This blog is here for you to find fun learning activities to do with your children. We share great ideas we find and love on the Internet, as well as ideas we come up with on our own! We also like to share resources we find helpful.

To find ideas for your child, click on the age range blog label or on the theme/topic you are looking for (on the left side of the page). In each post, we try to list optimal age ranges for the activity, but you must judge for yourself if it is appropriate for your child. When you try an activity out, please comment and let us (and everyone else) know how your child liked it!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Successful Learning Tip: Positive Anticipation

When used correctly, I think anticipation can be one of your most effective tools for raising your child. I use it for everything from potty training to convincing a child the dentist will be fun. If not used correctly, anticipation becomes anxiety, which leads to physical and emotional problems. For the purposes of this blog, I will discuss anticipation in relation to learning.

There will be many moments to anticipate in your child's life. Perhaps you have a new plan for learning set up to do at home. Don't just spring it on your child one day. Tell her in advance, "After Labor Day, we are going to be starting some new learning activities at home. It is going to be so much fun. I think you will like it." Remind her often. Always be excited. Talk about the fun things you will do. "We will learn about letters, numbers, and shapes."

You might send your child to preschool one day, or you might be sending him to Kindergarten. Talk about the positive things. Talk about the new friends he will meet. Talk about how nice his teacher is. Talk about all the fun things he will learn.

Build up this positive and pleasant anticipation and your child will find herself excited for a the new experience rather than nervous or indifferent. He will be ready to face his new adventure head on and without fear.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Handprint Sun

Age Range: 1 and up

  • yellow finger paint
  • paper
  • hands
  1. Draw a circle in yellow paint/crayon
  2. Paint your child's hands with yellow paint
  3. Have your child put their handprint all around the edges of the circle to color it in and create the rays of the sun with their fingers
*Tip: turn the paper so they can get their fingers pointing outward the entire way around. I thought of this after the fact, so our sun's rays only point upwards :)

Friday, August 27, 2010

Independent Learning Time

When I taught, we always focused on teaching a skill and then giving the children time to practice the skill independently (this is the idea with centers and homework). I think this is an important idea to do at home, too. Once you've spent some time on teaching, it's important to take a step back and evaluate how much they've learned, what you still need to work on, and where they are having success. It's hard to do that and get a clear picture when you stand over/next to them and guide them. At some point necessary to let them show you what they can do.
Each (okay, most) day we spend one on one or two on one time together learning some new skill, letter, number, and practice it together. When I am working on dinner, I do something with the girls that we call Tray Time. We call it that because they are asked to stay on the blanket and work on activities on trays. That way they are within eyesight, I can help them if they need, but I can also back off and not hover. So how does it work? It's somewhat related to the posts about Learning Trays/Baskets that Manda did. We also use lunch type plastic trays. I got mine from Oriental Trading.
They review any skill/game we've previously worked on, but independently this time. I spread out a blanket for each of them. This is what they do when I am cooking dinner most nights.

Here's the basics:
*We spread out a blanket, and I put a few activities out for them to work on. My one year old doesn't get many trays yet, but the 3 year old does and has for a while now. I set a timer and they work until the timer goes off. I stop every few minutes to check on them or interact, monitoring their progress and encouraging them, but not really interfering.

Here's some examples of activities:
Stringing blocks (this is a Melissa and Doug set)

Magnets on a cookie/baking sheet. I give her family pictures a lot. They can sort, or just play.Fridge magnet sets, like the animal matching or the alphabet.For my 3 year old, I set out the trays on a blanket (she likes to spread waaaaay out otherwise). This particular day she worked on a memory game (I break them up into individual baggies to match, otherwise using the entire game for her is very overwhelming).Stamping sets...a blank piece of paper, washable stamp pads w/ numbers, letters, shapes, etc glued to the end of pill bottles. They are easier to grasp when glued to something with more of a handle for them to grab onto. Playdough is another good option. I give her one or 2 colors, one or 2 tools and let her create. At the end, I can just shake off the tiny pieces outside so they don't get on the floor.

