Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Story Time: Books About Japan

When I first came up with my "Around the World" scheme, I did worry about finding all the resources I would need. Luckily, I found a wealth of information for our first stop, Japan. Most of my ideas for the projects and information we're learning about this week, came from these three books: Japan by Richard Tames, Welcome to Japan by Elma Schemenauer and Japan ABCs by Sarah Heiman.

I had my ideas, then I hit the fiction section. Oh my goodness, I found some beauties! We've been enjoying the incredible artwork and learning a bit about Japanese folklore and culture. Yay for public libraries!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Recycled Kokeshi Dolls

We're taking a trip to Japan this week. My plan is to introduce my girls to some of the different countries of the world this year. Lizzie is already starting to show a fascination for different cultures, so I thought it would be fun to take this "trip around the world" with my girls. This week, we've jetted off to Japan. I found a pile of great books from our library which gave me tons of ideas for activities. One such activity were these kokeshi dolls made from recycled materials.

The prep was really easy. I took a toilet paper roll and cut two small slits at the top. I then cut circles out of an empty cereal box. I used one of our drinking glasses as a guide for the circle. I then inserted the circle into the slits, set out paint, glue, tissue paper scraps and crayons. After reading about the dolls and looking at a few pictures, the girls got to work.

I've never seen Lizzie quite so careful and deliberate while she painted! Her creative juices were flowing and off she went working on making her doll beautiful.

AJ, well, she's two. After slapping a bit of paint on her dolls, she discovered the joy of gluing tissue paper. Piece after piece after piece!

Here are the finished dolls. Don't they look just like the picture? All in all, this was a fun project. They both had fun and the variety of materials suited both of their abilities. Needless to say, they are both quite proud of their dolls... and I am too!

The book we used as a reference was Japan ABCs by Sarah Heiman and Todd Ouren. It's been a great starting point for all of our activities.

Linking up to Kids Get Crafty, The Play Academy, Show and Share Saturday, For the Kids Friday, Link and Learn, Link Your Mess, It's Playtime and The Sunday Showcase         

Beach Ball Fun

So, what do you get when you combine a beach ball with a swing set? A whole lot of fun, that's what!

It all started with a challenge: Can you swing while holding a beach ball between your legs? 

Why of course!

After proving what incredible beach ball holding abilities we had, we moved on to other fun. How about beach ball kicking while swinging? No pictures, since this involved Mom tossing the beach ball at little legs while they were swinging. I missed more often than not, but boy was it fun! We also tried rolling the beach ball under the swinging children, which again got lots and lots of giggles, especially when the little legs managed to bop the beach ball. (And in case you were wondering, yes, we were very safe. Two hands held on to the chains at all times and nobody actually stood in the way of swinging children!)

Impromptu fun... is there anything better?

Monday, August 29, 2011

Nature Scavenger Hunt, sort of

We were feeling a bit cooped up one day last week. The girls were driving each other (and me) crazy and honestly, we were all bored. The evening promised to be more of the same since my hubby had an after-work work activity to go to. This just wouldn't do!

I had our summer bucket list on my mind and nature scavenger hunts were particularly appealing. The only problem, time. We needed out of the house and fast! I most certainly didn't want to take the time to prep a scavenger hunt. So, we did the next best thing. After packing up a quick picnic dinner, we piled in the car to one of our local parks and declared ourselves treasure hunters. We were going to go hunting for nature treasures.

All the gold and diamonds in the world could not compare with all the cool sticks we found. We don't have any mature trees in our yard, so we're not playing with sticks on a daily basis. But, the park we chose was full of fun sticks. We found long ones, short ones, thick ones, crooked ones and skinny ones. We even made a small collection to take back home. You've got to have sticks to play with, right?

I even tried my best to get the girls to pose in front of this stone chimney, but apparently they weren't quite into the idea of posing... there were treasures to find!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Paper Princess

Princess week is coming to a close. So to end it, we made our own paper princesses. We were completely inspired by the book, The Paper Princess by Elisa Kleven. It's a well-loved book in our personal collection and one of the many that showed up in our book basket this week.

The book tells the story of a simple paper princess. She was lovingly drawn and cut out only to blow away in a strong wind. She travels through the wind and loves to see the world. Soon, she realizes that she misses her little girl and searches long and hard to find her again. So, of course, after reading this, I couldn't think of any better art project than making our own paper princesses.

I took some card stock and my Sharpie and drew princesses in the same shape as the one in the book. Then, I let the girls draw and decorate to their heart's content.

They worked hard because after all, their princesses needed to be pretty. I loved the creativity coming from Lizzie. She decided her princess needed to wear rainbow socks and a golden dress!

So, here they are, our version of The Paper Princess... and our new favorite toy!

Linking up to Show and Share Saturday, Link and Learn, Link Your Mess, It's Playtime, Read Explore Learn and The Sunday Showcase      

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Making Princess Wands

This week our book basket is filled with books about princesses, but not your typical princess. You won't find Cinderella, Belle or Arial in there. Not that there's anything wrong with those lovely ladies, but we tend to read about them a lot. No, we needed to branch out a bit with our princesses, so our books are all about your not-so-very-ordinary princesses. Those gals with spunk who don't mind getting a bit dirty. While searching for all those fun books (which I will share in a later post), we ran across this book, A Princess Cookbook by Sarah L. Schuette. The recipes are easy, written in a step-by-step fashion with pictures of every step.  There is no actual cooking involved, just assembling and my 4-year-old had no problem completing an entire recipe herself. As you can see above, Lizzie decided to make Magic Wands.

