Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Polar Bear Masks

As part of our Project Around the World, the girls and I have settled into the far northern part of Canada, up above the Arctic Circle. We've been visiting polar bears, learning about their habitat, and learning all sorts of fun facts about them. Like, did you know that polar bears bathe by rolling around in the snow? We didn't! 

One of the projects we made were these fun polar bear masks. Then, the girls could pretend to be polar bears and roll around and bathe in pretend snow. 

Supplies Needed:
Paper plates
White paint
Egg carton sections
Black paint
Hole punch

Before getting the girls started, I cut eye holes in each of the paper plates. I gave each girl a sponge and some white paint and had them paint their paper plates. We used the sponges for texture. I didn't want a smooth surface on the masks.

Once their paper plates were painted, they each painted one section of an egg carton white. They then painted the round circle in the middle of their egg carton piece black. 

Once everything was dry, we glued our egg carton pieces to our paper plates. This made the snout of the bear. I punched a couple of holes in the sides and ran a piece of yarn through the holes so that the masks would stay on their heads.

Now we've got a couple of friendly polar bears running around our house! What fun they're having!

This post iss part of the Winter Wonderland Blog Hop. Many kid bloggers have joined together to post winter fun from mid-January to mid-February. You can find the participating blogs below. Check them out for all the fabulous winter projects that have already been shared!

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12 Candy-Free Valentines

Every time Valentine's Day rolls around, I feel like my kids have overdosed on sugar. Our Halloween candy tends to last well into December, which leads to Christmas cookies, and candy in their stocking. My mid-January, I am so over candy and so over my girls' assumption that we'll always have candy in the house. That's what led me to search for some awesome Valentine ideas that contained absolutely no candy. These are all perfect ideas for classroom Valentines or just a special little treat for your own two kids.
  1. All is takes are some glow sticks to make these fun Lego Star Wars Valentines from Stitch/Craft.
  2. You can find parachute man Valentines at Paging Supermom along with a free printable bag topper.
  3. I have yet to meet a kid that didn't like bubbles, that's why these bubble Valentines from Domestic Charm are perfect.
  4. These friendship bracelet Valentines from [dandee] are a great choice for older kids who like to get crafty.
  5. If you've got car-obsessed kids, I bet they'd love giving these car Valentines from Yvonne Byatt's Family Fun to their friends.
  6. Shop the party aisle for supplies for these A-MAZE-ing Valentines from Crap I've Made.
  7. One part Valentine, one part game. These I Spy Valentine cards from A Mom With a Lesson Plan look like super-fun!
  8. These peg doll fairies from Curly Birds is another great option for your crafty kids.
  9. Give your Valentines a fun tool for exploration with these magnifying glass Valentines from [dandee].
  10. I love these "You Color My Heart" Valentines from A Mom With a Lesson Plan and think these may be a great choice for my Kindergartner to give her friends.
  11. Homemade play dough and a heart cookie cutter is such a simple and fun idea from Buggy and Buddy.
  12. Recycle all of your Crayon bits and pieces to make these fun Crayon heart Valentines from Whipperberry.
Do you have any candy-free Valentine ideas? I'm always on the lookout for more!

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Monday, January 28, 2013

Valentine Story Stones

We've made story stones in the past. We told tales of princesses, dragons, and enchanted roses. But, this time we're telling different stories about secret admirers, cupid, and big boxes of chocolate. Story stones are fun and a great way to promote storytelling. For older kids, they work perfectly as writing prompts. Younger kids can use them to illustrate a story. Since Valentine's Day is coming up soon, I though it would be fun to make a set of Valentine-theme story stones. 

Supplies Needed:
Smooth stones with a flat surface
Valentine illustrations (I used clip art)
Paint Brush

I began with several smooth stones from a package of vase-filler stones. You can find these at the dollar store, discount store, or craft store typically in the floral section. I picked ones that had a nice flat surface for my illustrations. For my Valentine illustrations, I used clip art. All of mine came from the free Microsoft clip art already loaded on my computer. You can find a ton of clip art online by searching for "free Valentine clip art." I found roses, boxes of chocolates, little girls offering flowers, and mailboxes full of love letters. I copied and pasted them all into a Word document, then reduced the size to fit my stones. Once printed, I cut them out to fit on my stones.