So what other kinds of activities are appropriate? First consider your child's age, what you've been working on together, and what would be realistic for them. I wouldn't give playdough to my one year old without direct supervision because she likes to eat playdough. :)

Remember, it DOESN'T HAVE TO BE FANCY!! I do recommend starting with 1-2 trays and teaching them not to start a new tray until another one is cleaned up completely.

Some ideas:

  • Coloring book and a few crayons
  • Chalk board and chalk
  • Paint with water
  • Shaving cream on cookie sheet
  • Magnets
  • Matching card games
  • Sorting puffs by color, shape, size
  • Transferring an item (like puffs) into new containers with tweezers, tongs, etc
  • puzzles
  • Do-A-Dot markers
  • Lacing cards
  • Lacing beads on pipe cleaners
  • Rolling dice and counting the dots
  • Play items, like cars, dolls, dollhouse
  • Playdough
  • Dominoes (We have princess dominoes)
  • Blocks to stack
  • Legos, Duplos
  • Electronic games
  • A stack of books (not recommended if you have crayons out at the same time for a young child...coloring book and coloring IN a book is a little confusing)
  • Clothespin games (at tot school blog)
  • Stamping
  • Gluing w/ a glue stick (like leaves on a tree)
  • Practice pouring (I started this with pouring beads out of a container, rather than w/ liquid) or they practice pouring their own snack in a bowl
  • Pen and paper
  • Counting activies, like described on the blog
  • Any homemade game or something that uses fine motor skills!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Simple Summer Fun: Easy Crafts

The final installment of Simple Summer Fun this year is on Easy crafts. There are all kinds of easy-to-make crafts that you can purchase. Foamies brand has a whole lot (as pictured here). Craft supply stores (like Joannes, Michaels, Hobby Lobby, etc.) have a variety of kits you can buy that are ready for your child to assemble.

These are simple because you don't have to do any more prep than purchasing the item. The downside, in my eyes, is that these kits cost more money than it would be for you to assemble a craft yourself. But, hey, sometimes time is money, right?

So if you are wanting to do something but don't want to put a lot of brain power or time into it, try walking through your local craft supply store and seeing what they have to offer.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Book Recommendation: The Read-Aloud Handbook

The Read-Aloud Handbook: Sixth Edition

Are you ready for some gushing?

I don't know that I could really express how much I like The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease. In fact, the thought of trying to do so is so overwhelming to me I have a hard time trying to come up with words...writer's block!

First of all, this book was sent to me by a blog reader of my Chronicles blog. Now, publishers and publicists have sent me books to review before (I always let you know if a book was sent to me for review; but a book being sent to me would not slant my opinion at all). Readers have suggested I read books before. But never before has a reader had such a love for a book did she send me the book herself. I think that kind of gives you an idea how great this book is.

Second of all, I love books and I highly value reading to children. It is so important to me, one of the first posts I ever wrote on this my Chronicles of a Babywise Mom blog was on the value of reading. So a book about the importance and value of reading, full of references to various studies would of course be of great interest to me.

This is, without question, one of the best parenting books I have ever read. No doubt.

A very refreshing thing about this book is that Trelease is an actual writer, so the book is well-written. It is easy to read, and somehow Trelease manages to keep this informational book interesting enough that I kept coming back to it like it was a Dan Brown book. Okay, this might be in part to my extreme love for the subject, but I promise it is an easy and even interesting read.

This book is all about how to help children learn to love to read. Not how to teach them to read or how to teach them phonics...just how to teach them to love to read. Why love to read? I go through this in my much earlier post on the value of reading, but if you can read then there is no limit to what you can do. You never have to stop learning. Your knowledge and imagination can increase indefinitely. But in order to turn to books, you must love them.

Another importance on love of reading is that if you love to read, you will read. That will translate into becoming better at reading, and every subject in life requires reading.

So that is just a little bit of why. Trelease covers ages on when to do things, various strategies for teaching this love, some school topics, and technology vs. reading. And all of it is full of references and explanations of studies that back his recommendations.

And to top that off, he has a very large list of books he recommends for children in various ages along with a synopsis of many of them.

This isn't one of those books that you read and feel completely overwhelmed. It is very doable. And simple.

