Friday, July 29, 2011

Our Sunflower Playhouse

One of our ongoing projects this summer has been a sunflower playhouse. We dug up one corner of our fenced-in backyard and planted both sunflower and bean plants. We then defined the area with a border of river rocks. The end goal is to have a fun and natural outdoor playhouse for the girls. It's not much to look at... yet. But, the sunflowers are getting bigger and bigger and now we're starting to see flower buds.

Most of the flowers are AJ's height. But, at least one is almost Lizzie's height!

If the sunflowers are exciting enough yet, we always have rocks to play with!

The walls of our playhouse are getting taller and taller everyday. I think I'm about as eager as the girls are to see the sunflowers start blooming. But, until then, we have plenty to play with and explore in that corner of our yard.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Pet Shop in a Box

Since we were talking about dogs and cats last week, I thought it would be fun to put together a little pretend play kit for the girls. Pet Shop in a Box was created! I searched through all of our toys and found little cats, dogs, birds, and rabbits. I borrowed a few toys from our own pets, then looked through our play kitchen items for anything that might resemble pet food. I also threw in our doctor's kit as well. That way the girls could take care of any sick pet that came to their store.

Notice the little bunny has a band-aid on her neck? Apparently she was quite injured when she visited the pet shop!

I also made a sign and several price tags. A few times we even got out a pile of quarters for a little money practice. So far, our pet shop has been a hit! Lizzie likes to play shopkeeper and AJ likes to be the resident veterinarian. Even though we're no longer talking about dogs and cats, we still have the pet shop out. AJ asks for it every day! So, until the girls completely tire of it, it's staying out!

Of course, our Pet Shop in a Box has some advantages for mommy as well. Everything is contained in one box and it's easy to enforce the "pick up after yourself" rule. Watching the girls pretend and have fun has been a blast too!

If you want to make your own Pet Shop in a Box, you're welcome to use the printables I made. You can find them here. Have fun!

Linking up to Show and Tell, Link and Learn, It's Playtime, Preschool Corner, Fun for Kids Friday , For the Kids Friday and The Sunday Showcase    

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Story Time: Books About Dogs & Cats

Since we were talking about dogs and cats last week, I filled our book basket with books about them. We had some old favorites from our collection and some new books we found at the library. One such old favorite was My Cat Copies Me by Yoon-duck Kwon. It's a story about a little girl whose cat follows her around every day doing whatever she does. One day, the little girl thought it would be fun to follow her cat around instead. She spends the day learning how her cat sees the world. It's a perfect book for any child with a beloved pet cat.


Another fun book we found at the library was The Dog Who Cried Wolf by Keiko Kasza. It tells the story of a dog named Moka who lives with a little girl named Michelle. One day, after Michelle read him a book about wolves, he decided he wanted to live like a wolf. He runs away from home and has a grand time... that is, until he encounters a real wolf (don't worry, nothing scary happens). This is a fun book about a dog who was just a little bit naughty and a little girl who loves him very much.

We read a lot of fun books last week! Here are a few more that were in our basket.

Monday, July 25, 2011

D is for Dog

So, what do you do with a pile of tiny dogs? We were faced with that conundrum recently. Lizzie and I created the pile after we received a wonderful care package from my mother. One of the things we found was this punch, and we went to town  punching out a pile of little dogs. When we were done we had a lot of colorful dogs, but nothing to do with them. I figured these little dogs were perfect for an art project. After all, we had been talking about dogs and cats all week. So, out came the paper and glue.

I drew the word "dog" on the paper, gave the girls glue and the pile of dogs and they set to work decorating the word. I think they turned out quite well, don't you think? It's the perfect ending for that pile of tiny dogs!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Sorting Puffballs

Since AJ had a lot of fun learning how to play Memory with our seashell match game, I thought I'd come up with another version. It was also a sneaky little attempt to help her start recognizing her colors. It was pretty simple. I just gathered up a couple of bowls of puffballs and cut coordinating circles out of construction paper. Then I set the girls to work. Their goal was to put the puffballs in the correct colored spot. Lizzie thought it was great fun even though it too easy for her.

I wish I could tell you they had great fun and played peacefully together. But, let's keep it real here. This peaceful little picture was taken a few minutes before the hissy fit to end all hissy fits broke out. It seems Lizzie put her organizing skills to work and wanted to each girl to have certain colors... and well, they both wanted red. Sigh. We had crying, we had screaming, we had separate corners. Even the dog decided to hide in some far corner of the house wanting to be as far away form the hissy fit as possible. Then, as quick as it started, it was over. 

And now, peace reigns. They still have the game and have learned to play peacefully together. Let's see how long that lasts!

Linking up to The Sunday Showcase    

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Hawaii Basket

I've had this green basket forever. In the past, it's been used to hold toys and sometimes hold nothing. But, it's main purpose was to get in my way. While staring at it one day, it occurred to me that I could use it as a theme basket. Our first theme basket was bugs. It was full of books, coloring pages, small games and a magnifying glass. Unfortunately, I have no pictures of it. After we were done with that, we turned it into a Hawaii basket. Lizzie has been fascinated by Hawaii lately, so I thought it would be fun to explore that theme. I found several books at the library.

