Sunday, February 28, 2010

Painted snowman

I'm busy preparing crafts for March (and excited to share some cute ideas!), but last week, my daughter wanted to do a "project." I wanted to do one more winter-themed activity with her before closing out the month of February, so this is what we came up with. It's a variation on something I've done with my classes before.

You will need:
  • Large piece of construction paper or cardstock (heavier weight is best) with three circles drawn
  • One top hat shape cut out
  • One carrot nose shape cut out
  • A few pieces of raffia (or if you have twigs from your yard, that would be cute!)
  • A couple of cotton balls (I had two, but wished I'd grabbed three)
  • A small handful of raisins (some for the eyes and buttons... plus a few for snacking :)
  • Five or six sequins (for mouth... you can use raisins, buttons, or anything else on hand)
  • Glue
  • White washable paint

I drew the circles in pencil so the marks wouldn't show up as much after being painted. I also overlapped mine a bit to make it look a little more realistic.

Again, nothing fancy for tracing! I used a can of veggies for the head, a large can of tomatoes for the middle, and a round ice cream container for the bottom. (Speaking of which... the Edy's Tagalongs ice cream is TO DIE FOR!)

Squirt a little paint directly onto the paper, and have your child use the cotton balls to dab the paint around.

Glue the hat on the top. Our snowman's hat is levitating.

Glue the carrot nose on its face.

Raisins for eyes...

...and buttons.

Sequins (or more raisins, buttons, or whatever else you've come up with) for the mouth are next.

And sprigs of raffia work well for the arms if you don't have any real twigs.

Here was our finished product! Now does this mean winter is over? PLEASE?

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Spread the Love: artistic edition!

I'm spreading the love one more time in the month of February! It's the artistic edition... because I'm really not very artistically talented, so I need the ideas more than anyone around.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Make-ahead thank you notes

When writing thank you notes for things my daughter has received, I like to include her in the process. Now obviously, she's two -- so she isn't going to be doing any writing. But her contribution is usually some crayon scribbles, stickers, or a hand tracing.

Now, again -- she's two. This means that the balance of power has shifted a little bit, and if she doesn't want to do something... SHE DOESN'T! :) I'm sure no one else's child is like that, though... but since mine is, here's what I've started doing.

When my girl is in a coloring mood, I give her a couple blank note cards to scribble away on! That way, when I need to write a thank you note, and she's having a meltdown over the mere suggestion of coloring, I have two or three cards in my stash with her "signature" already on them. Why didn't I think of this earlier?!

This system works WITH her toddler independence, while allowing me to still send timely thank yous to those who deserve them. It's sort of a way to "strike while the iron's hot," if you will. If she wants to be coloring, she might as well color on a blank card. I just keep the colored cards (with their envelopes) in my desk where I keep other note card supplies, stamps, etc. When the day comes (and that's a "when," not an "if!") that she's refusing to cooperate, I'll pull one of these out, write a brief note, and stick it in the mail. No more "forging" your child's scribbles in a pinch!

Not that I've ever done that or anything.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

As I mentioned, we've been reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar frequently as of late. We borrowed it from the library (I'm a little ashamed to admit we don't actually OWN this one!), and it's one my daughter requests almost daily. So when she got up a little early from her nap yesterday, I had this project waiting on her. :)

You will need:
  • One piece of construction paper (any color... looking back on it, blue would have been kind of nice)
  • One yellow circle shape cut out
  • One green leaf shape cut out (I drew "veins" with a black Sharpie to make it look a little more leaf-like)
  • One small circle shape cut out (I chose green, though the real one is red)
  • Several oval shapes cut out in various colors (okay, so the real caterpillar in the book looks a bit different, but we went for color!)
  • A few small black rectangles (for legs)
  • One wiggly eye (optional, not pictured)
  • Glue
  • Hole punch (coming up later)

I don't have anything fancy to cut shapes with in this house, so I use household items to trace things and then cut them out myself. I used the bottom of a glass for the yellow sun, a round spice container for the caterpillar's head, and a flavor extract bottle for the caterpillar's body pieces. Hmm... cumin and orange extract. I wouldn't necessarily recommend that combination.

