Thursday, July 1, 2010

Fireworks and Yankee Doodle: 4th of July Crafts for Toddlers

For the first craft we made fireworks! Well, at least the non-explosive kind :) I found the idea for that here. It was really easy. We just took 4 baking cups (the kind you bake cupcakes in) and flattened them out then used different colored markers to make them colorful. Then we glued the cups onto a black piece of construction paper. After that we took glitter glue and spread it around with our fingers so the fireworks would be sparkly.

The next craft was a little more mommy involved. In my attempt to be festive, I've been singing the boys "Yankee Doodle". Scientist thinks the part about the macaroni is just hilarious, and asks me to sing it to him over and over. So I thought it would be fun to do a Yankee Doodle craft. I had Aaron make both boys a paper hat out of newspaper. (I don't know how, but you could probably Google search for instructions.) Then the boys painted their hats. In order for this to be festive, I only gave them the option of using the red, white, and blue paint. :) When that was dry, I put a line of glue around the bottom of each hat and the boys (Sponge had a lot of help from me) stuck macaroni all around the bottom. Then we glued some feathers to the top.

I was really happy with how the hats turned out. It was kind of a stop and go project. We painted one side of the hats, then had to let that dry so we could flip them over to paint the other side. Then we let that dry, glued one side of macaroni, let that dry, then the other side. And finally the feathers. But it was worth it, and it took a good part of the morning, so in my mind it was a success. We'll see how long the hats last, and how long I find random macaroni noodles strewn about my house. :)

Here are some things we (but probably mostly I) have learned about Yankee Doodle the last couple days.

Yankee Doodle went to town

A-riding on a pony
Stuck a feather in his cap
And called it macaroni.

Yankee Doodle, keep it up
Yankee Doodle dandy
Mind the music and the step
And with the girls be handy.

Father and I went down to camp
Along with Captain Gooding
And there we saw the men and boys
As thick as hasty pudding.


There was Captain Washington
Upon a slapping stallion
A-giving orders to his men
I guess there were a million.


Also a few interesting things from Wikipedia:

"Yankee Doodle" is a well-known Anglo-American song, the origin of which dates back to the Seven Years' War. It is often sung patriotically in the United States today and is the state anthem of Connecticut.

The song's origin is unclear. Traditions place its origin in a pre-Revolutionary War song originally by British military officers to mock the disheveled, disorganized colonial "Yankees" with whom they served in the French and Indian War. It is believed that the tune comes from the nursery rhyme Lucy Locket. One version of the Yankee Doodle lyrics is "generally attributed" to Doctor Richard Shuckburgh, a British Army surgeon. According to one story, Shuckburgh wrote the song after seeing the appearance of Colonial troops under Colonel Thomas Fitch, Jr., the son of Connecticut Governor Thomas Fitch.

As a term Doodle first appeared in the early seventeenth century, and is thought to derive from the Low German dudel or dödel, meaning "fool" or "simpleton". The Macaroni wig was an extreme fashion in the 1770s and became contemporary slang for foppishness. The implication of the verse was therefore probably that the Yankees were so unsophisticated that they thought simply sticking a feather in a cap would make them the height of fashion.

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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

S Day: S is for Sssssssnake!

I was very grateful to have the letter S this week. It just seems so easy compared to the last couple of letters I've had. Usually, for letter day we focus on a couple of different words that start with S, but today I only wanted to use one. Snake. I like the snake word, because not only does it start with S but snakes say sssssss, which is the sound the S makes, and I thought it would be a good way to help the boys associate the letter and the sound.

We started off reading the book Snake Stew by Tami Hunt. It's about a garden snake who tries to steal some eggs from the cook and ends up in a pot of boiling water and has to figure out how to get back home. It's a cute story and has lots of fun rhymes. But what I like about it is that any time the snake says a word ending in S, the S is dragged out. For example, the snake talks about moving through the graSSsssssss. And so on. So the S's really stand out and so does the S sound.

For our next activity, I dug down deep to a song from my preschool days called Sally the Swinging Snake by Hap Palmer. It's a fun song, and while you sing, each kid gets a piece of yarn that is their very own snake, and they have to make the yarn do the actions that go along with the song. Here are the lyrics:

1. Sally The Swinging Snake
Words and Music: Hap Palmer

Sally the swinging snake
She does the shimmy shake
She loves to rock and roll
Feels that rhythm in her soul

Sally can you swing from side to side?
Oh my yes I can
Sally can you stretch out long and tight?
Oh my yes I can
Sally can you curl up in a ball?
Sally can you jump up high and fall?

