Sunday, October 31, 2010

An Alphabet Nature Walk

I took M and G on a walk around our block the other day with some of their friends, and to make it more fun, we decided to take a bucket along and collect pieces of nature that looked like different letters of the alphabet.

We found more letters than I thought we would! The letters I, L, Y, and V were the easiest to find, but we also found an F, C, and J.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

12 Low Fuss Ideas for a Fun Lunch

Often when I browse women's magazines that have fun foods for kids, I find myself charmed with the clever and artistic little food creations but totally lacking in follow-through for making them myself. Most of the time they are just TOO MUCH HASSLE relative to the kids' enjoyment. Here are eleven fun lunch ideas that have a very favorable "preparation to fun ratio."

1. Have a taste test lunch. Buy several different kinds of apples (for example); cut them into slices and let everyone sample. Talk about the similarities and differences and which ones were the favorites and least favorites.

2. Pack bagged lunches, write a name on each lunch and hide them around the back yard. Let the kids hunt for their lunches and have a picnic with them afterward.

3. Eat under the table.

4. Freeze juice in novelty ice cube trays. Put one or two fun shaped ice cubes into each child's glass of water.

5. Play blindfolded fruit salad. Make a fruit salad with lots of different kinds of fruit for dessert. Let each child take turns being blindfolded. Allow the other children feed a piece of fruit to the blinded child who gets to guess what he or she just ate!

6. Use crazy serving dishes. Hunt around the playroom for toys that could serve as dishes or cups. For example, use a frisbee for a plate; serve veggie straws from the holes in a duplo block; drink from your toddler's stacking cups, etc.

7. Have an animal food luncheon.

8. For older children, have a foreign language restaurant lunch. Using a foreign language dictionary, look up the names of all of the foods, drinks, serving utensils- EVERYTHING you are planning to use for lunch. Write those words on a menu, and let the kids consult together and order three things at a time. For each course, only bring out the three items they order, and at the end of each course take those things away. Now they might end up ordering soup, a knife, and a some ketchup for the first course, but wouldn't that be fun? They would have so many giggles trying to figure out how to eat the soup and what to do with the ketchup!

9. Play the sliced banana trick on your kids.

10. Cut their sandwiches or apples into little puzzles, and let them put them together before they eat.

11. Make glow in the dark juice drinks. (All it requires is some tonic water and a black light!)

12. Let the kids use cookie cutters to cut shapes out of sliced cheese, watermelon, or finger jello, etc.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Acorn Crown

I finally figured out what to do with all of the acorns M and G have been collecting on our walks- I made an acorn crown for our dress-up chest!

Making it was pretty simple (but I did burn myself a few times and used up an ENORMOUS number of glue sticks) To make sure it turned out in the shape I wanted I drew a circle on a piece of paper and then just glue gun-ed acorns side by side using the circle on the paper as a guide. I did two layers and then added a few points to the crown.

The crown has a nice, heavy feel to it (better than a plastic tiara for sure) and it makes for very nice, woodland princesses!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Fun Giveaway: Book filled with Activity Ideas for Children K-3

Building Character from the Start: 201 Activities to foster creativity, literacy, and play in K-3 by Susan Ragsdale and Ann Saylor is full of ideas for sparking meaningful conversations between children and adults. It seeks to engage children holistically, by letting them create, read, and play.

The first part of the book (the section that concentrates on "creating") is a set of "finish the picture" type worksheets with suggestions for discussion based on the pictures.

Next, the authors describe favorite picture books and give ideas for activities and conversations connected to each. (I tried one of the fun book activities, and wrote about it here)

Unit three, "Play and Move" is my favorite part of the book. Lots of fun and creative group activities and games here! Not only is there great variety, but the activities seem like they've been tried in real life and are well thought-out.

Many of the activities in sections one and three are tied to the picture books discussed in the middle of the book, making it easy for a teacher to easily create a book themed, multi-faceted day of character-building.

This book has useful ideas for parents, but would be especially helpful for teachers, daycare workers, and afterschool programs.

Susan Ragsdale and Ann Saylor have generously provided a copy of this book (with a companion CD full of hand-outs) for a giveaway. For a chance to win it, just leave a comment in the section below, making sure to leave your email address so I can contact you if you win!