For the leaf, I just drew a basic leaf shape and cut it out. Nothing fancy. :) I also just cut little matchsticks out of black construction paper for the legs... no tracing involved.

Help your child glue the pieces on the paper in the order he/she sees fit. Because I still have a pretty young toddler, I gave her a choice of two colors at a time, let her pick, and glue that one on. We continued until we ran out of room, and had ovals leftover.

If you are also working with a younger child, you may want to consider the following options to make your project go a little easier:
  • Draw a line with a pen or a Sharpie, and instruct your child to glue the caterpillar parts on the line
  • Squeeze out a line of glue on the paper, and instruct your child to attach the caterpillar parts to the glue
  • Give your child only one piece at a time and ask questions such as "Do you want purple to go next to blue or red?" as you point to the available spots. (This is what we did, and it worked just fine.)

Next comes the fun part! As the story reads, "the caterpillar ate through one nice green leaf, and after that he felt much better." Help your child punch holes in the leaf as if the caterpillar were "eating" it. My daughter got such a kick out of this!

Our finished product! We added a wiggly eye because my daughter asked for one. I was just going to help her draw one. :)

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Projects to go!

About once a month, we pack up and head out to visit my daughter's great-grandparents for the day. It makes for a long day without a decent nap, a long car ride, and a long afternoon of saying "No! Stop! Don't touch that! Put that back! Don't break that! No touch!" (That would be me saying those things... in case you didn't recognize my voice.)

A small house that has collected not-so-small items for more than fifty years, but hasn't regularly seen a baby on the premises for over a decade does not a playground for an inquisitive toddler make.

So this weekend, as I was packing a bag for the day's trip, I had a brilliant idea. Why not pack a to-go kit of crafty stuff for my daughter to work on a "project" rather than pull out every knick-knack in her great-grandmother's living room (which is a LOT...)?

I threw some crayons, stickers, wiggly eyes, foam shape stickers, fuzzy balls, and a glue stick in a Tupperware container. I brought along a couple sheets of paper, a coloring book, and a brown lunch sack.

I briefly entertained the thought of actually putting a "real" project together for her to complete, but it was late. I was tired... and strangely achy. I think I'm old enough now to feel the weather in my bones.

We'll make it up as we go, I thought.

As it ended up, we DID pull this handy kit out (mere nanoseconds before I pulled my hair out), but got no further than gluing the eyes on a paper bag (with the high ambitions of turning it into a puppet creature of some kind) when it was time to pack up and head out the door for dinner.

She asked to work on her "project" again this morning, though, so we did pull it back out. It bought me enough time to scarf down a bagel and unload the dishwasher without being interrupted. I call that a victory.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Share the Love: more great reads!

Oh my goodness, I have so many great links to share... I'm not sure which is my favorite!

I've come across so many FABULOUS blogs recently that are written by moms of young children, moms of older children, homeschooling moms, Christian moms... so much insight, and so many wonderful ideas! Lots of times while reading through their posts, I think to myself "Why didn't I think of that?! It's so simple and yet so perfect for ____!" And there have been plenty of times I've thought "Wow, I never would have thought of that in a MILLION years!" :)

Now that my two-year-old is telling me on a (nearly) daily basis "Want to do a project!" I've had to step things up a bit around here. And when she says she wants to do a project, she doesn't mean just sit around and color. She wants to CREATE something! :) I have more ideas available to me than I know what to do with, but I'm having some difficulty trying to organize them. I'm hoping to figure out a solution to that dilemma soon... I don't want any fun activity to fall through the cracks!

