Thursday, December 23, 2010

More Toddler Holiday Art

Yesterday the toddlers (my nephew is here for a few days while his parents settle in at home with his newborn bro) made pretty Christmas trees! I cut out the three from green paper. We gave them 4 colors of paint and some Q tips and let them have fun! I showed them briefly how to use the Q tips to make dots for lights, but neither wanted to do that, which was fine. Then they glued a star on the top!
Our after-nap project yesterday was to make a Christmas Light Lit House....since we were going to look at lights later that night. I cut out the house from brown cardstock. We gave the kids a gluestick to put the house on the green paper. Then they worked with tubes of washable glitter glue to put "lights" on the houses. Unfortunately my glitter glue is about ready to be replaced and was pretty dried up and not squeezing out real well....but they had fun all the same! Love those tubes of glitter glue, by the way, and Q does, too! Perfect stocking stuffer, if you're still in the market for items for your kiddos!
Posted by Picasa

Friday, December 17, 2010


Sometimes after we finish a craft Q isn't ready to stop art time. I use these moments for "skills practice"--undirected time when she can do whatever she wants to practice certain skills. I focus them by the materials I supply--today I gave her 2 glue bottles (to allow for a little choice) and some sticks and foam shapes. I am not really a foam shape fan because I think they are kinda boring and don't allow for much creativity, but they are GREAT for practicing gluing! Any small objects are perfect for this! Q is learning to squeeze the glue bottle, to gently wipe the tip as she lifts to remove all the glue, to drag the bottle while squeezing to make a glue line, and many other important gluing skills. And she loves the unstructured time when she can do whatever she wants!
Posted by Picasa

Candy Cane craft

Easy peasy...made a glue/water solution for Q to paint on this cardboard candycane cut out. We looked at a real candycane and talked about the design, colors, etc. Then she stuck white and red yarn on!
Posted by Picasa

Stringing Beads

I have probably written about stringing beads before and what fabulous fine motor/hand-eye activity practice beading it encourages color awareness, pattern development, shape awareness, and size awareness (length). I like to use shoelaces (with a knot at one end) and my other favorite "stringer" is a pipecleaner. They stay stiff for the child to push on the beads and best of all, the beads don't slip off the end easily because the fuzzy strands grip them in place. We started initially with large, wooden beads (from Michael's bead deparment), moved on to the large-holed plastic "pony beads" (from Walmart's craft dept.) and recently I introduced her to a mix of beads with smaller holes, requiring more precision, but offering some more challenge. This was just a box I used in my first grade classroom, and she discovered the little alphabet beads in there and went crazy! She found all the letters she knew and was very interested in using them. I keep a little baggie of beads and a shoelace in my purse for emergencies when we need to keep her entertained. Q loves to make the pipecleaners into bracelets for people she loves! Lately she has a hard time leaving the beads on, though. She's figured out she can slide them all off by pushing the bottom one up, and it's just too hard to we have a lot of empty pipecleaners at the end of beading sessions. :)
Posted by Picasa

Two projects....

Painted the toilet tissue tube and the cardboard gingerbread man (traced onto cereal box with a cookie cutter pattern) day 1.
After they dried we added the accessories on day 2!
This guy is a little scary looking...but hey, it's all her own work and that's how she wanted him!
Simple and fun Christmas crafts that didn't require us to buy a thing and use some repurposed materials!
Posted by Picasa

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Book Fave

Quinn absolutely loved this potato counting book. It is written in rhyme, which made the words easy for her to learn. She loved seeing the characters--Potato Joe, Watermelon Moe, Tomato Flo, Big Black Crow, etc. The pictures are very appealing and the text is simple--counting the potatoes, mostly.

It kinda annoyed me at the end because the potatoes had been out in the ground all along through the story, then at the end they hop into the ground. A little confusing scientifically, but Q loved it, all the same!

Can you tell I took this pic on my lap at the library right before I returned it?
Posted by Picasa

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Notable play-dough tools

Playdough is one of my favorite materials for toddlers and preschoolers to work with. It has so many benefits, which I've discussed before. I typically try to use objects we already have around the house for our educational experiences, but I do occasionally purchase some specific items. One is miniture cookie cutter sets. For toddlers it's difficult for them to get enough play dough smashed down flat to press the large cutters into. Smaller ones fit perfectly into their hands and then can flatten an appropriate area. I found this Christmas set at Ross for $3.49 yesterday and it has 10 pieces! Yeaaaa! I also love the textured rollers. Using rolling pins is great exercise for wrist control that is so essential for writing. Love having a variety of textures available for rolling--and the different textures mean that a different amount of pressure is necessary to move the pin, as well, which teaches the child to accomodate as the use their wrist muscles. I bought a 4-pack at Mardel (Hobby Lobby and Lakeshore also have these), and the pins in this set were actually a little smaller than the ones I've had in my classrooms, which I like for little toddler hands. The 4-pack was $10 (and I didn't remember my coupon or it'd have been cheaper...) and I am using 2 out of the pack for Christmas gifts....
I also include a small plastic knife for cutting and slicing and a small metal spatula for scooping.

