Friday, September 30, 2011

Making our Own Fall Leaves: Coffee Filter and Glue Gun Style

We've been busy making more fall around here.  This time we cut the leaves out of coffee filters, and drew on  lines with a glue gun.  Then I let the girls use watercolor paints to decorate the leaves.  It made for a pretty effect!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

My Mom's Super Yummy Rice Pudding Recipe

Today as I sat on the computer during the girls' nap I was suddenly overcome by a craving for ice cream (not surprising given my seven-month-pregnant state)  Sadly, there's not a spoonful of it left in the house (also not surprising, given my condition).  So, instead I decided to whip up a batch of my mother's wonderful rice pudding.

It really is absolute comfort food deliciousness.  I'm  probably biased, but I've never had another recipe for rice pudding that I think even comes close.  I think the difference is that this rice pudding is really custardy.

I hardly ever post recipes, but this one really is special- besides, it is dirt cheap to make, and you probably have all the ingredients already.

Custardy Rice Pudding

4 cups milk
1 cup sugar (actually I put in slightly less)
1/2 stick butter
1 1/4 cup long grain rice
2 eggs
2 1/2 teasp vanilla

1.  Combine milk, 2 cups water, sugar, and butter in a large pan.  Combine and heat to a boil.
2.  Add rice, stir, and cook until thick and rice is tender.
3.  Beat the 2 eggs with enough water to make 1 cup liquid.
4.  Remove pudding from heat; add egg mixture, and heat to a boil.
5.  Stir in vanilla.  Pour into ungreased pan, cover liberally with cinnamon, and chill in refrigerator for several hours.  (well, ok- you can have a little while it's still warm too)

You can also feel free to pour on a drizzle or two of half and half  if you like that sort of thing.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Making Our Own Fall Leaves: Stained Glass Style

Given the lack of any real fall leaves in the area of Texas where we are, we've decided that over the next couple of months we are going to make as many different kinds of our own as we can.

Today's adventure involved crayon shavings and wax paper.  We used a cheese grater, and thankfully nobody managed to skin their knuckles.  (we could have used a crayon sharpener, but I couldn't find ours)
We found all the fall colors we could to include in the shavings.  (I'm partial to lots of yellow for fall leaves)
  After placing a second piece of wax paper on top, we quickly ran an iron on a low setting over the papers.  (quickly because the longer the iron stays on the paper the more likely the colors are to blend)

M and G found this part of the project quite magical!
Then I traced around some fall leaf shapes and cut them out.  The girls applied glue stick to the backs of the leaves and placed them on the window panes.

Turned our dining room into an autumnal cathedral.

It's Playtime!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Post-it Note Spelling

When I saw this idea in Family Fun magazine this month I thought it would be a fun way to practice simple word spelling with M- lets her move around, visualize the words, and choose letters from a limited pool.

I wasn't intending to do it crossword style like the article suggested, thinking it would be too tricky for a four year old, but with a little help, she seemed to understand the concept, and I really liked the added puzzling skills it helped her work on.

My helping her went something like this:

"You've got a "g" there at the end of the word "tag."  Can you think of any words that start with "g" that you could spell using the letters over there?"
"O.K.  Now put the letters for that word underneath the "g" and make your word go down instead of sideways."

Monday, September 26, 2011

Butterfly Symmetry Matching Game

So many different kinds of matching games to do with little ones!  We were inspired to do this symmetry butterfly matching game by a post from Mama Jenn.  It was a hit!


We used magnets and folded the wings up a little (pretty and it helped them all fit on the metal tray)  Mama Jenn made hers lap book style in a file folder and used velcro.  

Learning Laboratory!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

One-Sided Parental Vigilance

Does anyone else sense an inconsistency in the “repsonsible parenting world” in the emphasis on proper food monitoring for children versus the lack of emphasis on filtering children’s entertainment?

Parents are increasingly conscientious about what their children physically consume- that it be  organic, hormone- free, nutrient -rich, low in sugar, low in sodium, unprocessed, etc.   But discussions with any sort of analogous standards for entertainment are conspicuously missing. 

