Monday, April 30, 2012

Get Crafty: Ladybugs

Last week we decided to do out own twist on a classic kid's craft, the paper plate lady bug. We were down most of the week with the stomach flu and needed a low-key craft to do once we started feeling better. We happened to have The Grouchy Ladybug by Eric Carle in our pile of library books and a pile of paper plates in our craft supplies, so we decided to make some simple ladybugs.

After reading the book, we made our own ladybugs using the illustration on the front of the book for inspiration.

Supplies Needed
Paper plate cut in half
Red and black paint
Construction paper
Googly eyes (optional)

I started by giving each girl a paper plate half along with some red and black paint. They painted the background and spots. To make it a bit easier on the girls, I gave each girl two paintbrushes, one for each color of paint. 

Once we were done, we cut circles out of the black construction paper for heads. As usual, Lizzie had her own idea. She wanted a half circle and did not want to use the googly eyes. She opted for some blue paint to paint her own antenna and eyes. Remember, with kid's crafts, the outcome isn't that important. Let your kids express their own creativity in the process. If they want an all-black ladybug with a few red spots, go with it!

It was nice to get back to normal after being sick and doing a simple craft helped us ease back into our days.

Resources Used

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Linking up to Come Together With a Good Book and The Happy Birthday Eric Carle Linky

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Weekends: Unplug

Is this a familiar scenario? Almost-empty coffee mug, a little Pinterest browsing and a very lazy morning. It happens most mornings around my house and I'll admit that sometimes the time stretches much longer than it should. There are times when I have to be on the computer and times when I just want to. But, no matter the cause, my laptop is a pretty integral part of my life.

The coming week, April 30-May 6 is Screen-Free Week which is a week created by a Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood to encourage families to step away from the TV, computer, and even the iPad and find other ways to have fun. I'll be honest with you, I'm just not sure how much we will be participating. I do know we'll cut back on TV time and I hope the weather cooperates so we can spend that extra time outdoors. This past week with 3 of the 4 family members down with the stomach flu, the TV was on A LOT. But, we needed it and I don't feel bad about it. But now that we're healthy, it's time to cut back again. 

But, what about me? What about that laptop? Do I need to unplug? Why, yes, of course I do. Screen-Free Week has got me thinking about how I can do that. I'm not going to cut it out this next week. In fact, I can't. For various reasons, I will need to check e-mail on a daily basis. Also, I still want to provide you with things to do with the family. If you're looking for things to do away from a screen, check my archives! I've got over 200 posts full of activities for you and your family to do! 

One thing I have decided is that I will be unplugging on occasion. Not just next week, but all through the year. I do need to get away and feel that relief. And that, is what Screen-Free Week means for me. It's a reminder. Stop working, watching, and doing and just enjoy the moment. Read a book, watch birds, go for a walk, swing, bake cookies... the possibilities are endless! Unplug and enjoy!

If you want more resources about Screen-Free Week, you can check the official Website. Awesomely Awake wrote a wonderful post about breaking the TV habit. And, you can check out this Screen-Free Week 2012 collaborative Pinterest board.

What about you? Will you be participating in Screen-Free Week?

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Friday, April 27, 2012

Kids Co-op

It's Friday and you know what that means? It's time for the Kids Co-op! Link-up your favorite kid-related post and make sure and check out all the fun that has been linked up from other bloggers!

Each week the Co-op is getting bigger and bigger! I was so excited to see over 200 great ideas linked up last week. Here are just a few of the great ideas I discovered last week.

Caution! Twins at Play had a lot of fun exploring lemons. I want to play!

Moon Sprig looked closely at the insides of flowers. I can't wait to try this!

Freshly Planted created beautiful artwork with the rain.

Now it's your turn to share! Please join up and share your favorite post. (And, we'd love you forever if you'd link back to us!) Your link will show up on all of the hosts blogs. It's time to link up, visit some new blogs, and have a lot of fun!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

10 Ways to Explore Nature in Spring

Spring is such a beautiful time of the year to get out and explore nature. Everything is fresh and new and there is so much to see and explore. Here are 10 fun ways to explore nature in spring.

1. Look for signs of life. Look for tree buds, new flowers, fresh green grass, or a bird's nest. Childhood Beckons recently went on a Signs of Spring Nature Hunt and found all sorts of beautiful things.

2. Look closely. Take a pair of binoculars, a magnifying glass, or your camera and look up close at nature. Examine a tree or a flower. Take a close look at a rock. I have some great tips for looking up-close at nature here.