Every parent needs to read this book--and they need to do it as soon as they possibly can. Not only will it help you improve the lives of your children, it will inspire you to try to improve the lives of other children who do not have the support needed to learn to love to read.

I recommend this book with all of the energy I can muster. You will not regret this read!

I am cross-posting this with my Chronicles blog today. I will also be further reviewing this book on this blog and that one, depending on which blog it is more appropriate for.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Hide-and-Seek in the Dark

Ignore the not-so-great picture. It was dark...using the flash defeats the purpose. We taught our 18 month old how to play hide-and-seek in the house, but this time turned out all the lights. She and her sister each had a flashlight (18 month old used a head lamp) and went searching for Dad. They'd have to use their limited sight and listen very closely for quiet noises my husband would make to give them clues. Then we switched and let the girls hide. They had a blast, got to practice counting to 10 about a million times, and got really good at looking for subtle clues.
We did this activity on a rainy day to burn some energy and have some family fun together. Even the dog played. :)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Preventing (or minimizing) Summer Setback

What is "summer setback"? Simply put, summer setback is the lack of learning that happens to kids over summer break. A two year study found that all students had a slower gain of knowledge over the summer. The study also found that some students still have scores rise while others actually lower scores.

So how do you prevent the loss of skills?

As has been discussed on this blog, even we parents don't want to put all the gung-ho effort into learning activities that we do during a normal "school year." We are busy and we want a break. But taking a full break from learning activities can be detrimental to children.

There is good news.

I recently read The Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease (which I absolutely love and 100% recommend...but more on that in another post). In it, he briefly discusses summer setback and ways to prevent it. Here are the factors that prevent/minimize summer setback (pages 87-89):
  • Model: model reading. This means that you read when your kids can see you read.
  • Offer reading space: provide space for reading.
  • Variety: provide a variety of reading materials. Examples are magazines, newspapers, and books.
  • Bookstore/Library: visit the bookstore and/or library. See Library Day!
  • Vacation: a vacation or summer camp out of town provides new experiences. They meet new people and see new things. This increases background knowledge and teaches new vocabulary words.
  • Educational programs: when you watch TV and videos (and even listen to the radio), watch educational and informational programs.
  • Read to child: Read to the child daily. See Simple Summer Fun: Reading. See also literacy blog label for more posts.
  • Encourage child to read: even if your child can't "read," he or she can sit and look at books or magazines.
  • Field Trips: visit the fire stations, museums, the zoo, etc. See Simple Summer Fun: The Zoo and Simple Summer Fun: Museums
Do many of those look familiar to posts from the "simple summer" series, as well as other posts from the summer? I have linked related posts in each bullet.

Why write this post now, at the end of the summer? Several reasons. One is that I just read this book last week, so the subject wasn't at my forefront. Another is I know if I wait until next May, I will forget all about it. Another is I hope that you will read this now and somehow remember it next summer and turn to it. Finally, because I know I am kind of a little nervous about summer setback in my own child. I do remember being aware of summer setback in myself. But this is a simple list. It involves easy things to do, and many of them are on the Simple Summer list, so perhaps it can help ease our (or my) own worries a bit.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A week (or more) of Grizzly Bears!

On Friday I posted a synopsis of how I come up with a week of lessons on different topics. This is what I decided to cover/review this week:
Theme: Bears
Vocab word: hibernate
Nursery Rhyme: Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear
Color: Brown
Fiction Story: Goldilocks and the Three Bears
Letter/sound: Bb
Math skills covered: counting, sorting, graphing
Gross Motor: Crawling like a bear for Hide-and-seek
Life Skill: manners

Day 1:
We started off the week reading a book, starting with the non-fiction book I'd chosen. (I'd checked out both a fiction and non-fiction book about bears. My fiction choice was Goldilocks and the Three Bears. ) We read the book very slowly, going over each detail. We talked about what they eat, where they live, hibernation, homes, coverings and other physical features, and habits. I taught her the rhyme "Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear". We counted to 5.

Following this activity we learned about the letter B. I'd printed off a few different B activities from First School to make it a little easier to start. I let her glue buttons to the B on the first page.

