Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Story Time: Books About Japan

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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: Things to Make, Activities, and Facts by Richard Tames, Welcome to Japan by Elma Schemenauer and Japan ABCs: A Book About the People and Places of Japan (Country 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.

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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!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Paper Princess

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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 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.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Making Princess Wands

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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: Simple Recipes for Kids 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.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Suncatchers

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!

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.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Racing


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 our "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?

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.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Story Time: Books About Pond Life


We're finishing up our pond theme and reading the rest of the books in our book basket. These three have been particular favorites. They fit in with the relaxed week we've been having. (Can you see our overall theme here? Yep, we're relaxing and enjoying the end of summer.)

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Here Fishy, Fishy...


Call me insane. Call me indulgent. But, here they are, the new members of our family... all thirteen of them. My husband called me earlier in the day to see if we wanted some goldfish a co-worker was giving away. Sure, I thought. The girls would love it. And, they do! I don't mind it so much myself... although you may want to ask me that again when I'm cleaning the tank for the first time!

We sat around at dinner and came up with names for all. Each girl has a goldfish named after them. The others are Charlie (named after our dog), Dorothy, Elmo, Dreamsicle, Popsicle, Airhead, Ariel, Bubble Guppy, Sponge Bob (my husband named this one, the girls hate the show!), Lady and Daisy.

This ought to be an adventure!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Butterfly Color Match


After we packed away all the contents of our space basket, I started working on filling it with butterfly-related games and books. One activity I decided to make myself was a butterfly color match game. My first stop was our local home improvement store for paint swatches. I picked some of the brightest colors I could find and made sure I had two each of the ten colors. You could have as many or as few different colors as you want, as long as you have two of each color.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Pond in a Box


To go along with our pond theme this week, I decided to make a pretend play opportunity for the girls, a pond in a box. It can fold up and fit nicely in a shoe box, hence the "in the box" part, so it's not out cluttering our floors all the time. I was able to make the entire pond with items I found around the house. Nothing too difficult! It's been fun to experience a bit of pond life here in our own home.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Story Time: Over in the Meadow

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Over in the Meadow, illustrated by Ezra Jack Keats, has been in our personal library for a few years now. It's always been a favorite with its sing-song words and beautiful images. Each page is a work of art that gently captures the beauty of the different meadow creatures.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Lego Washing


Sometimes all it takes is something simple. I need to remind myself of this often especially when my mind is full of activities and projects I want to plan for the girls. 

The other night I needed something for the girls to do while I was cooking. They have a tendency to get directly underfoot while I'm prepping dinner, so on nights when having their help would less than helpful, I need something to keep them occupied. This is how Lego washing was created. I set up a tray with a dish towel and gave each girl a washcloth and small bowl of water. They got right to work and loved every second of it. They washed up all the Legos they had in front of them and went back for more.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Space Basket


After we retired our Hawaii basket, we replaced it with all sorts of fun things about space. The space basket was quite popular with the girls, so I kept it around longer than I planned. I also discovered a very helpful side benefit to these theme baskets. It's very easy to just grab it and go when I needed entertainment for the girls while we were waiting around for things like oil changes. We had a very pleasant waiting room time thanks to the space basket!

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Monday, August 8, 2011

I Love Dirt: Zoom In and Get Up Close

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After hearing so many good things about I Love Dirt!: 52 Activities to Help You and Your Kids Discover the Wonders of Nature by Jennifer Ward, I knew I had to track down a copy. The book promises 52 activities to help you and your kids discover the wonders of nature. The activities are divided by season and are simple and effective. I found several ideas for the girls and I to do and was very interested in the winter section since that's the time of year I avoid being outside as much as possible. I need all the help I can get when it comes to outdoor play in wintertime!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Story Stones


Inspiration struck the other day and I decided to add some story stones to our sunflower playhouse. I've seen examples of these all over the Internet and figured I could make my own. I took my Sharpie outside one day and pilfered some rocks from the rock border around our playhouse. While the girls were playing, I started drawing. I decided on a fairy tale theme since both girls love fairy tales. In case you can't figure out what I drew, here's the breakdown: fairy tale cottage, wolf, dragon, horse, princess, castle, forest, tower, rose, ogre (giant, or any other scary creature), boat, cave, beanstalk. I also added a Lizzie stone and an AJ stone after they were requested.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

An Ode to Bare Feet


My girls don't like to wear shoes... especially not in the summertime. Oh, they know when they have to wear them and don't complain when we're out and about. But, at home... nope, no shoes whatsoever.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Go Outside


This week, I decided to kick-start our creativity a bit when it comes to outside play. This is nothing mind-blowing, but it did add an element of surprise and fun to our day. I grabbed an envelope, five index cards and our big box of crayons (only because I love drawing with crayons)! I added an outdoor activity to each index card.



I added: blow bubbles, make mud pies, play hopscotch, go for a walk and play in the sprinklers. They are all simple, but fun activities for us to do outside. I put them all in the envelope until it was time to choose. I turned them all the cards and had Lizzie one for the day. Today's activity was "go for a walk." She loved the surprise and looked forward to it all morning! 


Our "Go Outside" cards definitely did the trick in getting us outside and playing. The possibilities are endless and I'm sure I'll try this again if I feel we need a push to do something a little different.


Here are some other fun card ideas:
Go to the park
Have outdoor story time
Draw with sidewalk chalk
Have a water balloon fight
Go on a picnic
Go rock collecting
Throw Frisbees
Go for a bike ride
Jump rope
Play tag

Monday, August 1, 2011

On the Farm


We're having a bit of a low-key week this week. Last week completely got away from us and was much busier than I anticipated. We also did very little preschool-type activities and Lizzie let me know, in no uncertain terms, that she missed it. So, this week, it's all about the farm. Luckily, there are tons of already prepared materials out in blogland!

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