3. Play in the rain. Jump in a puddle. Spring is the perfect time to play in the rain! Grab a rain coat and some rain boots and have a little fun. Mom to 2 Posh Lil Divas recently had fun in the rain. Wordplayhouse shares five fun ways to play outside on a rainy day.

4. Plant a seed and watch it grow. There is no easier way to learn about plants and how they grow than to plant one yourself. It's fascinating and kids love to water and care for their tiny little plants. Juggling With Kids show you how to make simple toilet paper tube planters, a great way to start those plants growing.

5. Dig for worms. Grab a small shovel or just use your hands and dig in the dirt. Examine the soil. How does it feel? What does it look like? And if you find a worm, yay! Your work paid off as you examine the worm and watch it wiggle. When you're done, release it and watch it dig back into the soil. If you want to try to raise your own worms, Let the Children Play has a great post on creating worm farms.

6. Look for wildlife. Observe the birds in your backyard. Watch a turtle sunning itself on a log. Or, maybe you can find a toad hopping through your garden. Watch and learn. I have some great tips for teaching your children how to observe wildlife.

7. Do a weather experiment. Spring is an active time of the year for weather. Rain, thunderstorms, and often severe weather can occur. Weather Wiz Kids has a large selection of experiments you can try. Or, you can check out my post of 10 Ways to Learn About the Weather.

8. Learn about the wind. What makes the wind blow? Watch how it moves the trees or the grass. How does it feel on your skin? Fly a kite and see how the wind helps it stay up in the air. The Chocolate Muffin Tree has a great kite project you can try; your kids make their own wind! Or, make some homemade wind chimes, like these from Hands On: As We Grow, and listen to the beautiful music the wind makes.

9. Take care of your yard. Learn about nature by tending to it. Pull weeds and make a few dandelion chains while you're at it. Plant seeds and tend to your garden. Plant flowers to beautify your yard. Learning to take care of nature teaches respect for it.

10. Collect nature. Look for flowers, sticks, or rocks. Nature is all around in spring and it's fun to collect a few pieces. Set up a pretty nature display in the house. Or, for even more fun, make a nature collection wrist band like these from Famiglia & Seoul or make a nature wand like these from Sun Hats & Wellie Boots

*Bonus Activity: Use your ears! Listen. what do you hear? Do you hear the birds? A cricket chirping? Strings, Keys and Melodies shares a great idea for a nature sounds walk.

How do you like to explore nature in the spring?
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If it is your first time visiting Creative Family Fun, and you like what you have found, please follow the fun via our Facebook page.  You'll find even more fun ideas and great conversation!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Creative Family Fun Nights: Family Interviews

I'd love to introduce another new series to you today: Creative Family Fun Nights. This is where you'll find family-friendly ideas designed for family nights or anytime. I also have a Pinterest board dedicated to Creative Family Fun Nights you can follow for even more ideas!

It's not always easy to come up with ideas for the whole family that don't require money or a car trip anywhere. So, that's why I've decided to start sharing some of my ideas for family fun nights. Set aside a night and after dinner pledge to spend time together as a family, laughing and having fun. This activity, Family Interview, is designed to help you get to know each other better and have fun while you're at it! All you need is paper and pen.

You may need to do a little bit of prep ahead of time by thinking up the questions, or have the family come up with them over the dinner table. Then comes the fun part, take turns asking each other the questions and see what fun things you can discover about each other!

Here are some sample questions. 

For the kids:
Favorite color?
Favorite food?
Favorite song?
Favorite book?
What do you want to be when you grow up?
If you could be any animal in the world, what would you be?
Who is your hero? Why?

For the adults:
Favorite color?
Favorite food?
Favorite book?
What was your first pet's name? Tell about it.
What was your first job?
If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?
Who do you admire? Why?

Let the questions lend themselves to stories and further conversation. This is a perfect way to reconnect as a family and get to know each other better.

What questions would you ask?
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Linking up to It's Playtime, The Sunday Showcase, and TGIF Linky Party  

If it is your first time visiting Creative Family Fun, and you like what you have found, please follow the fun via our Facebook page.  You'll find even more fun ideas and great conversation!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Get Crafty: Cork-Print Trees

My craft projects will now be living under the series Get Crafty. You'll see the same type of projects and the same type of fun; they'll just be gathered together in one great place!

