Thursday, October 9, 2014

Chalk Alphabet Driveway Game

Jack is very excited about winter! He has been wearing his hat and gloves the past few days. The temperatures have been in the 70's. I, on the other hand, want to enjoy every last second of Summer (even though Fall started last week). Every afternoon after school and a little rest time, we play outside. So today we did a little kinesthetic learning activity. If you think we do this sort of thing every day, think again! Normally when we are outside my kids are riding bikes, kicking balls, or wailing on each other with sticks (the latter is not condoned). But, every once and while we need to mix things up a bit. 

I wrote the alphabet in upper case letters on the driveway with chalk, then I drew a line across the driveway and above the line I wrote the alphabet again but this time using lower case letter. The simplest form of this game practices letter recognition. I called out a letter and Jack jumped on it. Then I said, 1...2...3.. go...and he had to run to find the letter's upper case counter part. 

After many rounds of this game and noticing him getting a little bored with it, we changed it to a phonics game. I gave him cues such as, "Find the letter that begins the word, dog." or "What is the ending sound in the word, hat?" 

I love a learning activity that gives kids  a little exercise and works on gross motor skills! 

And with little rain lately, this game board stuck around for a while. Come back for more driveway alphabet activities soon :) 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Shape Man

Now 4 year old Jack loves to color, but he rarely puts much thought into what the outcome of his scribbles will be. Occasionally, it is a colorful rainbow, but usually he is more of an abstract artist. I thought some stencils might be a good way to bring out his inner Picasso and to review the names of shapes at the same time. 

First, I let him use the stencil on his own to make whatever kind of picture he wanted. Then I showed him how to make Shape Man. We talked about the names of the shapes for each body part and which shapes might make sense for the legs or the arms. Here is my Shape Man example. 

I don't always like to do an example, because I would rather see where his creative mind goes rather than just following my lead, but sometimes a sample is helpful to get the process moving. Plus, kids love to see adults play, and coloring is an easy way to play and chat with kids of all ages. Sometimes I wish that restaurants brought one extra coloring place mat when we go out because I love that part of our going out to eat with kids experience.

Next up after Shape Man? Shape City, perhaps?

Friday, June 13, 2014

Yee Haw! Our Little Cowboy is 4

This spring has been quite a busy time with traveling for weddings, Saturday morning soccer, planning our town's Touch-A-Truck fundraiser, and of course, Jack's 4th Birthday. I debated whether or not to have a party this year because now that he is in school it would mean inviting his entire class of 12 children, which is a lot of tiny people running around our house. And, well, he's 4, is he really going to notice whether or not he has a party? Probably not. But, he is only 4 once and childhood is such a short time, why not make the day extra special? But he's only 4, having the entire class over is way too overwhelming for him--and for me. This debate in my head went on for several weeks before I hit a deadline and had to make a decision. I love to party plan and entertain and well, he's only young once, so despite numerous moments of "why am I doing this?", we did it, and we will probably do it again. 

Jack received an adorable cowboy costume for Christmas complete with leather chaps, denim vest, and felt hat that he embellished with multiple colors of crayons. I wouldn't say he has worn it everyday, but certainly no outfit has gotten more wear than this one. So when deciding the theme for the party (because every one of my parties has to have a theme) we decided to go with cowboys. 

I started by making a wreath, of course, because I still have a lot of pipe insulation to use up. I used burlap to wrap around the pipe insulation, then I glued on shapes that I cut on my Silhouette machine. 

We decorated the play room with some cacti, and a corral for Rody and a second Rody we borrowed from a friend. 
We added some simple streamers throughout the house. 

Guests were offered bandanas and a sheriff's badge upon entering the party. 

Tiny hats and silly mustaches made for fun photo opps.

We started the party by doing a few crafts. First, the children decorated their own party favor bags made in the shape of a cowboy boot. I forgot to take a photo of these, so I'll do my best to explain. We took a small, brown paper bag and glued on a piece of oak tag I had precut into the shape of the foot part of the boot.  I wrote Sheriff and each child's name on the bag and they decorated them with crayons and markers. The next craft was a cowboy hat that the children decorated from a kit we bought at Oriental Trading. Finally, the children decorated lucky horseshoes I cut out from foam paper. 

After the crafts, we played games. We started with "Prickly Cactus" aka Hot Potato. To keep the kids who got "out" involved while the game continued, they were encouraged to play "freeze dance" while the music played. And finally we played, Pin the Mustache on the Cowboy. I printed out a picture of Jack in his cowboy outfit and each child took turns trying to stick a fuzzy mustache on him. 

Then on to Jack's favorite part of any party....the cake! I made cupcakes using Cherry Brook Kitchen brand cake mix, because one of our party goers has severe food allergies. These are nut free, dairy free, and egg free, so you would think they would also be free of taste, but they are actually delicious. Everyone raved about them, and they may have become our new go-to brand for cake mix! 

I wish I could say I made these adorable cake toppers, but I bought them on Amazon!

All in all it was a successful day, the kids had so much fun, and that is the important part of it all. I can't believe he is 4 years old already! Time flies! A Birthday party is certainly not a necessary part of childhood, but it sure does make for some fun family memories. 

Thursday, May 15, 2014

That Second Kid

I am the third child in my family of four. My photo album is significantly smaller that my older brother's and sister's. So I am very sensitive to the plight of the younger sibling. Ok, plight may be a bit dramatic, but I do try to be aware of making my children's experiences similar when possible. I say when possible because it's just a fact that I don't have the same time now that there are two children as I did when there was only one. I simply had more time to take 400 pictures with Jack, but poor William may only have 100 pictures taken of him. Jack may have been read to more as a baby because we just had a little more free time. But there are other advantages that the second child has that the first child does not. For example, he is hearing way more language because with an older sibling, there is always someone talking. And, he is going to have lots of fun activities to do, that have already been tested out on his older brother!

I did this one a few years back with Jack, so now it is William's turn, and of course Jack wanted to join in the fun and demonstrate it to his little brother. We poked a piece of spaghetti into a ball of Play Dough, then the kids strung Fruit Loops onto the spaghetti.

You will notice there are few to no fruit loops on William's spaghetti pole.
That would be because he was more interested in just eating them!

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!