I also added several activities they could grab and play with whenever they felt like it. I added a flower lei, a map of Hawaii (found via Google images). I printed out a large picture of a sea turtle, then cut it into pieces to make a puzzle. I took unlined index cards and turned them into color-your-own postcards. I drew a picture on the front and added the address lines and small square stickers for stamps on the back. We had a shell matching game that came from the back of one of Lizzie's old High Five magazines. Finally, I found some Hawaii-related clip art, enlarged it so it took up half a sheet of paper, then printed them out. I used contact paper to reinforce them, then punched holes around the edges. Voila, homemade lacing cards! I also added binoculars and a file folder with several Hawaii coloring pages (not pictured).

We had fun with it while we had it. The girls especially love the shell match game.

Before retiring the basket, we had a couple of days devoted to Hawaii. We packed our bags for a virtual trip, watched several YouTube videos of hula dancing, which inspired a bit of hula dancing ourselves. We also did the classic vinegar and baking soda science experiment to see how a volcano erupted. 

So, what's in the basket now? Lizzie requested an outer space basket, so you'll have to stay tuned to see what we added!

Linking up to Sunday Showcase, Link and Learn, It's Playtime , Preschool Corner,
Smart Summer Challenge and For the Kids Friday.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Our Preschool Corner

Tucked between our couch and the wall is our little preschool corner. Other than the girls' bedrooms, we don't have a dedicated room for them. In the past (very recent past), their toys and books were taking over the living room and family room. I've been trying to tame it by making small spaces for their stuff. This is one of the spaces I created. This is the corner where we do all of our preschool activities. I keep small activities here that they can grab and work on whenever they feel like it. I also strung some twine along the banister where we can display some of their artwork.

Next to this area is our weather chart and a basket where we keep books related to the topic we're working on. Can you tell we just finished up ice cream week? The basket is now full of books about cats and dogs. The girls enjoy this space and now we're starting to work on our next challenge related to it... cleaning up after ourselves!!

Do you have any dedicated kid's spaces in your house?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Ice Play

How do you beat the heat (and learn a little at the same time)? Playing with ice, of course! Yesterday, we set up a couple of simple experiments with ice. The first was ongoing as we played with our other experiment. We put some ice cubes in a small glass bowl, set it aside and waited to see how long it took to melt. We had to keep checking back to see the ice shrinking. It was completely fascinating (at least for the under 5 set)!

Next, I set up a cookie sheet with a bowl of ice and two glasses of water. The goal was to count how many ice cubes it took to make the water flow over the top of the cup. I was inspired by a game in the book, Math Play.

We added ice, took away ice, played with ice and did whatever struck our fancy at the moment. We practiced our observation skills. What color is the ice? Is it hot or cold? Fuzzy or slippery? And yes, we finally did get to the point where our water flowed over the top.

Above all we had fun, and learned a little about ice in the process. 

How are you beating the heat this summer?

Linking up to It's Playtime!Fun for Kids Friday! For the Kids Friday and Smart Summer Challenge 

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Story Time: The Three Little Gators

Deep in the middle of our Three Little Pigs obsession, we discovered this delightful  book by Helen Ketteman, The Three Little Gators. Lizzie was in love from the first reading and requested it every day (at least until we had to return it to the library). 

The book follows the adventures of three little gators who live deep in a Texas swamp. They leave home to build their own houses and encounter the Big Bottomed Boar.

The book is well-written and perfect for a fun read aloud as you travel down South, deep into a swampland. The illustrations are large and colorful. They fit the mood of the book perfectly. My long-neglected Southern accent came back and the readings got rowdier and rowdier. How can it not when that Big Bottomed Boar would "wiggle his rump with a bump, bump, bump" and knock their houses down?

The Three Little Gators is a perfect book for summer reading. It's also a great choice to introduce your children to the different ways stories can be retold. Find it and have fun with the reading. Your kids will ask for it again and again!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Finger Painting

I had a revolution of sorts the other day. I was browsing (a great go-to source) and discovered a recipe for homemade finger paint. Who knew? Well, I'm sure some of you did... but, I didn't! It was cheap, easy and I had all the ingredients already in my pantry. 

I won't reprint the recipe here, but you can go to this link to find it. All you need is cornstarch, water, salt, sugar and food coloring or powdered tempura. Lizzie was very fascinated by the mixing of the colors. I think next time we'll experiment more with color mixing instead of just using primary colors.

This finger paint was also surprisingly easy to clean up, which is always a bonus. After making the paint, I just let the girls paint as they wished with it. I had to show AJ how to fingerpaint, but after that, I did not want to direct them. I love seeing what they can come up with on their own. The girls had a blast!

I love homemade art supplies! There's no worrying about what may be in there and it's a lot cheaper than buying them in the store. I'll definitely be exploring more recipes and I'll share the good ones with you. Oh, and we'll be finger painting a lot more as well!

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