Sunday, December 14, 2014

Christmas I Spy Bottle

I Spy Bottles are fun and educational.  As the child explores the bottle they use their language skills to tell you what they find like "a green button" or a "red bow."  They also work on their observation skills as they use their senses to touch, see and hear.  For children who can write this activity also helps fine motor and writing skills as they can write down the objects they find in the bottle.

We have made other I Spy Bottles and my kids have enjoyed exploring them all.  I thought it would be fun to make up a Christmas theme I Spy Bottle.  This past yard sale season I picked up a ziploc bag filled and I mean filled with Christmas trinkets like little tiny mittens, stars, green and red buttons, tiny stockings and Christmas trees.  All things that would fit perfectly into an I Spy Bottle!

I started off by dying some rice red and green.  I wasn't sure of the best way to dye rice but Happy Hooligans has a super easy, mess free way to do it.  To learn how check out their post How To Color Rice.

While the rice was drying I grabbed my yard sale bag of Christmas trinkets and started writing down the things I would put into the bottle.  I used a small notepad that I keep right next to where the I Spy Bottle is.  This way, my kids can look at the book and check things off as they find them.  Since my daughter can't read yet I call off things from the book for her to find while other times she just quietly explores and discovers on her own. Another option is taking a picture of the trinkets before adding them, printing it and attaching it with ribbon to the bottle.  This way would work best for non-readers.


Once the rice was dry I began filling the bottle using a piece of paper rolled into a cone like shape.  Our funnel did not work well for this part.  I poured in some rice and then added some trinkets and did this all the way up.  When you get to the top leave a few inches so that you have enough room for the rice to move around.  Lastly, I hot glue gun the cap to the bottle so nothing accidentally spills out!

This was a really fun addition to our other I Spy Bottles and it added to our Christmas fun!

Here are some of our other I Spy Bottles:

My 9 year old son made this one on his own using a combination of rice and dinosaur sprinkles! He chose to attach his label of what was included to the side of the bottle.

After my 4 year old saw her brothers I Spy Bottle she wanted to make one of her own.  I didn't have any other larger bottles so I took an old spice container and let her fill that.

We've used rice for all of our I Spy Bottles except this one where I used colored sprinkles.

I Spy Bottles can be any size and most would fit perfectly into your purse or backpack. You could take them with you on car rides or play with while waiting at a doctors office or restaurant!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Gingerbread Pirates Book and Activity

During our last library visit I happened across the book, The Gingerbread Pirates.  I had no clue what is was about as I had not heard of it before.  I judged this book completely by it's cover (that's a no, no, right!?) But the cover did not mislead as it was a really fun book and after our first read my daughter said, "again, again!"

The next day my 9 year old also read it to his sister and I heard them both giggling. It's a cute story and interesting enough for both my 4 year old and 9 year old.  The book is about a boy who bakes pirate gingerbread men with his Mother and has a favorite cookie, "Captain Cookie" with a peg leg.  Captain Cookie and his crew head out on an adventure to make sure Santa Claus does not have them for his Christmas Eve snack!

My daughter asked if we could make a "Captain Cookie" and since I love pairing books with activities we got started right away.  Since this was a last minute request I was not prepared to bake gingerbread cookies and it was an icy and rainy day so no running out to the store.  Plan B.....make sugar cookie dough and use our gingerbread man cookie cutter to make gingerbread man shaped cookies. In addition to not having the ingredients for authentic gingerbread cookies I also didn't have any white icing so I used some left over green icing and melted some chocolate to use as decoration for our gingerbread men.  Luckily we had plenty of sprinkles and decorative sugar on hand! Our baking session turned into baking other cookies as well which was just fine and we even have some left over dough on hold in our freezer.

My daughter said we had to have a peg leg pirate too just like in the story so I broke off a piece of the gingerbread pirate's leg and stuck in a toothpick!  She calls him Captain Peg Leg!

Here is the rest of our Gingerbread Men Pirate Crew!

This turned out to be alot of fun baking and creating! We will definitely try this baking session again and will wait till my son is not in school so he can partake too.  A great activity for preschoolers and school age kids!

