Friday, October 30, 2009

On Our Bookcase

Books are much loved treasures in our home, and as a result we have A LOT of books for both young and old. I just found out about a weekly blog carnival* that focuses on children's books. Hooray! I am so excited to participate since I LOVE children's books as well as reading and sharing reviews about them!

James (age 2.5) likes just about any book we read to him (well, about 99% of the time). ;) He has his favorites for sure, but you can assume any of the following books were well received!

So... here are our top picks for this coming week:

We're focusing on the letter T in Tot School next week, so transportation is going be one of our topics. This book, Cars: Rushing! Honking! Zooming!, by Patricia Hubbell, is a fun read thanks to the old-timey illustrations and quick, rhyming text.

Our other "t" book is Tippentown: A Guided Tour, by Calef Brown. Calef Brown is my all-time favorite author of children's poetry. His quirky & clever poems connect perfectly with his equally quirky & clever illustrations. Tippentown is one of five childrens books he's written (we have and love them all!).

The next two are seasonal books:

In November, by Cynthia Rylant, is a lovely book that leaves you feeling warm and cozy after you've finished it. The illustrations look like oil paintings - simply beautiful.

Fall, by Nuria Roca, is part of a 4-part series called The Seasons. It's not really a story per se, but more a fun, educational walk-through about the fall season. What I like about it is that the paragraphs are short, succinct and the book covers a lot of ground. Oh and bonus - at the back of the book are several fall related activities you can do with your child.

Click on the button to the left to see what others are reading with their children.

For my not-so-blog-savvy readers (Hi, Dad!):
*A blog carnival is a type of blog event. It is similar to a magazine, in that it is dedicated to a particular topic, and is published on a regular schedule, often weekly or monthly. Each edition of a blog carnival is in the form of a blog article that contains permalinks to other blog articles on the particular topic.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Recycled Crayons

We didn't have a lot of money when I was growing up, so my parents were always looking for creative, thrifty ways to keep my sister and I entertained. One such idea was to take all of our broken, worn down crayons and melt them to make new ones!

This idea has been around for a long time and I know it's nothing new to some of you, but I thought a certain Australian might find it interesting (Hi, D!) so I had to post it. :) Plus, James will get a kick out of them, too. No pics of him enjoying them just yet - I'm saving these for his Christmas stocking!

If you want to do this yourself, here's what you need to do:
  • Painstakingly remove the paper from each crayon (this is best done in front of the telly with a glass of wine).
  • Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  • Break up the crayons and group them into your preferred color combination in a muffin tin.
  • Turn off the oven and place the tin on the middle rack. After about 10 minutes or so you'll see the wax melt and pool.
  • Carefully remove the muffin tin from the oven - try not to jostle it too much or the colors will run together and make an ugly blob. (unless that's what you're going for, of course!) :)
  • Let them cool completely. You can put them in the freezer to speed up the cooling process.
That's it! Now you have new, funky, chunky crayons!

A couple of helpful tips:
  • DO NOT use washable crayons - they'll leave a layer of clear wax along the top resulting in useless coloring.
  • DO NOT use those jumbo crayons. Here I was thinking, oh yeah I'll get more wax from these bad boys, but nope. They refused to melt completely no matter how long I left them in the oven. Also, a few cracks occurred right where the jumbo crayons were... coincidence? I think not.
  • If you decide to use the freezer, DO NOT plop them out of the tin onto a countertop or other hard surface (use a towel). Breakage will occur. :(

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Trick or Treat Bag

I saw a bag similar to this in a Chasing Fireflies catalog for $30 and thought to myself - well, that's just silly, I can make that! And I did - for only $4!

It's all handstitched, so I'm not sure how well it'll hold up. My hope is that James will be able to use it for years to come!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Tot School - The Letter V

~James is 30 months~
V v what begins with V? Venus, volcano, vowels, violins, van, vegetables, and violets in a vase! We had a very fun week exploring the letter Vv. I also put together lots of pumpkin-related activities. (SO excited for Halloween this year!)

Art & Music:
Hooray, James was interested in crafts this week! He glued all the pieces, I gently placed them on the paper and he smashed them all into place. :) While we did this craft we listened to violin music. I was SO happy to find out James likes classical music just as much as I do! We listened to (my fav) Concerto in D minor for two violins and when it was over James said, "More music!"