Since the weather has been so nice, we haven't been doing as many craft projects. So, during one rainy day, I decided it was time to get crafting again and we made cork-print trees. I pulled this project together quickly and as a result the set-up and clean-up was rather easy, which left plenty of time for fun.

Materials Needed:
Construction paper

I drew the trunk and branches on brown sheets of construction paper with a marker. Then I gave each girl a wine cork and some green paint. I demonstrated how to do the stamping. Lizzie had fun with the stamping. AJ decided that rolling the cork was much more fun!

Look at those hands! After AJ was tired of rolling the paint on her picture, she started rolling it in her hands.Good thing we were using the washable paints!

You can see the results here, one cork stamped and the other cork rolled! All in all, this was an easy and fun project that you could pull together in no time.

Have you ever used corks for stamps before?
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Linking up to Tuesday Tots and Kids Get Crafty  

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Weekends: Clean Greener

Since Earth Day is coming up on Sunday (April 22nd), I wanted to share a way that I have consciously moved toward being greener. About a year ago, I got serious about greening my cleaning routine. I was always uncomfortable with using all the harsh cleaning chemicals around my pets and children, so I started researching ways to eliminate those chemicals. That's when I met my two best friends, vinegar and baking soda. Combined with a spray bottle and a pile of old rags, I can clean my house from top to bottom.

I mix vinegar with water in a 1:1 ratio and add to the spray bottle. I use this for counter tops, window sills, window, mirrors, and bathroom fixtures. Combined with an old towel, it gets the job done. 

I put about 1/2 cup vinegar in a microwave-safe bowl and heat for a couple of minutes. When it's done I let it sit in the microwave for a couple of minutes and then wipe the microwave interior with a rag. All those icky bits of splattered food just comes right off! Plus the warm vinegar will now work wonders on any hard water stains you have around the house.

If you have stainless steel appliances, a rag dipped in vinegar will shine those fingerprints and smudges right off!

Baking Soda:
I keep my baking soda that I use for cleaning in a glass Parmesan shaker I found at the dollar store. It looks cute and I no longer have to deal with a soggy baking soda box! Combined with a rag or scouring pad, it can be a life saver.

I always hated cleaning cookie sheets until I discovered that baking soda combined with dish soap will get all those stuck-on bits off. I just grab my shaker and shake a bit on and then scrub with a scouring pad. It comes right off!

You can also use the baking soda for cleaning sinks and tubs. 

Baking soda is also an effective odor remover. Sprinkle on carpet and vacuum it up. Good as new!

Now you've seen how I've made my cleaning routine greener. Do you have any good green cleaning tips?
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Friday, April 20, 2012

Kid's Co-op

It's Friday and you know what that means? It's time for the Kids Co-op! Link-up your favorite kid-related post and make sure and check out all the fun that has been linked up from other bloggers!

Each week the Co-op is getting bigger and bigger! Here are just a few of the great things linked up last week.

School Time Snippets shared this great idea for a Tic-Tac-Toe Chore Chart. I'm going to have to try this!

Now it's your turn to share! Please join up and share your favorite post. (And, we'd love you forever if you'd link back to us!) Your link will show up on all of the hosts blogs. It's time to link up, visit some new blogs, and have a lot of fun!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Exploring Nature: Investigating Trees

Today, I'd like to introduce you to another new series, Exploring Nature. Nature posts are not new to Creative Family Fun, but now they are going to live under the title, Exploring Nature. I know you're expecting another 10 Ways post today since it is Thursday, but don't worry, that series isn't going away. It's just taking a mini-vacation for a week so I can introduce all of my new series!

We took a trip out to our side yard recently to take a close look at our young apple tree. We were talking about the different parts of trees and learning about how they grew. We were specifically taking a look at the apple tree because we wanted to know how apples grew. 

We gathered our supplies. We brought our magnifying glasses for observation. Pencils and homemade notebooks for recording our observations. We also brought two books,A Tree Is a Plant by Clyde Robert Bulla and How Do Apples Grow by Betsy Maestro, for research. 

One of my goals with our nature studies, is to teach the girls about observation and drawing their own conclusions using what they've observed. We talked about the bark of the tree, then we looked at it through our magnifying glasses and felt it with our fingers. We talked about how apples are formed and looked all over to see if we could see any baby apples. We also talked about the roots of a tree and then discussed why we couldn't see the roots.

Here are some great questions to ask when teaching about observation.
What do you see?
What color is it?
What size is it?
Where is it located?
How does it feel? Bumpy, smooth, rough, etc.?
Does it have a scent?

