Friday, January 30, 2015

Peanut Butter Cup Heart Cookies

Two things I can't seem to pass up are peanut butter and chocolate.  After seeing a recipe over at The Diary of a Real Housewife for Peanut Butter Cup Cookies I melted! Reese's always comes out with holiday versions of peanut butter cups and when we spotted the Valentine Reese's Peanut Butter Cups we grabbed a bag or 2.....ok so more like 3!  

We followed The Diary of a Real Housewife's recipe to make our cookies with a few changes.  We used regular peanut butter without honey and of course we used the Valentine heart peanut butter cups instead of the mini's.  Lastly, we don't own a mini muffin tin so we baked them on a cookie sheet.  For the full recipe just click on the links above.

I split the batch by making half with the peanut butter cup and half without.  My son's friend happened to be over which worked out great otherwise I might have inhaled even more!  The boys seemed to like the plain peanut butter cookies while me, my daughter and husband went for the peanut butter and chocolate!

Either way you make these you will not be disappointed, they are delicious!

They would be great to bake and share with family and friends on Valentine's Day too!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Alphabet Mix Up

This Alphabet Mix up activity came to mind just a few minutes before our homeschooling was about to begin.  Our current letter of the week is S and this activity allowed us to incorporate our letter of the week AND include an alphabet activity with it.  Sometimes the last minute ideas are the best and this was an activity my daughter had a ball with!

Some time ago my husband came across some large white round stickers that I haven't done much with.  They come on a roll so I kept all the stickers on the roll, wrote the letters of the alphabet, out of order, and taped it along the edge of my kitchen counter.  The counter was the only spot in the house long enough to hold all 26 letters.

On the letter S I drew circles about the same size as the stickers so that my daughter could place the stickers onto the circle rather than all over the S.

My daughter knows her alphabet well so I knew mixing the letters up and than having her put them in order would offer her a challenge.

If you were to do this same activity with a child who is still learning the alphabet you could put the letters in alphabetical order and write the letters onto the circles and let them do a match up. 

By having to peel the stickers she worked on her fine motor skills.  There was also some jumping and running back and forth so we got to move a bit with this activity too.

Even tho a last minute idea this was a fun letter S and alphabet activity!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Raspberry Scented Valentine Playdough

Once I learned how to make homemade playdoh I never bought the store bought stuff again!  One of my favorites was our Ice-cream and Birthay Cake Playdoh which uses only 2 ingredients powdered sugar and frosting!  It was so easy to make and so fun to play with!

For another 2 ingredient option you can also try Cloud dough which was definitely a winner with my daughter.  She asked to play with it several times after her first introduction.

This time around I wanted to try adding some scent to our playdoh.  Since I was making this batch with Valentines in mind I thought a raspberry would be nice.

Here's the recipe:

1 C Flour
2 TBS Cream of Tartar
1/4 C Salt
1 C Water
1TBS Vegetable Oil
Raspberry extract
Red food coloring
Glitter (optional)

Add all the ingredients together in a large pot over medium heat and keep stirring for about 5 minutes.  You'll know when it's done when the playdough gets harder to stir. This is also where I added in the raspberry extract.  I didn't measure just kept squirting till it felt right.  It will be hot so carefully remove from the pot and let cool off on tinfoil or parchment paper.  Once the playdough is cool enough begin kneading it and adding in glitter (optional).

I put out the playdough for my kids along with some 'accessories' like heart beads, gems, pipecleaners, buttons and let them go wild!

Here are some of their creations:

My son's creations:

My daughter's creations:

It looked like so much fun I made one of my own:

Here are some benefits of playing with playdough:
  • works on fine motor skills
  • imaginative play
  • sensory experience

Monday, January 19, 2015

Conversational Hearts Tree

Conversational hearts candy and Valentines day seem to go hand in hand.  However, I am not usually a fan of eating conversational hearts, personally I prefer chocolate. But I folded this year - between my daughter asking to buy them every time we passed by them at the grocery store and because of some really cute crafts I've been eyeing up on Pinterest.