2 other tools I really love (that we don't yet have) are playdough scissors (really any scissors could work) and wooden/plastic pizza cutters.
Posted by Picasa

Decorating a stocking

Today I cut a stocking out of heavy paper. I made a diluted glue solution. Q painted the stocking with glue and then attached cotton balls, red paper triangles I'd cut out, and some sequins!
Posted by Picasa

Countdown chain

Today we made a paper chain to count down the days until Oma and Opa get here. We cut 4 red and 4 green. I drew Christmas objects on the green (candy cane, elf, Christmas tree, ornament--and as I drew I explained how I was drawing each feature--this is important to model for toddlers and preschoolers as they learn to think through drawings and add appropriate of the best activities you can do with your child is just sit and draw--talking aloud the whole time!) and Quinn drew on the red strips. Then we stapled them together. I talked to her about a pattern and what that means. We said, "red, green, red, green," together many, many times. Then I said it by adding a clap when I said "red" and a slap on the table when I said "green" and showed Q a musical version of our pattern.
Posted by Picasa

Christmas project must-have!!

Love these large sequins for Christmas crafting with a toddler. Perfect for gluing on all our pretty things and so many uses for them. They also have a tiny hole in the top, so older kids could string them with a needle.

Plus....they are very cheap at the craft store!
Posted by Picasa

Don't Lick The Dog--recommended book

Here is our recent library fave. This is a book that talks about how you should act when you meet a new dog. PERFECT for toddlers and preschoolers--who are fascinated with new animals and sometimes a little too friendly toward them. The book addresses how to ask before petting another dog, how to hold your hand, what to do if a dog jumps on you or barks too much.
Quinn totally absorbed all of the information and can finish every line of the book. When we see new dogs we remind her what the book said, and she does exactly like it taught. The illustrations are fabulous--fun and bold and energetic, without being too busy. Quinn loves finding the dogs that are named in the book. We've had this book for 3 renewal periods now, so it was definitely a favorite!
Posted by Picasa

Simple Christmas Crafts

I think sometimes I get so excited about the great multi-stepped Christmas crafts out there that I forget about the simple ones. Having a toddler has helped me remember this year! One of our first Christmas crafts was simply painting a tree. I cut it out of the back of a Cheerios box. Quinn painted it, and then I gave her some shiny sequins to press into the paint while it was still wet (didn't get a photo of that). She has already gifted it to someone special to decorate their home!
Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Clothespin Nativity

This month we are talking about how Jesus brings us the "best life" (from John 10:10), and have been highlighting different parts of his life. Last week we talked about how a baby born in the humblest of circumstances brought us the best life--but how this isn't what people typically think of when they think of a good life--ie: not based on material possessions. There was a kids time where the children's minister talked about how Jesus wasn't born in a nice nursery with a crib and some soft blankets, and then what this means to us. I wanted to reinforce this at home, so I decided Q needed a nativity. I shopped online, with an idea in my mind of what I wanted.
Something simple and accurate--Mary shouldn't be beautiful with a gold robe and Joseph should be tall and elegantly dressed and stately....amazing how many nativities depict them this way.....
I wanted something she could touch and handle and not break.
I wanted it made of natural materials--not plastic.
Yikes--that left one problem. E-X-P-E-N-S-I-V-E!!!!
So I decided I would have to make one. I did a little internet surfing to get some ideas and then headed to my studio during nap time. I resolved to use only materials I already had. I had so much fun! I really tried to think about how to dress each character and what elements to give them--the shepherds have long hair and beards because they're out in the fields all the time...etc. I went with the Waldorf method of not putting faces on the dolls. I like the simplicity
of it and it allows for your imagination...and also I didn't want Mary to have that holy, peaceful gaze that's typically depicted on Mary's in nativities....since I don't know how to draw a scared to-death teenage mommy expression, I decided to go for simplicity. :)

a VERY short and informal discussion on why Waldorf dolls don't have faces that sums it up pretty well.

So, several days later....we still LOVE the nativity....Q plays with it every day. She can name all the figures. She likes to make Mary and Joseph hold baby Jesus. Soon I will get out the Bible and read the story and we can act it out.

So hopefully you're inspired to get crafty and make a nativity of your own! Good fun, I tell ya!

You need three pieces for the main body--a doll type clothespin, a clothespin stand, and a large wooden ball for the head.

The clothespin fits into the stand.
To start making clothes, measure from the top of the clothespin down to the stand (and a little bit extra if you plan to cinch it up with a tie for a belt.) I put a plain layer--muslim, under the regular clothes. So cut your clothes pieces in strips, fold them in half over the clothespin, and then hot glue them by putting a glob on the top of the clothespin.
This is the angel--so I did a layer of shiny silver fabric covered by some lace. Once both (all) your layers are glued down, put another glob of glue and attach the ball for the head.