All you need are large pretzel rods, pre-made frosting and colored-sugar sprinkles. She carefully spread the icing on the ends of her wand. 

Then came the sprinkles.... lots and lots of sprinkles! All in all, this was a very satisfying project. We made a yummy snack and Lizzie had the satisfaction of "cooking" something all by herself. AJ did join in with lots of Mommy help, but she wasn't nearly as interested in the project. Licking the frosting off the pretzel was much more her style!

Yummy, yummy!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


It's a sunny day, the kids are freshly bathed after a mud pie baking session, and you need to cook dinner. So what do you do? Grab a bucket of tissue paper scraps, a roll of contact paper, and some painter's tape. It's time to make suncatchers!
The process was easy. I taped up a couple of squares of contact paper to our patio window and told the girls to cover all the sticky bits with the tissue paper. After that, they started working. They were quite deliberate at times and others times they just started randomly sticking tissue paper. This was one of those projects that needed very little supervision, so I got to sit back and enjoy watching the process. (Oh, and cook dinner too!)

Once they were finished, I covered their handiwork with another square of contact paper. and we hung them back up on the window.
The results were quite colorful and very pretty! And now we still have a bucket full of tissue paper... I need to think of some more craft projects!
P.S. You can find another fun version of this at Mamma May I Blog... tissue paper fish!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Summer Bucket List, Revisited

I'm sure you're wondering how our summer bucket list is going. I posted our list here about two months ago and I thought it was about time to update you on our progress. We haven't completed everything on the list or even most of it. And, I can tell you that we probably won't ever complete the whole thing. But, that wasn't the point. The point was to have some ideas and to make the most of our summer. That we have done.

Summer Bucket List
1. Host a cook-out
2. Camp out in our backyard - This one won't happen this year, since we sold our tent at our garage sale! But, we did go on a real camping trip over Memorial Day weekend. That should count, shouldn't it?
3. Take a trip to the zoo 
4. Make a sunflower playhouse - This is a work in progress, it's getting bigger and prettier every day. Here's a couple of our latest pictures.

5. Go stargazing - I've been waiting for it to start getting dark a little earlier since I want Lizzie to join me. This may happen in September, but it's still summer until late September, right?
6. Go hiking - I took the girls to a small trail close to home. They had a great time and turned out to be quite good little hikers.

7. Take a trip to the farmer's market
8. Go rock hunting - You can check out this post to find out about our rock hunting!
9. Visit a state park
10. Play in the sprinklers - several times!
11. Go on a nature scavenger hunt
12. Make ice cream - It didn't turn out so well, but we made it nonetheless!
13. Go on a picnic - a few times!
14. Make homemade lemonade - we haven't done this yet, but I think I'm going to stock up on lemons during my next grocery trip.
 15. Host an ice cream social party
16. Make salsa from my garden - I hope this happens, but I'm not sure. My jalapeno plant shows no signs of actually producing a pepper. But, I do have quite a few banana peppers that I'm not sure what to actually do with! Any ideas?
17. See a fireworks show
18. Go to our county fair - This won't happen either. I chickened out. I really don't enjoy fairs all that much any more... and I just couldn't muster up the courage to go. :-(
19. Visit a small town festival - We went to Children's Day at our local hometown festival. The girls had a blast and it wasn't nearly as scary crowded as the actual county fair.
20. Swim in a lake

 So, there you have it. We've completed eight of a list of twenty. There's still some weeks of summer left and still plenty of time to accomplish some more. And that homemade lemonade... yep, that's going to happen soon!

Did you make a summer buck list? How is it going?

Monday, August 22, 2011


Never, ever underestimate the power of simple play. Children don't need complicated, or expensive toys all the time. Sometimes all it takes is a suggestion, an opportunity or a spark of imagination. In this case, all it took was the flag off of our bike trailer and a suggestion from me: "why don't you run races?" Off they went, running, running, running. They ran simple foot races. They chased each other. They even tried starting at the top of the slide and running once they reached the bottom. In the end, I had two exhausted girls. It was a good day!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Shape Hopscotch

I refilled out "Go Outside" cards this week, since they were such a hit (actually, I have to confess to remaking the whole thing since the first set mysteriously got torn in half!) One of the new cards was "Play Shape Hopscotch." I had been trying to think of ways to help AJ learn her shapes when the idea for shape hopscotch popped in my head. Why not replace the traditional hopscotch board with a series of shapes?

 I drew basic shapes in a line, the girls found their hopscotch rocks and started playing. They threw their rock, announced the shape it landed in, near or first bounced in (whichever was applicable) and started jumping. The rules were loose and they had a blast. I should have brought a book outside with me because they most certainly did not need my participation with this game... at least, they did not need my participation after I drew the board. 

It was free. It was easy. It was fun. Aren't those the best activities?

Linking up to Show and Share Saturday, The Sunday Showcase, It's Playtime, Play Academy Get Active and Link and Learn     

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Cardboard Boxes

I'd like to present you with Exhibit A or one of the many reasons why we keep empty cardboard boxes around the house far longer than most people. This morning, it was turned into an impromptu art project. After the girls dumped all of their crayons and colored pencils in the box, they decided to actually start using them. We discovered that colored pencils made a really cool sound when you colored really fast with them (and an even cooler sound when you used more than one pencil). They also tried coloring in just about every angle possible.

The top, the sides and the bottom all got colored. AJ did all her coloring while lying inside of the box. The masterpiece has been completed for the time being, although I'm sure it will be worked on throughout the day. Didn't it turn out great?