Friday, February 25, 2011

Alphabet Crayons Giveaway Winner!

Thanks very much to all who entered this giveaway! Your kind comments and congratulations made me smile each day. :)

Now, without further ado, I'd like to offer my congratulations to Kara from Little Learner's Lounge - you've won the alphabet crayon set! Kara, please email me ( with your shipping address and we'll get those cute crayons out to you right away!

PS: I'll be away from this space for a few days while I prep next month's shelves. Hope you all enjoy the rest of February!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Homemade I Spy Bottles & Tutorial

Our I Spy sensory tubs are a huge hit with James and they keep him happily occupied for quite a while, so I wanted to find a way to bring a smaller version of them on our recent trip to NYC.

I've seen I Spy bottles all over the blogworld, so I decided to make a few. James LOVED them and while we were in the airport he would exclaim things like, "I spy an apple! I spy a lion!", which made all the older ladies in the area smile and chuckle. :) One mom actually stopped to ask where I purchased it and was excited when she realized she could make her own!

Once I got started making these, I found I had a hard time stopping! I made this months of the year/holiday themed bottle and created a bingo card to go along with it.

When James finds the object he's looking for, he places a marker on the card.

Here's an ABC bottle. This one is a lot of fun because James has to find the letters in alphabetical order. I made a check list for him to tick off as he found each letter. I laminated this so he can reuse it.

Want to make your own? Here's how:
Find a bottle:
A quick idea is an empty water bottle. Personally, I always prefer glass over plastic (I just think it feels nicer), so I went on a hunt through the grocery store to find a lightweight, cylindrical bottle. Since I wanted this to be easy to travel with, I didn't want anything too long or wide (keep in mind the tiny hands that are playing with this) and I found spice and condiment jars to be the perfect thing. (Incidentally, the food items didn't go to waste, I simply transferred them to another container.)

Think of a theme:
~animal theme~
The ideas for an I Spy bottle are endless! You could do just a hodgepodge of various trinkets like the first one I created, or you could focus on a theme - animals, colors, books, shapes, numbers, holidays. Chasing Cheerios made this super cute Halloween bottle. Seasonal bottles could be fun, too - you could fill a bottle with sand and shells for summer, or perhaps some brown rice with different colored flowers and bugs to simulate a spring garden.

Find the objects:
Anything hard and small will work - beads, marbles, buttons. Keep in mind, the smaller the bottle, the smaller (and fewer) your objects need to be and vice-versa. The buttons in the above photos work really well in these bottles and can be found here or at most craft or scrapbooking stores and come in a wide variety of themes. You could print tiny photos (a family members bottle would be neat!) or use stickers (stuck back to back) and then laminate them so they're a bit more firm. Things like pom-poms and other fabric items aren't ideal as they do not move fluidly and tend to clog up the bottle.

Find a filler:
I found rice to be the best medium because it's lightweight, it moves easily around your objects and it doesn't stick to them, either. Small pasta or colored salt or sand could work, too. This is a great way to repurpose anything you've used in the past - for example, the rainbow rice in the photo below is from our rainbow theme last year!

Put it all together:
I've tried this a few ways and I found what worked best was to alternate adding objects and the filler, a little at a time. Fill the bottle until your container is about 2/3 full (you want to leave room for everything to move around). Finally, use a hot glue gun to seal the cap to the bottle. Note: if you want to make a bingo card, be sure to take photos of the objects before you put them in your bottle.

PS: these would make GREAT birthday gifts or party favors!
~ocean theme~

~Thank you for your comments!~

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Alphabet Crayons Giveaway

~This giveaway is now closed~

I was excited to see Counting Coconuts now has over 1,000 followers! My goodness, I can't believe that many of you enjoy my lil' blog! So, as a way of saying thank you for your support and constant kindness, I'd like to gift to one of you this awesome crayon set I found at the lovely Ducks In A Row Boutique on Etsy.

Isn't it fun?! I fell in love with it the moment I saw it! You'll get all 26 letters and a nifty little storage bag, which has the perfect quote stamped on it:
"If you're feeling blue try painting yourself a different color."