Repeat Chorus

Sally can you crawl in a small space?
Oh my yes I can
Sally can you crawl all over the place?
Oh my yes I can
Sally can you quickly vibrate?
Sally can you make a letter shape?

Repeat Chorus

The boys had a lot of fun with their Sallys and liked making her do the different actions, I think it kept them interested in the song for a lot longer than they would have been just singing it.

After that we colored and cut out "Springy Snakes". I found the template for this activity on the San Diego Zoo website. It's really easy, all you have to do is print it out on cardstock and cut out the snake. I did one for Sponge too, to keep him occupied while the big boys colored theirs, and I think this picture of him shows the template the best.

Scientist was thrilled with his finished project, he kept running around going "Spring! Spring! Spring!" and making the snake spring up and down. I think once he's done playing with it, we'll hang it up outside so the wind can do the springing for us.

After the kids ran around with their snakes and got some wiggles out, we sat them down at the kitchen table and gave them each a different color of playdough and had them roll out playdough snakes. After they got the hang of the snakes they took it upon themselves to make other kinds of animals too, and even though most of them didn't start with S, we didn't mind letting them be creative. :)
After that we had "Chocolate Snakes" for snack. It's a no bake cookie recipe I found online. Originally, I was going to have them help me make it, but I didn't think we'd have enough time. As it turns out, I'm glad I made it by myself before hand....the recipe has a 1/2 cup of honey in it, and it was a sticky mess! If you're interested here it is:

Snake Refrigerator Cookies

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 20 minutes


•1/2 Cup Peanut Butter
•1/2 Cup Powdered Milk
•1/2 Cup Honey
•1 Tbsp Cocoa
•1/2 tsp Vanilla
•1/2 Cup Chopped Nuts
•1/2 Cup Raisins
•Mini M & Ms

Combine the peanut butter and the powdered milk until blended. Stir in honey, cocoa, vanilla, nuts, and raisins - in that order. Roll your mixture into small snake shapes. Add 2 mini M & Ms for eyes. Attach the Mini M & Ms with peanut butter. Place the snakes on wax paper on a cookie sheet and chill in the refrigerator until very firm.

It probably wasn't the best tasting snack we've ever eaten...but the kids enjoyed it. Especially because I let them put their own eyes on.

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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Mixing Colors

 I've been wanting to try this experiment with Scientist for awhile now, so I made a bunch of red, yellow, and blue ice cubes using food coloring and froze them. But things kept coming up and we never got around to getting them out. Then the other day we went to the library and by chance, Scientist picked out a book called Blue Goose. It's about animals that paint their farmyard different colors while the farmer is away, and it talks about mixing two colors together to make a new color. Scientist loves the book, and asks to have it read to him all the time. So I decided it was time to pull out the ice cubes. We did red and blue first, because those are the first colors they mix together in the book. I put a red ice cube and a blue ice cube in a plastic sandwich baggy and taped it shut (I didn't have any zip locks). I gave one bag to Scientist and one bag to Sponge. They played with the ice cubes while they melted, and then I pointed out how when the ice melted the different colors mixed together to make purple water.

I didn't know if it would be over Scientist's head or not, but he really caught on quickly. Now, whenever we read the book and I ask what color you get when you mix red and blue, he says purple every time. And I think he really does understand the concept, instead of just spitting out a memorized answer. We only did red and blue, because of attention span, but another one of these days we'll try out yellow and blue, and red and yellow to see what happens. :) Also, I think once we've done all the different variations in ice cube form, we'll mix paint to solidify the concept. Anyone know of anything else you can mix?

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Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Shaving Cream Paint

I decided we'd do some finger painting so I could try something I've been hearing a lot about lately. That is to mix your poster paint with shaving cream. There are various reasons for doing makes your paint last longer (as in because you only have to use a few drops each time), it gives kids a new texture to work with, it takes away the awful smell of the poster paint, it makes the paint easier to clean up...are the reasons I've heard, and I wanted to give it a try. So I put some shaving cream into two different bowls and then added just a few drops of poster paint to each, one orange and one blue, and stirred it up with my finger so the shaving cream and paint mixed. Then I gave one bowl to each boy. For Sponge, he gets a little wild, so I taped his piece of paper to his high chair tray so it couldn't go anywhere.

