Friday, February 28, 2014

Balloon People

My daughter loves balloons.  I'm guessing most kids do.  We keep a bag of balloons on hand for when Tiffany wants to play what she calls 'balloon catch.'  The other day she asked to play balloon catch and it was then that I realized we had used the last of the balloons.  However, I did have some of those skinny hot dog balloons so I blew one up but Tiffany wasn't interested.  She threw it to the side saying it was too small.  The balloon hung around for a few days until a light bulb went off and I said, "I can make this balloon look like a person!"  I was off and running.  The first balloon person I made was a girl skier.  Here is what I used:
pipe cleaner (to serve as arms/hands and is also what gives the balloon it's head and body shape)
googly eyes
basket filler (for hair)
tooth picks (to serve as ski poles)
craft sticks (to serve as skis)
black marker

It was super easy and fun to make the skier.  After looking at it you can tell how I put it together.  Initially, I wanted to make more skiers and use them to learn the alphabet but I wasn't going to make 25 more skiers!! So, I put an upper case and lower case "A" on the skies and thought we would use this skier as a prop to learn that letter. To go along with our balloon skier and learning the letter "A" I had Tiffany take a brown paper bag and go around the house finding things that started with the letter "A." I didn't get pictures of that, unfortunately

Next up is our balloon Fairy.  I made this fairy to represent a star shape and she would also be our prop for learning other shapes.  Hence, our Shape Fairy!  I used mostly the same things as I used for the Skier.  For the wand I again used a toothpick and cut a star from craft foam.  For the fairies crown I cut a piece from a toilet paper roll, painted it and glued beads to it.  I needed each of the balloon people to stand on something.  The skier was easy but for the Fairy I  used the top of a Pringles potato chip container and glued her to that.

As an activity to learning about the star shape I printed a star glued it to construction paper, put out star stickers and had Tiffany decorate the star.  We talked about different shapes, how many sides shapes have and which things we could find in our house that were of the same shapes.

Here is Tiffany just flying her Fairy around!

Our last balloon person is our Monster Bowler.  I had the most fun making this one!  Here is what I used:
pipe cleaner
googly eye
large black pom pom
black marker

As with the other two balloon people I used the pipe cleaner to act as the arms/hands.  I glued our monster bowler to a piece of cardboard which I cut from a juice bag box and this serves as the bowling alley and is also what helps our monster bowler stand! The pins are q-tips cut in half and of course the pom pom is the bowling ball.  Our Monster Bowler helped us learn numbers.  I wrote numbers 1-10 next to each 'pin' and Tiffany counted and identified with each.  After playing a bit with our Monster Bowler I took out our bowling set and we bowled a few frames!

I paired our balloon people to a book called, Emily's Balloon.  Their are other books I would have liked to include but our local library did not have the others available.

It was fun creating our balloon friends and incorporating them into learning activities.  Several times over the course of this past week I've caught Tiffany using her imagination and playing with her balloon friends!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Super Simple Shamrock Craft

This Shamrock craft is perfect for even the littlest of people! I traced and cut out a shamrock shape onto green construction paper and then applied contact paper to the back of the paper, sticky side up.  Next, I shredded some dark green construction paper and let my daughter start sticking on the shredded pieces of paper, that's it....super simple!

My daughter loved sticking the shredded paper on and running her fingers through it.  

My daughter also insisted that the shamrock had to have a brown stem so I gave her a piece of brown sticky foam for the stem of the shamrock.  We hung it up on our back patio door and it looks pretty with the outside light shining through it.

Would love to hear about your St. Patrick's Day crafts or activities.  Feel free to share on our Facebook page 

Friday, February 21, 2014

Chores for Preschoolers

Recently my 3.5 year old has started asking if she can help vacuum when she sees me doing it.  At first I was surprised especially since my son who is now 8 rarely expressed (or expresses!) an interest in any of the house chores.  So, my daughter has been helping with the vacuuming, feeding our fish and setting the dinner table.  I am very proud of her desire to want to help and I am super proud to share that all of these chores she asked to help with.  To help keep her enthusiasm I wanted to make up a chore chart or something to help her feel more accomplished.  For me, I know that physically checking things off on my to-do list make me feel better.  Two things we have alot of at our house are toilet paper rolls and craft sticks so my mind tends to think of how I can use these things.  I knew that whatever I was going to use had to be simple enough for a 3.5 year old to use and understand but at the same time something interesting enough that would encourage and keep her attention. Here is what I came up with:

Supplies used:
2 toilet paper rolls
1 magnet sheet
letter stickers
star stickers
I didn't take pics of the other supplies but I also used: colored craft sticks, construction paper and glitter.