Take parenting magazines or parenting blogs, for example. Articles on how to achieve these kinds of goals for a child’s physical body outnumber articles about discretion in entertainment by a significant margin.

Why is this the case?  The entertainment industry is no less exploitative of children for the sake of their own bottom line.  I’m convinced that they are every bit as indifferent to a child’s true well-being as the fast food industries are, for example.

And it’s not as if it mattered less.  Certainly, the effects of entertainment on a child’s inner person strike more centrally at his or her humanity, and I would argue- are more difficult to reverse than the physical issues.

Sometimes I’ve wondered if part of the problem is simple exhaustion.  A parent can only be hyper vigilant about so much.  The amount of time required to keep up with the latest research, track down the healthiest foods, and the energy it takes to enforce good eating standards on resistant children can leave a mom feeling a bit pooped. 

As politically incorrect as this may be, I’d like to suggest that parents who find themselves in this boat give themselves permission to relax a little in the food department.  Some parents certainly manage to achieve vigilance in both areas (and personally, I am full of admiration) but as a general rule, it seems to me that the entertainment side of things often suffers.  In particular, I would really like to see more discussion of:

  • the effect of stock, commercial characters on imaginative play
  •  the subtle ways that media and toys can undermine the values a family hopes to instill
  •  addiction to sensationalism in children’s media
  •  the pressure that children can feel from the media to grow up quickly
  • the ironic uniformity of taste that commercial media breeds in children (while often simultaneously touting non-conformity as a high value)

Why do you think talk about eliminating unhealthy entertainment is not a bigger part of the discussion on responsible parenting?  What in regard to children’s entertainment would you like to see discussed more often?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Blowing Bubbles with a Hose

Originally, I planned this activity as something for the girls to do while I cooked dinner tonight, but it was so much fun I didn't want to miss any of it (and so dinner was a tad late!)

I have seen people do this with a straw instead of a hose, but I was afraid that the temptation to suck the soapy water instead of blowing might be too great for my toddler. The hose is also fun because it allows you to blow a larger stack of bubbles without getting it in your face. It might be fun to do it with a really long hose, and blow the bubbles from across the yard! 

M decided to stick her foot in the bowl at one point while she blew on the hose. Apparently the bubbles tickled her feet!

It's Playtime!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Ordering Seashells

M and I did this as a winding- down activity right before rest time.

At first, she was overwhelmed by the idea of having to order the shells largest to smallest, but when we did it one step at a time, "Which one is biggest?...ok, now which one is biggest?" it took on a sort of soothing rhythm.

(Matching the backs to see which shell is larger.)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Amazing Balancing Butterfly Craft

It's so fun to find a unique craft that uses common household supplies (no trip to Michaels!).  This balancing butterfly really is very simple, and the kids at our co-op this morning were fascinated  by them.


Watercolor Paper (optional- you can just use cardstock if you just want to color with crayons or markers)
Watercolor Pencils (optional)
2 pennies
You can make your own template (just make sure the two sides are symmetrical so it will balance, but if you'd rather print and cut, here is a link to the template I used.

For some of the butterflies, I glued the cardstock onto cardboard from a cereal box.  The stiffer cardboard did make the balancing effect a little more dramatic, but the floppy card stock was also fun because it made it look like the wings were flapping when the kids lifted their fingers up and down.

Brushing too much water on the butterflies does not turn out well.  One little girl this morning soaked hers so thoroughly that it fell apart, and another girl's ended up a bit warped (but still worked actually), but the watercolor effect is pretty!

You can use a gluestick or tape to affix the pennies on the underside of each wing.  We preferred the glue because sometimes you need to slide the pennies around a bit to find a good balance.

Be sure to make multiple butterlies so your kids can have fun seeing how many they can balance on themselves at the same time!

The nose is cute!

We did this craft to accompany our discussion of the science of balance going along with the book Mirette on the High Wire as part of the Five in a Row curriculum.  (Very fun book, by the way!)

Monday, September 19, 2011

Pipe Cleaner Ideas from Around the Web

Ever since I received a package of free pipe cleaners from I've been mulling over what to do with them.  Here are some fun ideas I found on Pinterest.