This past weekend was rainy and both my kids (and hubby) were busy playing so I took advantage of the quiet time to do a "Mommy" craft and made this Conversational Hearts Tree.  I've been housing a styrofoam tree for about a year hoping to use it as a Christmas craft but luckily found a way to use it as a Valentine craft.  Here's what you'll need:

Conversational Hearts (about 1 bags worth)
Styrofoam tree
Foam heart
Glue gun

Like I said the kids and hubby were busy so I opened up my ipad, put in my ear buds and enjoyed listening to my favorite Pandora station....ahh....Mommy time!  

Here's what to do, so simple....just put a tiny dab of glue on the back of the hearts and keep gluing going round and round -  here's the first row.  

I decided to put a topper on although you don't have to.  I used a foam heart, wrote Be Mine on it, glued it to a toothpick and stuck it on top of the tree.  

(without the heart topper)

(with heart topper)

I always like to spruce up our mantel for holidays so I knew putting this on our fireplace was the perfect spot.  I just put out some hearts around it and placed it in the center of our mantel.  I think it's a sweet Valentines Day touch!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Play and Learn with Pasta

We dyed pasta for the first time and it was, as my 4 year old would say, "easy peasy lemon squeezy!" We followed this tutorial from Happy Hooligans on how to dye pasta.

I've been wanting to try this for awhile now and what motivated me was that a few weeks ago we were up to letter N for our letter of the week.  I thought a noodle or pasta activity would be appropriate so I gathered up some materials and got to work.

First, my preschooler glued on some noodles to form the letter N.  I wrote out the letter, applied some glue and stuck the noodles on top.  This activity helped with recognizing the uppercase N and we also went over the sound "N" makes.

Playing with a manipulative like dyed pasta is perfect for making patterns, which is exactly what my daughter did while gluing on the pasta.  It was a proud Mommy moment when my daughter took it upon herself to make a pattern and than tell me proudly of her accomplishment!

Next, I used some silicone cups that were the colors of the dyed pasta allowing my daughter the opportunity to sort by color.

 For some one to one correspondence I added a small piece of paper with a number on it and inserted them into the cups.  My daughter than counted out the noodles and put them into the appropriate cups.

We had alot of fun learning about the letter N!

Most of us probably have at least one box of pasta hiding in our kitchen cabinets or pantry making playing with pasta a fun and educational activity that you can do on a whim!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Confetti, Beads and Button Hearts

At the end of Valentine Season last year I picked up these cut out hearts from Target. They were in their clearance section for .88 cents, score!!

I taped down some contact paper to the table (sticky side up), put the heart cut out on top and let my daughter create away.  We had some confetti on hand, some teeny tiny jewelry beads and buttons that we used to decorate with.

Adding the confetti to the contact paper

The jewelry beads were so tiny that I added them to an empty sprinkles container and let her shake away

aren't these beads pretty?

decorating the button heart

My 4 year old really enjoyed making these hearts.  This was a craft in which I could do other things around the kitchen while she crafted away.  There was no right or wrong way to create with these hearts and other than running the vacuum to pick up some confetti there was no mess to deal with!

We decided to hang our hearts to our back door by using double sided tape.

Bead Heart (my favorite and looks so pretty when the sun shines through it)

 Confetti Heart!

Button Face Heart!

Here's how to make your own hearts:

Painters tape
Contact Paper
Heart Templates 
Construction Paper (if you do not have heart templates like the ones I had from Target)
foam (or anything else to decorate your hearts with)
double sided tape (if hanging on a glass door like ours)
  • Start off by using painters tape to tape the contact paper to the table (sticky side up) This will help keep your contact paper from moving around. You could also use the double sided tape for this part.
  • Add the heart cut out to the contact paper 
  • Let your child start decorating
  • Once decorated add another piece of contact paper to the top of the decorated heart (sticky side down)
  • Using your scissors cut any excess contact paper off.
  •  Now you're ready to hang!

(Note: for the Confetti heart I used construction paper and not the Target templates.  Simply fold a piece of paper in half, cut out your heart and then cut out the inside of the heart to use as the frame.)


Thursday, January 8, 2015

The Mitten Book and Activity

At our recent library visit my daughter asked if we could borrow a book called, The Mitten.  I'm really glad she found it and that we brought it home as it has ended up being the library book we have read the most out of our bagful of books.