For additional chances to win:

1. Visit Ragsdale and Saylor's blog Great Group Games, and leave a comment for them. When you have left a comment on their blog, come back here and leave an additional comment on this post saying that you have done so.

2. Subscribe to the RSS feed here and leave an extra comment to that effect (if you already subscribe, leave a comment with that fact)

3. Become a friend of Having Fun at Home with Google friend connect and leave an extra comment to that effect.

The giveaway will end at midnight on November 2nd.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Make a Brown Bear, Brown Bear Companion Book

If your family has one or more toddlers, chances are that Eric Carle's Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you See? gets a bit of mileage at your house. The book Building Character from the Start: 201 Activities to foster creativity, literacy and play in K-3 has a great idea for making a homemade companion book. (By the way, I'll be giving away a copy of Building Character from the Start later this week; so stay tuned!)

I just used pictures we already happened to have of family members in costumes (I especially enjoyed including the picture of my husband from Chick fil a dress up like a cow day), but it might be extra fun to have a dress-up photo shoot especially for the making of the book. I glued my pictures onto a blank board book for a little added durability, but you could just use this format if you don't have any blank books on hand.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Animal Food Lunch

The idea for this little luncheon came from watching M's delight in eating her dinnertime salads ever since I started referring to lettuce as "bunny food." I began to wonder if there is anything that a preschooler won't eat if they think they are acting the part of an animal.

For today's lunch I picked eight easy and healthy snack foods that animals also enjoy, and we had a picnic with them. M would say, "I'm going to be an elephant now," and she'd eat a peanut. I would say, "Hmmm, I feel a little like a bird; could you pass the seeds?"

We even brought along a few stuffed animals for "authenticity's sake." M and G both thoroughly enjoyed feeding berries to their teddy bear. That bear has permanently red lips now, I think.
For a little extra fun, I made little animal food labels for each food, printed them out on cardstock and taped them to popsicle sticks. If you would like to use them for an animal food luncheon of your own, feel free to borrow the template from below.

New Sponsor Welcome: Little Artists

You may have noticed a new section for sponsors on my right sidebar lately. I never want this blog to become cluttered with advertising, but I do like the idea of featuring a few creative companies that sell products I think my readers would particularly like and enjoy.

Joy's company, Little Artists which sells personalized gifts and party favors is especially fun for me to feature here because when I was in college I worked for a similar company making hand-painted items.

I think this personalized "coloring page" pillow case is a very clever party favor idea for a little girl's slumber party; don't you?

She also has cute, hand-painted Christmas ornaments that are very reasonably priced and would make nice gifts.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Wash Day at our House

The girls had fun today playing in the tents we made by throwing dirty sheets over the furniture. Their enjoyment might motivate me to be wash the bedding more often. (but probably not!)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Bread Dough Fun

Do you ever accidentally let the bread dough rise a little too much so that it is no longer good for bread? Don't throw it away before you give it to the kids to enjoy! Bread dough can be lots of fun- as you can see from this picture of my brother when he was a young teenager.

(DO discourage their eating it though- unless they want a giant belly ache- I know THAT from experience!)

Monday, October 18, 2010

Make Easy Child-made Gifts with Salt Dough

Homemade salt dough is a great alternative to the expensive craft store bakeable doughs like Sculpey or Fimo. The recipe is quick, and you likely already have everything you need to get started!

Salt Dough Recipe
1 cup salt
2 cups flour
1 cup warm water.

Combine salt and flour. Slowly mix in water and use hands to form into a ball. Place the ball on the counter and knead until dough is smooth and soft. Bake modeled creations at 250 degrees for 1 1/2 to 3 hours or allow to air dry over several days.

You can keep the dough in an airtight container almost indefinitely, but if you want to make precise modeling details you should use it immediately.

Make sure that the items are good and dry before you try to paint them or you will end up with cracks in the paint. Use either acrylics or tempera paint.
The other day, M and I used salt dough to make a birthday gift for one of her friends. I got a little impatient with the process and tried to paint it too soon (you might be able to see a few cracks), and I wasn't very careful about making sure that the glue gun glue didn't show through, but all in all it was a fun process and M had a gift to give that she was proud of.
(We used alphabet cookie cutters for the letters, and poked holes in the letters before they were baked so that we could string ribbon through them. The letters are glue- gunned onto a piece of wood to hold them together)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Plague of the Frogs and a Mother's Quandary

Suburban living doesn't necessarily mean little or no interaction with nature. We live squarely in the suburbs, and our yard is not huge, but we spent a lot of time outdoors this summer, and had some very fun creaturely encounters. I suppose some of the encounters fall more into the category of "interesting" than "fun," but I'll get to those in a minute.
Walking Stick Insect

Elaborate spider's web with large and FAST spider. This fellow would dash up and down his web whenever we approached. We couldn't believe how quickly he moved (Does anyone know what kind he is?)