My newest favorite finds include:
  • Confessions of a Homeschooler - Okay, maybe this site is well-known to everyone in the Western Hemisphere except me, but I just found it! I am in LOVE. Not only is Erica coming from a Christian perspective, not only does she homeschool three of her kids, not only is she talented in graphic design... but she also provides all her resources FOR FREE!! That's an exciting thing in my book! :)

  • Muffin Tin Mom - Another great Christian mom blog! This is one of those "why didn't I think of that?" things... what kiddo wouldn't enjoy eating from a muffin tin? How about muffin tin sorting? Or using muffin tins to hold a yummy snack that accompanies a book?

  • The Crafty Crow - This is a fantastic site for keeping up on all the best ideas out there from a variety of bloggers. Featured crafts range from simple to fancy, young child to adult, quick to more involved. I especially like that you can pull up crafts by the right age range for your kids. And I've found a few things I'm pretty darn excited about myself. I'm so making this heart garland. And, as luck would have it, I happened to pick up some paint samples today before I even saw this fun idea!

  • Craft Projects - Speaking of crafty blogs, check this one out! The posts are less frequent than at Craft Crow, but there are some darling ideas! I'm thinking of some family members that will definitely be receiving these at some point in the future. :)

  • Celebrate Every Day - Sounds like a winner just from the name, huh? :) This is another wonderful Christian/homeschooling resource for all of us who fit those categories! I'm tucking away the animal matching idea that accompanies Brown Bear.
Now... back to trying to organize!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Clean collages

Collages are fun, but gosh, they're messy, aren't they? When I happened upon an idea for a glueless collage, I was intrigued.

You will need:
  • Clear contact paper
  • Masking or painter's tape (something less sticky than scotch tape)
  • An assortment of scraps of things such as: construction paper, ribbon, fabric, feathers, old buttons, tissue paper, streamers, pretty cards you are done with, etc.

Cut a piece of contact paper, and then tape it, sticky side OUT, somewhere in your house that is accessible to your child. I chose to tape ours on the sliding glass door, since I wouldn't run the risk of peeling paint when the tape came off. This is the trickiest part, but I would suggest peeling only a couple inches down, then tape the top. Peel a couple inches from either a side or the bottom, and then tape. Continue until all sides are taped, and then pull the rest of the contact paper backing off. This will help keep the tape and the contact paper from getting all stuck into a ball, and then having to throw the whole thing out and start over again. It also helps if you can do this task before your small child tries to... help you.

Present your child with the various scraps...

...and allow them to stick whatever they want, wherever they want.

What is really awesome about this project is that it can take as long or as short as you want it to take. The amount of materials you provide, the size of the contact paper you cut, and of course, the interest of your child (most important!) all determine how long this craft can take. I LOVE that I could start my two-year-old on this project and just let her have a ball with it while I tended to some other things. I finished some organization projects I'd started this morning, worked on the laundry, started preparing lunch...

...but apparently I should have drawn the line at going to the bathroom by myself. This is what greeted me on the floor outside the bathroom. That was how I knew we were done.

This was her finished project.

I took the tape off and attached the sticky side of the contact paper to the door. I figure we'll leave it up for a couple of days. It's fun to let them display their work, especially at their own level!

Next time, I might try having pre-cut shapes for our collage. Wouldn't snowflakes look cute on my door this time of year? How about shamrocks for March? Ducks, bunnies, and Easter eggs for spring? Red, white, and blue glitter (if you dare, which I probably won't) for July "fireworks?"

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Books we love

I love, love, love children's literature. I took an entire course devoted to it in college, and many others where children's lit was hugely a part of the material. As a teacher-turned-stay-at-home-mom, I now love reading to my daughter many of the books I used to love reading to my elementary school classes.

Read-alouds are just a favorite part of the education process, aren't they? I even had a high school English teacher who would read to all of her classes, because she said you were never too old to be read to. I liked that philosophy. :)

So... here are a few of our current favorite reads:

The New Potty by Gina and Mercer Mayer
I loved the Little Critter books as a child! They're simple, short, and there's a variety of topics available. Can you guess why we chose this one? (Now, will someone please explain to me why she wants to READ the book every twenty minutes, but has suddenly decided to run screaming from her own potty?)

