Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Virtual Book Club: The Very Quiet Cricket

We are participating in this month's Virtual Book Club hosted by Toddler Approved and The Educator's Spin On It. This month's story is The Very Quiet Cricket by Eric Carle. We love Eric Carle books at our house, but this is one that we actually hadn't read yet. We picked up a copy from our local library. We got really lucky because the copy that we read made a little chirping noise on the last page of the book. Zel was very intrigued by this. He said, "what's that?" every time he heard it and looked all around for the source of the noise. After reading it several times and watching it online too, I came up with a fun craft idea based on the story: cricket wings! I also decided to spend the entire week talking about bugs with Zel. So check back all week for more bug themed posts!

To make our bug wings, I used a cardboard box and cut out two wings using a box cutter. I kept a cardboard rectangle connected between them to hold it up better. I then painted a coat of black tempera over the printed side of the box.

 After it dried I set out green, blue, black, and white tempera for Zel to use. Zel liked to pat the brush all over the wings. Then when he accidentally got paint on himself, he began to paint his body on purpose. It started with feet, then he had a blast painting his diaper. He then dropped the paintbrush and tried finger painting the wings and then his body. We had a very colorful bath right after this project too!

 I added a ribbon to hold up the wings, but Zel liked holding it with his hands better.   

Check out all of the Book Club projects and add your own!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Twinkle Little Star Color Matching

Zel is really loving colors right now. We talk about colors a lot! I filled our living room book bucket with all the color books I could find, but I wanted to do something even more special. I decided to make him his very own color matching book. One of Zel's favorite shapes is the star, so I decided to base my book on twinkle, twinkle little star. The idea behind the book is that each page would have a colored star and then a blank spot where Zel could put the matching star using velcro.

Here are the materials I used:
  • 6 sheets cardstock  (I used a creme color)
  • 1 sheet star printed card stock
  • construction paper (whatever colors you want your stars to be)
  • contact paper
  • velcro
  • black sharpie
  • glue stick
  • spray adhesive
  • thin cardboard (I used a cheez-its box)

Look on Google images to find a star shape (I used this one). Print the star and cut it out. Use the star cut out and trace 2 stars for each color of construction paper you have chosen. Then cut out all of the stars. 

Fold each piece of card stock in half so that it looks like the pages of a book. On the upper part of the pages, write the words to your story. I chose to use "Twinkle, Twinkle little red star how I wonder where you are?" on the first page and "Up above the world so high, like a rose up in the sky" on the second. You will change the wording of the color and object for each different star. Make sure that when you write the words you leave enough space for the star cut-out. Use a sharpie to write your words. Then use a glue stick to glue the corresponding colored star on the bottom of the first page. On the bottom of the second page, trace a star with the sharpie.

On the remaining colored star, write the name of the color on the star. Then laminate the star using contact paper (or a laminating machine if you have one) by placing contact paper on both sides. Then trim the excess contact paper away. Place the Velcro on the back of the star and the corresponding Velcro piece on the page of card stock in the middle of the outline of the star.

Use the spray adhesive to glue all the pages together. Cut out two pieces of cardboard so that they are slightly larger than the size of the pages. Glue a piece of construction paper to cover up the writing on the cardboard. Then write your title at the top. I used "Twinkle Twinkle Matching Stars." Leave space to make a pocket for the stars to be stored in.

Cut the star print card stock so it is a square with three little flaps. Fold the flaps twice to make a shallow open box. Use glue stick to paste it to the cover of the book. Use a knife to press down on the parts that you can't reach with your finger.

Glue the front and back covers to the pages of your book using spray adhesive. Then use a strip of the star card stock to cover the spine of the book using the glue stick.

Place the stars in the front pocket and you have a book!

Zel was very excited to finally read it because I have been working on it for a few days. He just kept saying "star" over and over. Then he pointed out some of the colors that he knew. When he picked the wrong color I would point to the star glued on the page and then point to his star and ask, "Does it match?" Zel would say, "Noooo" and then search for the right star.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

L is for Links: Favorites from Last Week's Link-Up

There were almost 200 links last week, so it was hard to pick just a handful!