I decided on black construction paper since the letter stickers I had were a sparkly silver and I thought the black background would show off the letters nicely.  I also used some white glitter although in hindsight I'm not sure I would do it again.  My idea was to have them look sparkly and glittery for my daughter.  Similar to the concept I used with my Learning Seasons craft sticks I printed pictures from the internet that pertained to the chores she would be doing and glued them to the tips of the craft sticks.  I chose a vacuum obviously for vacuuming, utensils for setting the dinner table and a fish for feeding our fish.  

After this part was done I cut a strip of magnet and hot glued it to the backs of the toilet paper rolls and hung them on our refrigerator.  Since the rolls would be hanging from our refrigerator I needed something to put on the bottoms of the rolls to prevent the craft sticks from just falling out.  I cut out circles from the black construction paper and glued to the bottoms of the rolls. 

Now here is how the system works - The roll that says my daughters name is where the craft stick chores stay until she completes a chore which by the way each of these chores are done every day.  Once she completes a chore she takes the craft stick and moves it to the "Good Job" roll.  The next morning she takes the craft sticks from the Good Job roll and places them back into the Tiffany roll.  We have used these chore rolls for about a week now and it works great!  It only took seconds to explain how the system would work before she was off and running!  Every day for the past week she does exactly what is suppose to happen AND without me telling her to do it.  Because we have these on our refrigerator she easily sees them each morning which reminds her of her chores for the day.  It's funny but she asked to set the dinner table when it was still morning.  We'll have to work on that! My point is that she's excited to do her chores and that was my intention!

Tiffany using her chore rolls..........

What do you use to help your children with house chores?

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Pretend Play

It always amazes me to watch my children's imaginations take control.  My son who is now 8 has been playing what we call, "space boy" since he's been about 2 years old.  He just runs around the house pretending to be attacked or invaded by aliens or spacemen or whatever his mind conjures up.  My daughter who is 3.5 pretends daily to be a Princess and I her Queen!  She puts on a crown, jewelry and then gracefully prances around the house in her princess dress.  In the next moment she is "Pirate Tiffany" and I am "Pirate Mommy" and we are searching for treasure.  It makes me smile to write this as I think about the fun they are having in addition to all the benefits pretend play offers them.

The other day my daughter asked me to build a castle with her using her blocks.  We built the castle together and then she asked for her basket of princesses.  As I was going about my business I would occasionally check in to see how she was doing.  What I found was this......

I should mention both of my children LOVE Disney World and we are planning our 3rd visit in a few months.  Apparently, my daughter decided to line up all of her Disney Princesses and then invite her other 'friends' for a meet and greet.  She included Sesame Street figures, other Disney characters, Dora even some of her brother's Pokemon figures.

She put her figures in a line in front of the Princess they wanted to meet.  She told me that Minnie wanted to meet Sleeping Beauty and that all of the others had to wait their turn in line.  She would even tell them when they had enough time and moved her figures to another line to meet a different Princess.  Hmmm, hopefully this might help her learn some patience when we are standing in line waiting for our real meet and greet in just a few months!

Like I said I am always amazed at imaginative play.  Most of the time I am the one planning for and thinking up the next activity or craft but nothing compares to the activity of pretend play that is thought up strictly by the child!

Stuffed Animal Storage

The one thing we have way too much of in our house is stuffed animals.  I hear from other parents that they too have issues with what to do with all their children's stuffed friends.  We have most of my son's stuffed animals under control since he is 8 and has stopped acquiring so many.  My daughter however at 3.5 is still acquiring at lightning speed.  The acquisition is not so much from Mom and Dad but from friends and family at holidays and other times throughout the year.  I don't mind this as long as when a new friend arrives we say good-bye to an old one.  The majority of my daughters stuffed animals are kept in her closet and in a stuffed animal chair (more about that later in the post).  For those animals that she plays with often we keep on her bed and some come down with us in the morning and spend the day with us.  The system I have works but like anything else needs revamping once in awhile and that's exactly what needed to be done in my daughters closet.