A short but sweet read about a boy who asks his Grandmother to knit him white mittens.  The story takes place during winter and his Grandmother warns the boy that he might lose his white mittens in the snow.  The boy insists on white mittens and so his Grandmother knits a pair.  As the boy plays outside one of the mittens does indeed fall into the snow and gets lost.  While the boy continues to play different animals decide to take shelter inside the mitten!  The mitten keeps growing and growing until finally one of the animals sneezes and all the animals are blown out of the mitten.  The boy eventually finds his mitten and happily reassures his Grandmother that a white mitten is fine to have in the snow.

I really enjoyed the pictures which are nicely detailed showing images of a small cottage accented with authentic costumes and furniture which are part of this Ukrainian tale.

To pair this book with an activity I cut out 2 white mittens from card stock, punched some holes along the mittens and gave my daughter some ribbon to 'knit' her own mittens!  Basically, a lacing activity which is always good for fine motor skills.

All you need to make your own mittens is:
Hole Punch

'knitting' her own mittens!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Build-A-Word Game

We are finding fun ways to learn CVC (consonant vowel consonant) words.  Recently I came across this post, Build A Snowman Game from Home Grown Friends.  I thought we could use the same concept but instead of building a snowman we would try building words.

Here's what we did:

We used a tissue box which would act as our dice.  Covered it with white paper and wrote the 5 vowels on each side of the dice with one side being a "Lose A Turn."

Next, on a piece of paper I wrote 5 words with only the consonant letters showing.  I used mostly 3 letter words with the exception of one.

How to play:

My kids rolled the dice to see which vowel they would get.  Then, I asked my daughter to tell me the vowel and the sound and then asked her to look at the letters on her list and put the vowel with the correct word.  I didn't think about it when I was writing the consonant letters but realized that some of the vowels rolled could have been added to more than one of the words.

My son was very focused on rolling the dice.  Got this action shot of the dice coming right at me!

My daughter sounding out the vowel she rolled.

Building her word!

This game allowed my daughter the chance to recognize vowels, vowel sounds and blend the sounds to make a word.  The most rewarding was when she super excitedly said, "I can read!"

We played this game while my 9 year old was on winter break and he had fun too by taking it to the next level.  He liked seeing how many different ways he could use a vowel to make different meanings out of the words.

Their are so many variations to how this game can be played like for example including a picture next to the words on the paper (cat, bed, pin, etc.) Since we've been doing quite a bit of CVC learning recently I purposely left the pictures out to give my daughter a bit more of a challenge.

I would love to hear how your children are learning their words and ultimately learning to read. Please leave a comment below or visit us on our Facebook page!

Friday, January 2, 2015

Winter Diorama

Both of my kids have always enjoyed making Diorama's.  Any shoe box that comes into this house finds a place of it's own because for certain it has diorama written all over it!

A diorama is a three dimensional miniature scene.  We have always made our diorama's using a shoe box but you could use other things like a paper plate, a large can or jar or just the lid to a shoebox.

Our interest in diorama's first came about when my son was about 4 years old and watched the television network, Sprout.  During commercials Sprout t.v. shows a child with their diorama and my son had an interest to make his own.  Actually, one of my son's diorama's is still being shown on Sprout t.v. to this day (4 years later!)

Our most recent diorama is one with a winter theme.

 Here are the materials we used:
Winter stickers; snowman, penguin and reindeer
Foam snowflakes
Star confetti
Popsicle sticks
Ornament string
Glue and hot glue gun (not shown)
I can't tell you what we used as the 'snow' but I found it in a ziploc baggie in my Christmas bin and it worked great!

We started off with this shoe box:

Since the stickers we were using were not colored in my preschooler first began by coloring them and attaching them to popsicle sticks.  (sorry didn't snap a photo of this!)

We also added our snow base by painting on some white glue and adding on our 'snow.'

 We chose to have a night time sky so we used black construction paper and added stars to our sky by scribbling with a glue stick and then sticking on tiny star confetti.

 I used a hot glue gun to stick our popsicle stick friends onto the snow and for our snowflakes we just used some glue, attached the string to the snowflake and used more glue to hang snowflakes from the top of the box.

Finally, since we usually share our diorama's with Sprout, simply by uploading a picture to their website, we added the Sprout logo to the back of our diorama which is a requirement when sharing with them.

Voila, Shoebox Diorama!

Here you can see the other Dioramas we've made.