Friday, August 31, 2012

Happy Birthday Maria Montessori!

Happy 142nd birthday Maria Montessori!  You may have seen it on Google this morning, but I bet many of you don't know who Montessori is.  If you've seen my recent post about delving into the Montessori methods, her methods are those I'm referring to.  She was a true pioneer in children's education, and developed and approach to learning that inspired children and adults around the world, and continues to do so.

Here's where the Google link will take you haven't clicked on it already:

I've had a couple of these links on my sidebar, but here are some of my new favorite Montessori and Montessori-inspired blogs:

These are my go to pages when I'm planning ideas for our weekly preschool themes at home.  All of these sites are jam packed with wonderful Montessori information.  From the few things we've done so far, I can say that Maria Montessori was a genius.  Her ideas were groundbreaking and have stood the test of time.  

Check out some of these amazing Etsy finds with Montessori education in mind:

Sometimes we tend to rush our kids through things, and force them to learn a certain thing or a certain way.  We over-complicate it for young minds.  At least I feel I have been guilty of that.  School and learning came very easy for me.  I don't remember the approach my early teachers used, and my degree was in computer technology, not early education.  But I feel that these methods, with the help of these amazing blogs, is making teaching my children easy and much more fun!

I can see their imaginations at work.  I can see how excited they get when they figure something out.  I can see their confidence grow as they learn and do more.  I'm eager to see what they learn next!  And with that, I'm off to finish up our last day of "Back-to-School" week.

Happy Birthday Maria! And Thank You!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Preschool Pirate Projects

During our Pirate Theme week, when we weren't working on the pages of our pirate book, we were doing a bunch of other fun pirate themed activities and crafts.  We found some great projects, stories, and songs that went along with our special theme.

The songs were easy this week, I chose two that were already favorites, "The Pirate Song" and "Scurvy Pirate" from the Backyardigans.  Here's a link to some Backyardigans pirate puppets that make singing the songs even more fun!  I chose these songs because they are kid friendly.  There are a lot of pirate songs out there that have some questionable topics in them, but these tunes are on the safer side.  They also are very easy to get stuck in your head!

Pirate Ship Construction Paper Craft:

One of our first activities of the week was this very easy but adorable pirate ship craft from Busy Bee Kids Crafts.  With just some construction paper, craft sticks, and some Cheerios, you can create a fun pop off the page pirate ship!  The kids especially loved snacking on the Cheerios while we were making these.  We didn't use their template, so we weren't able to fit as many sails on the page, but they still turned out pretty darn cute!

Paper Bag Pirate Hat:

No pirate is complete without his a pirate hat so we also had to make these paper tricorns from Disney's website.  I wish I had a good picture of how these turned out but my little pirates were running around in their underwear while wearing them, so I'll keep those for the personal album only!

I was able to snap a few pics as they were painting them however.  We used a a brown paper sack instead of packing paper.  Also we skipped the sewing part.  While I'm sure that would have looked nicer, I was looking much quicker and easier hat.  We ended up stapling the sides together to form the points, and used some twine as a little embellishment.

They took quite a while to dry because the kids really layered on the brown paint, but once they were dry these hats turned the kids into instant pirates.  They were running around in them calling us scurvy pirates and telling us to walk the plank!

Paper Plate Compass:

This is not a working compass, but a quick and easy way to introduce directions to kids.  Once mine are both a little older we'll try making a real one.  We used these small plain paper plates to draw our compass on.  The top one is my 2 year old's compass.  The bottom left is my 4 year old's, and mine is the bottom right.

Here's a close up of mine.  We took this compass on a "treasure hunt" (ie geocaching!!), and used it to find our way to the hidden treasure.  I'll post more about that later.

Pirate Stories:

We also used the compass to help find some pirate treasure using a free downloadable PowerPoint at  Click on the link for "A Treasure Island.ppt (Captain Smuggle)".  This was a huge hit.  My son is really into computers so anything interactive like that always gets him excited.

Here are links to two other great online pirate children's stories we read:
We also read some pirate books from the library.  This one about the Lego pirate "Brickbeard" was my son's favorite.

And lastly, we read a history of the pirate Blackbeard from National Geographic.  My son got bored with this one, it wasn't as fun as the other stories so he wasn't all that interested.