The kids had a good time with it. And I will say that most of the above mentioned reasons to mix your paint with shaving cream, I found to be true. I used less paint on this project than when we do straight finger painting, the texture turned out really cool and 3-D which I really liked, after mixing in the shaving cream I could not smell the paint at all which I hate the smell of and it usually takes over my whole house whenever we get the paints out, AND my favorite part of all...the mess was a cinch to clean up. Sponge got paint all over my kitchen table, his high chair tray, himself, his onsie, and in his hair, and just rinsing all those things with water took the paint right off, no scrubbing whatsoever. My real only "concern" is that I'm not sure this mixture will ever actually dry all the way. I might have to spray it with hair spray to keep the "paint" in place, but that wouldn't be too bad.

Pirate Crafts

During the summer months, instead of story time, our local library does craft time for kids 12 and under. Today they had the kids make these adorable pirate hats and pirate hooks. I thought they were so cute and easy that I would share them.

To make a pirate hat all you need is a piece of black construction paper, a white crayon, and some tape. Turn your paper the long way and cut about an inch think strip off the bottom. Then on the rest of the paper trace this shape:

and using the white crayon, color in where all the white parts are, or designs of your own. Then cut it out. Next tape the inch thick strip to either side of the front of the hat so that it fits the child's head. Done and done.

To make a pirate hook you'll need 1 pipe cleaner, tin foil, and a large plastic or paper cup. Make a square out of tin foil that's as long and wide as the pipe cleaner is long. Lay the pipe cleaner on the edge of your tin foil square and tightly wrap the pipe cleaner in tin foil. Poke a hole in the bottom of your cup and feed the tin foiled pipe cleaner through the hole. Bend into a hook shape. Leave enough on the inside of the cup that the kids have something to hold onto.

My boys had such a fun time doing this project. And both were able to help making it to some degree (Scientist my 2 1/2 yr old obviously could do a lot more than Sponge my 1 yr old.) and they loved the finished projects even more. In fact, they wore them all over town while we ran our errands today. :) But I think these ideas are simple as easy enough for a wide age range of kids. They would make great Halloween costume ideas, a good activity for letter P, or just for some fun an old day.

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Sunday, June 6, 2010

R Day: Robots, Rowboats, Running Races, Rice Cakes

To start off R Day, Suzy read the boys a fun touch and feel book called Rusty Robot. It had lots of great R words in it that the boys got to pick out as we read. (Not to mention that reading starts with R.)

Then we talked about row boats and sang Row Row Row Your Boat. Suzy had saved diaper boxes for each of the boys and made oars out of the top, so they each got their very own row boat. First the boys got to tape pieces of water to their boats, so it would look like they were floating. Then they got to decorate them using markers, crayons, and stickers.

Here's Scientist in his completed rowboat. I tried to get him to hold the oars the right way, but he insisted on holding them that way.

Suzy even made a rowboat for Sponge so he wouldn't feel left out. He loved it! He especially loved being aloud to decorate it with markers. He got slightly carried away and also decorated himself and Scientist pretty well with a green marker. :)

The next activity was running a relay race. We went outside, and Suzy put one full bucket of water in the walkway and then by the stairs she put an empty bucket. She gave each boy a cup. The goal was to fill the cup with water from one bucket and then run to the next bucket and dump the water out and then run back for more water. This was the kids' favorite activity. They would have kept playing all afternoon if we would have let them. Once one bucket was empty, we'd have them switch directions and use the other bucket (which was now full) to fill their cups.

Sponge and K enjoyed watching the older boys running back and forth. Sponge tried to run with them for a little while, but gave up on that idea and decided to just stick close to Mom, and splash his hands in the bucket of water.  

Our cute little relay racers

To finish up R Day we had Rice Cakes for a snack. All four kids were thrilled.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Dryer Sheet Box Entertainment

Found another Sponge appropriate activity today, that only took about 3 seconds to put together and provided a half hour or more of entertainment. I took an empty dryer sheet box and cut a round hole in the lid, just big enough for a ping pong ball to fit through. Then I gave Sponge the box and a few ping pong balls (you can buy a 6 pack of ping pong balls at Target for $1.98 and they make great toddler toys) and showed him how to drop the ping pong balls into it, and then how to open the lid when he wanted to get them out. He played with that, and I folded laundry. It was a beautiful compromise.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Q Day: Q-Tips, Quack, Quiet, Quarters, Quesadillas

Somehow, I lucked out and scored being in charge of the letter Q. Please note my sarcasm. :) Luckily there are a lot of people out there who are more creative than I am, so I was able to find some fun ideas by looking online.

