Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Working on My Bad Attitude and M's Fine Motor Skills- Seeds!

I have to admit that I've had a pretty rotten attitude toward the outdoors lately.  We've had the hottest summer on record for Texas and we're in the middle of one of the worst droughts as well.

I felt a little convicted though the other day when I was reading Wendell Berry, and he was describing the kind of people who claim to love nature but really only pay attention to the parts that are uniquely beautiful (the mountains of the Grand Canyon, dramatic waterfalls, etc).  It's a kind of nature sensationalism.  Berry believes that the best kind of nature lover is the one with affection for the land they live on- regardless of its lack of unique attractions.

His words rang true to me; so I decided to work on loving my parched little land.  Today we took a walk in the "green" space behind our backyard and challenged ourselves to try to find as many beautiful and interesting things as we could.  The girls carried little baskets for their treasures.

The first glimpse out the back gate was pretty dreary...
Even the cacti are having trouble.
We came to a beautiful oasis of green and then realized that it used to be the retention pond!
But...we did find some treasures. 
 M and I enjoyed looking at the intricate details of the dry grasses and lichen with a magnifying glass back home.
I had M work on isolating single a single seed from each grass cluster.   She focused on her task and enjoyed the challenge.  Some seeds were pretty tiny!
This was my favorite:

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Crinkle Baby Squares

M and G are as excited as I am about the upcoming addition to our family. So when I saw this cute and easy tutorial for a crinkle square at Joy's Hope I thought it would be a great opportunity to include them in the preparation for baby J. (It's a boy, by the way, so Wimpherzina is OUT.)

I have a huge bolt of muslin fabric that I got for 5 dollars at a garage sale, an old ubersoft changing pad that I was able to cut up for the other side of the square, cellophane wrapping paper for the crinkly noise, and lots of random ribbon. The only thing I had to buy was the package of fabric markers so the girls could decorate their squares. (Crayola makes a pretty reasonably priced package of those though, and I have a feeling I'll be able to put them to another good use one of these days.)
The crinkle squares turned out great- nice crinkly noises and the girls are so proud of their decorations. They can't wait to give it to Baby J.

I'm thinking though that this may be one of those toys that is used with supervision only. It seems like maybe the cellophane in the fabric makes it a bit of a suffocation risk? I don't know...would it make you nervous?

We have three more months until baby J will likely show up. Do you have any suggestions for other fun things I can do with the girls to involve them in the anticipation?

Monday, August 29, 2011

Bookmark Craft Ideas

Looking for a quick and easy craft for your kids to give as a gift or something to tuck into a thank-you card?  One of these clever bookmarks might be just the thing!

1.  Blu Mama's Arts and Crafts has the template for this cute mouse bookmark.
2.  The directions for folding an origami heart bookmark are at Ready, Set, Craft. 
3.  A bookworm bookmark from Crayola!
4.  Make an easy little bookmark out of an envelope corner, demonstrated by Shirley's Preschool Activities
5.  Another cute mouse bookmark from Wee Folk Art.
6.  Kite tails are a clever page holder idea from Kid's Rule Usa
7.  Zakka Life shows you how to make this elegant bookmark from a doily!
8. I love the idea from Red Ted Art of using baby footprints to make "footmarks!"
9.  These Scandinavian doll bookmarks from Wee Wonderfuls may be a little more involved than the others, but they surely are beautiful!
10.  Popsicle sticks, flowers and buttons make great bookmarks as Lena shows us.
11.  Whimsical funny nose bookmarks from Make and Takes.
12.  Inspire Me Crafts shows how to turn just about anything into a magnetic bookmark.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Bowling Hoops

As I was browsing through Kate Greenaway's Book of Games the other day I was struck by the first line of this entry:

"Every child knows or ought to know the pleasure of bowling a hoop."

I don't think I've ever seen a child "bowling a hoop."  Have you?  I think the hoops originally came from old wagon wheels, but do we have a modern equivalent that I've just not noticed?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

"Are You My Mother' Sequencing Activity

I'd like to do more Charlotte Mason style narration with the girls (having a child retell a story they've just read (or heard) in their own words).  The book 'Are You My Mother' seemed like a good place to begin- since we've read it about a million times!

To add an extra wrinkle, I scanned a few pictures from the book and printed them off for M to put in the right order.  When she had them arranged, I had her tell me the story using the pictures as a help.  Right now, she's up in her room with the pictures in a plastic baggie, preparing to tell the story to her stuffed animals  :-)

As a fun side note, I just saw that Jenae over at I can Teach my Child did an Are You My Mother Sensory Tub today.

This post is part of the Learning Laboratory.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A Beautiful Book: Picture This

Picture This by Allison Jay is probably my favorite baby picture book.  So many picture books are busy and wild, but this one is simple, restful, and gentle.  Each page features a single word.  The illustrations are whimsical, but not weird, and easily recognizable to children.  The antique, cracked veneer throughout the book gives it a fun feel too.