Day 2:

We reread the non-fiction book about Grizzly bears. This time I asked her questions as I read, like "What do bears do when winter comes? Do bears like to be alone?" etc. Then we did another "Bb" paper.
Review rhyme and #5.

Math/Snack: I bought a box of Teddy Grahams and would hand her a small pile. I then asked to her count how many I'd given her. It's great practice to move the bears as they count to keep from counting the same bears over and over. At the end she got to eat a few.

Day 3: Reread non-fiction. Read Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Make the letter B with Do-A-Dot markers.

Math: I printed off a gummy bear graph and she sorted gummy bears by color and then graphed them. (and then eat some, of course!)

We practiced making the letter Bb and making circles, our shape of the week. We then used pre-cut circles to make a bear face, like shown on this site. I just made my own template. Then she sponge painted it brown.

Day 4: Review Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear. Count to 5.

We made bear paws for breakfast. I confess that I know that grizzly bears have 5 toes, but they look better w/ 4 when you bake them. :) So, some have 5 and some have 4. Bear paws: refrigerated biscuit dough, roll into the paw shape, sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar, bake as directed. Easy!

We made bear ears (headband and taped on construction paper ears) and played hide-and-seek w/ berries and bugs (play food and plastic bugs). She had to walk like a bear and dig for her bugs. This is a great activity to do at night as a family. Her dad really got into it and made a little den for her. The growls and grunts were adorable. Even my 18 month old wore bear ears and played.

Math: Sort teddy grahams into piles of 5, since 5 (the # of claws on a paw) was our number of the week.

Reread Goldilocks and talked about manners.
Day 5: Dad got really into the bear talks, too. So while at work her made her a bear claw (life sized) out of wood. Now when she plays hide-and-seek as a bear, she wears her ears and her claw. :)

Oh, and I made porridge for breakfast. Yum! Both girls cleaned their plates. Charis wanted to go for a walk to let it cool, true to story.
As a review, I printed off a bunch of bear pictures from Google Images and typed in what I needed (bear hibernating, bear catching salmon, bear paw with claws, etc). We made her own bear book with easy to read sentences so she can "read" it on her own.

Bears have big claws.
Our sentences included things like: Bears eat fish. Bears eat rabbits. Bears eat plants. This is a bear cub. Bears hibernate (one sentence per page).
We made the book out of construction paper and just stapled it together.

Hope that helps! Have fun teaching and learning about bears together! I just wish our zoo had bears...it would have rounded out a good week perfectly!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Simple Summer Fun: Reading

I am such a huge believer in reading to your children. I believe in it so much, I read to Brayden (my oldest) when I was pregnant with him. I continued to read to him daily after he was born and we haven't stopped since. Even when we go camping, we bring books along to be sure to read each day. I have such high value for reading that I cannot even begin to try to impress upon others how important I think it is because I know I will never be able to adequately get my feelings across.

But I want to try.

I have always loved to read. As an elementary student, I read at least 30 books every three weeks. As a teenager, I still liked to read. True that Honors and AP English classes turned me off slightly; being required to read was very unattractive to me. But my love survived through it all (and I did enjoy my required reading) and I am still a reader to this day.

As I was growing up, I realized that most of my friends did not like to read. I have always been analytical and started trying to figure out why. Over time, I came to the conclusion that I loved to read because my parents loved to read. Both of my parents read constantly. They also read to me when I was a child.

If you do nothing else each day, I would hope that you at least read to your child. I think most people do. I have always assumed all people do, but have slowly discovered that isn't true. Read to your children daily. Find some time in your day that you will be consistent about it. For most people, this will be bedtime. If you make reading a part of your bedtime routine, your children will never let you forget it!

So read each day. You can read books about things you are doing, holidays that are going on, topics of interest to your child, etc. Whatever it is, just read.

So as your summer winds down, be sure to either vamp up your reading or keep up your reading. I don't think it gets much more simple than reading.

Friday, August 13, 2010

I'm Just Not Creative!

