Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Fall Bucket List

Even though we didn't accomplish everything on our summer bucket list, we still loved having it. But, a new season deserves a new list, so here's our Fall Bucket List. Everything is simple and most can be accomplished at home or close to home. I can't wait to get started!

1. Make apple pie playdough (I'm going to use this recipe from Mom to @ Posh Lil Divas)
2. Carve jack-o-lanterns
3. Collect leaves and make leaf rubbings
4. Go on a hike
5. Visit an apple orchard
6. Make candy corn sugar cookies (just like these from Kathie Cooks...)
7. Watch It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown
8. Make handprint turkeys
9. Drink apple cider
10. Make a thankful tree
11. Make apple prints
12. Go on a scavenger hunt
13. Make spider masks
14. Make a fall garland
15. Make pumpkin bread
16. Go acorn collecting
17. Do an owl craft
18. Make crock pot apple sauce
19. Feed the birds
20. Make homemade Halloween cards 

What do you want to do this Fall? (Or Spring, for those of you in the Southern Hemisphere?)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Story Time: The Ghost Catcher

One of the books I found to go along with our study of India was The Ghost Catcher by Martha Hamilton and Mitch Weiss. It is a wonderful retelling of a traditional Indian folktale of a barber from Bengal who is so kindhearted that he does not want to charge anyone for his services. He and his wife are very poor and she becomes angry and tells him that he must start charging for his services. He goes to a neighboring town so as not to have to ask his current customers for money. While there he encounters a ghost. The barber is able to outwit the ghost and find a solution to all his problems. The story is fast-paced and witty and captured Lizzie's attention immediately. The illustrations are bold and colorful and beautifully capture the colors and artwork of India.

I thought this was the perfect book selection to introduce India to my girls. I love to find a good retelling of a folk tale and The Ghost Catcher didn't disappoint.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Coin Matching Game

I can't take credit for this game, but I did want to share it with you since it is such a great idea. I found the original idea at this post from Sun Scholars. (When you're done reading this post, you really need to check out the post at Sun Scholars, it's full of great preschool tray ideas!)

This is a relatively simple game and it takes just a few minutes to prep. I took a scrap piece of card stock, a handful of coins and my Sharpie. I traced the different coins and wrote in how much each was worth. That's all it took! I always present it to Lizzie with the exact coins she will need.

Matching the size can be a little difficult as some coins, such as the penny and nickle, are very similar in size. But, I don't necessarily want Lizzie to just learn the size of the coins; I want her to start associating each coin with how much it's worth. This game has been so effective in helping her learn this concept. She also seems to really enjoy playing it, therefore, it tends to show up in our preschool corner on a regular basis.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Tiger Masks


Since our exploration of Japan was such a success, I decided we'd continue on with our trip around the world and stop off in India. Since India is one of the few places in the world that tigers live in the wild, I knew the girls would enjoy learning about them. 

We enjoy making masks, so making a tiger mask was an obvious choice. (Plus, I'm always trying to find ways to use up that 100 pack of paper plates I bought!). I cut eye holes out of the plates, found our orange paint and a bit of yarn to tie the masks around the girls heads. For the stripes, we tore strips of black construction paper.

The first step was painting and we painted the entire plate orange. While the plates were drying, we pulled out the book about tigers we had found at the library. Lizzie was fascinated! She soaked in the information, learning about tiger habitats, what they eat, how they mark their territory and how big tigers can grow. The part of the book that made the most impact on Lizzie was the danger that tigers face and the reasons why they are endangered. We talked about illegal hunting and the destruction of their habitat. If you think that a 4-year-old wouldn't understand, you would be wrong. The book broached the subject simply and honestly and Lizzie's natural empathy towards animals really helped her understand. 

Once the paint was dry, we moved on. It was time to glue on the stripes. While we were gluing, we talked some more about tigers. Lizzie was determined to do that beautiful animal justice. She was quite concerned that we didn't have any white paint or paper out. She knew that tigers had white fur in addition to the orange and black. She finally solved the problem herself by using glue to make the white fur. (I didn't have the heart to tell her that the glue would dry clear!)

