Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Birthday Balloons Wreath

I really enjoyed the mindlessness of making this wreath. It kind of "made itself" one evening while my husband and I watched a movie. Now I have something cheery to hang on the door every time there's a birthday in the house!


Large straw wreath (with plastic still on so that it won't shed)
About 142 balloons
Florist pins

Sunday, July 18, 2010

M's Yellow Birthday Party

This past week when M turned three we celebrated our first ever real birthday party at our house. I'm afraid I got a little more carried away with it than I had originally intended (I don't like the idea of setting a precedent of too much expense or fuss) but we also found some good ways for making it fun while keeping it relatively inexpensive.

1. We chose a simple party theme: the color yellow (M's favorite) Having a theme that wasn't too specific made it easier to take advantage of sales, etc.

2. Homemade cake. Making it myself was much less expensive and all I did was cover it with yellow frosting and colored Necco candies. It was easy and cute!

3. Much of the table and serving ware was complimentary because I was reviewing it for Smarty had a Party, a company that specializes in elegant disposable dinnerware. They sent some really nice things for us to use: napkins, plates, tablecloths, cups, fun yellow petals to sprinkle on the tables as well as really nice flatware that looked like real silverware. Probably the nicest thing though was the set of wood skewers with yellow wooden balls on the ends for easy holding. Those really looked nice and worked well!

4. Big bunches of yellow wildflowers from a nearby field brightened up the party for free!

5. Homemade party favors, decorations and activities. I'll be writing specific posts about some of those later this week.I'd love to hear more idea for creative and inexpensive birthday parties for use in future years. Please feel free to leave ideas in the comments section!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Welcome Home Photo Sign

I had gotten this idea from somewhere (don't remember where right now) originally as a Father's Day card idea, but it worked well as a welcome home sign too.

The letters were printed off of the computer (I used the "outline" function for the font). M got to color them, and then together we picked out pictures and glued them in the open parts of each letter.

Friday, July 9, 2010

The Daddy's Away Chart

R recently went away on a week-long trip where he was unable to communicate with us at all- no phone calls or email or anything. I wondered how this would affect the girls and wanted to find a way to keep him in their everyday lives.

I ended up making a chart for them to count down the days until his return. Each night, I let M cross off the day on the x I had sketched in dotted lines, and I asked her what things about our day she wanted to make sure to tell Daddy when he got back. We wrote them down and then counted how many days we had until Saturday. It made for a nice evening ritual while he was away and a fun thing to show him when he returned.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Sprinkler Game

Do you have a little one that is just a little afraid of playing in the sprinkler? We had good success the other day with turning the whole thing into a game. I sang "Here we go Looby Loo" and when we reached the parts that said "You put your right hand in, you put your right hand out, you give your right hand a shake, shake, and turn yourself about," she put the hand, foot, etc into the sprinkler. She loved it!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Fun Finds from Around the Web

Unplug Your Kids has a tutorial for making a salad spinner zoetrope. (I didn't even know what a zoetrope was at first, but it sure looks clever and fun!)
I like the simplicity of the preschool activity As We Walk describes here.
I never would have thought of turning a child's umbrella into a jellyfish like Make and Takes did here- but isn't it cute?
The bubble blower tutorial given by How Does She? is something I really, really want to try (I'll let you know how it turns out probably in the next few weeks).

**One reader wrote to say that this is a fun activity, but to warn the kids not to suck in- soap bubbles can burn the throat!**
I've wondered before whether or not making an aquascope would be a worthwhile thing to try. MayaMade has a tutorial here as well as some stories about why they made it and their fun experiences with it.Read here about Frugal Family Fun's great idea for helping a child spend hours of imaginative and independent fun.
Finally, take a look at this odd and wonderful website to find ideas for science experiments you can do with candy.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Discrete Quantities: Dogs and Cats

I'm afraid I've never liked math very much (much to my engineer father's chagrin). Furthermore, my aptitude has tended to follow my interest. Standardized test results always showed me to be a student very much skewed toward the verbal end of things.

It's not my particular desire to have my children inherit this math aversion, but lately I've realized that my educational activities with M are starting to show the same imbalance (a little girl who is starting to work on reading sentences probably should not be struggling to recognize the number 4! :-)

So... I set my mind to think of good math activities, but try as I might, I kept coming up blank! It seems that perhaps I am lacking in the math creativity department as well (I guess I never realized that this was its own department!). I mentioned my frustration to R one evening, and without missing a beat he came up with this activity.

I was impressed. Not only is the activity fun for M, but once we tried it out, I realized that it was exactly the right next step for M's level of math understanding. R said that after number recognition and counting, the next step should be understanding the concept of discrete quantities. For example, 3 cats and 1 dog.

I printed and cut out 10 small pictures of a cat and 10 small pictures of a dog. I also made up a worksheet that had about 5 blank problems that looked like this:

______ Cats

+ ______ Dogs


I spread out in front of M a few of each kind of animal. First I asked her to count the number of cats. We wrote down her answer. Then the number of dogs, and I wrote the number in the blank. Then I asked her to count all of the animals and recorded the answer. At the end of each problem I would say in an interested voice, "Huh! Well then, I guess ____ + ____equals _____!" and she would nod.

I don't know how many times we will have to do this activity for the concept to begin to really sink in, but I have a good feeling about its effectiveness.

I've been thinking about investing in an abacus. Have any of you used one with your little ones? Do you have any other suggestions for early math activities? I'd love to hear them- because I still draw a complete blank when trying to think of math ideas! :-)

Friday, July 2, 2010

Grandparents' Traveling Game: Find Pandy

My friend R (who I recently quoted here) has parents who often travel. Recently, on a trip to China they came up with a fun way to share the story of their trip with their grandchildren. They took with them a small stuffed panda and included him in many of their pictures.
After they got home they used the pictures to make up a slide show. This allowed the kids to have fun finding the panda in each of the pictures (kind of like a personalized Where's Waldo!) while at the same time learning about a new culture and hearing about their grandparents' experiences.
I think this is such a special gift! Wouldn't this kind of thing also be a neat idea for overseas missionaries who have children's presentations to give in the States during their furloughs?

Day # 2 in the Kiddie Pool: Sink or Float?

Before heading out to the kiddie pool the other day, M and I gathered a box full of smallish items we didn't mind getting wet. One at a time, I held up the items and let M guess whether they would sink or float in the water. Then M pitched them in the pool and watched to see if she was right!