There were several other crafts we didn't get to this week.  But I've got them saved to my Pirate board on Pinterest for the next time we get an urge to act like pirates!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Chocolate Chip Zucchini Muffins

There is almost nothing better than tweaking a recipe and having it turn out perfection!  Last night we had sauteed zucchini with dinner, and I had one large zucchini still waiting to be used up.  I immediately thought about making zucchini bread, but I decided to go with muffins because it's easier for the kids (and inherently portion size).

As I started looking for a good zucchini muffin recipe, I realized most of them adapt a recipe for a couple of loaves of zucchini bread into 2 dozen muffins.  I only wanted to make one batch of muffins, and I didn't want to mess with halving a recipe.  So I kept looking.  Finally I found this recipe for zucchini muffins with carrots.  I love a good carrot muffin, but that wasn't what I was looking for today.  The recipe was workable, but needed a few tweaks. With those tweaks, it turned out amazing!

Chocolate Chip Zucchini Muffins


  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 1/3 cup applesauce
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 large zucchini (unpeeled), grated
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips


Grease 12 muffin cups and preheat oven to 375°.  Mix oil, applesauce, eggs, sugar and vanilla extra in a large bowl until thoroughly combined.  Stir together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon.  Add to wet ingredients, and mix just until combined.  Stir in zucchini and chocolate chips.

Spoon into muffin cups, filling at least 2/3 of the way full.  Bake for 20 minutes.  Cool in muffin pan for 5 minutes and then remove.  Enjoy!

These turned out so perfectly moist and incredibly delicious.  The kids go nuts for them because of the chocolate chips.  Neither of them cared much for the sauteed zucchini with dinner, but both of them were jumping up and down for these!  I'm going to have to use this one for a school snack one day.  There are twelve kids in my son's class so this makes just the right amount!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Pirate Book, Arghhh!

I try to pick weekly themes for our preschool lessons that I know my little ones are going to love.  We've done monkeys, farm animals, insects, cars, and more.  We also recently did a very active Olympic theme week which was a huge hit.  At age 4 and 2, pirates also fall into this category, so it was high time I got around to a pirate theme week!

We spent the week doing all sorts of pirate themed activities, most of which centered around creating a pirate book.  I found the idea for a Pirate Lapbook on Homeschool Creations.  I thought it was so cute.  They used a file folder to make their book, but I wanted to add a few more pages to ours so we made it out of several pages of heavy construction paper.

I combined pages I found from the Homeschool Creations lapbook and from the Pirate Pre-K pack at Over the Big Moon.  This page from the pre-k pack made the perfect cover for our pirate book.  It's also a great way to introduce the letter P, if you want to focus on a letter for the week as well!

We glued the printouts onto thick brown construction paper.  Then we three-hole punched the side and tied on brown twine to make our book.  I tied it a little loose so that the pages can be turned easily and opened fully which makes the game board in the back very easy to lay flat to play!

This is the first page of the book.  It is from the cover of the Pirate Lapbook at Homeschool Creations.  We didn't have any pirate books on hand, but there's no shortage of good pirate stories online!  I found an online children's book callled "The Brave Pirate Monkey".  I read the story aloud, and my son was able to click to move to the next page.  Afterwards we talked about the story, and I wrote his answers down to the questions.

This Color the Pirate Ship! page is from the Pirate Pre-K pack.  I printed it in black and white instead of color so that it would be more difficult to determine the color word.  The Crayola Classic Colors 10 piece marker pack was perfect for this. 

I also included our French color flashcards during this lesson.  As we went over the color words we talked about the French and English name for the colors.  He also wanted to write the color words, but changed his mind after one color!

These little pirate images are so cute!  Actually the entire Pirate Pre-K pack is really cute, but we really had fun with this page.  My son cut out the images and glued them down in the right spot to match the patterns.  We talked about how to continue the pattern on further.  He's really good at stuff like this.  We also had a lot of laughs repeating the third line.  For some reason, it's just really fun to say "parrot pirate parrot pirate parrot" over and over again.

Getting back to the Pirate Lapbook printables from Homeschool Creations, the next page has envelopes to hold the flash cards and a cute little number book.  Along with the flash cards is this cute little one page book from Kidzone, Itsy Bitsy Pirate Book.

I precut the pages of the "How Many Bags of Gold" book, but I mixed up the order and had my son put them in the correct order from 1 through 10 so we could create the book.

To finish off our pirate book we include the game board from the Pirate Lapbook.  This was a huge hit!  We played several times during the week.  My son is too young to read the details on the board, so we went over them each time before we started playing.  He remembered easily, and loved playing this game.  Our two year old joined in for this one.  She could roll and pass the die, but big brother helped her move the piece to the right spot.

