Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Butterfly Themed Book Bag

Our local library has "book bags" that we can borrow that contain several books on a single topic. I noticed there was a butterfly themed book bag that included The Very Hungry Caterpillar, which is a favorite in our house, so we checked it out and my creative juices started flowing thinking of butterfly activities we could do.

The bag included:
The Very Hungry Caterpillar, by Eric Carle
From Caterpillar to Butterfly by Deborah Heiligman
Waiting for Wings by Lois Ehlert
The video, The Very Hungry Caterpillar and other stories.
A stuffed animal caterpillar/butterfly that contained a tummy full of the foods that the caterpillar eats in the story, The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

First we read, The Very Hungry Caterpillar and used the stuffed animal to act out the story. Jack LOVED this little butterfly toy! As I read the story aloud he was able to stuff the apple, the orange, the cake, and all the other foods into the caterpillar's tummy.

After reading this story, we watched the video which included, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Papa, Please Get the Moon For Me, The Very Quiet Cricket, The Mixed-Up Chameleon, and I See A Song. Eric Carle's illustrations come to life in the video adaptation of these stories. They are just beautiful! If you are not familiar with his work, Eric Carle uses collage to create his amazing picture books. Here are some other Eric Carle activities we've done in the past. 

Next, we read the book, From Caterpillar to Butterfly, which explains the life cycle of a butterfly, and we discussed the meanings of the terms used in the book, such as metamorphosis, molting, and chrysalis. Then we read Waiting for Wings. Author/illustrator Lois Ehlert also uses collage to create her beautiful children's books. This story illustrates the change of caterpillar into butterfly, and then it gives examples of different types of butterflies and where you might find them.

After reading our stories and watching the movie, we started on some projects. Our first was a simple paper plate butterfly. I had Jack color a plate with crayons, then I cut the plate to form the butterfly's wings. Then Jack glued on the body and the antennae that I had cut from black construction paper.

The second butterfly project started with making a caterpillar. We glued small puff balls onto a popsicle stick. Then, while that was drying we decorated the wings. We used heart shaped doilies and colored them with dot paint sticks. Finally, we glued the wings onto the back of the popsicle stick. Voila!  A beautiful butterfly!

We've been having fun with our hungry caterpillar theme all week. I created a picture shopping list and we went to the grocery store to buy the items the caterpillar ate in the story. Jack had to search through the produce department to find one apple, two pears, three plums, four (a pint) of strawberries, and five oranges. Then I let him choose one item from the foods the caterpillar ate on Saturday. Jack chose the ice cream. Boy...he is definitely my son! He loved having the responsibility of holding the list, finding the items in the store, putting them on the checkout belt, and paying for the groceries. 

When we got home we made a hungry caterpillar fruit salad with all of the items. I let him practice cutting the strawberries with the butter knife. Then we also used some grapes to make a little caterpillar. We used a grape tomato for the head and a dollop of yogurt and some raisins to make the caterpillar's face. 

Next, we decided to try to make some artwork like Eric Carle's. We drew shapes, the letter J and the letter S, on paper. Then painted on watered down glue and attached some tissue paper. Once it dried we cut it out and glued it onto construction paper. I also made a little caterpillar in the same way to show Jack how Eric Carle might have done it when he was writing his books.  

Finally, I asked Jack to tell a story about what the butterfly in the story does next after his big change from a caterpillar. We did it orally, but an older child could create a picture or small book that tells their story.

Our butterfly activity week  is over! We loved the book bag inspiration and we are looking forward to the next big theme! 

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Getting Saucy

Recently our local farm posted that they were having a u-pick tomato event.

I'm always up for a good deal on organic produce and this seemed like a fun family activity, so we headed over to get picking. My plan was to bring home a bunch of tomatoes and make sauce to freeze. 

Now, I've never actually made homemade tomato sauce so I didn't really have a good idea of how many I should pick, but I figured the more the better because I love pasta sauce and all things Italian food! Well, 35 pounds of tomatoes later I was ready to get saucing. 

Did I mention I bought a bunch of corn too?

Ok I didn't buy a tractor full of corn, but I DID buy about 16 ears with the intention to freeze that, as well as about 20 pints of blueberries to freeze. It was about to be a busy week of cooking and freezing!

This is what 35 pounds of tomatoes looks like.

