Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Halloween Sensory Bin

We're eagerly looking forward to Halloween tomorrow, it's one of our favorite holidays. Earlier this week we set up this fun Halloween sensory bin to tide over our excitement until the actual holiday.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Building Math Skills with Beading

The other day I was looking for something quiet for Big Brother and I to do while Little Brother took his nap. I realized we hadn't done any beading in a while. As soon as I knew Big Brother was too old to put small things into his mouth I introduced him to using beads.

We use classic "pony" beads. Originally we started with stringing them onto pipe cleaners, as they were easier for little hands to start with but these days we use a thin, satin ribbon. We tie one bead to an end to be a stopper as he beads. When he finishes we knot the other end through the bead.

I've liked keeping beads on hand as it promotes developing fine motor skills, including the small muscles in a child's hand which we use everyday for a multitude of things: writing, buttoning, zipping, playing, etc. It also promotes hand-eye coordination, helping our brain to get our eyes and hands to work together.

But as we were creating our necklace this day it struck me how much more we were doing; this simple quick project was full of early math skills. All of the skills mentioned below are important in developing early mathematical understanding which will lead to stronger reasoning, logical thinking, and complex problem solving skills.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Pumpkin Spice Playdough

Today was one of those days that already felt a little like November, it was just a little too cool and gloomy to really enjoy being outside. On top of the weather, or maybe because of it, Big Brother really seemed like he was in the mood to squeeze and mash something. So I decided we'd whip up a fresh batch of playdough. Earlier this year we experimented with Chocolate Cake Playdough, so today I was inspired to try a pumpkin version.

This is a cooked playdough recipe, but Big Brother was able to help me mix up all the ingredients before I cooked it. We enjoyed smelling the different spices as we added them into the basic playdough recipe. 

Friday, October 18, 2013

Pumpkin Plate Shaker

This was another quick, fun pumpkin project we completed this week. To make it I gathered a few things we had around the house: paper plates, black construction paper, dried beans, orange paint, glue, and curling ribbon.

First, Big Brother painted the back side of the plates orange. We let them dry overnight.

The next afternoon I cut some black construction paper into triangle pieces and a jack-o-lantern mouth piece and Big Brother glued them onto the plate.

We taped the curling ribbon to the inside of one of the plates. We then filled the plate with a handful of dried beans. Ideally it would have been better to use dried pumpkin seeds as we talked about what was inside a real pumpkin, but we didn't have any on hand. 

Afterwards we stapled the two plates together with the orange sides out. Big Brother had a lot of fun making noise with it, shaking it, and banging it like a tambourine. These would be especially fun to use at a Halloween parade! 

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Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Five Little Pumpkin Handprints

Although we've already been doing a lot of baking with canned pumpkins this fall our Alphabet Adventure this weekend kicked off some fun pumpkin craft activities this week.

We based our first project around the Five Little Pumpkins rhyme. We really like the Raffi version we download a while back, but you can find many versions online. Here's the version we've been using:

Five Little Pumpkins
Five little pumpkins sitting on a gate. 
The first one said, "Oh my it's getting late!"
The second one said, "There are witches in the air!""
The third one said, "But we don't care!"
The fourth one said, "Let's run and run and run!"
The fifth one said, "I'm ready for some fun!"
Ooooh went the wind . . . 
and out went the lights.
And the five little pumpkins rolled out of sight. 

After we'd listened to it a few times this week and added in some hand motions I thought it would be fun to do an extension project. We decided to do some handprint painting. 

Rather than paint his whole hand, which wouldn't look very pumpkin like, we just painted his palm orange and one finger green. 

We printed his hand five times and then we mixed the green and orange paint to make brown. Big Brother painted in a gate. 

We let the paint dry for about an hour. When we returned to the project we added in googly eyes and used black Sharpie marker to create noses and mouths. The last two pumpkins even got long "tongues."

At the end Big Brother used our large star punch to cut out purple and yellow stars to add to the sky. 

The best part of this project was how he really liked it and kept repeating the rhyme as he worked. 

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Sunday, October 13, 2013

Alphabet Adventures: P is for Pancakes and Pumpkins

We were really excited to involve two of our favorite local places in our Alphabet Adventures: a local café and our favorite farm stand. The two are about a half mile away from one another and made a perfect "P" adventure.
The Adventure
We started our morning at the café, which Big Brother used to call "The Pancake Store" because ever since he was little he has always gotten pancakes there. It's a great local place for breakfast and lunch, and we've been going there for years. I even waited tables there just after college, so it's a comfortable place with people we know.

Our pancakes, as always, were delicious!

After breakfast we headed down the road to our favorite farm stand in order to explore their pumpkin patch. 

Big Brother picked the largest pumpkin he could find, which he promptly turned into a seat. Little Brother had fun exploring the different pumpkins, using them as props for standing up. 

Later in the day we read a great pumpkin book It's Pumpkin Time by Zoe Hall. There are so many great pumpkin books, it was hard to pick. But this one has colorful illustrations which clearly and simply explain the life cycle of a pumpkin. 

The Project: P is for Purple Paint
We decided to keep the project a little simpler again by just sticking to painting. 

As Big Brother painted we talked about some other "p" words. He decided to paint a purple pig with a purple princess looking at it. As we were painting just before bed, I couldn't resist reading one more book: Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson. We've been enjoying how Harold's imagination takes him such fabulous places, so it was a great reread. 