His dice skills are definitely improving.  He's able to recognize the number most of the time instead of having to count the dots.  We used these cute little money bag game pieces that were leftover from an old board game.  They went along perfectly with the pirate theme, but any kind of place marker would do.

Stay tuned for more on our pirate theme activities!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

My Milkshake is Better Than Yours

We love making milkshakes at home.  If you've never done it, really all you need is milk, ice cream, and something to blend it with.  Our recipe kicks it up a notch with a childhood favorite, chocolate Nesquik!!

Our blender died a while back and has yet to be replaced.  So to make these milkshakes, I enlist the help of my trusty immersion blender.  This thing gets used for everything including mashing cauliflower and blending curries to making milkshakes!  If you are using an immersion blender like we are, you'll want to make sure to use a wide mouth glass for blending.  Also a glass that is straight all the way down is best.  Some glasses get narrower towards the bottom, and these won't work as well for getting it all mixed together.  For us a large mason jar works great.

Now that you've got the equipment ready, gather up the ingredients.  We love to use a homemade vanilla or French vanilla flavored ice cream for this.  Chocolate flavored Nesquik makes the best chocolate milk so of course it also makes the best chocolate milkshakes!  If you're a fan of strawberry milkshakes, I'm better Nesquik's strawberry flavor would work great here too!  And lastly there's Cool Whip to finish it all off. 

Put a couple scoops of your favorite ice cream in the jar.  Top with Nesquik.  We don't like it to be too chocolaty (if there is such a thing), so we only use about a tablespoon.  Then pour on the milk.  I don't usually measure anything, but I'd guess it's about a cup.  Start blending!

It doesn't take long, but you're not finished yet.  For an extra smooth milkshake, add a tablespoon (or two) of Cool Whip to the jar, and blend it in as well.  It's amazing what it does to the flavor.  Now just add a straw and enjoy!  

It makes enough for two, but really why would you want to share?

Chocolate Nesquik Milkshake

  • 2 large scoops of your favorite ice cream
  • 1-2 Tablespoons chocolate flavored Nesquik
  • 1 cup of milk
  • 1-2 Tablespoons Cool Whip

Put ice cream, Nesquik, and milk into a large jar.  Blend approximately 20 seconds.  Add Cool Whip.  Blend about 10 seconds more.  Serve with additional Cool Whip if desired.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Crock-Pot Chicken Enchilada Soup

The return of cooler weather also means the return of some fall food favorites.  Time for more soup, chili, and all those other yummy dinners that my Crock-Pot fixes for me!  Although I must confess, this one is a soup we have all the time.  I couldn't wait for fall or winter weather just to enjoy this!

My favorite part about making soup in the Crock-Pot is that everything goes in at once, and it does the work all day with little to no intervention from me.  I've read some so called slow cooker recipes that require so much work in advance or throughout the day that it really isn't an easy or one pot dish at all.  With the exception of chopping some onions and shredding the chicken, that's exactly what this recipe is.  Dump it all in the Crock-Pot and wait till dinner!  

What I also like about easy Crock-Pot recipes is the ability to customize them.  You could easily do turkey breast instead of chicken.  Frozen corn works just as well as canned corn.  Use whatever type of tomatoes you have on hand.  (Rotel would be excellent here!)  Add more or less jalapenos depending on how spicy you like it.  I've even added some of the juice for the extra flavor.  Add some of your favorite salsa or hot sauce.  Try adding other vegetables.  I've even made my own enchilada sauce and used that when I didn't have a can in the pantry.  Add some cumin or garlic or red pepper flake to your liking.  Those touches are what gives this super easy Crock-Pot soup a really hearty homemade taste.

Chicken Enchilada Soup


  • 2 large boneless skinless chicken breasts 
  • 1 14-15 oz can diced tomatoes (petite diced or regular), including juices from can
  • 1  14-15 oz can whole kernel corn, including juices from can
  • 1  14-15 oz can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 Tbsp diced jalapenos OR one 4 oz can of diced green chiles
  • 1 10 oz can of enchilada sauce
  • 1 Tbsp chili powder
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 6 cups of water (or replace 2-3 cups with chicken stock)

Put all ingredients in the Crock-Pot.  Cook on high for 6 hours or on low for 8 hours.  About 10 minutes before you are ready to eat, pull out the chicken breasts.  Allow to rest for 5 minutes.  Shred (using 2 forks to pull apart) or dice and return to Crock-Pot.  