Once I had chosen the perfect stone for each illustration, I brushed a thin coating of Mod Podge on the surface. I placed the illustration down, making sure all sides were pressed down, and then brushed another coat over the top. After allowing them to dry, we were ready for story-telling.

We've told tales of love letters, secret roses found in mailboxes, and best friends. There are so many tales that can be told from this simple set of Valentine story stones.

They're easy to make and would make a fun homemade Valentine's gift. 

Have you used story stones before?

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Friday, January 25, 2013

Slow Cooker Applesauce

My girls would eat applesauce every day for every meal if I would let them. I may not let them have it for every meal, but I do let them have it often thanks to this healthy alternative to jarred applesauce. Here's my no-sugar, slow cooker apple sauce.

10 apples (use your favorite)
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 c. water

Yes, it only take 3 ingredients to make yummy, chunky applesauce!

To start, peel and core all of your apples. Chop them into bite-sized piece and toss into your slow cooker. Sprinkle the 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon on top, covering as many apple pieces as possible. Next, add your water. Cook on low for 5 hours. 

Once your apples are nice and tender it's time to turn them into sauce. Listen carefully, I'm going to tell you my secret to perfectly chunky apple sauce... it's top secret... a potato masher! Yep, get out your potato masher and start mashing right in the slow cooker. Before you know it you'll have thick, chunky, delicious applesauce that tastes much better than the jarred stuff. After it's cooled down a bit, I usually store my applesauce in canning jars. The next time your kids are wanting apple sauce, give this a try. It's yummy, healthy, and your house will smell heavenly!

Slow Cooker Applesauce
Makes 5 cups

10 apples
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 c. water

Peel and core apples. Chop into bite-sized pieces and put in your slow cooker. Sprinkle cinnamon over the apples and add water. Cover and cook on low heat for 5 hours. Once apples are tender, mash until desired consistency. Store in refrigerator.

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Thursday, January 24, 2013

ABC Valentines

A, B, C,
Easy as
1, 2, 3,
Or simple as 
do, re, mi,
A, B, C,
1, 2, 3,
Baby you and me now...

One of my favorite "dancing with the kids" songs was my inspiration for these easy and cute ABC Valentines. You just need a few supplies, some willing kids, and dance-able background music for some Valentine crafting.

Supplies Needed:
White paper, cut in half across the widest part
Alphabet stamps
Thin cardboard (cereal or cracker box)
Colorful ink for stamps
Red marker

To prep this activity, I made simple heart stencils for the girls. I took a recycled cracker box and drew 2 different sizes of hearts. I then cut the hearts out. This part is definitely best for the grown-ups, since I needed to use my sharpest scissors for the cutting. I made two different sets, one for each girl.

I showed the girls how to overlap the stamps on the cardboard to help form the shape of the hearts. For the best heart shape, you'll need to fill each stencil in with many letters. Lizzie (age 5) did one letter per stencil, AJ (age 3) put multiple letters in each. You can really get with the Valentine theme by spelling out LOVE or using X's and O's. We just used random letters.

You can see in the picture above how the heart shape is taking form. Lizzie wasn't fully satisfied though and asked me to outline each heart with a red marker. I think they look great either way. Lizzie finished up each card with a hand-written "I Love You," the perfect addition.

So there you have it. It's easy as 1, 2, 3!

Have you started making Valentine's crafts?

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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Math Play: Princess Addition

My Kindergartner has just started learning about addition and subtraction. I wanted to do something at home that would be fun and would also reinforce what she is learning in school. So, I took one of her favorite things, princesses, and turned it into a math game.

To create the game, I took a piece of pink paper and a black marker. I drew two tiaras with a plus sign in between. Underneath, I drew boxes for writing the numbers. I then laminated the paper so that we could use a dry-erase marker. (This is the laminator I use.) It was a very simple set up for a game that has been played with again and again.

