Monday, May 31, 2010

Homemade Spinny Speller Tutorial & Giveaway (CLOSED)

~This giveaway is now closed~

I first learned about Spinny Spellers while shopping online in the lovely, but now closed store, Let's Explore. Spinny Spellers are basically blocks on a dowel with letters printed on them. The child spins the blocks around to create basic cvc (consonant-vowel-consonant) words.

Such a fun and simple idea, right? That's what I thought. Then my next thought (as it often is whenever I think about buying something) was - can I make this myself?

I realized I could and after a trip to the craft store I had all the materials I needed to make James a homemade Spinny Speller:

Here's what I bought:
:: Three small 1 inch wooden blocks
:: Two round wooden knobs with pre-drilled holes
:: One 1/4 inch thick wooden dowel

Here's what I did:
I asked my love if he'd very sweetly drill holes into the center of the blocks for me. He, always looking for a good excuse to use his power tools, very sweetly agreed. :) After some trial and error, he finally decided on using the 5/16th drill bit. He also cut the dowel down to 5 inches.

After the holes were drilled, I sanded the blocks to smooth the pointy edges.

Next, I hand painted the blocks using these awesome water soluble crayons.

Then I hand wrote the letters onto the blocks using a permanent marker. I researched common cvc words and decided on the following letters:

::block one: b, c, h, m
::block two: a, e, o, u
::block three: d, g, p, t

This makes quite a few "real" words and several "nonsense" words as well. For us, the point of the Spinny Speller is really just to teach James how to connect the sounds of letters and to realize that in doing this a word is created. Once he gets the hang of that the Spinny Speller will be used as a fun and easy reading tool.

Finally, after the blocks were painted and printed on, I slid them onto the dowel and capped each end of the dowel with a bit of glue and the round wooden knobs.

And that was it! Easy-peasy!!

Of course while I was making this I thought of all you lovely mamas and teachers and decided to make an extra one to give away to one of you! And, as it happens, I have materials still left over after making two Spinny Spellers and I think I'll be whipping up a couple more for birthday gifts as well. :)

So. If you're interested in winning one of my Spinny Spellers (which I'll send in one of my handmade gift bags), please do the following:

:: Leave a comment letting me know what is your child's favorite learning tool. (This could include art and music materials. I'm always looking for interesting things to use with James and I think this could be a great way to share our ideas with one another!)
:: Follow Counting Coconuts and leave me a separate comment letting me know you're following.
:: Blog about this giveaway and leave a separate comment letting me know you've blogged about it.

The giveaway will end at 11pm (Atlantic Time) on Friday, June 4th and Mr. James will randomly choose a winner the following morning. This giveaway is open to everyone - I'll ship anywhere in the world. :)

Thursday, May 27, 2010

May Sensory Tub & Playdough - Gardening

(Phew! I'm getting this in just under the wire, aren't I?)

Sensory Tub
I was so psyched about this month's tub because it involves dirt!! Like real actual dirt! What kid doesn't love playing in dirt?! And truth be told, I was anxious to get my hands in this tub for some sensory goodness! Ever since I was a kid I've loved getting my hands dirty whether it be with mud, paint or flour. :) Hooray for messy fun!!

James saw the tub and said, "Ooo what's that?! It's beautiful!". :) Bless his little heart.

Here's what's inside:
:: Dirt - organic potting soil, to be exact. If you create this yourself please be sure to use organic soil because the other stuff has far too many chemicals in it for little hands.
:: Little gardening tools - this is the set we bought & it has three tools and a kneeling mat.
:: Silk sunflowers
:: Small clay pots - to scoop dirt, collect seeds or plant the sunflowers in.
:: Lots of rocks
:: Plant markers - these are actually from my own potted plants, but had been pulled out by James. Thankfully I can tell the difference between mint and dill! :D
:: Seeds - I used the biggest seeds I could find: sunflower, peas & pumpkin.
:: Small (fake!) bugs and snakes

My bloggy friend, Cara, from The Picky Apple made an awesome garden sensory tub for her cute little guy where she used real flowers and LIVE worms! Now that's one super mama!! (sorry, James, your mama just can't handle creepy crawly stuff!)