Serve topped with sour cream and shredded cheese.  We also love adding Frito's Scoops on the side or into the bowl!!  Enjoy!

Update:  By request I've added the can sizes I typically use for this recipe.  Mostly they are just the normal size cans.  If I happen to only have a large can (28 oz or so) of tomatoes or the enchilada sauce on hand I will go ahead and use the whole thing.  This is one of those recipes you can easily customize to whatever you have on hand.  The flavor will change slightly, but really with these ingredients you just can't go wrong!  

I put this in the crock pot again today.  We literally have this at least once a week!  Sometimes, like today, I use a 7 oz can of green chiles.  I realized the last time I bought them that the 7 oz can is only about 10 cents more than the 4 oz can so that's what I'll be picking up from now on.  I don't find them to be very spicy, but they definitely add plenty of flavor to the soup.  Whichever you use though will work!  Enjoy!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Space Themed Sensory Tub

My first attempt at a sensory tub was a huge hit, so I thought I'd make another one to go with our outer space theme this week.  I didn't look up any ideas for this one, and I wanted to keep it pretty simple (ie very budget friendly), so here's what I came up with.  I used only things I had on hand, plus a $1 package of glow in the dark space objects from the Dollar Store.  Can't beat that!

Objects I've included in our outer space sensory tub are:

  • Black filler paper to represent the darkness in space.
  • Rocket ship cookie cutter
  • Large yellow cog from a building set to represent the sun
  • Ping pong ball to represent the moon, the indentations are the craters!
  • Aliens
  • Space shapes including planets, stars, and comets
  • Salt dough balls to represent asteroids or moon rocks.

Unfortunately I couldn't find an astronaut figure, but we do have this little book about Space that has an astronaut on the cover (another great $1 find!).  It's already a huge hit and has been a great way to introduce some of the vocabulary we'll be talking about this week.  After it sits on the table in the sun for a while, I plan on taking it in the bathroom with the lights off so they can see the glow in the dark objects.  

I'm now keeping me eye out for anything I can use for sensory tubs wherever I go.  Whether it's picking up around the house, or in the yard, going to the grocery store, or before I throw anything in the trash.  Soon I'll be able to include a larger variety of textures, shapes, and sizes in each tub.  It only gets better from here!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Montessori Tray Update

So I've learned a few things since we've been trying out some of the Montessori methods.  First of all, I've learned that the activities really are practical, engaging, and definitely a valuable learning tool. Second, I've learned that dry beans are not a fun mess to clean up!  I think I've spent more time getting the kids to clean up the beans they've spilled than actually pouring or sorting anything else this week.

My kids have long gotten away with a dump, play, and walk away system at our house.  It's always a fight to get things picked up.  I'm working on easier methods of storing toys and books and having a place for everything and everything in its place (definitely the Montessori way), but there is a learning curve here.  So I decided lets keep the trays but with new materials.  The dry beans are now put away, and easier to work with objects are now in their place.

I wanted to keep a sorting activity because its a great activity for my youngest, especially to help with learning colors.  I replaced the mix of dry beans on the sorter with larger colorful pom poms that are much easier to handle and apparently way more fun to pick up! (Apparently my youngest also snuck the pom poms onto the wrong tray as you can see below!)

The tray that was our dry pouring activity has now been replaced with an activity to create shapes and letters out of craft sticks.  I got the idea from Tot Treasure to put Velcro on the ends of the craft sticks to create shapes.  I created cards as guides, and have included a work mat that's simply a folded piece of construction paper.  My oldest can lay out the work mat.  Choose a card and create the shape.  I'll ask him to identify it and talk about it a bit, and then he takes it apart and chooses another card.

I'm still keeping the last tray with the pencils and eraser tops.  My youngest absolutely loves doing this, and it's also helping with her colors.  The eraser tops are a variety of colors so we can talk about the color as she puts the eraser on the end of the pencil.

Lastly, I've moved the kids table closer to the cabinet where the trays are stored.  This way the kids have a much shorter distance to travel with their trays.  I'm hoping this makes for fewer spills and increased confidence because they can make it to the table easily.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Reading Sticks Make Reading More Fun!

In my recent research into Montessori preschool practices, I have come across some incredibly amazing blogs filled with ideas that are so simple but so wonderful!  One of those little nuggets of gold is these reading sticks.