I made this Q poster in Word and printed it on a piece of card stock. I put the big Q and the little q and then a picture of all the different Q words we would be talking about for the day. Then each of the boys got a hand full of Q-tips and I got out the watercolor paints and they painted their Q posters using Q-tips.

Sponge wanted to play too, but I wasn't in the mood to clean paint off of him, so instead I just put him in his highchair, gave him a couple Q-tips and Aaron's Popular Science magazine and he "painted" that with invisible, dry, easy to clean up, imaginary paint. He was tickled. :)

We put the posters aside to dry, and I got out my flannel board for the next activity. It was my first time using the flannel board, and I was really excited! I've been thinking up, printing out, and laminating pictures and stories and ideas to use on the board for weeks now, but I hadn't gotten around to putting flannel on the backs of any of them yet, and today was the day. I had done the characters from one of Scientist's favorite songs, 5 Little Ducks. Here are the lyrics:

5 little ducks went out to play
Over the hill and far away
When the mommy duck said, "Quack, Quack, Quack."
4 little ducks came waddling back.

4 little ducks went out to play

Over the hill and far away
When the mommy duck said, "Quack, Quack, Quack."
3 little ducks came waddling back.

(...and you keep counting down until you get to)
0 little ducks came waddling back.

But when the daddy duck said, "Quack! Quack! Quack!"
5 little ducks came waddling back.
The boys took a little bit to get used to the idea that I wanted them to keep moving the ducks back and forth and count them as we did so. But I think they still enjoyed it, and hopefully more exposure to the flannel board will get them accustomed to it.
Next I read one of Scientist and Sponge's favorite books, Quiet Loud by Leslie Patricelli. It's a really simple book that talks about quiet things and loud things. For example on the first two pages it says, "Whispering is quiet. Screaming is loud." And has corresponding pictures. I had the kids do the quiet things and the loud things. At first they looked at me strangely that I was actually encouraging them to be loud inside, but they got over it rather quickly. It was a good chance to talk about how quiet starts with Q, but also a good chance to introduce opposites.
Then it was time for a more energetic activity, so the boys could get their wiggles out. I got the idea for this activity and the next one here. I got out 5 paper plates on each one I had drawn either a big Q, a little q, or both. and arranged them fairly close together on the carpet. Then I put a tape line a little ways away and had the boys stand behind it. I gave them each a handful of quarters and showed them how to toss the quarters and try to hit the Q's on the plates. I'd say this was probably the favorite activity of the day. :) The pictures that I took didn't turn out though, so I'm going to see if Suzy will share hers with me, and then I'll post them.
Last it was time for snack. We made Q shaped quesadillas. The boys were really excited about helping to spread the cheese, and about eating the tails.

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Masking Tape Town

Scientist woke up 45 minutes before Sponge at nap time today. I wanted to keep him occupied and quiet at the same time, so I got down on the floor and played cars with him. The only problem was that after driving all around the living room on my hands and knees, my pregnant back was telling me to call it quits. I decided I'd have an easier time playing if the cars could be contained to driving in a small area. So, I got out the masking tape and made Scientist a little car town. We even set up blocks to be the different places we go, the gas station, Target, Costco, Macey's House (Macey's Grocery Store, Scientist calls it Macey's House for some reason), The Mending Shed, etc. It wasn't my intent to make it look like a face, but that's how it came out. Scientist deemed that the "mouth" was a big sandbox and had all the cars/trucks pick up sand from there and go dump them at different locations. He also spent a lot of time filling up each car with gas. He was so into it that I didn't even have to play, I just watched. He played really well with the little car town, until Sponge woke up and promptly began pulling all the tape off of the carpet.

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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Toddler Train

Since Sponge started walking he's been a lot more insistent on being part of things. So I've been trying really hard to do a few activities each week that target him specifically, and then also finding ways to involve him in what I'm doing with Scientist.

This morning while I was trying to get ready for the day, Sponge was on a rampage and needed a distraction. So I took a 5 minute break from getting ready and made him a toddler train. I got the idea out of The Toddler's Busy Book: 365 Creative Games and Activities to Keep Your 1 1/2 to 3 Year Old Busy by Trish Kuffner. I like this book a lot, I'll do a review on it one of these days.

