Tuesday, April 15, 2014

If You Give a Kid a Pancake

....he'll ask you to make them for breakfast everyday!
I think one day before I had children I declared that I was not going to make my kids big elaborate breakfasts, they can eat cereal every morning! Oh silly, naive, pre-children Kristin. It's not that they beg me for pancakes every morning, but more that I want to make them a special treat some days. Mind you, I don't make pancakes everyday. I make them about once a week, and make extras so that they can be reheated for breakfast for the next day or two. And sometimes when I'm feeling extra motivated I'll make a double or triple batch so I can freeze them. I just separate them between wax paper and put them in a freezer, zip-top bag. The other days, when the kids are not eating pancakes, they eat french toast, egg sandwiches, oatmeal, or yes, even cereal!

But on those days that we are eating pancakes, I do try to healthy them up a bit. I have tried numerous recipes from buttermilk and oatmeal pancakes to whole wheat pancakes, but this latest one we made was a different and quite delicious spin. Not to mention the fact that it tied in nicely to our little author study, as we just read Laura Numeroff's If You Give a Pig a Pancake

Peanut Butter and Banana Pancakes
(adapted from Todd English's PB&B recipe)

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups buttermilk
2 eggs
1 T butter, melted
1/4 cup peanut butter, microwaved until thin
2 small bananas, mashed

Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl and whisk together (3 year olds are great at helping with this step). Add buttermilk, eggs, melted butter, and peanut butter and gently mix together. Fold in mashed banana. Cook on greased griddle or pan for about 2-3 min. per side. Top, of course, with maple syrup!

After reading the story, we talked about other things that begin with the letter "P". I asked Jack to stamp a "P" as many times as he wanted on a piece of paper. Then for every "P" he stamped, we thought of a word to write that begins with the letter "P".
It was a lot of fun doing a mini-author study. It's great to have a little purpose and direction when we go to the library, rather than just picking random books every time.  I think we will definitely do it again soon! 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

If You Give a Kid The Letter "M"...

...he's going to do lots of marvelous activities. Continuing our author study of Laura Numeroff books, this week we read If You Give a Moose a Muffin. After reading the book, we did a fine motor, counting activity where Jack had to use tongs to pick up small puff balls and place them in a muffin pan. Each slot in the pan had a number, so he had to place that number of puff balls in that spot. 

Next, I drew an "M" for him so he could practice cutting. "M" is a great letter for cutting practice because of all of the straight lines. I didn't take a picture of the finished product, but let's just say cutting is something on which we need more practice. 

I cut out another large "M" and he practiced writing the letter "M" ON the letter "M"!

On a third letter "M" that I cut out, we brainstormed all of the words we could think of that began with the letter. He needed a little guidance at first. I said things like, "Can you think of any foods that start with "M"? or Do you see anything in this room that starts with "M"?" We came up with a long list including, Mom, microwave, minivan, Meghan, and markers. 

Another day, I gave him a few pieces of paper with pictures, some of which began with "M". I told him to stamp an "M" under all of the M-words.

Oops, almost thought airplane began with "M". 

Then we made a paper bag moose by using a cut out tracing of his hands as the moose antlers. This was his first experience with paper bag puppets and he thought it was hilarious. Gotta love toddler humor!

Then of course, If You Give a Moose a Muffin would not be complete without baking actual muffins! I decided to try making up my own muffin recipe. Well, let's just say the muffins were edible, but it was the actual toddler baking experience that was a success!

Monday, March 24, 2014

If You Give a Kid Some Cookies

If you give a kid some cookies, he's going to want to eat them! Well, these cookies were not edible, but they did make for a fun activity after we reread, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, by Laura Numeroff. 

I cut cookies out of stiff felt, then on some I wrote numbers and on others I drew the corresponding number of chocolate chips. Jack, wearing his apron, chef's hat, and oven mitt of course, had to count the chocolate chips and use a spatula to pick the cookie up off the cookie sheet and put it on a plate. Then on the same plate he had to place the cookie with the corresponding number. 

Chef Jack loved this activity. We then did it a second time, using letters instead. He had to find the upper case cookie that matched the lower case cookie and place it on a plate. We did not use the entire alphabet, just the letters in his first and last name. 

In the last activity, he had to find food pictures that began with the letter "c". I printed pictures, half of which began with "c" and the other half did not. He had to say the name of the food aloud and if it began with a "c" he placed it in the letter "c". If it did not, he just left it on the table. All of the food items I chose began with a hard "c" sound. He's not quite ready for the confusion of soft "c" like in "celery", or a digraph like in "cheese". 

I think the next activity we do will be the most obvious one....baking cookies!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

If You Give a Kid Some Puffy Paint

My sister-in-law recently shared this activity with me that she did with her 4 year olds and it inspired me to do some more activities based on books (my favorite types of activities!). Laura Joffe Numeroff writes a series of books that each follow the same pattern. You give a certain animal a treat and then they want a whole lot more from you!