Lead your kids a bit and help them learn to make observations. For instance, we learned that the bark of a young apple tree is mostly smooth with a few bumps. We also discovered some spots where there was yellow underneath the brown. It's amazing the things we discovered when we looked closely!

While we were observing and talking about trees, Lizzie recorded some of her own observations through drawing. She copied a drawing of a baby tree from one of the books as well as drawing a fully-grown orange tree. Older kids can use the space to record all the characteristics of what they are observing and the conclusions they drew from it. Have them draw a tree and label the parts or just try drawing what they are observing.

Do you like to look closely at nature? Have you ever been surprised at what you saw?

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Resources used:

Linking up to Fun Sparks, Outdoor Play Party, and The Sunday Showcase 

If it is your first time visiting Creative Family Fun, and you like what you have found, please follow the fun via our Facebook page.  You'll find even more fun ideas and great conversation!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Story Time: Earth Day

Over the next few weeks, I will be introducing several new series here on Creative Family Fun. You can look forward to Creative Family Fun Nights, Exploring Nature, and this series, Story Time. The girls and I are all book lovers and this series will present reading lists based on different subjects. Today's choices are all in honor of Earth Day.

Curious George Plants A Tree by Margret & H.A. Rey: George learns about the environment and wants to do something to help.

Be a Friend to Trees by Patricia Lauber: Learn about the importance of trees and how we can be a friend to trees.

We Planted a Tree by Diane Muldrow: Learn about the benefits of trees through two families who plant two trees in different corners of the world.

Compost Stew by Mary McKenna Siddals: Learn all about compost through fun rhyming verse.

The EARTH Book by Todd Parr: Colorful illustrations and playful text help explain the environment to young children.

The Lorax by Dr. Seuss: No Earth Day book collection would be complete without including The Lorax!

What are your favorite Earth Day books?

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*Disclosure: All Amazon links are affiliate links. I will receive a small percentage from any purchase made. Thank you for your support!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Weather Wiz Kids

I stumbled across Weather Wiz Kids when I was researching my "10 Ways to Learn About the Weather" post. I was so happy to discover such a comprehensive weather website created for kids. You'll find explanations of weather phenomena written for kids, fun facts, weather safety information, experiments, games, and even jokes. You'll find information there for all ages of kids, their parents, and teachers. If you're looking for ways to teach about weather, Weather Wiz Kids should be your first stop!

Weather Wiz Kids was started by Crystal Wick, a meteorologist from Indiana. I recently asked Crystal more about herself and her Website. 

(Dark clouds over western Colorado)

Why did you start Weather Wiz Kids?
I started Weather Wiz Kids back in 2003 when I was working as a morning meteorologist in New Orleans, Louisiana. I visited several schools to teach kids about weather, but I couldn't answer everyone's questions. So, I decided to create a website to teach kids about weather and allow them to email me any of their weather questions.

What can someone expect to find on Weather Wiz Kids?
Weather Wiz Kids is an educational website for teachers, parents and kids. You will find an ample amount of kid-friendly information on all types of weather and even natural disasters like volcanoes and earthquakes.

When did you become interested in weather? Why?
Ever since I was a child, I have always been fascinated with the weather. I remember going outside with my father and watching thunderstorms pass by. During one thunderstorm in particular, a tornado ripped through my hometown of Kendallville, Indiana and just missed my grandparents' house. It was one of the scariest moments of my life and is one of the reasons I am a meteorologist today.

What are the benefits of learning about weather?
I believe knowledge is power. Weather impacts all of us, from what we wear each day to the crops that grow to provide us food. Understanding weather is important, because it can save our lives. Knowing what to do in a severe weather situation or as a hurricane approaches can mean the difference between life and death. It's important that all of us have a family disaster plan in place.

What is your favorite weather phenomenon?
I'm fascinated by tornadoes. It's amazing to me the strength and power they have and the destruction they leave behind. Every state in the United States has been effected by a tornado, so I can't express how important it is to have a family disaster plan in place.

Weather Wiz Kids has many ideas for weather experiments you can do in your home. I asked Crystal which would be best for preschool-aged children and she suggested "Make Your Hair Stand Up" and "Tornado in a Bottle." You can check out the "Weather Experiments" page for 39 different experiments!

Thank you Crystal for answering my questions! If you want to learn more about Crystal and weather, please visit Weather Wiz Kids or follow Weather Wiz Kids on Facebook.

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