The next part to add is the arms. I like to do it after the clothes are in place so I make them the right length. Fold a pipe cleaner in half.
Twist the pipecleaner around the part where the clothespin has a little nitch . Then put the clothes back down, tie on the belt and cut the arms the size you want. I always bend the very end a bit to look like a hand.

To seal off any ribbons or ties you use for a belt, lightly burn the edge with a lighter. This will keep the end from freying.
I made Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, and the angel using this same method. I added some string, yarn for hair, felt for beards, flannel strips for head covers, and different types of ties. The shepherds hold pipecleaner staffs. I basically just got out all the scrap fabrics I had and went to town with some scissors and my glue gun!
For baby Jesus I just cut the doll clothespin in half, using the ball at the top for the head. I wrapped a piece of muslim around and glued it down to look like he was swaddled. I made the manger by gluing together several small pieces of scrapwood I found on the floor of the shop and stuffed some dried grass inside.
For the sheep I used THIS tutorial.
For the wisemen I had another set of doll clothespins that were darker wood and the ball on the top was less spherical and a little longer. I used that for the head--I didn't glue on a head bead. I cut my fabric the same way, but then cut a small hole in the middle to slip over the head. I glued an acorn cap on for a hat, and used some ribbon to wrap around them for cloaks. For their gifts I painted some little wooden spools metallic colors.
For the donkey I cut a body shape out of a cereal box (similar to the way you make the sheep). I cut some grey felt into inch-wide strips. Painted the two clothespin feet and a cork for the head grey. My trick on painting the cork was that I stuck a large needle into it, that way I could hold the needle (and also the cork) and still paint all the surface. I stuck the needle into the handle of a wicker basket to dry.
Then I started wrapping the body in the felt strips, hot gluing down the ends. I made a mane and tale out of black felt and some grey felt ears.
For the stable I raided the scrap pile in the shop for suitable pieces and Matt nailed them together for me. I wanted it to look rough and simple.
Posted by Picasa

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Healthy Hummus

One healthy food I have been giving Quinn since she was a baby is hummus. It's made of chickpeas (garbanzo beans), so it's a great source of protein. It has a thick consistency, so it was wonderful for self-feeding when she was learning to use a spoon--at first I'd put a glob on her spoon, hand it to her and let her lick it off, holding the spoon herself. For younger infants you could thin it a bit with some breastmilk or water.

Now I like to make "porcupines" for Q for a snack or for lunch. I put a big glob of hummus on her plate and poke stick pretzels into it all over it (unfortunately today we only have the other kind of pretzels). She loves this!

Q would gladly be a vegetarian (with the exception of milk) if we'd let her, so I am constantly working diligently to get enough protein into her meals. Hummus is a nice variation to the cheese, turkey, yogurt, nuts, and peanut butter we lunch/snack on!

Sabra is my favorite brand and Walmart and Sams carries it.

I also offer carrot sticks, broccoli, cauliflower, whole wheat crackers, or whole wheat toast strips for dippers.

Hummus is also great for scooping practice--Q can scoop it into her bowl on her own. We are working on the skill of GENTLY tapping the spoon on the side of the bowl to get all the hummus off into the dish.
Posted by Picasa

Monday, November 29, 2010

Practical our day to day.

I am always looking for opportunities to encourage self-reliance, sensory exploration and fine motor practice into our daily rhythm. One thing I do is let Q do some scooping of food. Today she requested some vegetables for lunch. I keep a tupperware of frozen veggies in the freezer for lunches and snacks on those days our fridge is bare of anything fresh (today being the first day home after vacation is a prime example!!). I set Q up on her stool, the veggies on her left and the bowl she would scoop into on the right. She then used her spoon to scoop veggies from left to right (to train her brain in the way print runs). She felt so proud helping and she exercised so many toddler skills in this simple activity. She also scoops yogurt, cheerios, and other foods at lunch time.
Posted by Picasa

Three Bears--toddler version

Our 26 month-old is right on the cusp of being ready for paperback storybooks...we're still hanging on to some favorite, longer board books, but she's ready for a bit more plot and length. This is a tricky world--finding trade books that are simple and short enough to keep her attention. Here is one of our current favorites:

I love that the book tells the story of the three bears, but the text is kept very sparse and just the necessary details are given. Here's a sample page:

The way that there is a small phrase above each illustration is a great tool for teaching text-to-picture awareness. The child begins to see that the text connected to the picture describes the illustration.

I also love the way that there is a separate illustration for each step in the story to help facilitate comprehension for little ones.

This book is a fabulous choice for toddlers who are entering the world of "real" stories and my girl just eats it up when I read this one to her! She's learning some great vocabulary--porridge, cottage, etc. She's also getting her first taste at the elements of plot in all stories--setting, characters, problem, solution....I try to briefly discuss these with her in a natural fashion--for example:
"Look, their cottage--that's another word for house--is in the woods. See how there are trees all around it?"
"Uhhh-ohhh--will the bears be happy that Goldilocks came in their house without knocking?"