I'm not going to sit here and tell you how to write a lesson plan with an anticipatory set and all that other lingo that teachers have to use. What I would like to address is the comments I've heard like, "I'm just not creative," "I don't know where to start," "how do I make learning fun?" etc. How about "My kid likes ____. How do I plan something for that?"
Okay, calling all non-creative, road-blocked, well-meaning non-teacher parents! (And all the rest of you!) What do you do to help your child get interested in learning? What about the wiggly toddler? The "I only want to play" kid? The "Mommy is talking. Time to glaze over" kiddo? (And by the way, my child is in ALL of those categories!!)
It may not be the right way, but here's a few pointers to get you going:
1. What do they like? Cars? Animals? Princesses? Bugs? The Solar System? If you can't name anything specific, what gets you excited? Enthusiasm is contagious!
2. Start with a book. It's the easiest way to start. Go to Google, Barnes and Noble.com, Amazon.com, or your library's web page. Start searching for books for kids in that subject area. Try to get some fiction AND non-fiction. Don't run from the non-fiction...it can end up being a favorite. Take the list and go to the library and check them out!
3. What letter can you associate with this topic? Does a number go well with it? Start simple! Don't try to get your 18 month old to write the letter S. You are setting yourself up for frustration. Show them an Ss, show them pictures of things that start with Ss, and get silly making sounds, but don't expect them to be able to recognize it tomorrow. They might, but don't get set on it. If you are reading the Three Little Pigs, try the letter P and the number 3!
4. Can you think of even a simple craft to go with this? If animals, how can you make an animal face? If a bug, can you construct one together? What items can you use instead of paper? Look in your cabinet!! If you can't think of one, GOOGLE! No one said you needed a teaching degree when you became a mom. :)
5. Snack time! How can you incorporate food? KIDS LOVE FOOD! Even if it's a simple as making a letter out of pancake batter to make capital T for breakfast, they will love it!!!
6. Math: Is there a color, counting, graph, or patterning activity I can make out of this topic? Three Little Pigs? Use the color pink! Sort out all the pink jelly beans! Do a color hunt for the color pink!
7. Trips! Any place you can take them to get a better hands-on experience? Museum? Zoo? Library? Pet shop? School? Planetarium? If not, how can you make it more real for them? My daughter LOVES it when I print off pictures from the Internet of whatever she's curious about. We were in Panera Bread on evening and she heard some music she despised. It ended up being the saxophone...a word and sound she's never heard before. And she certainly had NO idea what it looked like. So we printed one off and now she's practically an expert. Okay, I exaggerate, but she knows a lot about them. That leads me to...
8. Teachable moments! I would never in a million years thought to teach her about the saxophone. But a random outing sparked her curiosity. I had a choice...let it die down, or run with it. Watch your child, listen to questions, and think about how you can show them something that they are really interested in.
9. And I almost forgot: Gross motor skills and games! What kind of large movement can you have them do?Walk like an elephant? Spin like a planet? Think think think!

Okay, so now that you've been overloaded, I'm going to post on Tuesday an example of what I mean. We studied bears this week (another random teachable moment I ran with) and I'll give you a step by step plan of what we did during our bear unit. :)

In the meantime...what topics or questions do you have? Are there specific activities you want to see covered on this site? Let us know! We are here to help! Do you want more specific topic ideas? Do you want more book recommendations? Gross motor? How-tos? What needs do you have right now?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Back to School: Glitter Germs

When we prepare our kids to go off to daycare, preschool, or kindergarten we usually think of telling them to be nice, share, and obey the teacher. But one thing that is a chronic problem in classrooms is sickness! The fact is kids get dirty, they of course get sick, but they are not very good at basic hygiene, especially at school without mom or dad in the bathroom reminding them to use soap or dry their hands afterward.

So, this is a fun and useful way to teach our kids what germs are, how easily they spread, and how we can keep from spreading them to ourselves and other people. Hopefully this can keep your kids healthier and develop good habits as they start preschool or kindergarten.