To make a Toddler Train you'll need:

3 or more assorted boxes (I made boxes out of sheets of card stock, and I only had two)
String, ribbon, or yarn
Plastic straw

Use scissors or another pointed object to poke small holes in the ends of each box. Insert about a foot of string, ribbon, or yarn, into the back hole of the first box, then tie the end of the string around a short piece of plastic straw to prevent it from pulling through the hole. Insert the other end of the string through the front hole of the next box and fasten it in the same way. Use more string to continue connecting boxes until the train is finished. Use a longer length of string for the front hole of the first box. Tie a cylindrical wooden block or small plastic vitamin bottle to the end of the string for a handle.

I couldn't convince him that it would be cool to pull his toys in his train, but the empty train kept him busy for the next 25 minutes while I finished getting ready, so I'm not going to complain.

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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Book Review: Marshmallow Math: Early Math for Toddlers, Preschoolers, and Primary School Children

Marshmallow Math: Early Math for Toddlers, Preschoolers, and Primary School Children  by Trevor Schindeler

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I originally picked this book up to get ideas for simple counting and math games for Scientist. I was pleasantly surprised to find, not only the games I was looking for, but a philosophy about teaching math to young children that I agree with.

This book focuses on how to teach solid math principles instead of just memorizing equations and rules. It encourages using objects (i.e. marshmallows, pennies, jelly beans etc.) over written numbers in the early stages of math so that children can see and physically manipulate the numbers they are trying to work with, and gain a understanding of what they are actually doing with each equation. Most importantly, it does this in game format to make it fun.

Other things I liked about the encourages short, focused, fun time periods for doing math, instead of long stretches with lots of "work". It is easy to read and simple to understand, as in, they don't spend pages and pages trying to convince you why their method works or is better. In fact, each chapter is only about a page long. The book itself is only 153 pages, which includes charts and game boards that you can print out to use. Also, the concepts start with simple things for toddlers, and gradually advance in difficulty to about a 1st or 2nd grade level. So the book and it's ideas will be useful for awhile.

I would recommend this book for anyone out there with younger children looking for fun ways to include math into your everyday playtime activities.

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Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Fine Motor Mania

This week we've been working with Scientist on his fine motor skills. We've taken ideas for games from different places and also come up with a few on our own. I was a little bit surprised at the positive response I got from Scientist. He loved the games, and would ask to play them over and over. He never suspected we were working on a skill :)

For our first game we used marbles. I filled a small bowl full of marbles and gave Scientist a spoon and told him the game was to pick up the marbles with the spoon and put them in the other bowl. He went back and forth between bowls several times.

Then we decided to take it up a notch. I put the full bowl of marbles on a chair at one end of the kitchen, and the empty bowl on a chair at the other end of the kitchen, so Scientist had to go a lot farther, and do a lot more balancing, to get marbles from one bowl to the other.

After several rounds of that, I tried making a course that was a little bit harder, requiring Scientist to walk a circle around a chair before putting his marble in the bowl, but by that time his attention span was at an end. He did start inventing his own games though, that involved making the marbles make as much noise as possible. :) And that kept him entertained for another 10 minutes or so.

Another game we played this week was to place colored stones in different patterns on a board. For this I just used colored floral stones that I bought at Wal-Mart for $3. For the board I made up my own in Microsoft Word and printed it out. The game was for Scientist to pick out of three different colors, white, light blue, and dark blue, and place the stone on the corresponding color on the board. This game was a little bit more challenging for him. It was interesting for me to see how he chose to meet the requirement. He did all the dark blue stones first, then the all the white, and then the light blue; instead of picking stones at random. After he'd done the whole board a couple times, I turned the board upside for variation.

Scientist's favorite activity was the easiest to come up with and to prepare for. I just gave him an empty cereal box and a pair of safety scissors and let him have at it. He stayed busy for a long time, and this activity is the one he asks to do again most often.

Scientist also really enjoyed our marshmallow game, probably because he got to eat the marshmallows when we were through. For this game we added a little math into the mix. I dumped out a big pile of mini marshmallows and separated them into several different piles with a different number of marshmallows in each pile. I had Scientist count the number of mallows in each pile. Then I gave him a pile of tooth picks and we counted how many of those we had too. Next I let Scientist spear the mallows with the tooth picks, and showed him how to make different shapes by hooking the tooth picks together with marshmallows. We talked about and counted how many sides and how many points each shape had. Before I let him eat the marshmallows, I had him count how many was on each tooth pick as he pulled them off.

A few of the other fine motor activities we did this week were coloring with sidewalk chalk, threading large wooden beads onto a shoelace, and painting both with fingers and with brushes.

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