I love things that are multi-purpose and in this case not only will your little ones enjoy expressing their imaginations, they'll learn about colors, letters and sounds (each of the letters has a picture of an object that starts with that letter).

Be sure to check out all the other goodies in the Ducks In A Row Boutique - there are tons of wonderful things there. I plan on ordering some of these adorable sea creature crayons as party favors for James' upcoming 4th birthday beach bash!

If you'd like to enter to win the ABC crayon set all you have to do is:

1. Leave me a comment in this post.

For extra entries:
2. Like Counting Coconuts on Facebook and leave me a comment letting me know you have/already are.
3. Follow Counting Coconuts and leave me a comment letting me know you have/already are.
4. After today come back and leave me one comment per day until the end of the giveaway.

The giveaway is only open to residents (or those with mailing addresses) within the US or Canada and will end on Thursday, February 24th at 9pm Atlantic Time.

Good luck, everyone!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Homemade Playdough Recipe & Notes

There are tons of homemade playdough recipes out there and so really all I'm doing here is adding to the pile. :) But, I can tell you that I've tried quite a few of those recipes and the one I've detailed below is my absolute fav.

*I give full credit to My Montessori Journey for this recipe. I've decided to replicate it here because I have a few "notes from the trenches" to add to it.*

Homemade Playdough Recipe
1 cup Flour
1/2 cup Salt
1 tablespoon Cream of Tartar
1 tablespoon Cooking Oil
1 cup Water

1. In a medium sized bowl, combine all dry ingredients and mix well. Add wet ingredients to bowl and, again, mix well.

2. Add contents to a large pan and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly until it forms a ball.

3. The dough is ready when the mixture pulls away from the pan and when the wet parts begin to look dry.

4. Turn the dough onto your countertop and knead it until smooth. It will be quite warm to the touch, so be careful!

5. Add food coloring, glitter, extracts, etc. AFTER the dough has cooled. The color and scents won't "take" as well when the dough is hot/very warm.

Notes from the trenches:
Re the ingredients, I use an off-brand of salt - it's cheaper and let's face it, when you're using a 1/2 cup each time, you don't want to/need to be using high quality stuff. A lot of people aren't sure what Cream of Tartar is - it's a white powder, very common, found along with all the other spices in your grocery store. UPDATE: A reader wrote in with the tip that lemon juice could replace Cream of Tartar in the event you don't have it on hand.

I like to use gel food coloring, such as this kind, because I find it comes in a wide variety of "unusual" colors (e.g. black, navy blue, hot pink) and a little goes a long way. The everyday McCormick brand is good too.

When it comes to storing the dough, I find it best to keep it in a Ziploc container or bag in the refrigerator. In this way it'll last months. I know some folks keep theirs out at room temp and it maintains its original state perfectly fine. I'm assuming it's because of Bermuda's constant humidity that mine turns to goo after a few hours of sitting out.

It's time to toss the dough out when it starts to look dry and crusty or when it gets very sticky and gooey. What you want it a nice, smooth, elastic consistency.

If you choose to add glitter, please note you'll need A LOT of it. This is a situation where a lot of glitter goes only a little way.

UPDATED: Imagination Tree shared the tip that a few drops of glycerin (which can be purchased at a craft or cooking store) makes the dough wonderfully stretchy and smooth.

I make a new batch of playdough each month. You can click the links below to go to the actual posts to see how we used the dough. You can also view a slideshow of our dough here on my Counting Coconuts Facebook page.

Our Playdough Themes
January: Space
January: Snow
February: Chocolate - two links: here and here.
March: St. Patrick's Day and Easter eggs
March: Weather
April: Rainbow
May: Gardening
May: Robot
July: Independence Day
July: Beach
August: Ice cream
September: Apple pie
October: Halloween - two links: here and here.
November: Turkeys
December: Christmas - two links: here and here.

Happy dough making!

~Thank you for your comments!~

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Counting Hearts

You all know how I love to create counting tools for my number-loving boy, so after seeing these counting valentines on one of my fav. blogs, itty bitty love, I knew I just had to whip up a set.