This project turned out much better than I anticipated! I had originally planned on reading the book prior to starting the project, but since the girls are young, I'm learning to be much more flexible. The craft seemed to have much more meaning when we read the book while working on it. We learned a lot, made a really cool craft and most importantly planted the seed about wildlife conservation.

I'm linking this up to the World Animal Day 2011 Bloghop hosted by my friend Angelique Felix. Stop by and take a look at all the inspiring animal posts that have been shared!

Also linking up to Kids Get Crafty, Monday Madness and It's Playtime  

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Travel Activity Bags

As you're reading this post, I'm probably off on an epic road trip with my girls. To say I'm a bit nervous is an understatement. I've never traveled this far alone with the two of them, so I've been preparing and preparing and preparing to make sure I have plenty of stuff to keep them occupied. The girls are 4 and 2, so I tried to come up with activities that were mess-free and they could do without any help.

1. I recycled a few old greeting cards to make color-your-own finger puppets. Each girl will get two finger puppets and a box of crayons. Once they're done coloring, they can stick their fingers through the holes and have fun!

2. I found vintage Betsy McCall paper dolls that I could print myself. (You can find them here.) I printed them out on card stock and the dolls themselves have been reinforced with a double layer of card stock. Each girl will get one doll and three dresses.

3. I bought them each a clipboard and printed out A LOT of coloring sheets, dot-to-dots, tracing pages, etc. I plan on giving them a few at a time. I'm also bringing plain drawing paper as well. Most of the printables I'm using came from

4. I made three sets of mini notebooks. (I'll have a tutorial for you soon!) The first set is for stickers. I'll give each girl a sticker book and a selection of stickers.

5. I also made doodle books. Each page has some sort of shape, line or squiggle. I hope they'll use them to kick-start their own drawing. If not, maybe they'll at least color them pretty! 

6. The last set are little sketch books. I mixed up the paper is this one to make it a bit more interesting. In addition to the plain copy paper, I also added lined paper and pink paper.

I'm also bringing along a few books for them to read, audio books for all of us to listen to and a supply of movies, cause I have no qualms letting them watch movies the entire way if needed!

How do you keep your kids occupied on a long car trip?

Linking up to The Sunday Showcase  

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Book Bingo

Lizzie has a tendency to not want to try new things, whether it be food, clothes or books. She'll latch on to a specific book and want to hear it over and over. Or, she'll want to wear the same outfit day in and day out, all the while refusing to wear a new shirt we just bought. Now, I know this is very normal for a 4-year-old, but I'd still like her to branch out a little and be more willing to try new things. That's where Book Bingo is (hopefully) going to help.

I made up a grid with a selection of different book topics. I made some very broad and others quite specific. I put some selections on there that I know are favorites, such as an Amelia Bedelia book and a fairy tale book. I then added all sorts of different subjects, such as books about dogs, horses, shapes, bugs, etc. Her goal is to have us read one book of each subject. She'll get to put a sticker in the square once she's read the book. There's one catch. It must be a book we've never read before! Once she's filled in the entire board, we'll go shopping and let her pick out a new book.  I'm hoping this motivates her to try something new.

I do have one more goal in mind with this game. I'd like her to start helping me pick out books at the library. Usually, when we go, the girls will go off and play with all the different toys (or in Lizzie's case, computers) while I pick out books. She'll then grab a Dora book on the way out the door. I really want her to discover the thrill of searching through the shelves for just the right book. I'm hoping that a whole new world will open up to her while she's looking for a book about space!

Do you have a hard time getting your kids to try new things? If so, do you have any tips you could share?

Monday, September 19, 2011

A Girl and a Glue Gun

Yes, I did hand Lizzie a glue gun and no, I was not insane at the time. I had been thinking about the idea ever since I read this post by Teacher Tom. I knew Lizzie was capable and I also knew she was careful enough to handle it. I also knew that this activity would work best if we tried it while AJ was napping. I'm definitely not ready to help a 2-year-old with a glue gun!