Tiny toads: After a week of heavy rains, our backyard was brimming with 2 cm toads. With just about every step, I had little toads hopping about my ankles. I thought at first they were grasshoppers, but was delighted to find that they were these cute little creatures instead.

Large toad: A week later we found a big toad in the garden. The girls wanted nothing to do with touching him, but they sure liked looking at him.
Large scorpion in the sandbox next to little G who was of course, more interested than alarmed.

And last of all... sigh...M found a dead cicada on our back patio and insisted for several days that this bug was her best friend. She carried him around with her, hugged him, and laid him down in a leafy bug "bed" for frequent naps. I bit my tongue to keep from expressing my disgust at the thing, but I was not unhappy when he eventually disappeared! (By the way, is this just too gross? Should I have intervened so that she would know that dead bugs are not really socially acceptable friends?)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Apple "Smores"

I think it's very nice that my parents still have simple, homey fun even though they are retired and empty nesters now. They have already had two bonfire cookouts on together in the woods behind their house this fall.

At their most recent bonfire, they tried out an idea from Family Fun magazine. It was something I had been curious to try myself to see if it would really work, and I was tickled to hear that it worked well!

1. Start out with a nice, firm apple on a stick.
2. Roast it until it is black, charred and ugly all over, like this.

3. Take the apple off the stick and cut away the burned parts with a knife.

4. Roll the now warm, soft, and juicy apple in cinnamon sugar.
5. Enjoy! (I suppose you could maybe even eat off the stick like a fun, new kind of fair food.)

They said it was scrumptious!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

The Way We Talk to our Children

“The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice ”

-Peggy O’Mara

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Sometimes you just can't win...

For a very long time G has LOVED pulling the wipes out of the wipe container and mischievously scattering them all over the living room.

I thought I would make a fun toy for her by emptying out the wipes and filling the container with lots of brightly colored and different textured fabric pieces so that she could pull them out without wasting any more of those crazily expensive wipes.

Since that guessed it, ZERO interest in the wipes container. Not even ONCE has she tried to pull anything out of it.....sigh....stolen water is just more sweet, I guess.

How to Engage your Preschooler and your Toddler at the Same Time

1. Put several colors of food coloring into a container of ice cubes. When they are frozen, place two colorful ice cubes into a ziploc bag and give a bag to each child. Talk with your preschooler about mixing color combinations, and let your toddler enjoy the sensation of pushing the ice cube around the bag.

2. Chocolate finger painting!

3. Make tunnels out of cardboard boxes and set up a crawling obstacle course with them.

4. Take a walk outdoors with a bucket and collect acorns. (Be careful not to let the toddler put them in her mouth!) The kids will think it's fun to just collect them, but you can also check out the fun list of things to do with them here.

5. Just before bed when they have their jammies on, scatter lots of stuffed animals around a room. Turn off the lights, and give both children small flashlights. See how many stuffed animals your preschooler can find. Let your toddler just enjoy the fun of a flashlight in her hand!

6. Feed goldfish crackers to birds at the park.

7. Pull a blanket around the room while both girls sit on it with music playing. Sing and sing!! Let them bring their dollies and stuffed animals too. Sometimes go quickly enough to where they both (gently) fall off and get lots of giggles!

8. Visit the pet store and look at the live animals together. Ask the toddler what sounds each animal makes, and let the preschooler come up with fun names for each animal.

9. Let them "paint" the outside of the house with paintbrushes and a bucket of water.

10. Fill up the kiddie pool with an inch or two of water. Throw in a bowl full of cooked spaghetti for them to dig through, throw, etc.

11. On a day you plan to wash all the bedding, first scatter the sheets over furniture in one of the rooms and let them play underneath in each little "room."

12. Make a box train out of cardboard boxes and small pieces of rope. Let them take turns pulling the train and filling it with little friends.