Fake Vegetable Garden from Greene Acres Hobby Farm
A great activity for a younger child to "help" in the garden.

Plant Structures Sensory Bin from Duck Duck Octopus
A great sensory bin idea. Your child can even help pick the materials!

 Painting with Bikes from The Golden Gleam
Kids love bikes and paint so why not try them together?

One of the most important things you can do for your child is to encourage them to read.

Toddler Fine Art from So Says Sarah
A beautiful work of art. Pick colors that will go with your room's decor!

Don't forget to link up and check out the Kid's Co-op Link Up this week. I can't wait to see more fun activities!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Peek-a-boo Bucket!

Everything can be a toy.

 Our empty book bucket is now a wonderful toddler hiding spot. 


We often use it as a drum and a pedestal too.

Here are some other easy, toddler friendly ideas for fun with regular household items without regard to their intended purpose:

  1. Collar Stays
  2. Yogurt Containers (plus some other ideas from Creative with Kids)
  3. Magazines (from A Mom with a Lesson Plan)
  4. Newspaper (from hands on: as we grow)
  5. Plastic Cups (from The Imagination Tree)
Sometimes the funnest activities come about all on their own, like Zel's bucket peek-a-boo game or this obstacle course from A Mom with a Lesson Plan.

Has your child discovered a new use for any of your seemingly boring household items?

Monday, May 21, 2012

Doctor's Office Entertainment: Busy Boxes

Zel had his 18 month check up last week. He always gets rambunctious at the doctor's office even with the toys they have there that he has never played with before. I decided to pack two small books, a matchbox car, some snacks, water, and two "busy boxes." For the boxes, I used the plastic containers from herbs that I bought from the grocery store. I put a pipe cleaner with cut up pieces of a two straws in the first box. This is great fine motor practice for toddlers that can't quite use regular string and beads yet. In the other box, I placed a few folded up pieces of construction paper and crayons. They worked wonderfully!
Zel was not too pleased when the nurse came in and started measuring him. Once she was finished he started acting very whiny and clingy. That's when I brought out the busy boxes. For the rest of the visit (aside from shots at the end) he was very happy. After we got home, I made two more busy boxes. For one I cut up shapes out of felt and cut a little X in the middle of each one. I put them with a pipe cleaner folded in half for some more fine motor practice. I also made another box with a small notebook and various sizes of stickers.

There are many great ideas for busy boxes or busy bags. Here are a few that I've come across that I think would work really well for toddlers:

I've been keeping at least one busy box/bag in the diaper bag so that Zel has entertainment no matter where we go!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Turning Failed Bath Crayons into Fun!

I have been really excited about making bath crayons for Zel. I looked up several recipes and it seemed pretty straightforward. Grated bar soap, warm water, and food could I mess this up? After the crayons had been drying for over 24 hours, I realized that something was not going as planned. I put the crayons in the freezer, but whenever I took them out they got too soft squished when I held them.

Then I saw this post on Carrots are Orange about ivory soap, which is the kind of bar soap that I used. Ivory soap has extra air in it, which makes sense that it would not get hard enough with water added to it. Now I had all these mushy bath crayons plus two extra bars of Ivory soap. So we decided to give this new sensory activity a try. The bath crayons that I made expanded while they were heating up but as soon as the microwave stopped the whole thing collapsed. I'm assuming that happened because water was added to those. Oh well, but not to worry, I still had another bar of unopened Ivory soap. Zel knew something fun was happening because I put plastic out on the floor plus some tools to explore the material. Zel was already having fun with the plastic sheet and meat tenderizer while the soap was heating up.

Once I gave him the expanded soap, he hit that over and over and over. 

Then I showed him that it turned to powder if you crumpled it with your hands. He tried to copy me and also said "snow" while he did it. His favorite thing (aside from hitting the meat tenderizer on everything!) was to squeeze it as hard as he could while grunting until his face turned red. This is how he shows off that he is strong (He does the same thing if I ask him to make a muscle).