We had checked out the book Hannah's Collections by Marthe Jocelyn at the library recently. This is a story about a girl and her many collections of various odd and ends. She collected popsicle sticks, old stamps, feathers and just about everything that captured her interest. In the end, she made a sculpture with her collections. Lizzie was very interested in the book and the sculpture. I knew she would love to make one of her own. And luckily, this weekend provided the perfect opportunity when a very tired AJ decided to take a nice, long nap!

I got out the glue gun and we pilfered through all of our craft supplies we've been stockpiling. It was time to make our own sculpture!

Before we started, we had a lesson on glue gun safety. I showed her the parts of the glue gun that got really hot, the places she could touch safely, and how to operate the glue gun. And yes, in case you were wondering, I was by her side the entire time! 

She had great fun gluing and piecing together her sculpture. She learned that hot glue dries quickly, so you should know what you're going to glue down before applying the glue. She learned the best way to apply the glue and how best to stick down your pieces. There were times when she wanted me to apply the glue and other times when she wanted to give it a go herself. In the end, we had two great sculptures and we also had a lot of fun together!

I would have no problem letting Lizzie use the glue gun again. She had fun, she felt grown-up and learned about the amazing things you can do when you learn to use certain crafting tools responsibly!

Linking up to It's Playtime   

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Story Time: Art Books

For our "All About Art" week, I tried to fill our book basket with books about art museums and famous artists. Two of these books were I Spy a Freight Train and I Spy Two Eyes, both by Lucy Micklethwait. They're a combination of an art book and an I spy book. What I loved most about these books were that they give kids a reason to look carefully at art work. 

Each page presents a painting and also an item to search for. Some of the items are easy to find, such as the freight train in the above picture, and others require a bit more searching. Of the two books we found, one was all about transportation in art and the other required you to find one of something, then two of something, then three of something, etc.

Lizzie really enjoyed looking at the pictures and the challenges presented. I thought this was a great introduction to the world of art. All in all, they were the perfect choices to compliment all of our activities last week.

I noticed that these books seem to be out of print, but hopefully, if you're looking for them, you'll be able to find them at your local library.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Driveway Obstacle Course

I've been toying with the idea of making an obstacle course for the girls all summer. But, for one reason or the other, it never happened. Perhaps it was a lack of ideas or maybe just a bit of summer laziness, but nonetheless, it never happened. That is, until inspiration struck and I realized "hey, I can make an obstacle course with just a bit of sidewalk chalk!"

I got out all the sidewalk chalk and took over our driveway. First, I started with straight lines that the girls had to jump over. They then moved on to a curvy line they had to walk (or run) along.


Next up were numbered circles, 1-5. They had to jump from one to the other in numerical order (or at least the preschooler did, the toddler just jumped as she pleased). From there, they moved on to the "tightrope," which they had to carefully walk across. Then, they encountered triangles which they had to jump from one to the other. 

Next up was the spiral. They started from the outside and followed the lines to the middle. Then, they had to walk (or run) along the zig-zag line. At the end was a series of squiggly lines to jump over, they they followed an arrow back to the beginning. 

We had lots of running, giggling, jumping and sometimes losing our balance. Best of all, we had fun. The best part for me was that the possibilities are endless and the best part for the girls was that it was a lot of fun!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Tape Resist Painting

To be quite honest, I debated whether or not to post this project because as you'll see, it didn't quite turn out for us. But, as had been the overriding theme during our art week, it was all about the process and not the end product. 

We decided to tackle tape resist painting as our final project of the week. I gave the girls pieces of painter's tape and plain printer paper. I also provided two colors of paint. I wanted two colors that would mix well, so I chose red and yellow. As you can see, AJ decided to tape her paper down to the table! I finally convinced her to try to stick the tape in the middle of the paper.
Lizzie decided to make a box like shape with her tape. Then, they both set off to painting. Red was quite the popular color and Lizzie painted and painted until her paper was covered.