I didn't attach magnets because I plan to use these with our Storytelling Fun felt board instead. Much like my counting fish, I went ahead and added the corresponding number of little gems to each heart, and I used the same fabric paint I used for my counting eggs.

We'll enjoy these during our circle time and we'll use them in conjunction with the cute song Ann mentions in the link above.

~Thank you for your comments!~

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Valentine Favors

Just thought I'd share some simple Valentine favors I made for a recent Valentine's Day party we hosted.
I've made recycled crayons before (click here for my tutorial), but I was recently inspired by an old high school friend to make these heart shaped ones.

I used a silicone mold, which made for easy removal and clean-up.

I added a few chocolate kisses and a little tag to a baggie and voila! a little party favor full of love. :)

Another idea for an easy homemade Valentine would be to package some chocolate scented playdough in a small toss away container and attach a little heart shaped cookie cutter to the tag.

UPDATED: I just did a quick search in my Reader and saw that Frugal Family Fun made some crayon favors last month. Take a look at Valerie's link to see the adorable packaging she created for favors!

~Thank you for your comments!~

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Polishing Wood

Polishing is a common activity in Practical Life. Whether it be wood, metal, shoes, glass, etc. This was the first time I put out any kind of polishing work and I must admit I was a bit surprised by how much James enjoyed it. He polished several of these little hearts every day last week!

To do this work, James first rolled out the small, white table mat. He then opened the small jar of polish, dipped one q-tip into the polish and then rubbed it all over the heart. Then used the blue polishing cloth to buff the wood, making it nice and shiny.

I used beeswax polish (because I love the smell) and small wooden hearts, both of which I found at a Waldorf store in Minneapolis. You could use any kind of unfinished wood (visit a well stocked craft store for cheap, unfinished balls and cubes). Check out this link to Montessori Services where you'll find some of the items I've used in the above photo, as well as some all natural wood polish.

~Thank you for your comments!~

Monday, February 7, 2011

Number Fun & Refurbing Scrapping Materials

So, what does an ex-scrapbooker do when she has lots of scrap paper and embellishments laying around? Why, turn them into learning tools, of course!

I recently ran across this bunch of embellishments and just threw them in a basket and added them to our shelves to see what James would do with them...

He immediately got out the sandpaper numbers (and later the red and blue number rods) and began sorting and matching the numbers. He spent over 30 minutes doing this!

In case you're interested, here are a few links to what I've done with some of my other scrapping materials:

Seasonal Bulletin Board
Paper People
Classroom Calendar
Pockets & Pouches

Sensory Tubs
Felt Counting Fish
Continent Bags (stickers and stampers)
Counting Cards

Art Basket

~Thank you for your comments!~

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Updated Activity Kits Post

Just wanted to let you all know that I updated my old Activity Kits post to include better photos and more ideas. Click here to take a look!

Art Basket

I LOVE arts and crafts. I could spend all day cutting, coloring, painting, gluing, making collages, and so on and so on. Unfortunately (for me), my little guy has not inherited my enthusiasm for crafts. Oh, he'll humor me and dab a glob of glue on something and he'll paint for several minutes, but without my encouragement, he'd rather do anything else.

I really believe there are tremendous benefits in cultivating a child's creative side. There's so much one can learn and express through art. So, I've been trying to find some new ways to make art interesting to James and one idea was to create an art basket.

This basket contains all sorts of things with which James can make Valentines.

I must point out that this idea is not my own - it comes from the lovely Nicole, of Tired, Need Sleep, who creates art boxes for her son. She also created a wonderful blog carnival called, The Art Box. She's since discontinued the carnival, but be sure to check her old posts - lots of creative fun!

I'm hoping by giving James free reign with a wide variety of art materials, he'll find his "inner art lover" and I'll find myself swept up in days of blissful artsy-ness. :D (Well, it doesn't hurt to dream, right?) And if all goes well with this basket, I may just create a monthly art basket going forward.

~Thank you for your comments!~


Related Posts with Thumbnails