We take an art class every Monday; here are a couple recent masterpieces.

Letters & Numbers:
We pulled out our trusty alphabet puzzle (LOVE this puzzle - I use it for so many activities) and talked about vowels. James has also been really into lining things up lately. After he finished lining up these letters he said very proudly, "Ooo, look at this!" (yes, we have pink carpet - not my choice!)

I printed out this cute V activity from Kidsoup. James had fun with it and kept talking about the vacuum cleaner and how noisy it is. :)

James has been counting like a madman! Thanks to Sesame Street & Muzzy, he's mastered counting to 10 in Spanish and Mandarin Chinese.

I found some cute pumpkin calendar inserts, James played with these for a good 20 minutes. Rearranging the sequence, calling out the numbers.

Science & Nature:
James had a little Tot School session with daddy (mommy was busy at the spa)! They talked about and looked at pictures of Venus and watched videos of volcanoes on Youtube. From the sounds of it, they both really enjoyed their school time together - perhaps Daddy will have to join in Tot School more often! (note: the Venus craft was a part of a larger project James and I did for Paul's birthday.)

Practical Life:
Had I not seen it on other blogs I never would've thought to have James help me with laundry. I wish I had gotten a picture of him helping me load the dryer. He had such a big smile on his face the whole time and took the job very seriously. I can't wait until he's old enough to change the litter box!

We spent one whole day just doing veggie related things. We planted James' favorite vegetable, broccoli. This was such a fun activity to do with James. I really let him do most of the work and I was so proud at how focused he was. He treated those little seedlings like they were his babies. Sadly, the seedlings didn't make it more than 24 hours. By the next morning the birds had almost entirely eaten them. I *think* I managed to save a couple... we'll see.

We also made a delicious harvest vegetable soup. James poured all the ingredients into the crockpot. I decided to skip taking photos on this one since James really needed my help.

Other activities:
On our veggie day we played with this vegetable matching activity. Another great find from Kidsoup. James did a great job matching the cards and then went through them all counting, "one broccoli, two broccoli". :)

I was so excited to find this cute pumpkin muffin tin. I had some mini Halloween erasers on hand and put together this sorting activity. James enjoyed it so much he did it several times throughout the week.

Another big hit was this color puff/tong transfer activity. James sorted the 4 colors into individual pumpkins. Actually, he said he was "feeding" the pumpkins. :) (oh how I love that kid!)
We had SO much fun with these yarn pumpkins I made as well as our homemade pumpkin playdough. Click here and here for separate posts about both of them.

Finally, we had fun searching for orange stuff for the I Spy book I am (eventually) going to make.

For more great ideas, click on the buttons below!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Homemade Playdough

I recently found a GREAT recipe for homemade playdough. It was so easy to make and turned out perfect. So long, store-bought-plastic-smelling Play-Doh, we've found something better!
I added orange food coloring and pumpkin spice to give it a holiday feel. I plan on making a new themed playdough ball each month. I don't know how long it'll all keep, but so far it's as fresh as when I first made it (a few days ago).

James played with this dough much longer than the store bought kind. I think it was the smell that kept him involved.

I gave him some Halloween cookie cutters to use - he did a great job making these.

*Update: keep playdough refrigerated. I made the mistake of storing it at room temperature and it got kind of mushy.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Yarn Pumpkins

Easy to make and oh so cute!! I made ten so we could practice counting and because I just couldn't stop making them!

I got the idea from Make And Takes - (click the link for tutorial) they made yarn apples, but I never got around to doing that in September, so pumpkins for October it is.

You can see how excited James was to meet them. He picked one up and said in a high, tiny voice, "oh yittle baby punkin".

We had so much fun playing with these! We threw them around the room and then James went around "the pumpkin patch" picking pumpkins. Of course Buca (the kitty) thought they were fun, too!

Another cute thing James decided to do with the pumpkins was to "feed" them to his mini Sesame Street friends. Of course Grover & Elmo got the most since they're James' favorite. :)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A Feather In My Cap

I just received a bloggy award! I have so many people to thank; where do I start?! Ha - just kidding... I'll just give a BIG thanks to my favorite Aussie, D (a hilariously funny mum with a "hit the nail on the head" kind of wit) from Three Little Birds, for thinking my lil' blog worthy enough for such an award. :)
Now it's my turn to share the love. First let me say there are SO many great blogs out there, and it was really hard to narrow it down, but here are 5 blogs I enjoy stalking, er I mean reading, most often:

1) 1+1+1=1, the Tot School mothership. An amazing blog written by a lovely blogger who generously shares a wealth of homeschooling information with others.

