for some good, clean fun. Remember the days when your mama sent you outside and told you not to come back 'til dinner? And you just had to make your own fun. Video games, DVDs, and iPods had nothing to do with our childhoods, and I'm thinking that was probably a good thing. This summer we're going back to basics. I'm finding ways to share the fun and imagination I developed as a kid with our kids, without sending them off to fend for themselves...you just can't do that nowadays, unfortunately.

Here's the teepee they made with their Daddy this weekend and what a joyous time they had dragging all those branches out of the woods and into the back yard! KID 1 had the idea to cover the basic tripod with leafy branches to enclose it. Next summer, the base will be ready to support pole beans as a cover.

We made some old fashioned string phones for the new hideout. Remember those? I just needed to raid the recycling bin for tin cans and we were all set!
Hope you're having some good old fashioned fun with your kids this summer!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Sleepy in Seattle

We recently took a kid-free vacation to Seattle, our first-ever time away from the kids! It was exhausting, but totally worth it! Check out "Seattle on a Shoestring" over at Motley Moms!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Earth Day Activity with The Lorax

We read The Lorax by Dr. Suess this week, enjoyed an ongoing discussion about the importance of trees, and followed up with this art activity today, making our own "Truffula Trees."

I cut toilet paper rolls in half lengthwise and the kids painted them brown. Then we glued them to a piece of construction paper. Next we put some cotton balls in a plastic container with some green tempera powder, popped the lid on and shook. The result was a variety of shades of green puffs, perfect for truffula trees! (Or thneeds, if you're familiar with the book!)

My 5-year-old son is very intent on realism in his artwork right now, so he needed the book to look at as he painted the Lorax next to his tree. The two 2-year-olds had no such requirements and went to town painting yellow suns and Loraxes all over their pages:

Happy Earth Day!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Lounging Lettuce Licker

Toby surveys his territory while posing for a picture in the garden

Then he gets distracted by luscious, leafy lettuce...see the pink tongue peeking out?

As a pup, he would come trotting across the yard with an entire head of rotted garlic clenched proudly in his teeth. I should have known that if he'll eat from the compost pile, he'll eat from the pan of fresh baby lettuces! Yum! Remind me to triple wash before serving salad!!!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Rainy Day Art: Stained-Glass Masterpieces

Contact paper, colored tissue and a permanent marker were all we needed to make these beautiful stained-glass creations:

Even without the sun shining through, they sure brightened up our dining room window on this stormy day!

Monday, April 13, 2009


Our back yard was the perfect setting for a casual, low-key breakfast on Easter morn.
KID 2 enjoys a bit of coffee cake while the dog enjoys the crumbs!
Bon Appetit!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Easter!

My mom raised four kids all by herself for most of our growing up years. I love finding little ways to honor her dedication (blood, sweat and tears, but also a lot of fun throughout the years!).

Here is the little Easter token of gratitude I put together for her. I also did one for Paul's mom, who had three little chicks of her own:

Happy Easter! Have fun with your little chicks today!

Friday, April 10, 2009

The Best Nest!

We got this nest idea from montessori mama's post today and decided to get right to work building our own nests. We just read The Best Nest by P.D. Eastman, so we found materials similar to the ones Mr. and Mrs. Bird used to build their nest:
stocking string (yarn)
soda straws
hay (paper confetti and basket filler)
horse hair (pink Easter grass)

We started with the rolled-down brown paper bag (I helped with this step), and they painted glue inside their nests and up the sides. Then they went to town adding gobs of nest-building decor! We'll put Easter eggs in when they are dry (they also used gobs of glue!).

This was a fun and easy project!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Fun Little Bunnies

This cute little book reading bunny makes a
sweet centerpiece on our Easter table! ($10 at BIG Lots!)
We've filled his basket with our special decorated eggs. It could also hold a small potted plant.

KID 2 uses the captain's chair, so I had to modify the bunny cover to fit.

KID 1 really likes his special chair!

The bunny covers turned out really cute! I used Elmer's bonding spray to adhere the pieces. If you let it dry for a few minutes, the bond is repositionable. This means we can make other holiday/seasonal pieces for the same covers. When Easter is done, we'll put these bunny pieces in a zip bag for next year! I like the Birthday Throne cover idea at Family Fun!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Spring Planting Project: Upside-Down Tomatoes

A fun and easy spring gardening project to try with your little ones involves repurposing your plastic 2L soda bottles. Cut off the bottom, turn it upside down, punch holes around the top for twine or string (we reinforced ours with colored duct tape), and put a small tomato plant upside down through the neck of the bottle. Fill with soil, then water and hang in a sunny spot.

Enjoy watching your tomatoes grow upside down!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

An Easy Easter Project and Fun New Resource!

We recently opened a fresh new stack of colored construction paper (a BIG event around here!) and KID 1 was anxious to make something. I did a search for "construction paper crafts" online and came up with a cool site with alphabetized paper crafts:


They also offer thematic materials, such as the Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? link with printable templates for coloring or making feltboard characters (there's a brown bear, red bird, yellow duck, etc.). They call this collection of resources the Book Breaks. Check out the Nursery Rhymes section, too! I wish I had known about this site sooner!

For those of you working on letters or numbers of the week, this could be a great resource for hands-on projects!

We started with the Easter Chick and added some fluffy yellow feathers to his wings. KID 1 liked cutting all the basic shapes and then putting them together to make something new. I wonder what we'll make next...hmmmmm...