Growing Vegetable Soup by Lois Ehlert
Are there any books that have more child-friendly pictures out there? The illustrations in Lois Ehlert books are so unique. I love them! My daughter asks me to read "betch-a-bul soooup" to her regularly. I have high hopes for using this book in conjunction with planting a small garden this year. High hopes.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
It's a classic. We've loved all the Eric Carle books we've read, but this is the one that's currently sitting next to the rocking chair in her room.

Hercules the Harbor Tug by Michael O'Hearn
This book is a little long for a two-year-old's attention span, but she does love the first few pages of the story. :) Honestly, I think she just loves looking at the illustrations in this book. They are kind of neat, particularly if you have a boat-lover in your home.

Archibald's Opposites by Phil Vischer
Yes, VeggieTales. :) I don't tend to promote a lot of "character"-themed items, but this is a cute book. We have approximately 319 books on opposites in this house, but this is the one I most prefer.

What are the books you and your child love? It's always fun to find a new story to read... for parent and child!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Olympic rings

I'm not huge into the Olympics, but they do only come around every two or four years (depending on if you're talking about the winter or summer Olympics, of course). My two-year-old is a little too young to really understand anything about what the Olympics are or show even a remote interest in it, so I'm going to have to save some of the really super cute ideas I've been seeing for another year. But, we had a few free minutes this morning, so instead of turning to my DVR, I turned to the craft drawers instead. :) It took about ten minutes to prep, and then maybe another five minutes or so to complete. Definitely a quick craft!

You will need:
  • Five construction paper ring cut-outs, one each of blue, yellow, black, green, and red (although this would be really cute to do with colored pipe cleaners with older kids!)
  • Piece of paper
  • Glue

Since I'm not a fantastic circle-cutter, I used a large can of tomatoes for the outside of the ring, and a small can of tomato paste for the inside. Use what you have on hand!

Allow your child to glue each ring, and then stick it on the paper. They will need some help in getting the rings in the correct order, but don't worry about trying to get them on perfectly straight. That's part of what makes it cute! Coincidentally, this turns out to be a great trick for tracing the letter "O," if you're working on that sort of thing. :)

The finished product... just in case you need a little help remembering which color goes where. I had to double check online. :)

Monday, February 15, 2010

Music time

I am not musically inclined. At all. So music, rhythm, and instruments tend to be more on the challenging side of parenting for me.

It's not that I don't see the value in music; I'm just plain not good at it. As the saying goes, the only thing I can play is the radio.

However, I was blessed with a child who DOES love music and who seems to be pretty good at it! I think most (all?) toddlers tend to enjoy music in some form or another, but please excuse my biased nature when I say I think I have a musically-gifted child on my hands. :) I have no idea where that will take her in the future, but I do feel it is my job to lay aside my own inclinations in order to foster hers.

One thing we have done is to enroll her in Kindermusik classes. It's a little too expensive to utilize every time a new semester comes around, but when possible, it's a fantastic winter activity especially. Once a week, it gives us a chance to get out of the house, play in a new environment, socialize, and run off some energy.

But if you aren't ready to enroll your child in a Kindermusik class, what components of it can you adapt for home play? Of course, being in a class has the added benefits of interacting in a group, learning to share, and practicing transition times among other things. But there's definitely some things we can do just fine at home (and do!).

Practice using musical instruments:
This does not have to be anything fancy. If you have a play musical instrument kit, that's a great start! If not, homemade musical instruments are often times the best kind. Fill small containers (old Tupperware, baby food jars, and plastic Easter eggs all work great!) with dried rice, beans, or macaroni. You might even try putting a different item in each one to let your child hear different sounds. (Plastic beads, cotton balls, and pennies are also handy items to create different sounds.) Put beans or other items inside a toilet paper tube and cover the ends with scraps of fabric, aluminum foil, or paper. Even just an empty paper towel or wrapping paper tubes inherently make great instruments!