Here is the dough recipe we used to make our pirate cookie crew:

1 Cup butter, softened
1 Cup sugar
1 egg
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla
2 3/4 Cup flour
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  In large bowl cream butter and sugar with mixer.  Beat in egg and vanilla.  Add baking powder and flour, 1 cup at a time.  Mix well.  Bake 6-7 minutes or until cookies are lightly browned.  Makes approx: 3 dozen cookies.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Shaving Cream Christmas Tree

We've done other shaving cream crafts in the past and my daughter was always apprehensive about touching it, that is up until now!  I'm glad I tried shaving cream again because my daughter really had fun with it this time. She even told me that she didn't need anything else to stir the shaving cream with except for her hands.....well, ok then!

We started off with a baking sheet and added some shaving cream to it.  We then added a few drops of green food coloring and that's when the mixing begins.  Like I said my daughter dug right in!  I didn't even get a chance to tell her not to mix the food coloring all the way through the shaving cream since I was hoping for more of marbled or swirled look. At this point I was just glad that she took to the sensory experience!

Once the food coloring is mixed around we took a piece of white paper and placed it flat down onto the shaving cream then lifted it off.

 I also used a scraper to take off the excess shaving cream.

 Once it was dry I cut our tree into a triangle shape and gave my daughter some pom pom's and a star for decorating.

The huge black pom pom's were not my idea of Christmas-y  but this is her craft after all!

This is an easy and fun craft that exposes your child to a sensory experience and if you use glue to stick on the pom pom's you'll work on fine motor skills too!

Materials needed:
Baking sheet
Shaving cream
Green food coloring
Pom pom's
Posicle stick or straw for stirring (or just use your hands if you don't mind green hands for a few days!!)

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Number Sequence (What's the Missing Number?)

Lights lights everywhere! Christmastime offers up so many beautiful lights whether hanging them or admiring them.  Personally, for me, I can't get enough of them as they are so pretty.  The lights inspired me to do this activity.

We do a fair amount of number writing in our homeschool preschool but we haven't done too much in the way of number sequence.  Here's what we did:

I had some color coding labels that happened to include the colors red and green, perfect for Christmastime!

I cut out shapes of light bulbs, drew a line on a large piece of white paper, stuck on the 'lights' and wrote numbers 1-12 leaving every other light blank for my 4 year old to fill in.

My daughter immediately got to work!

When we do an activity I never know for sure what will grab my daughter's attention.  With this particular activity my 4 year old took to it immediately.  Their was almost no explaining, after seeing it she knew exactly what she needed to do.  She seen number 1 and when she went to count the next 'light' her exact words were, "uh-oh!"  She knew the next number was missing, grabbed the marker and quickly began filling in the rest of the missing numbers.  We were done in a minute and she was asking to do it again, yay (and nay)!  Love when that happens but unfortunately, I didn't have another one prepared, daughter flipped over the paper and made her own version of number sequencing!

Materials needed:
Red and green labels or construction paper
Large white piece of paper
Black permanent marker

The most time consuming part was cutting out the labels to resemble lights but other than that it's super easy and a fun way to teach number sequence.  I also thought you could make this more of a craft by making the 'lights' using your child's fingerprints!!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Toilet Paper Roll Advent Calendar

Last year we used a small table top artificial tree as our countdown to Christmas. I made origami envelopes, stuck little notes with activities inside and hung them from the tree. Although our Advent tree worked out just fine me being me wanted to try something different this year. I am really not crafty and I know when I take on a project like this something is going to go not so right but I'm ok with that. Part of my problem is I get anxious and I tend to rush! Anyway, I like how our toilet paper roll advent calendar turned out, for the most part. I wish I had lined up the rolls better but I know the kids won't mind and it will still be just as much fun.   I convinced myself it's not about how pretty it looks but more about how much it's enjoyed. Sounds good to me so I'm going with it!!

 Here's what I used to make our toilet paper advent calendar:

  • Christmas tray from Dollar Tree 
  • Toilet paper rolls cut in half 
  • Red and Green tissue paper 
  • Hot glue gun 
  • Paper (to write our activities on)
  • Treats (used chocolates)
  • Black marker 

  • Cut your toilet paper rolls in half 
  • Cut circles of tissue paper enough to fit over one end of the roll (I used a 1/2 cup measuring cup which was the right diameter.)
  • Use hot glue gun to make a light bead of glue around the tp roll - not on the rim but just a smidge down from the rim of the roll.  Just enough so the tissue paper will fold over the glue. (the tissue paper does not need alot of glue to adhere) 
  • Attach the tissue paper 
  • With black marker write the numbers 1-25 or 1-24 whichever you prefer
  • Once above is complete add whatever you would like inside the tp roll. We are doing activities some days and I'm giving treats on other days. For the activities I wrote on a piece of paper what we will be doing and added it inside the tp roll. For treats I just added candy inside. 
  •  After that, add another bead of glue around the rim of the tp roll and carefully turn it onto the tray. 