  • Glitter
  • Paper Towels
  • Soap
  • Water
  • Hand Lotion
  • Plate (to catch glitter when pouring it on the kids' hands)
  1. As you apply lotion to your child(ren)'s hands ask them, "do you know what germs are?" If they answers 'no' or incorrectly, tellthem "germs are very small, so tiny we can't see them, and they are one thing that makes people sick. If you have a cold or a fever you have germs that can get onto other people and make them have the cold or fever. When we play in the dirt or use the bathroom we also get germs on us then that can make us or other people sick."
  2. Now poor glitter over each child's hands and tell them that we are pretending glitter is germs.
  3. Ask your kids to try and rub or shake the glitter off. The glitter won't come off.
  4. Then hand them a paper towel to rub the glitter off. The glitter won't come off very well.
  5. Next try to get the glitter off with just cold water. It still won't come completely off.
  6. Finally, have your kids scrub their hands with warm water and soap, then dry them with a towel.
  7. Point out that shaking the glitter off didn't work, rubbing it didn't work, running cold water over it didn't work. The best way to get rid of the glitter was with warm water and soap in the sink. Germs are the same way. So whenever they wipe their nose, go to the bathroom, or play in dirt they need to wash their hands with warm water and soap to make sure all the germs get off and they and other kids stay healthier.
  • singing the ABC song while washing hands is a good tool to remind kids to be thorough and not simply rush through. I always told my Kindergarteners they needed to spend the whole song washing their hands, no more and no less.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Simple Summer Fun: Popsicles

Making Popsicles is so simple, yet fun for the kids. They get to mix up this powder into a liquid, followed by time in the freezer and it comes out this solid piece of goodness. What's not to love?!?!? Here is a simple recipe I have for Popsicles:

  • one package Kool-Aid
  • one package Jell-O
  • 1 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup hot water
  • 3/4 cup cold water
  • 2 bowls
  • Spoon
  • Popsicle Molds
  • Optional: funnel. I like to use it, but it isn't necessary
  1. Mix dry ingredients in a bowl
  2. Measure 6 T of the dry ingredients into another bowl. Add the hot water. Add the cold water.
  3. Pour the into Popsicle molds and freeze.
  4. Store the remaining dry ingredients in an airtight container to use in the future. You could probably make Popsicles all summer from this one mix.
Again, no picture. I have a picture on my camera, but I can't use it because my computer is still out. Now the hard drive is dying...sigh. But I do like how the picture I pulled off the Internet has pictures of fruit in the background...that is a bit misleading, right? Maybe not for them, but it is for us!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Paint-free Painting

Painting can be really fun, but it can also be a mess! A deck (or fence or sidewalk) can be the perfect canvas for a little water painting. I filled up a few bowls of water, gave both girls multiple brushes (roller, sponge brushes, large and small paintbrushes) and let them have fun. The deck dries quickly and leaves them with a fresh drawing surface about every minute or so. Again, no clean up necessary. Plus, a lot of kids like to lay down and paint/color. You may find that if your munchkin doesn't enjoy painting while sitting in a chair, he/she might like it when they get to lay down. And even better...for the ones that still like to "taste" everything, no harm done if they manage to sneak in a little sip. :)

Monday, August 9, 2010

Simple Summer Fun: Gardening

First of all, sorry for the lack of a "real" picture. My computer is down and out with a virus (getting fixed) and I am without photos, so we will rely on Google's ability to scan the Internet.

Gardening has got to be one of the most educational activities you can consistently do with your child. Growing a garden provides such a learning experience, from prepping soil, to planting, to watering, to watching little seedlings pop up, to watching them grow bigger and bigger, to harvesting and eating the food--not the mention the "interesting" bugs all over.

We grow a rather large garden and I have my children help with each step. They help plant seeds. Do the drop seeds and sometimes plant too many? Yes! Especially with things like lettuce seeds which are rather small.

I also have them help me weed on almost a daily basis. This is when the most learning happens. They ask question after question about what we see and do. They learn to identify a plant by how it looks. They can tell the difference between a plant and a weed. They watch the fruit and vegetables slowly grow on the plants. They ask about bugs. We talk about sun and water and other things important to a garden. Children are so incredibly observant--they will likely even point out trends in your garden you aren't picking up on.

If you have a garden, involve your children! If not, consider growing something (Manda has talked in the past about small garden growing) next year. I can promise you that you will be absolutely amazed at the things your child will learn.