1.  Magnet Fishing
2.  Make a Bubble Blower
3.  Make a Snowflake using borax
4.  Color sorter.
5.  Cover with yarn for unique word art.
6.  Crazy hairstyles

Thursday, September 15, 2011

A Spoon Full of Sugar: 10 Fun Ways to "Tidy up the Nursery"

1.  Pretend to be "busy bees."  Buzz and fly around the room while you clean.

2.  Time Yourselves.  Keep track of the amount of time it takes from day to day.  See if you can beat your record.

3.  Make the clean playroom a surprise for Daddy when he gets home from work.  Say things like, "Won't he be happy?"  "He's going to LOVE seeing this clean floor!"

4.  Delegate and celebrate very small tasks.  "Jessie, the books are ALL picked up.  WONDERFUL!"

5.  Play dramatic, classical music.  Walz and pirouette around the room while you clean.  Try the music from Carmen or Tales from Vienna Woods.

6.  Set a timer.  At the end of five or ten minutes all toys on the floor will be food for the Garbage Monster (set in a basket, and not to be played with for the rest of the week)  But keep the game positive.  "Let's hurry; so he'll have NOTHING to eat!"

7.  Sing the Clean up song, or A Spoon Full of Sugar, or Whistle while You Work.

8.  Take a before and after picture.

9.  Plan clean-up for a time right before an activity you know your children will enjoy.  "Let's hurry and clean-up so we can do play-doh!"  Clean-up time right before naps has never worked well at our house.  :-)

10.  Dress up like proper maids and butlers, and pretend you are cleaning up after the messy children who live at this house.  "Can you believe they left their crayons all over the floor?  Tut, tut!"  I really think it would be fun to keep aprons, maids' caps, and bow ties in a special place for this purpose.

What do you find effective and fun for cleaning up with children around your home?

Stickers and Watercolors

I was surprised this activity worked as well as it did!  I thought that the watercolors might leak under the stickers, or that the stickers would make trouble when we peeled them off, but neither really caused a problem. (A little bit of leaking, but that's because the girls used buckets of water! :-)
We did try doing it with regular paper (instead of watercolor paper) and that did NOT work (ripping and leaking ).  Also, we only used foam stickers.  I'm not sure if regular, flat stickers would work or not.  Has anyboday tried that?
It's Playtime!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Creative Uses for Glow Sticks

Glow sticks are pretty cheap already, but with the end of summer you may be able to find them on sale as well.  Here are some fun ideas:

1.  Glow in the Dark Sensory Tub- or try it in the bathtub!
2.  Neon Love Note
3.  Ring Toss
4.  Glow in the Dark Lanterns
5.  Glowing Balloons!
6.  Glow in the Dark Drinks

Monday, September 12, 2011

Popsicle Stick and Play Doh Spelling

 The girls practiced putting the letters of their name in order by sticking them in play-doh.  It's kind of like a birthday cake!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Happy and Sad Face Sorting

Little G got to practice her emotional intelligence skills this morning by sorting sad and happy faces.  So interesting how difficult it is for her to recognize sad faces when it does not involve crying!

Thanks to The Princess and the Tot for inspiring this fun activity!
I have been interested in the importance of emotional intelligence ever since I began hearing about it more and more in books like this one:  Emotional Intelligence: Why it Can Matter More Than IQ

Thursday, September 8, 2011

A Beautiful Book: Come on, Rain!

I just found a book that is a perfect balm to my parched, Texas soul. It's about a little girl and her mother who live in a hot area that has been without rain for a long time. When the rain finally comes-- they REVEL in it.
And just look at the wonderful pictures...

Wilting in the sweltering heat
Mama sags over her drooping vines (I used to have a few of these before I gave up entirely)
Pressing a cool glass of iced tea against a hot neck
Little girl runs to tell her friend that she sees rain coming (I love illustrations of little girls with stick skinny legs!)
Outstretched hands for the rain
First big drops

Chasing eachother in the rain
Now the mamas get excited

Off fly their shoes and stockings

Mamas and daughters dance together in the rain.

Now everything is new again.
Isn't that refreshing? Do you have any other good children's rain book recommendations? After the recent wildfires I think we Texans are really primed to appreciate rain in all forms.