2) Momtessori, a blog packed with insider ideas and tips on homeschooling the Montessori way. It's written by a funny mom who seems to enjoy a good bargain as much as I do!

3) No Time For Flashcards, the incredibly awesome blog every mom, dad, nanny, grandparent - anyone who is looking for fun DIY activities with kids - should read.

4) All About The Journey, a mommy blog with loads of great ideas for teaching and having fun with a toddler. The author and I share the same philosophy when it comes to teaching children - she put it best: "... it's the journey or the process of an experience, not the final outcome, that makes the biggest impact in their minds".

5) Captain Pork Chops, this blog has me L-ingOL whenever I read it. This post of hers made me think we may have been sisters in another life.

To "accept" your award, all you have to do is copy the award image above and add it to your blog (if you want to, of course). :)

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Tot School - The Letter W & My New Blog, Counting Coconuts!

Hello, Tot School mamas, welcome to my new blog! I decided to create another blog just for James and our learning adventures. Take a look around - I added some old learning-related posts from earlier in the year. :)

Now for Tot School...
~James is 30 months~
Ww is one of those letters you can do a lot with, so I really had to pick and choose our W topics for this week. And since it's National Dinosaur Month we spent some time learning about dinos, too.

Art & Music:
I found this cute W idea from No Time For Flashcards. It's a watermelon W! James actually liked making this craft (he's been anti-crafting lately). He thought Ernie should get in on the action, too. :)

We enjoyed lots of singing and movement at Kindermusik this week. I'm not able to take pictures in class though as it's really a mommy-involved program.

Letters & Numbers:
James loves this bottle cap name activity, a great idea from the 1+1+1=1 blog. Now that he knows how to spell and read his name, I'm going to create a few more cards for him to learn.

And as always, counting - LOTS of counting. We count everything - steps, cars, raisins, the zits on my face... (thanks, son!). James can count to 20 now (though 13 is usually absent). :)

Science & Nature:
We took a field trip to the beach one warm and sunny afternoon. We talked about how there were lots of W words at the beach: wet, water, wind & waves. We brought his pinwheel (I had ideas of making a windsock, but never got around to it!) and watched how the wind propelled it. James would live at the beach if we let him, so this field trip went over quite well!

We spent some time playing with our dinosaur puzzles. This Melissa & Doug magnetic puzzle is awesome - you can take the book apart and focus on one or two puzzles at a time. We also put them on the refrigerator. :)

One of the biggest hits of the week was dinosaur "excavating". We had a bunch of dino figurines on hand and I froze them in water (in layers). Once they were frozen, I put together a tray of various excavating materials (salt, warm water, paint & tooth brushes) and we spent a LONG time trying to dig them out. For added fun, we used markers and watercolors to paint the ice (fyi, markers don't work well on ice). It was a great activity and it provided the perfect avenue to talk about what may have happened to the dinosaurs.

Other activities this week:
Another W activity - this watermelon game I found on Kidsoup. James liked it... for about 10 seconds.

Hands down the favorite for the week was this Halloween sensory tub I made. James spends a good 30 minutes or more a few times a day exploring, counting, and sorting the objects. I can't wait to make December's tub!

We made banana smoothies and I'm proud to say James made it almost entirely by himself!! Here he is cutting the banana.

Fine Motor:

I introduced tweezers this week. They were tricky for James, though he did eventually figure out the pinching aspect. We moved onto tongs later in the week when we did dino excavating. Tongs were much easier for him.

This simple and super cheap activity was a huge hit with James. I simply took an old Cheetos container (I know, they're so bad), covered it with construction paper (so I could forget I ate them) and cut a wide slit in the lid. You could put real or fake coins through the slit, but we used poker chips.

I found these little wooden people at The Barn for a mere 25 cents (score!). Perfect activity for size sequencing. James kept naming them, "Dada, Mama, and yittle baby one". :)

We had lots of fun playing with these bean bags I made.

This week we searched for white things for the I Spy book I'm going to make (idea from 1+1+1=1).

Click the button to the left to see what other parents are doing with their tots!


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