We let the paint dry for a little while and then attempted to peel off the tape. This would be the point that the project didn't quite go as planned. 

As you can see, the paint bled through a little and if you look at the wad of tape at the top of the photo, you'll see that it pulled off some of the paper. I think if we tried this again, I would use a heavier paper such as card stock instead of the copy paper. That should definitely solve the problem of the peeling paper.

Oh, and can I make a confession here? AJ slapped a little bit of paint on the paper and moved on to more interesting things... so, I decided to finish her project. I like to paint and I love art projects!

Lizzie's project turned out really well, even though we did need to tape up a couple of holes. The important part was that she had fun and enjoyed the process immensely! The lesson learned for me - it doesn't have to be perfect as long as you enjoy it.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Sidewalk Painting

Today, we took our art outside! The girls have been wanting to spend as much time outside as possible since the weather has been absolutely perfect. I had planned on doing sidewalk painting during our art week anyways and this was the perfect day for it. This is one of those projects that everyone is doing. Of course, everyone is doing it because it's tons of fun and easy to prepare too! I used this post by Pink and Green Momma for inspiration and to find out how to make the paint. The combination that worked well for me was one part cornstarch to one part water. I was also very generous with the food coloring. Keep in mind when making sidewalk paint, it will dry lighter and will also look chalky, thanks to the cornstarch. 

We had great fun and I wished I had brought a paint brush out for myself. The paint was just way too tempting! We painted blobs and lines, circles and splotches. We learned that splatter painting was kind of cool and even made a few rainbows.

Our colors got all mixed up. Yellow turned to lime green and blue turned to teal. Of course, that just added to the fun! And when we were all done, we took the muffin tin full of the leftover paint (which actually wasn't much) and tossed the paint out onto the driveway. Splatter painting at its best!  

This project was fun, cheap and relatively easy to prepare. We're definitely going to do this again and again!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Cardboard Roll Stamping

I've been hoarding empty toilet paper rolls lately (yes, an embarrassing admission). So to avoid ending up on an episode of Hoarders and also to make my husband happy, I decided it was time to use up some of them. I had recently ran across the idea of toilet paper roll stamping on Tot School and decided to give it a go. I squished the rolls into shapes at one end and set out a few colors of tempura paint (I loosened the paint up a bit with water because it seemed a bit too thick for this project).

The girls were eager to get started, as you can probably tell by the hand hovering over the paint! My requests of "let Mommy take a quick picture" were just not heeded. Oh well, I let them go at it.

They started stamping and enjoyed the process immensely. Then AJ discovered that you could mix colors by dipping your roll in multiple colors of paint. Then Lizzie decided to get her fingers involved. Suddenly...

Yes, indeed, cardboard roll stamping evolved into handprint art! Look at those hands!

The girls used up many pieces of paper and all the paint I had set out. They had tons of fun and I'm proud of myself for just sitting back and letting them create (which is sometimes quite hard for me). Take a look at all of the finished products!

What have you been creating lately?

Linking up to Link Your Mess and Kids Get Crafty  

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Window Art

Art doesn't have to always be confined to paper or even clay. After bookmarking this wonderful post by You'll Thank Me One Day and arming myself with the revolutionary idea that wet craft foam sticks to windows, I set the girls to work. They each had a bowl of water, a paint brush and a bowl of craft foam shapes. The original concept was to paint the back of the shapes, then stick them on the window. Well, evidently that wasn't a satisfactory way to do this. The girls immediately started painting the water directly on the window then sticking the pieces on. Well, that works too!

They stuck and stuck and stuck. They experimented a bit and learned that you can dip your shapes in water and they'll stick to the window as well. That was a revolutionary idea for these two! 

All in all, they loved this project. I know they'll be asking to do it again and again and I'll pull out the bowl of foam shapes again and again. After all, what's not to love. It's relatively mess free (other than wiping up water from the floor) and it kept little feet from getting underneath me while cooking dinner (loved that bonus feature). The next time you need to spark a little bit of creativity, remember, wet foam sticks to glass!