I liked it right away for those reasons, but after about a year of reading it I like it even more.

After a few times through, I realized that the pictures on each page are cleverly interwoven. For example, the vase falling off the window sill in the first frame is from the same set of dishes as you see on the shelf in the background in the next picture.
  Each picture anticipates the next in some way as well as having an assortment of items that appear on other pages.

The fish on this man's hat is the same one in the fish tank in the next picture, and the house in the fishbowl is the same model as the toy house in the playroom.  It's like a game of logical hide and seek. 
The subtle complexity that is fun to point out to older children, and also just makes reading a picture book over and over a little more enjoyable for the parent :-)

Monday, August 22, 2011

Okra Flower Printing

Okra is one of the few crops that seems to be thriving in this part of the world these days.  (rotten Texas drought this summer).  We bought some at the farmer's market and enjoyed part of them fried with cornmeal.  Then today had fun using it to print floral wrapping paper.

We discovered that the flowers show best if you don't use too much paint and you press down firmly, and that it's also pretty to mix colors.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Strawberry Rose Ice Cream

For a little girls' teaparty complete with antique china what does one serve that is the epitome of femininity?  Homemade rose flavored ice cream is a nice choice!

Here is the recipe we used (improvised from How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman):

2 Cups half-and-half
1/2 cup sugar
2 TB cornstarch
1 cup cream
1 quart strawberries, hulled, sliced and a little mashed
3 TB rosewater (found at most Indian grocery stores)

1.  Combine the half-and-half and 1/4 cup sugar in saucepan.  Heat, stirring occasionally, until steam rises from the half-and-half, 3-5 minutes.  Remove from heat.
2.  Mix cornstarch with the rosewater to make a slurry.
3.  Whisk the slurry into the heated half-and-half, along with the remaining sugar.  Heat, stirring constantly, until thick.  
4.  Cool completely, then stir in the cream and freeze in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer's directions.  

The strawberries and rosewater are nice complementary flavors, and the strawberries help add a little rosy color.  (I posted a picture of the girls practicing for the tea party on our Facebook page)

Works for Me Wednesday!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Fun Uses for Kool Aid from Around the Web

With summer winding to a close maybe you have a stash of leftover kool-aid packets you are not sure what you are going to do with.  Here are some fun ideas from around the web:

1.  Tie dye a T-Shirt from The Chocolate Muffin Tree.
2.  Tie dye baby wipes also from Make and Takes
3.  Make homemade edible play-doh from Cupcake Kid Cafe
4.  Deep Fried Kool-Aid!  from Suzy Homefaker
5.  Make a scratch and sniff painting from Come Together Kids
6.  Make flavored rock candy from Instructables

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Ribbon Scavenger Hunt for Books

Here's how we made reading time a little more exciting today:

1.  Sent the girls outside to romp with the chickens.

2.  Tied together a handful of remnant ribbons into one long chain.
2.  Tied one end to a doorknob
3.  Tied the other to a fun book and hid the book.
4.  Threaded the rest of the ribbon around furniture, under shelves, up the stairs, etc.

5.  Brought the girls back in and told them to follow the ribbon until they found the book.   

6.  Settled down to read the book.

7.  Repeated twice!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Quick Coloring Activity: Make a Rainbow

Here's a quick and educational coloring activity my mother made.  You can print this one or easily make your own!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Band Aid Get Well Card

My kids are always on the look-out for an excuse to use band-aids.  So when I saw this cute idea on Pinterest I couldn't help but smile. 

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Styrofoam Fabric Art

I knew those styrofoam squares that came in my sausage study packaging (so fun to be paid to try out different kinds of sausage!) would come in handy for something.  Apparently, they are the perfect thing for a simple, unique art form that I discovered from Jellyfish Jelly (who, by the way, has a great blog full of crafty ideas for uncrafty parents).
Using a sharp pencil, you can poke small snippets of fabric into styrofoam to make a picture or just a pretty pattern.  It's very easy and makes for a unique effect.  M was able to do it without too much trouble.

The concept also works with crepe paper if you fold it once or twice. (Don't mind the extra "decoration" - just par for the course around here :-)
If I had easy access to styrofoam balls, I think it would be fun to make some pretty rainbow balls for tossing around.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Fun Magazine Recycling Ideas

If you are like me you have a big pile of magazines sitting somewhere that you can't bear to throw out just yet.  Here are some ideas for putting all those great pictures to use with your kids before your magazines end up in the recycling bin.  
Make homemade lick-em stickers.
Make Post-It Note Puzzles with some of the pictures.

Let your kids glue on the pizza toppings on a piece of round cardboard to make a pizza puzzle

Magnetic Flower arranging on an old cookie sheet

What fun ways have you used old magazines?  It would be great to hear your ideas!