Ok, now it's time to learn to make sauce! I started by emailing my Italian friends to see if they had any secret family recipes they wanted to share with me. I received one recipe for vodka sauce from my friend's Dad who is from Italy, but I had already used up my tomatoes so I haven't tried this yet. I can't wait to though! I also received one from another friend's Italian grandmother for a tomato basil sauce, which I did try and it was simple and delicious! Now, I'm not trying to imply that only Italians know how to make a good sauce, but I thought it'd be fun to get some authentic instruction. 

Next, I did a little online research of different tomato cooking methods. I tried boiling some to remove the skins, I tried roasting some, I turned some into soup, some into salsa, and some we just used to make B.L.T's. It was quite the experience and it took me an entire week to use up all the tomatoes. Now, my freezer is FULL of sauces and soups and food-wise we are totally prepared for the zombie apocalypse, provided we don't lose power and everything in the freezer melts. 

This is the soup I made and it is delicious 

And here are a couple of the recipes I used for inpiration in my sauce making

I cooled all of the sauces then put them in glass jars to freeze. 

I am a total recipe follower. I am a nervous cook and I have a hard time doing my own thing in the kitchen, I generally put my trust in the professionals. But I am proud to say that by the end of the week I was making up my own recipes. This is a first for me and a big step for my cooking confidence! 

When you think about it, most cooks aren't really inventing new recipes all that often. They are mostly changing and tweaking classic recipes to make them "their own". Well, I can safely say now that I can prepare a batch of tomato sauce without the help of a recipe. Sure, I will read others' recipes to look for inspiration and ideas, but I no longer feel that I need to strictly follow a recipe to get good results in the tomato sauce department. 

The next task is to learn to make a killer lasagna and to master the art of chicken cutlets to go with all of this sauce I have on hand. Have any good recipes/techniques you want to share with me? I'd love to hear your ideas, even if you aren't Italian! ;)

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Hands-On Toddler Activity #29: Colorful Pasta Creations

Many of our activities take place on rainy, snowy days, but this summer there were many days that were just too hot to play outside, so we had to find some indoor activities. While visiting Nana and Papa's house, my sister and I decided to take a look though the cupboards for some activity inspiration. We found plenty of pasta so we decided to dye it and use it for a couple of hands-on toddler activities.

To dye the pasta, combine a cup of dry pasta in a resealable bag with about a 1/2 cup of rubbing alcohol and desired amount of  liquid food coloring (around 10-15 drops).  Let the pasta sit in the bag for several hours or over night, turning the bag over every once in a while. Then lay out the pasta on a cookie sheet covered with paper towels or newspaper and let the pasta dry for several hours.

Now, what to do with this colorful pasta? The first activity was stringing necklaces. Lesson learned, penne is a little too small for this. If you are going to have your toddler string necklaces I'd recommend using rigatoni or ziti. Stringing necklaces is a great time to introduce making color patterns. Clearly we went free form on this particular one.

The second activity we did was using the pasta to spell out words and names. I spelled out different family members' names in glues, the Jack placed the pasta in the glue to complete the letters. This is a great activity for practicing letter recognition.

A few other ways you could use the pasta are:

  • to practice making color patterns, place the pasta in a color pattern and have your child complete and continue the pattern
  • to practice counting by having your child count the number of pasta in different colored groups
  • to practice addition by grouping together two or more different color groups and counting the totals
  • to practice subtraction by removing a certain number of pastas from a group
  • to practice counting and multiplication by drawing circles on a paper then having your child put an equal number of pastas into each circle
  • to make a piece of artwork by gluing different shapes and colors of pasta on to a paper

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Hands-On Toddler Activity #28: Domino Rally!

One of my favorite toys growing up was Domino Rally. Do you remember that one? It was not the traditional game of dominoes where you try to match up the number of dots on the pieces. It was a set of plastic rectangles that you painstakingly spent many minutes, sometimes hours, setting up in different configurations in order to watch them go cascading down in a matter of seconds. So fun! 

I thought this would be a great activity for my three year old son. It was a challenge for sure! Much of the straight lines you see here were set up by me but it was great exercise for the fine motor skills to have him very carefully add his dominoes into the line. Mostly though he preferred to build "houses" out of the dominoes. 

Another great thing we practiced while doing this activity was dealing with frustration! Very often when trying so hard to gently add his piece to the line, he would accidentally knock over the line of dominoes. We practiced some different ways to deal with this frustration rather that the normal, kicking and screaming on the floor. We tried taking deep breaths and saying the words, "Grrr, I'm frustrated!" And of course saying to the person who knocked it down, "don't worry, we can just build it again!" Dealing with frustration calmly is definitely a three year old struggle we are working hard on! Though difficult at times it was a very fun activity and we will definitely revisit this activity in the years to come!