Read books that have a pattern or rhythm as part of the story:
So much of music is following a pattern or a rhythm. In fact, research shows that early music experiences help lay a foundation for future learning, such as literacy and math. There are thousands upon thousands of great books out there that merry so well with patterns and rhythm. Some of our favorites include:
These are only a very small start to what is available out there!

Expose your child to different genres of music:
This might be a no-brainer! :) We listen to kids' music, but we also listen to regular music. We turn on a favorite CD of mine, a TV show soundtrack, or kids' music disguised as adult music. We also listen to the home CD from our current class (pictured above). Any of these are great for a different option from turning on the TV, and besides -- the energy it takes to dance around the living room is a great pre-nap work-out! :)

Explore various direction or motions to music:
The Kindermusik CDs are great for this, but as I've said, you can use any music you have on hand for this! Have your child follow along with the music by going fast and slow, up and down, straight and curvy, little movements and big, clapping and snapping, marching and tiptoeing, etc. You're only limited by your imagination!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Magnetic picture clips

In the interest of full disclosure, I'll preface this post by saying I actually didn't do this craft with my daughter. It was the activity from our moms group at church this week, but I still thought it was really cute and creative! I'll eventually use this method, possibly in a different theme, with my daughter. I've seen some other really cute similar ideas online as well!

You will need:
  • Foam cut-outs (pre-cut, or cut out yourself), preferably with a sticky back (if not, glue works just fine!)
  • Ribbon (optional)
  • Permanent fine-tip markers (optional)
  • Glue stick (a hot glue gun may hold better, though)
  • Clothespin
  • Peel-n-stick magnets

Assemble the shapes in whatever design you like. Add ribbon and/or decorate with markers. Please ignore that this one is a bit crooked. I was being chatty at the time and wasn't paying attention. :)

Attach with glue stick or hot glue gun to a clothespin. (Obviously, take caution when using a hot glue gun... it's not as kid-friendly as a glue stick!)

Attach a magnet or two to the back of the clothespin. The peel-n-stick magnets that come in a roll work great, but regular, cheap magnets are fine, too. I had a college professor who said she always saved whatever cheap, freebie magnets she had (you know, like you get in the mail, pick up at fairs, etc.), and would cut them up to use for projects like this. It works perfectly, and what a great way to reuse something you'd ordinarily trash!

The finished products! They are ready slap on your fridge and hold your current favorite pictures, while still looking festive! This would be a fun addition to any holiday pictures we all send to grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc. :)

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Fun in the snow

This time of year is not the best for outdoor play. When the weather warms up, we look forward to going on walks in our neighborhood, visiting the park, picnic lunches in the backyard, watering the flowers, and just spending as much time outdoors as possible.

Unfortunately, it's February. Which means none of those are great activities at the moment where we live.

I am not a snow-lover. In fact, I would probably classify myself as a snow-hater! It's beautiful to look at from inside my nice, warm house, dressed in comfortable clothes, and sipping a hot cup of coffee, but that's about all I can appreciate about it. Besides December 25th, I really don't see a need for snow at all. :)

However... I have a two-year-old, and two-year-olds LOVE snow (or at least mine does!). So, when we get a decent snow storm through our area, I do try to take her out to experience it at least once. We bundle in layers, I grab the camera, and we're out the door.

Although just BEING in the snow is enough for my daughter, I wanted to bring something outside for her to play with today.

I chose these. A bucket and rake that are generally intended for sand play in the summertime at the beach. But, we don't live near the beach, and it's definitely not summertime! Why not bring out toys that are ordinarily in storage this time of year to play with in a different way?