We've read the story, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie many, many times in our house. Often when we read it we add our own little dialogue between the mouse and the boy and always get a good laugh. So when my sister told me about this activity we decided to check all of the books out of the library to do a mini-author study. When reading the books we started by making some predictions. Because Jack is already familiar with the story patterns, it was a little easier to make some guesses about what might happen in the story. This first activity was based on the book, If You Give a Cat a Cupcake. We made shaving cream paint in order to paint our own cupcakes.
We mixed together equal parts shaving cream and glue, then added some drops of food coloring to make the desired color "frosting". I drew a cupcake shape and Jack painted the frosting.
This shaving cream paint is great because it creates a puffy, 3-D effect! After painting the cupcake we talked about what other things we might find that are fluffy or puffy, or just any other sweet treats we might like to paint.

Jack painted an ice cream cone and then a snow cone. 

 My painting was a snowman eating an ice cream cone and another one eating a s'more.
This activity was a lot of fun. Thanks for the inspiration SIL. More Laura Numeroff activities coming soon!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Handwriting Wasn't Built in a Day

Every year I had students in my second and third grade classrooms who did not form their letters correctly, which makes for very messy and inefficient handwriting. It's not the worst problem to have, however, if it's something I can prevent with my own kids, I'm going to try my best. By second grade, children already know how to form their letters, so when they do it incorrectly it is nearly an impossible habit to break. I decided we would start with mastering Jack's name. Next, we will move on to the upper case letters, and finally the lower case letters of the alphabet. We started by using thick pencils/crayons to trace the letters of his name, but he lost interest in listening to me very quickly. Time to get creative! 

First we revisited this activity, where we drew his name in pudding. It was helpful to come up with a little chant to remind him where to begin. It doesn't need to be anything profound, just something that will get stuck in his head as a constant reminder. When doing the letter "J" we said, "down, down, down, down, to the ground, and then back up to the top to put the hat on". Another idea we used, given to me by my friend who teaches First Grade is sung to the tune of If You're Happy and You Know It
Where do you start the letters, at the top
Where do you start the letters, at the top
If you want to start a letter, then you better, better, better
Remember to start the letter at the top.

The next activity we did was painting the letters with cotton balls. I wrote his name in pencil and then he traced over them with the cotton ball dipped in paint. 

Then, we did the same thing but used cotton swabs this time. It can be helpful to make a little dot where each letter should start so he knows where to begin. 

Finally, we used our dot painters to dot our way around the letters, again making sure to begin each letter in the right place. 

We've got a lot more work to do, but I am already seeing big improvements. It was especially a struggle getting him to draw the circle of the "a" in the correct direction, but he is getting the hang of it! 

We did each of these activities on different days and they are BRIEF! It is important to keep it fun so that it doesn't become boring or frustrating from the beginning. 

*A few more ideas to get some extra practice in here and there: 
*Draw letters in the snow
*Write on a chalkboard with a wet cotton swab or a paint brush
*Paint letters using watercolors
*Trace the letters using a car to "drive" over the letters
*Put stickers on the letters in the same direction you would write them
*Write them in shaving cream using your finger
*Trace them in the air using a "magic spelling wand"
*Write letters on the driveway with sidewalk chalk
*Use bathtub paint to write letters in the tub
*Write letters with glue and cover with glitter

Do you have any other ideas to share with me?

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Sprinkled With Love

My dear friend has a two-year old son and has recently added TWIN girls to the family. Before the girls arrived at the beginning of the New Year, we wanted to show our love and help add a little more pink to their lives, so we threw her a Sprinkle.

When you have your first baby you are often showered with gifts for  your new little bundle of joy, but when you have your second and your third, you may not need an entire shower full of baby items, you may just need a sprinkle of items. In this case, we felt she just had to have some adorable pink baby clothes, and an equally adorable pink party at which we could sprinkle her and the babies with love.

Handmade invitations featured an umbrella with hearts that I cut on my Silhouette Cameo cutting machine. The text inside read:
We're having a party for the mommy to be
Genny Robbins is having numbers two and number three
No need for a shower
They have cribs and toys
Let's sprinkle them with pink 
For the new bundles of joys

We had a couple of very simple games. There was a "guess how many buttons are in the jar" game, and a "celebrity baby name" game where guests had to match the name of the celebrity to the name of her baby.

As you can imagine, the often eccentric celebrity baby names added some good laughs to the party. 

For favors we made little pink boxes stamped with baby feet, flowers, and "oh baby", and we filled them with the most deliciously simple to make cookies. 

Sandwich a smear of peanut butter between two Ritz crackers. Then dip the sandwich into white melting chocolates. The ingredients don't sound like much, but these are some addicting treats!

We added simple pink and gray decorations, including pink flowers and pink handmade tissue paper flower puffs. In the midst of my chaos of party hosting I did not take pictures of the food, but we served brunch fare, including baked french toast, mini quiches, bagels and cream cheese, fruit salad, and, of course, cupcakes. 

The party was a pretty, pink success. Momma-to-be was very grateful for her Sprinkle and her carload of cute, pink items. Even cuter though, are her two new sweet baby girls, Charlotte and Annie. Congratulations Genny!