To play, I write an addition problem below the tiaras. Lizzie then uses the correct number of beads to decorate her tiara. She then counts to find her correct answer. Easy and fun!

So far our simple addition game has gotten high marks from Lizzie. It's fun, she's learning, and enjoying the challenge. In fact, she told me that I was giving her too easy of problems and she wanted harder ones. Score! I love that my girl likes to be challenged! 

What are your kids learning in school now? What do you do at home to try and reinforce their learning?

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Monday, January 21, 2013

Exploring Alaska: Resource Post

Do you want to do your own exploration of Alaska? I've compiled a list of books, activities, blog posts, videos, and websites that helped us with our project. Bear with me as this list is quite extensive, but I'm providing it in the hopes to help you create your own virtual journey through Alaska.

Alaska: An Overview
Alaska (Welcome to the U.S.A.) by Ann Heinrichs
Denali National Park and Preserve (True Books: National Parks) by David Petersen (Both this book and Alaska (Welcome to the U.S.A.) are not widely available for purchase. They are however, widely available in public libraries. So, if you want to use these books, check your library first.)
Under Alaska's Midnight Sun by Deb Vanasse
The Salmon Princess: An Alaska Cinderella Story by Mindy Dwyer
Arctic Lights, Arctic Nights by Debbie S. Miller
A Child's Alaska by Claire Rudolf Murphy
Travel Alaska YouTube Channel - We watched several videos on the Travel Alaska Channel to see all the different areas of the state. Some of the videos are ads, but those are clearly marked. The others are a great overview of this beautiful state.
Nature Walk: Denali, Alaska at Imagine Childhood - Take a virtual nature walk through Denali in the wintertime
Alaska-themed Creative Family Fun Night
Alaska state coloring page via


Moose (Animals That Live in the Forest)
It's a Baby Moose! by Kelly Doudna
Amazing Animals: Moose by Kate Riggs 
Elusive Moose by Joan Gannij

This Moose Belongs to Me by Oliver Jeffers

Thidwick the Big-Hearted Moose by Dr. Seuss
Looking for a Moose by Phyllis Root
If You Give a Moose a Muffin by Laura Joffe Numeroff
Moose Silhouette Paintings
Moose craft and If You Give a Moose a Muffin activities from Crayon Freckles
If You Give a Moose a Muffin muffin-tin meal from Coffee Cups & Crayons

Sled Dogs and The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race

Mush! Across Alaska in the World's Longest Sled-Dog Race by Patricia Seibert
Douggie: The Playful Pup Who Became a Sled Dog Hero by Pam Flowers
Wind-Wild Dog by Barbara Joose
Dogteam by Gary Paulsen
Iditarod - The Last Great Race - The is the official website of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. You'll find videos, photos, a history of the race, and a very extensive education section.

Native Alaskans
Eskimo Boy ~ Life in an Inupiaq Eskimo Village by Russ Kendall (This is another book that is not available to purchase new, but it was too good of a resource not to include. Look for it in your public library.)
Kitaq Goes Ice Fishing by Margaret Nicolai

The Eagle's Gift by Rafe Martin
Raven: A Trickster Tale from the Pacific Northwest by Gerald McDermott
The Polar Bear Son: An Inuit Tale by Lydia Dabcovich
Totem pole project and writing prompt from Relentlessly Fun, Deceptively Educational
Totem pole craft from No Time for Flashcards

For the Older Kids (Elementary-Aged & Beyond)
Dogsong by Gary Paulsen 
Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George

White Fang by Jack London
The Call of the Wild by Jack London
The book, Hands-On Alaska: Art Activities for All Ages by Yvonne Y. Merrill, was full of art and craft ideas that would be appropriate for your older children. The projects were based on traditional Alaska Native art. The projects are amazing, and the instructions will help you make masks, jewelry, and many more works of art.

Other topics to consider:
Northern lights, grizzly bear, bald eagle, the tundra, glaciers, totem poles, salmon, and snow

I hope these resources help you in planning your own exploration of Alaska (or just to find some awesome new books to read). If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to email me or ask in the comments. Have fun!