Some other ideas you may want to try for snow play:
  • Cookie cutters
  • Different sized cups or containers
  • A small plastic Tupperware container (with lid), or small plastic baby food containers
  • A squirt bottle with warm water in it (to dissolve some of the snow and learn about melting... and then freezing again)
  • Rubber ball (big enough that it won't get lost in a few inches of snow)
  • Play cars or trucks (to make tire tracks)
  • Blocks or other hard toys with raised pictures/letters (use like a stamp in the snow)
  • Food coloring... just maybe not yellow :)
I figure if I have to be standing outside in the cold, we might as well have some fun with it!

Or, if you're like me and absolutely DETEST being cold, try this to improvise. Grab a large bucket, scoop some snow into it, and put it in the bathtub for your child to explore there. No frigid wind, no mess to clean up... easy peasy. And it works marvelously for one-year-olds who REFUSE to be put down in that cold stuff. :)

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Recent inspiration

Thanks to Rachel for the great idea of "spreading the love" during the month of February by highlighting fun blogs!

I've come across some AWESOME finds lately! Here are my current favorite reads:
  • Impress Your Kids - LOVE this blog and what it stands for! It is Biblically-based and has so many quick and easy tips for child-rearing, crafty projects, and instilling God's word in your child's heart! Love it!
  • Make and Takes - Oh my goodness, I am loving the creativity that flows from this site! I have stored away so many adorable ideas for future use!
  • Skip to my Lou - Possibly the cutest site I have ever seen. While some of her ideas are a little advanced for our age group, I will definitely keep this one in mind as my daughter grows!
  • Because Babies Grow Up - Well, they do, don't they?! What a neat compilation of ideas that are based on baby's development needs... as they grow!
  • No Time for Flashcards - I came across this site forever ago, but was just reintroduced to it recently, and I love it! I'd like to think I'm creative... until I see all of these amazing ideas! :)
If you have other favorites, let's hear them! :)

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Thank you cards

A habit I hope to instill in my daughter is that of writing thank you notes. When someone does something unexpected, goes out of their way to be kind to you, or gives you a gift, it's important to say thank you. However, writing thank you notes seems to be a lost art. It doesn't have to be fancy, and it doesn't have to take much time. But it's important to express gratitude for things you receive, and thank you notes are a nice way of showing appreciation.

At two, my daughter isn't ready for writing notes yet. She does, though, love to help with projects! I cut out these letters from different scraps of construction paper this morning, and then let her help me glue them on a paper. We will finish this card later today with some stickers and crayon scribbles, along with a brief note written by Mommy. :)

I know the recipients of this card will love it!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Valentine's Fish

What can you do on days when the view from your back window looks like this?

Break out a craft, of course!

My two-year-old was very excited when I announced that we were going to do a "project." She had no clue what a project was, but she knew it sounded fun! With Valentine's Day coming up, I had decided I wanted to have her make something cute and holiday-ish for some relatives. Thankfully, I had already prepared this ahead of time, and that makes the actual craft time SO much easier when you are working with a young child!

You will need:
One large construction paper heart (fish body)
One medium construction paper heart (fish tail)
Three smaller construction paper hearts (fish fins)
One itty-bitty construction paper heart (fish lips)
One wiggly eye (optional -- you can have your child draw an eye if you don't have these)

The colors don't really matter, but I did keep the lips hearts either pink or red. I used pink, red, purple, and lilac for the rest of the fish.

Glue the medium-sized heart onto the top of the large heart.

This is the fish's tail.

Glue the three small hearts on the large heart to look like "fins."

This was my girl's first experience with glue. She liked it. A lot. As in, she would swat my hands away if I came near the glue to try and help her.

Everything cleans up, though. No big deal!

Glue the itty-bitty heart onto the large heart for "lips." You'll want the bottom points of these hearts to come together, so the lips stick out. Also glue on a wiggly eye, or have your child draw one instead.

This is what it looks like when it's finished!

We made a few more. I love how they are all different!

I can't decide which one to keep for myself.

Maybe this guy. He's just too cute. :)