I was reading a post over at My Montessori Journey, and saw a picture with what she called "eyeball" sticks to help the kids read the words of a poem they were working on.  I thought they were so adorable, and immediately I had to make our own!  It was as simple as gluing a googly eye on to the end of a craft stick!  It took all of 10 seconds to make, plus a minute or two to dry.

We've been going over a lot of pre-reader books recently.  My son has been learning quite a few sight words, and I try to point out those words and teach him a few others each time we read.  These little sticks have added a lot of fun to that practice.  I made a few of the sticks, and he likes having the option of picking which color to use when we choose a book.

Most of the books we are reading come from the library, so I can't add the little dots under the words on those.  But I do plan on picking up several readers for our personal library and adding in the dots on them to make it easier to spot each word.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Preschool Piano Lesson

A few months ago we received a piano from some friends moving out of state who couldn't take it with them.  I am beyond grateful for this gift!  The kids are so excited about having it, and I'm just as excited to get them interested in music.  After some time getting them acquainted with this giant instrument, I've decided it's now time to get serious about them learning how to play.

Upfront let me just tell you that I'm not a music teacher, and I don't actually know how to play the piano!  I can identify all the keys and play some basic kids songs.  So that's where I'm going to start.  Once the kids get these things along with some basics of reading music, I'm going to look into piano lessons for them from a professional.

I wanted a very simple way to label the keys so that the note names were easily identifiable.  I found these great removable all purple labels.  They are small plain circles.  I originally was going to look for colored circles as I thought it might be brighter and more fun, but I couldn't find a package that had the color variety I needed.  I didn't want to duplicate colors for note names, so the blank ones were perfect.  I pulled out our markers and labeled them accordingly.  

I also originally planned on doing only one or two octaves, but then I decided to go ahead and label the whole thing.  We can all sit at the piano bench together, and this way everyone can use the labeled keys.  The great part about these removable stickers is they peel up easily.  We can play games by removing one or two of the notes and identifying the missing one!

This week we've been working on a pirate theme so I thought a song about rowing in a boat was appropriate.  I made this cheat sheet on a little card, but I've also created a full size version you can download for free here.  It includes the lyrics and the note names in the corresponding colors I used on our keyboard so it will be easy to identify which key to play.  This is definitely the easy part, however getting the rhythm right is going to take some work.  I'm excited to see how we progress though!

I plan on adding more sheets, as we choose and learn songs this way as well.  The document is editable so if you end up using different colors on your keyboard than I have, you can change them before you print.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Delving into Montessori Methods

I've been curious lately about different preschool teaching methods, and the Montessori method really intrigues me.  I've watched videos from Montessori preschool classrooms, and I'm shocked.  The kids are so well behaved, so patient, and so very smart.  I can't help but wonder how they do it!  I think my kids are pretty darn smart, but sometimes I feel they are definitely lacking in those other two areas (actually it's me that's really lacking the patience).

So I did what I always do, I turned to Google!  What exactly is it about Montessori that works so well?  Well, I really don't have the answer to that question yet, but I'm going to give a few things a try and see if it works for us.

Something I keep coming across in my research is sensory tubs.  Now these aren't actually Montessori, but seem to be used commonly in preschools and with families who do Montessori at home.  My first thought when I see them is "my kids would just dump this thing on the floor".  Because that's what they always do!  My second thought was "well what's the point?"  After my husband explained it (without doing any research whatesoever, he's just knows everything), I was on board enough to put my first tub together.

I saw a great back-to-school themed sensory tub over at Counting Coconuts, an incredibly organized and very informative blog, that seemed the perfect place to start.  School supplies are definitely easy to find and very affordable right now, and our son is starting pre-k in less that 2 weeks.  So we are certainly in back to school mode at this house!

After a quick (haha just kidding) trip to the store, I came home and started putting together the tub.  I found these great plastic tubs with lids at the Dollar Tree.  I picked up three of them so I can begin putting together a fall themed tub and whatever else comes to mind!  Then I raided my school supply bin for all the other goodies.

Items I've included in our version of the back to school sensory tub:
  • shredded paper filler
  • flexible ruler
  • crayons
  • lined paper with three hole punches to look like notebook paper
  • pencils
  • erasers
  • crayons
  • reward stickers
  • glue stick
  • safety scissors
  • Play-Doh and a school bus and star cookie cutters
  • apple
  • paper clips
  • small book
  • small boy figure - because our son is the one going to school this year.  My daughter will probably be the one using this the most, and she can associate the figure with her brother going to school.