Often times my daughter will go to her room and sort through her animals I'm guessing in a hunt to find one she hasn't seen in awhile or just looking for a new friend to love.  Either way after a few months of me not paying much attention this is what her closet turned into.

For stuffed animal storage in her closet I use a Thirty-One large utility tote and I also use a frog that is specific for storing stuffed animals which I purchased from Avon.  After just a few minutes I was able to get everything back in its place.  My daughter was actually in her room at the time I re-organized and I thought it would be a good time to part with some of her friends.  Thankfully, she cooperated and we donated a bag full!

Ahhhh, this is better....

Now about the other storage I mentioned above.  I found this at Bed Bath and Beyond and its basically just a piece of fabric that has a zipper.  You fill it with stuffed animals, zip it up and it can be used as a chair.  So kind of like a bean bag chair but with animals inside.  My son has one for his room too but not Disney Princess, of course and they both sit on them either when looking at or reading books.

How do you store your children's stuffed friends?

Cloud Dough Sand Castles

This was our very first experience with cloud dough.  To be honest I've never heard of it before but after seeing several other blogs and tons of pins on Pinterest I knew we had to give it a try.  It is so super easy to make too!  Just flour and oil.  After reading different ways of making it I chose to go with 8 cups of flour to 1 cup of baby oil.  I did see that you could also use vegetable oil but glad we chose the baby oil as it smells sooo good!  My 3.5 year old is funny when it comes to touching things that are...different.  I'm glad to report that she is a fan of cloud dough.  If I had to describe the texture it would be kind of fine like sand but much smoother.  This activity kept my daughters attention for almost 2 hours!  Other than playing with water beads this is the longest she has played while engaged in a sensory activity.

Tiffany loved shaking in the glitter.  We went through a few tubes of glitter with this activity!

Before we started playing I told Tiffany we were going to have a pretend day at the beach.  When she starting playing with the cloud dough the first thing she wanted to do was make sand castles, of course!

And here is all that glitter!

I also brought out a pirate sand table out and part of that became a part of the cloud dough activity.  My daughter began burying 'gold' and then digging for treasure! Tiffany would bury and Mommy  Pirate Mommy would find the gleaming booty!

Cloud dough is by far our favorite sensory activity!!  

Recycled Bird Feeders

By no means is making this kind of bird feeder a new idea.  It's just one of those good old fashion crafts you can easily share with your kids.  At our house we keep the empty paper towel and toilet paper rolls for future use since their are so many creative uses for them.  My daughter is 3.5 and to date has not yet made a peanut butter bird feeder.  Initially, I was going to use a couple of pine cones from a tree we have in our backyard but then I remembered all the empty paper towel and toilet paper rolls we have and opted to use those....less sticky then those pine cones too!

Start with 2 paper plates one with the peanut butter and the other with the seed. Before beginning to cover your toilet paper roll with the peanut butter be sure to use a hole punch on each side of the roll so that you can hang it later.

My daughter was very focused on the spreading part.  Good for those fine motor skills too!

Voila!  Finished product.  I didn't get a picture of it but of course after spreading your peanut butter simply roll the toilet paper roll in the bird seed.  My daughter was very happy with her work.  Throughout the craft we talked about how we are helping to feed the birds and how happy they will be to find our bird feeders.

And here comes the real joy!  We hung the bird feeder where we could see it from our dining room window.  Within minutes of hanging our feeder this is what we had the joy of watching.  You can only imagine my 3.5 year old's excitement!  I reminded her that she did this, she helped the birds find food when it's hard for them to find it on their own.

This craft was not only fun but it also offered a special message.  The message that it's important to remember to help others including these lovely creatures.  

For those of you who may be in the dead of winter, like us, help your feathered friends by making one of these simple bird feeders with your kiddos.

We also made a second bird feeder this time using a paper towel roll.  I also added 2 craft sticks so that the birds could stand on something while they eat!

The process is the same for this feeder as it was for the first one.  The only difference is that I added the 2 craft sticks.  I used a razor to make a slit and slid the craft sticks through the paper towel roll.  My daughter was still in charge of the spreading and rolling!