Our P adventure and project proved to be an easy one to complete with lots of different "P"ossibilities. 

Other P adventure ideas: park, playground, picnic, party, playoff game, or pool. 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Coffee Filter Fall Leaves

We're still enjoying the beautiful colors this fall, although admitting that we're sadly reaching the end of the season. We've been looking at the different shapes of the leaves in the yard and on walks, which prompted me to create a leaf art project. 
Although we never have , you can buy precut leaves made from the same paper as coffee filters. In fact, I was admiring them in a catalog the other day, but guessed I could make our own from plain white coffee filters. I folded the filter in half, and then cut out a leaf shape. 

I didn't make our leaves realistic, but could have if I wanted to. Instead I just tried to cut some with points and some with rounded tips. 

After I had cut the leaves, Big Brother colored them with washable markers. 

He then sprayed the leaves with water. This caused the colors to blend together. Big Brother always loves this part. 

We had to move off the floor to the table, as Little Brother became really interested in the project. We found putting the leaves on a cookie tray worked well for spraying. After spraying we placed the leaves on plain white paper to dry. 

We made several leaves and in the end had some beautiful colored leaves to hang in our front window. 

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Friday, October 4, 2013

Alphabet Adventures: O is for Orchard

Fall has proven to be a great time to continue our adventures by giving us all new options. When we started our adventures I envisioned a summer day trip to the ocean but as the cool temps arrived our ocean trip turned into an orchard trip.

The Adventure
Every fall we enjoy picking apples as a family and a favorite spot is Windy Ridge Orchard. The orchard provides flavorful apples, amazing fall views, and lots of fun extras like farm animals, a playground, and sweet treats. 

Before arriving we talked to Big Brother about what an orchard is, a place with lots of fruit trees. He remembered last year and couldn't wait to get to the apples.
Little Brother and Big Brother both enjoyed the wagon ride. 

Mmm, Big Brother enjoys the first bites and Little Brother enjoyed his first tastes. 

As we were there a little later in the season, a lot of the best apples were up high. 

Of course, we also enjoyed some other elements of the orchard. We loved their fun photo cut outs and feeding the variety of farm animals. We sampled some delicious kettle corn (sadly, the amazing smelling donut line was just too long) and some fresh cider. 

One of the best treats for Big Brother was the "cow" ride which loops through the orchard. 

When we got home we read Picking Apples, Picking Pumpkins by Amy & Richard Hutchings. 

The Project: O is for Octopus
O could have been for orange, either in a color collage or orange prints. But, although sounds haven't been the focus of our adventures, when I mentioned "orange" he told me he couldn't hear an /o/ sound in the word. Since we had also done orchard with the same /or/ sound at the beginning for orchard, I decided to switch it up last minute. 

We have an octopus shaped massage tool which we decided to dip into orange paint. 

Big Brother used it to see what different patterns it could make. First he tried making dot patterns. 

Next he found he could turn it in order to make a large circle, or as he called it, "O."

After painting I couldn't resist playing on the octopus theme a little more. For dinner he had an octopus hot dog in an ocean of peas with apple waves. While we ate we listened to "An Octopus's Garden" by the Beatles. 

It's always fun to make our letter fun go in lots of directions!

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Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Alphabet Adventures: N is for Noodles

I can't believe it's taken me over a week to write up this Alphabet Adventure. But we've been a little excited about the amazing fall weather and getting outside as much as possible. We also celebrated my husband's birthday this past weekend and had several special projects to complete before his big day.

I have to admit this wasn't our best adventure either. Our errands ahead of time ran late, which meant we were all over hungry and ready to be home. Big Brother was also a little under the weather, which meant he really wasn't feeling himself and acting that way. And Little Brother was way over due for a break from all the errands. But in a "Real Family Moment" we gave it a go despite the early warning signs it might not work out and then decided to take our food to go shortly after it arrived. Although not that fun, it was important for us to set some consistency in our expectations and to admit when it was no longer working to stay. To top it off, the camera wasn't set on the right setting so please excuse the blurry photos. 

The Adventure: N is for Noodle
A new "noodle" restaurant opened locally. The restaurant allows you to mix and match from a selection of noodles, sauces, and add-ins to create your own personalized dish. They then cook it to order. We decided to order two of their recommended creations for ourselves and helped Big Brother order his own creation. 

As we waited for our food to arrive, we also tasted one of the restaurant's other specialities: bubble tea. Having never tried it before, it was a huge hit with both Big Brother and myself. 

When our food came we were really impressed with the sizes of the portions and flavors. Unfortunately, Big Brother really started to crash and we decided it was better to pack it all up and took the noodles home and enjoyed them there instead. 

A few days later we read More Spaghetti, I Say! by Rita Golden Gelman about a monkey who loves spaghetti and eats a little too much. We connected the book to the noodles Big Brother had ordered. 

The Project: N is for Night
We did a quick project for N, which is to create a night scene using black paper, silver marker, gel pens, and stickers. 
I'm really enjoying how Big Brother's imagination is taking off with his free art. For this project he decided to draw fireworks with an astronaut floating in space. 

We've been enjoying another "Henry" adventure and reading Henry's Night by D.B. Johnson and read the book another time after finishing the project. 

Although it wasn't our best adventure, we still were really glad to try out a new restaurant and we're looking forward to trying it again. 

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