 If you would like to hang it, just add a bow with a glue gun!

 This is where ours will hang beginning December 1st! Let the countdown begin!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Reindeer Fingerprint Labels

When I tell you that this is an easy craft I mean e-z!  And what's best is that it's a personalized signature that family members and friends will really like!

Here's what you'll need:
Brown ink pad or brown paint
Black marker
Red marker or pen
Brown marker

Take your fingerprint or your child's using either the first finger or thumb and press onto the ink pad then press finger onto label.  If using brown paint just paint finger and then stamp onto label. Once that's done simply decorate by using the black marker for the eyes and mouth (if giving your reindeer a smiley face), red marker for the nose and brown marker for the antlers.

Voila! DIY holiday labels!

Don't just limit yourself to making these adorable fingerprint reindeer on lables.  You could also stamp up the back of a Christmas card envelope like we did here:

Here are some other really cute fingerprint reindeer ideas:

Reindeer Thumbprint Art from Rub Some Dirt On It

Adorable Fingerprint Reindeer Craft for Kids from Crafty Morning

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Preserving Leaves and Leaf Activities

We are lucky to have some really beautiful trees in our neighborhood.  Like most kids my 2 love to rake the leaves into big piles and jump in!  We've also taken walks trying to find the prettiest and biggest leaves.   Most of the time though the leaves we bring home dry up and that's that, goodbye leaves.  I wanted to try and preserve some of these beauties and here's what we have tried.

  • Glycerin and water - learn how to preserve leaves this way by visiting Home Science Tools
  • Ironing the leaves between wax paper - learn how to preserve leaves this way by visiting Home Science Tools
  • Melting wax - learn how to preserve leaves this way by visiting How Wee Learn
So far my favorite and the easiest was melting an old candle and dipping the leaves into the wax.  So easy and quick to dry.  They turn out soft and smell pretty from the candle too!  

Glycerin and water is also easy but I'm impatient and preserving leaves this way takes about 3 days or more. But if you have the patience to do it this way they really turn out soft!

The ironing and wax paper method, for me, was my least favorite as the leaves still seemed to dry up rather quickly.

Once your leaves are preserved, have some fun!  Here are a few leaf activities we enjoyed.

Leaf Turkey - This craft is super simple and the turkey looks adorable!  Their's something about turning leaves into creatures that puts a smile on my face, they're just so darn adorable.  We also made leaf creatures a few months back and I smiled every time I looked at them!

Here's what you'll need to make a Leaf Turkey:
  • 2 Maple leaves
  • Construction paper
  • Googly eyes
  • Foam triangle for nose
  • Red foam piece for wattle
We have the foam that self sticks which I love so no glue other than for the googly eyes was needed.  We are just hanging our Leaf Turkey on our fridge but this could also make a cute Thanksgiving card for a friend or family member.  

Here's another way we played with our preserved leaves:

Leaf Tracing - We have a forsythia bush in our backyard and let me tell ya these leaves are so pretty. They go from green to brownish burgundy to bright yellow.  My 4 year old spent almost an hour picking and sorting through these pretties!  I thought up this next activity to keep my 4 year old busy as I was preparing dinner.  I took some of the leaves that we dipped in the candle wax (my favorite way of preserving) and I traced them onto a piece of paper.  I then gave my daughter a pile of leaves and asked her if she could match the correct leaf to the tracing.  She really took to this activity and after she matched the first few she asked for more.  Then she asked if she could trace like Mommy.  This turned out to be a really fun activity and  the bonus is that it worked on fine motor skills too!

We haven't done it yet but since we have so many different kinds of leaves, shapes, sizes and colors we are  also going to try sorting them.  

We've paired our leaf activities with these fun books:

I wasn't able to snap a picture because we had already returned this book to the library but here's another fun book about Leaves:

I would love to hear how you and your children enjoy the beautiful fall leaves!  Leave a comment below or visit us on Facebook!