What ages can do this? I would say most two year olds and older can help. When Kaitlyn was two, she had the hardest time figuring out where not to step until plants popped up. I had to take a deep breath, tell her again, and remember she was two and also far more important than any seed in the dirt :). When Brayden was two, he totally got it and was fine. So you never know. But once the plants were up, she was fine.

You will have to watch a two year old much more closely than an older child. But even just one year later at 3, Kaitlyn was perfect in the garden, and she is recognizing plants.

McKenna is a pre-toddler and she joins us in the garden. She digs in the dirt in designated areas and she will help harvest food by loading it in the big bowl. She is 16 months old so filling containers is right up her alley right now.

Another great bonus of the vegetable garden is that you will find your children eager and excited to eat the food they have watched grow, even if it is a food they usually wouldn't eat. I could go on and on. I love the garden! (notice I said THE garden and not TO garden--ha!).

Friday, August 6, 2010

Pouring Yourself a Drink

I ran across some of the cheapy plastic pitchers when I was out shopping one day, so I picked up a few. One activity most kids would LOVE to try, is pouring their own drink. And after watching them try, you can see that it's quite a challenge. Managing the sloshing liquid, aiming where it should go (and actually getting some in the glass), not pouring so fast as to knock the glass over, and not dropping the heavy pitcher...it takes some practice to say the least.
To encourage my kiddos to practice this skill without any cleaning on my part AND to help keep them hydrated on those oh-so-hot summer days, I fill up (yes, completely, otherwise you'll make multiple trips to fill up the pitcher) a pitcher with ice water and bring out one plastic cup per kiddo. I just set it out and told them to pour themselves a drink if they got thirsty. My 3 year old said, "By myself??" I just smiled and nodded. Their faces lit up and they poured themselves drink after drink...and drank it all.
Well, whatever managed to get in the cup.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Simple Summer Fun: Sidewalk Chalk

Yes, that is my "baby" thinking about eating the chalk.

Sidewalk chalk has got to be one of the best inventions for outside play. It builds fine motor skills and works on the creative side of the brain. You can also use sidewalk chalk as time to practice writing letters, numbers, or names. I have spent many summer days outside drawing things with my children.

One day, my son and his friends drew a map on the patio. They would consult their map as they went on their adventure.

As a two year old, Kaitlyn drew literally hundreds of "O's." She had just learned how and was definitely obsessed.

You can leave special messages for Daddy or visitors to your home.

You can draw pictures and smooth the chalk out to make a more pastel look.

You can dip your chalk in water to change the texture of the chalk (that is the way McKenna prefers to eat it...which is not a recommended activity to do with chalk :) ). One thing to know is that when you do this, the chalk will not wash away as easily as it does when you draw it dry.

So go out and draw with sidewalk chalk and check off in your mind your learning activity for the day. Wasn't that fun and easy?

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Outdoor Bubble Bath!

To make our tiny swimming pool a bit more fun and interesting, on one of our 100+ degree days, I put a little bubble bath in while I filled up the pool. They loved it! When the bubbles start to disappear, I just sprayed the water again with the hose and they reappeared. Easy and fun!
Just for the record, regular diapers are really absorbent! I think I'll use a swim diaper next time, though. :)

Monday, August 2, 2010

Simple Summer Fun: The Zoo

Oh the zoo. Kids love zoos. Kaitlyn is my little animal lover and gets a huge thrill out of zoos. Now, if you don't have a large zoo close to you, chances are there is some sort of small zoo. You might even be able to go to a local farm and see the animals there. Looking at animals in person is so much more meaningful to a child than looking in a book. How else would they realize that a rhino's head is as large as their entire body?

Another, very scaled down animal activity I have done with Kaitlyn is I took her to PetsMart. I was shocked at how much she loved watching all of the fish swim. They had fish, birds, reptiles, cats, and of course the patron's dogs. She loved it and it was free!

You might also live somewhere that you can go for a walk around your neighborhood and see animals. So take a trip somewhere and learn by observation (and maybe even touching if it is a petting zoo!) as you watch the animals.


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