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Playdough Resurrection Cross

Favorite Lent Activity: The Resurrection Cross (in playdough!)

Homemade playdough, small cookie cutters and white birthday candles are all the supplies you'll need to create this countdown cross. Each Sunday we light one less candle leading to Good Friday (when our Light went out). During Sunday dinner or devotional time is a good time to incorporate this activity. Turn overhead lights off for good visual effect and note how it gets darker each week as you light fewer and fewer candles.
Do a special lighting on Good Friday and let the kids blow all the candles out. Light them all again on Easter Sunday, symbolizing Jesus's resurrection. His sacrifice enabled his light to shine all over the world and right into our hearts.
Note: It's not too late to create your resurrection cross. Just pick up with this coming Sunday's lighting and blow out all but one.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Favorite Homemade Play Dough Recipe

1 cup flour
1/2 cup salt
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 tablespoon cooking oil or baby oil
1 cup water

Mix ingredients together. Stir constantly over medium heat until play dough consistency is formed. Cool and knead. Store in a tightly covered plastic container. Add food coloring to the water before adding it to the other ingredients, or knead in colors at the end while still warm (kids enjoy this part!).

We love this recipe and use it for playgroups and projects all the time! A triple batch makes enough dough for 6-8 kids.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Celebrating Easter with Preschoolers

Easter is hopping up on us, so this week we thought we'd share some of the ways we celebrate this season and holiday with our little chicks.

Easter Decor

Speaking of chicks, our little barnyard babies (stuffed lambs, chicks, ducks, and bunnies) adorn the house to remind us of the new life of Christ.

Check out this cute Nest O' Fluffy Chicks craft over at Family Fun. We'll try this one this week!

And the Bunny Chair Covers look so easy! I'll make these myself this week and surprise the kids when they come out for breakfast one morning...they'll love it!

Eggs - Once a pagan symbol, the egg became a Christian symbol of the empty tomb left behind when Christ rose from the dead. At MOPS last week, we decoupaged eggs using Mod Podge and decorative paper napkin cut-outs. They were pretty cute! The detailed project how-to is over at Martha Stewart's site.

Glittered eggs are always fun and easy for preschoolers. Just let them paint the entire egg with thinned-out glue and then roll it in a bowl of glitter. Dazzling!

Books, books, books - Several weeks before Easter, we pull out all our Spring and Easter books. We have quite a stack, but a few rank among our favorites:
Three Ducks Went Wandering
by Ron Roy, pictures by Paul Galdone
We love the illustrations. Directional phrases like "RIGHT IN FRONT OF..." and "RIGHT UNDER..." are educational and fun, letting the kids guess what's coming next. Paul Galdone is a gifted illustrator.

Seven Little Rabbits

by John Becker, Illustrated by Barbara Cooney

Fun, repetitive story of seven silly little rabbits who never make it to Toad's house. Barbara Cooney's illustrations are so lovely!

The Golden Egg Book
by Margaret Wise Brown

The author of Goodnight Moon writes a cute tale of a bunny who finds an egg and wonders what could be inside. He falls asleep after his great efforts to crack open the egg (unsuccessfully), at which point the baby duck emerges from his egg and wonders what this furry little brown sleeping thing could be.

Home For A Bunny

by Margaret Wise Brown

A Time to Keep:
The Tasha Tudor Book of Holidays

A lovely illustrated book of holidays
and traditions of old...very nostalgic and sweet!

We also have a couple of children's bibles and bible storybooks that tell the Easter story. We read this during devotional time before we make our resurrection crosses. I'll post more details about the playdough resurrection cross tomorrow!

Do you have any favorite Easter books or traditions?

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Time to Get a Timer?

Check out my list of great uses for timers with preschoolers over at MotleyMoms:

Monday, March 2, 2009

A Book, a Boy, and a Body

Kids never cease to amaze me with their natural curiosity and limitless enthusiasm for things that inspire them! Our son, age 5, recently amazed us with his artistic (and scientific) rendition of the human body. As is often the case around here, the jumping off point was a book he read before bed with his daddy, The Magic School Bus Inside the Human Body, by Joanna Cole and Bruce Degen. (We love this series of science discovery books. They're well-illustrated by the talented Bruce Degen, and offer lots of detailed information about each topic in a very kid-friendly format.)

Upon waking the next morning, KID 1 informed us, "I'm going to make the human body today!"

"Oh. Okaaaaay...how do you plan to do that?" I inquired, my curiosity piqued.

I offered clay, but he declined. He said he needed paper, markers, and paint.

"Great!" I responded enthusiastically, relieved that we had all those supplies on hand.

He proceded to set his easel area, completely unassisted, with every paint pot we own, each with its own paintbrush standing at the ready.

I noticed he had found the Magic School Bus book from the previous evening's bedtime reading, along with a larger lift-the-flap book of the human body. Both were propped at his feet, ready for close inspection.

I taped up his paper and he set to work immediately, starting with an outline of a body. Then he was flipping through his books feverishly, stopping on pages that intrigued him to add an organ here, a blood vessel there, a representative bone or an important muscle. The end result is amazing (and funny: note the green blob of brain!).

When he finished his painting, I asked him about each part he included in his body and he matter-of-factly named each one for me so I could label it. Kidneys. Esophagus. Windpipe. Large intestine. Small intestine. The villi inside the small intestine. All the while, I'm thinking "Is this normal? He's only five! How does he remember all this, yet can't identify letter "Gg" correctly?"

Thank God for good books that feed my child what I didn't know he craved. Amazing.