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Thursday, January 17, 2013

Around the World in 12 Dishes: Greek Salad Bites

We've been to so many fun places while participating in Around the World in 12 Dishes, and this month we landed in Greece. I was excited; I love Greek food. Now, I just needed to find a way to introduce it to the girls in a way that they would get them excited to try. I stumbled across this fantastic idea for a Bite-Sized Greek Salad from Cooking With My Kid and knew that with a few tweaks, it would be perfect for us.

We started with some grape tomatoes, black olives, sliced cucumber, and feta cheese. I showed the girls how to thread them on their toothpicks and put them to work. They loved the assembly line we set up and threaded salad bite after salad bite. One olive on the toothpick, one olive in the mouth. One tomato on the toothpick, one tomato in the mouth. 

As with all of our food projects, I've learned that it works best to only introduce one new food at a time. This time, I was introducing feta cheese. It was much easier to get them to try it when it was combined with foods that they love, olives, tomatoes, and cucumbers. 

Once the salad bites were complete, I dressed the salad with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar. The result was a light and refreshing snack (or side dish) that was gobbled down by everyone in the family. Success!

Would you like to participate? Here's how:

Welcome to "Around The World in 12 Dishes". We will be taking you on a journey around the world, (loosely) following in Phileas Fogg's footsteps, exploring 12 different countries with our children, by cooking 12 dishes with them. One for each country visited.

The world is such a wonderfully diverse and colorful place. Our children see maps, flags and books. They see postcards and maybe they see films about the world.. but let's really bring it to life through food! Taste and smell don't often get explored, we think this would be wonderfully fun and interesting for you and your children.

Not only is it an exciting and different way to learn about cultures, but cooking with children brings a host of benefits - from numeracy to science. How can you beat that?

Adventures In Mommydom, Creative Family Fun, Domestic Goddesque, Glittering Muffins, Here Come The Girls, Juggling with Kids, Kid World Citizen, Kitchen Counter Chronicles, Mermaids' Makings, Montessori Tidbits, Mummymummymum and The Educators' Spin On It have come together to help you on your food journey and will each cook a dish with our children and post about it - to help inspire you to have a go! Then go out there, cook, blog, and join in the linky fun! Check out the other great posts as well!

Around the World in 12 Dishes

We had started our journey the same way Phileas Fogg did in London, UK, and now are arriving in Athens, capital of Greece!

How to join the fun!

  • The only mandatory part is the dish, the rest is all up to you, we just thought it would be fun and more concrete to the kids as to why we are making a unusual dish.
  • Cook a dish from Greece: The goal is to explore this country through FOOD and activities if you wish. Make a typical dish (sweet or savoury) from the country with the kids, take photos and have fun!
  • Typical dishes: Gyros, Souvlaki, Spanakopita, Baklava.
  • Print your passport: Click here to download, comes with space for a photo of the child with the dish. Here is a little cover for it if you wish :)
  • Color a placemat: Once colored/painted or whatever other way you want to do this, you can laminate it or put it between clear contact paper to use it over and over. Great conversation piece for you and your kids. Click here to download it.
  • Make a craft: you can make a country related craft with the kids [optional!]
  • Fun fact: Santa Claus is Greek. St Nicholas was a rich Greek that used to donate his money to the poor.
  • Share with us: Our Greek challenge starts on January 13th and will remain open for a year, so attach a link to your blog to enter the linky party or go to the comment section and post a photo together with what you did together with your child(ren).
  • Pinterest: We will add your photos to a "Around the World in 12 Dishes" Pinterest Boards (one for the dishes, one for the crafts) you will be a great source of inspiration for everyone :)
  • Are you a blogger? Let your fans know about the challenge and grab our cute lil’ button to share it on your blog.

Around the World in 12 Dishes
<a href=" " target="_blank"><img src=" " alt="Around the world in 12 Dishes" width="125" height="125" /></a>

If you do this, we’d LOVE to see a photo of it. Email it to us or post it on our Facebook page. We’d love to do a Facebook album, a Pinterest board and a page of your creations :)
Please link up your Greek dish and/or craft in our linky below, we would love to see it!

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