I've also been making some changes to the cabinet that was the "kid's pantry" in our kitchen.  The kitchen is where we do most of our preschool activities so I wanted to keep the trays we'll use in there as well.  The kid's pantry used to hold buckets of play food and dishes, and other toys that really were just always dumped and picked back up, never really played with.

I didn't take a picture of the top shelf, but the kids can't reach that one and it's where I keep all of the workbooks, coloring books, flash cards, and the like.  The next shelf now has our globe, and a sorting activity.  In the center is a mix of 4 different types of dried beans.  The beans can be sorted into the four outside dividers.

The next shelf has a tray with some plates, silverware, and play food.  When we have more space, I'll have a separate tray for items to set a table and keep the food on its own tray.  This is one of my daughter's favorite activities though.  She serves us this pizza all the time!  Beside it is a tray, also from the Dollar Tree, with a pouring activity.  

The bottom shelf holds my daughter's cash register and another tray with more of our back to school items.  This idea was from the blog mentioned above and can be a fine motor activity of placing erasers on top of the pencils.  One of the cups holds the erasers.  The other cup has more paper clips that can also be sorted, turned into paper clip chains or used to create patterns.  I know these are two separate activities, but like I said....we're lacking a little space right now!

I'm excited to get started and see how the kids take to these new activities and new rules that go with them (ie carrying the tray to the table, keeping everything on the tray, returning the tray to the same spot when finished, etc).  My son seems very eager and also very excited about it.  He immediately started with the pouring activity.  I followed this very detailed outline for a Montessori pouring activity.  He began by pouring all of the beans into the other cup as I showed him.  Then he started only pouring a little bit and would talk about which side had more (or which side had less).  Then he'd pour just a few beans and count them.  After a while he stopped turning the tray around and just moved the empty cup over to the right side.  

After a few minutes watching him I now totally get it.  He was learning independently with just a brief introduction, and he was excited and imaginative about it!  He also did great keeping everything in its place and has been telling his sister to do the same!  It all seemed so simple and frankly boring to me before, but seeing such a basic activity inspire so much was really eye opening!  I can't wait to learn even more about Montessori and create more trays and tubs for the kids.  Now just to find some more bookshelves!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Pinterest Preschool Party

Every now and again its great to actually get around to doing those awesome things I pin on Pinterest.  There is just something satisfying about checking them off the ol' to do list, and even more so when they're preschool activities that the kids get to enjoy and learn from!

Lately, we've been on a mission to complete quite a few of those activities, since my son will be starting pre-k in just a couple weeks.  So I'm going to take this opportunity to share our favorites with you.

First up is this great post about Children's Book Week over at Mom to 2 Posh Lil Divas.  She has links to a bunch of different activities to do with all sorts of great children's books.

I've always been a fan of the Laura Numeroff series.  I doubt there is a person who has never at least heard of the book "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie".  But many people may not know just how many books are in that series.  "If You Give a Moose A Muffin" and "If you Give a Pig a Party" are two of the favorites at our house.  And since making muffins is definitely easier than throwing a party, I opted for some nice homemade banana nut muffins to go with this story.  

Also from Mom to 2 Posh Lil Diva's post was this classic children's activity to go with the book "It Looked Like Spilt Milk."  I remember doing this at some point way back when I was in elementary school!  

The kids get excited any time paint gets pulled out.  I love to paint with them, but I hate the mess it usually makes!  Luckily this activity is just using one color, and it goes really quick.  The washable Crayola paint we used also cleans up easily!!  And then you get all the fun of guessing just what you think the paint blob looks like.

Recently, I've been really trying to focus on teaching my son some basic sight words.  He's always loved books, even if he just memorizes them and pretends to read them back.  Now, he seems more interested in the actual words, and I'm taking full advantage of that interest.  

We picked up a couple packages of sight word flash cards and go over a few several times a day.  He loves to put them together to make his own sentences (even if they don't always make sense).  When I saw this activity on Pinterest, for a Sight Word Parking Lot from Juggling With Kids, we had to make it!

I used a few of the words, I was certain he could already recognize and read, and then the rest I filled in with other common sight words from the flash cards.  I plan on making another parking lot on the back side with a different set of words to keep it challenging.  