And here is bird feeder number 2:

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Presidents Day craft

In honor of Presidents Day here is a fun and easy craft for your preschooler.

Supplies you will need:
Construction paper (any color)
Craft sticks, either colored or plain that you can paint
Cotton balls

I really loved this craft because it helps with color recognition, shape recognition and fine motor skills.  Before my daughter glued on the craft sticks I used markers that matched the color of the sticks we were using and drew where the craft sticks should go.  Basically an outline of the craft stick.  Tiffany matched and glued the craft stick  to the correct color on the paper while also using her fine motor skills with the gluing part! We used a triangle shape for the roof and a rectangle shape for the front door and chimney.  Finally, Tiffany glued on cotton balls for smoke.

What fun crafts or activities do you have for Presidents day?

Friday, February 14, 2014

Tape Resist Art

I've been seeing some pins and posts about Tape Resist Art and decided to give it a go with my 3.5 year old.  We started off with a large piece of regular paper and I used painters tape and spelled out her name. Please forgive the boxed off areas.  Initially, my 8 year old was going to try his hand at it and I thought I would give them each their own section of the paper but my son decided not to try after all.

 My daughter LOVES to see her name in print so I thought using her name for this activity would add some extra excitement for her.  I opted to go with markers versus paint for this go-around.  With some coaxing Tiffany began scribbling around the letters and asked for some help from me.  Once she got going she was excited to pick the colors and scribble away.

Once I peeled the tape carefully off of the paper she seemed amazed at how pretty the letters of her name stood out!  Definitely something we will try again.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Counting with stickers

We have been working on one-to-one correspondence and here is an easy activity to help your preschooler build on this skill.  I simply put some fun animal stickers on construction paper and used white sticker dots to show the number of animal stickers.

I drew some boxes to show my daughter where the dots should go.  She counted each sticker and then added the correct number of dots.

......And she got them correct!

I left Tiffany after I thought she had finished the activity.  When I came back to the room I found that she had turned the paper over and was doing it again by her own choice!!  That put a great big smile on my face!!

What kind of one-to-one correspondence activities have you done?

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Playing With Straws

We love using contact paper since they're are so many fun ways to be creative with it.  Most recently we used contact paper and bath tub letters to go over our Abc's, see more about that here.  Today we paired contact paper up with straws.  We also tried popsicle sticks which worked fine but Tiffany seemed to have more fun with the straws.  I think the fluorescent colors of the straws makes playing with them that much more enjoyable.

 When Tiffany first started playing around with the straws she immediately made the letter "T."  Anytime she sees the letter "T" she says, "that's my name!" She then made a capital "I" and a lower case "i." 

After playing with letter shapes I asked Tiffany to put up the straws according to size.  I had already cut up the straws into different lengths.  The funny part about this is when she was lining them up she said, "this one is 10 units long!"  I have no clue where that even came from!!  These little ones are smarter than we think!!

My 8 year old got in on the fun with measuring too.

During the same time Tiffany was playing with the straws and contact paper my son happened to be playing with his Lego mini figures.  He had an idea to line up his mini figs on the contact paper.  I told him they probably wouldn't hold.  The verdict.......some fell off while others stayed up just fine!!

I would love to hear how you enjoy contact paper with your kiddos!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Abc's and 123's using bathtub letters and numbers

My 3.5 year old can sing the abc song and for the most part can identify almost all upper case letters (and some lower case) but I still wanted to encourage and reinforce so I came up with an idea.  I knew I wanted to use contact paper but what did I want to use for the letters?? Initially, I was going to cut out pieces of felt into squares and write the letters on each piece.  I tried that but the felt I had on hand was a dark green color and the letters were not showing up very well. After thinking about what I already had on hand I thought of Tiffany's bathtub letters...perfect!!

My next thought was would the letters stick well enough to the contact paper? Yup, perfectly!

We started out by singing the abc song and then I asked Tiffany to put the letters of the alphabet in order up on the wall. What I chose to do was sing with Tiffany and then stop singing before we got to the next letter.  Tiffany had to say what the next letter was and find it in the pile of letters on the floor and then slap it up on the contact paper!

We had a fun time singing and 'slapping' on the letters.  I had numbers on hand too so when we finished with letters we worked on numbers next.

I am in love with contact paper! What fun things do you and your kiddos do with contact paper?