Eventually, the whole bar had been reduced to powder. Zel and I put it all in a plastic container and saved it for another day. We also changed our clothes because we were covered in little powdered specks of soap. Was it worth the clean-up effort? I think so.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Pick Up Sticks: Fun and Easy! + Kid's Co-op Link-Up

I love when a big project that I've planned makes a big hit with Zel and the blogging community. But I am always filled with joy when something unplanned and simple comes together for a fun learning experience. That is what happened here. I recently bought Zel's Daddy a little box of those sticks that you use to keep your collar straight (Daddy has to wear a suit to work). I was trying to pick out an outfit for an event that he and I were attending that night and Zel did not want me to try on any clothes. I spotted the little box of the sticks on the shelf and started shaking it to make some noise and sing a song. But a few words into the song, the lid popped off and all of the sticks fell on the floor. This was the most exciting thing that could have happened for Zel. He said "uh oh" and I handed him the box and asked him to help me clean them up. He sat on the floor putting the sticks back in and then dumping them out and starting all over again. This entertained him just long enough for me to take some pictures and find a great outfit for the event. When I was finished picking an outfit, I sat with him and counted the sticks as he put them in the box. The activity was simple and great for practicing Zel's fine motor skills. Remember that activities and projects don't have to be big and complex. Some of the funnest experiences are the simplest.

I have recently joined the Kid's Blogging Network and am now a host for the Kid's Co-op Link Up! You can find it at the bottom of this blog. Add your project or get some inspiration from others who have posted. Next week, I'll be posting some of my favorites and trying them out if I have time!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Leafy Greens

Most people shy away from the leafy greens even though they are packed full of nutrients. I myself did not even know what kale and chard were until about a year ago when I tried a delicious veggie quesadilla from Patty Pan at the Seattle University District Farmers Market. It was fully of leafy greens and beets. Definitely something I would never have thought to make for myself. I found it irresistible and ate at least a small one every time I went to the market. After many months of farmers market trips for my veggie quesadilla, I was finally encouraged to buy some chard by one of the vendors where I usually purchased berries. It was on sale and he was a great salesperson, so I bought one bunch. When I got home I realized that I could now make my own delicious chard quesadillas. I've been a leafy greens lover ever since.

I actually enjoy the taste of most veggies, but I understand that many people do not. My husband is one of those people. That is why the chard quesadilla is great. The cheese and salsa mask most of the veggie flavor of the chard, so that veggie haters can get their daily dose of leafy greens and enjoy it too.

Thursday was the Bremerton Farmers Market and I purchased some russian chard from Abundantly Green to make these quesadillas for dinner. I usually get rainbow or red chard but decided to give this new variety a try.

Here's how I like to make it:

  • tortillas
  • shredded cheese
  • 1 clove garlic, minced (or garlic powder)
  • swiss chard, chopped (or baby spinach if you aren't ready for chard)
  • salsa
  • avocado, sliced (optional)
First you will need to cook the chard. Heat about 1 tbsp of olive of in a pan on medium. Add the garlic and saute for about a minute (until it is fragrant). Sometimes when I'm feeling really lazy, I use garlic powder instead of minced garlic, but it definitely tastes better with real garlic. Then add the chopped chard and season with a little salt and pepper. Cover the pan and let it cook for about 5 minutes.

After 5 minutes, flip the chard over so the other side gets a chance to cook. If the pan seems dry, add a little water. Replace the lid and let it cook for another 5 minutes. Set the chard aside after it is finished cooking.

Cook your quesadilla in the pan by putting down a tortilla, a layer of shredded cheese, cooked chard, salsa, sliced avocado, and another layer of cheese. Put the top tortilla on and cook with the lid on to help the cheese melt more quickly.

After it is done cooking, cut it into triangles and eat! I usually dip it in salsa and plain non-fat greek yogurt in place of sour cream.

Tip: If you don't plan on using your kale or chard the same day that you buy it then it will be wilted by the next day. In order to prevent this, cut up your leafy greens and store them in a container in the fridge. This will keep them fresh and crisp for a few days until you are ready to use them.