(fyi, I've just added my go-to playdough recipe to my sidebar.)

I went with brown to simulate dirt and, with this idea in mind, I created a little gardening activity for James.
He can put the "dirt" in the little pot and grow some plants...

He can roll out a little garden bed and grow some flowers. :)

I'm positive he'll come up with lots of other ideas on his own - he's the true creative force behind our activities!

The little pebbles (in the muslin bag pictured above) and the tiny flowers provide an excellent opportunity for fine motor improvement.

Live and learn: the playdough stuck to the clay pot and would not come off without washing. Just something to keep in mind should you recreate this activity for yourself.

PS: This is an OUTDOOR ONLY sensory tub for us! I like dirt, but I do not like it in my house! :)

PPS: I'm linking this post up to a couple of fun blog carnivals - click here for more information.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

We're Home!

After a wonderfully fun and very busy couple of weeks, we've returned from our trip to Minnesota exhausted and happy to return to our normal routine.

As always, it takes a bit of time to get back into a groove. That said, it'll be another handful of days before I get around to posting on either of my blogs. Thanks so much for your kind emails and concern for my absence - rest assured all is well!!

I've been a busy bee creating and crafting and as a result I'll have some fun mama-made giveaways coming up! I also have yet to post May's sensory tub and playdough, as well as a few new practical life activities. There's so much I want to share with all of you, the hard part is just finding the time to do it!! :)

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Activity Kits

Whenever we go on a trip whether it be overseas or to a restaurant or the doctor's office, I create activity kits to keep James occupied. These are basically games and toys separated into individual zipper bags (which I found at a dollar store).

The fact that the objects are kept in their own bags makes them easy to grab while we're en route, handy to carry around and simple to clean up. I choose things that I know will intrigue and entertain James. I always make these kits well in advance and then hide them until the trip so they're new and interesting.

Below is a collection of kits I've created for past trips. You can click here to see some others I've made when James was younger. Note, we don't bring along ALL of these on each trip. The contents change as James does. :)

Memory game. I purchased this beautiful handmade game here.

Matching numbers to pictures.

Animals. James loves these Toob animals and goes off into his own world whenever he plays with them. :)

CVC cards.

Linkable shapes to sort by color or shape.

Fruit & vegetable matching game.

Math in a bag.

ASL cards. I found these on abcteach.

Modeling beeswax. This is a nice, time consuming activity because you really have to warm the wax up in your hands before it becomes malleable.

Playdough & a few cutters. As you all know, I prefer homemade playdough, but it doesn't keep well during travel, so I opt for the teeny-tiny jars of Play-Doh.

Lacing number beads.

Peg games.

Open and close items.

Stickers and a little "sticker book" - just a bunch of scrap paper stapled together. (Samson is my friend's son's name - I created some activity kits for her to take on a trip.)

Lacing shapes.

Peg stackers - we love these! You can find them here.

Clothespins - an excellent fine motor activity. James can try to match the pins to the holes or to the numbers on the card.

Counting/number puzzle - I found this somewhere on the island, but it's available here.

Big bag of sorting fun! This is an oldie, but goodie - James just loves it. He can sort these things either by color or object.

Color cards. These would go well with the above-mentioned sorting bag.

Lock and key.

Constellation matching - these are the same cards we used during our space unit.

Other activity ideas:
:: Small books
:: Crayons in a handy-dandy crayon roll
:: Mini Mudpuppy sticker scenes.
:: Three part cards
:: Nomenclature cards (family cards are great, if you're getting ready to visit relatives)
:: A few drawers from the alphabet box
:: Spinny speller
:: Brain Quest deck
:: Paper people

~Thank you for your comments~

Sunday, May 2, 2010

18 Miles!

This is just a quick post to say THANK YOU to all of you lovely bloggy friends for wishing me a happy birthday on here, through emails and on Facebook!

And, because some of you asked...

I spent my 34th birthday walking 18 miles for the island's annual charity walk. I've been training for this for over 5 months, and having had 4 knee surgeries with one still pending, I feel so happy about completing this goal with both knees perfectly intact! :) It was a beautiful day and I enjoyed every minute of it!


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