He loves this game!  It was definitely the perfect way to approach sight words with a boy.  I picked up a few more Hot Wheels for him, and we keep a bucket of cars ready at a moment's notice to pull out the parking lot and play.  When he's "parked" all of his cars, he has them back out one by one and drive out of the parking lot, and we start over.  Sometimes, he picks a word and drives to it.  Sometimes I pick the word.  Sometimes I tell him to "park to the right of the word at" or something like that.  He always has to repeat the word when he parks there.  

No matter how we play, it's always fun!!

This next activity is a combination of two pins I had saved on my preschool board on Pinterest.  First off, here's a link to an awesome handwriting worksheet generator.  You can pick between print, D'Nealian, or cursive and you type in what you want the worksheet to show.  You can also have it print several lines to trace, or just the top line with the rest of the lines blank for a more difficult writing challenge.   

The second part of this activity I got from Or So She Says.  I put the handwriting worksheet in a plastic sheet protector, and my son uses a dry erase marker to trace the sentence over and over again.  It simply erases write off the page.  No need to print off several pages and no wasted paper!

This last one is also along the same lines.  The pin on Pinterest recommended using Dollar Store photo albums for flash cards.  Kids can simply write on the answers and wipe off for practice over and over again.  I used a photo album I already had on hand, but I'm going to look for a clear one so both sides of the flash cards can be seen.  I also attached a small piece of velcro to the front of the album and dry erase marker so it's always attached and ready to use.  This particular pin was an image uploaded by the user, so I don't have a blog post to link it back to.   

So there you have it.  Our Pinterest preschool party fun!  Now to go check off a few more activities...

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Tissue Paper Bowls

Ages ago I pinned this tutorial for tissue paper bowls to my preschool board on Pinterest.  It seemed like a very easy craft project for the kids, but I almost never have colored tissue paper on hand.  I typically only ever buy and use white tissue paper (plain and boring I know!).  However, I finally did get some really pretty floral tissue paper for a  last minute gift bag and had a few sheets leftover.  Now we could finally do this craft, and as it turns out it was also perfectly timed for a great gift for "Grammy's" birthday.

I love making and giving homemade gifts, and I think its even more special when they're made and given from the kids.  Here's how the bowls turned out, and I think they're the perfect size to use as a candy dish or for some other small items, maybe a great spot to always leave your keys.

It was very easy to get started.  I chose two small bowls, one for each of my kids to work on.  These bowls are about 4 1/2 inches wide at the mouth.  We got to work cutting up the tissue paper in small squares.  You're going to need a bunch!!  My oldest, 4, did most of the cutting under supervision with my scissors, but tissue paper is thin enough that safety scissors would probably have worked great too.

Then he sprayed the bowls with non stick spray to make it easy to remove them later.

Here he's wrapping them in plastic wrap, which is what you'll actually be "gluing" the tissue paper too.

And here's what the bowls looked like before we got started.  I tried to help him get the plastic wrap as smooth as possible.  It's tricky to do and once you start handling the bowl the plastic wrap moves around again anyway.

Next it was time to mix up the "glue".

He loves using this funky whisk whenever he's helping me out in the kitchen.  It's feet suction cup to the counter.

Stirring carefully.

With the tissue paper squares and the glue ready to go, it was time to start making the bowls.  The kids each got a paint brush and got to work painting on the glue and then placing the squares over the plastic wrap.

They looked so serious working on them!  Keep at it until you have several layers of tissue paper and a complete bowl shape.

Now comes that part that isn't fun for kids.  The waiting.  It takes several hours to dry.  Here's one of the bowls sitting on a rack drying on the counter.  I put a piece of wax paper underneath just in case any of the glue dripped off.  When it was completely dry, I trimmed up the edges with scissors to make them more even and coated it with a layer of mod podge.  Let dry completely again.  This sealed down any of the tissue paper edges that weren't completely glued down by the kids.

Once it's done, find a great way to use or display the bowl.  I must have had sugar on the brain because I immediately thought candy dish!!

Here's what the inside of the bowl looked like.  It would be nice if the whole bottom layer was facing up, but that's ok.  It just adds to the homemade look.  When we make these again, I might try to be more careful about this.  Of course if you used a solid color tissue paper, the direction it's facing shouldn't be an issue.

And since I knew we'd be giving them as a gift, I saved a piece of the same tissue paper to use in the gift bag!  I'm looking forward to doing this again, and I plan on keeping my eye out for some more fun patterned tissue paper as well!