Pumpkin Dough

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I recently had a friend share a pin with me… because she knows I’m ALL about homemade play dough.  We seriously are play dough obsessed around here!  When I saw this recipe, I immediately knew it would be a hit with my kids, and it was similar enough to my favorite recipe that I already had most of the supplies on hand in my pantry.  Becca loves colored doughs, and Gray would love the scent (y’all, it really does smell like fall!)!  I followed her recipe exactly except that I doubled it, and I only made it orange, so I mixed the color in while it was in the skillet.  Rather than list the recipe here on this post, I’d love to give credit back to the original mama who took the time to post it, so please go check out her post HERE.

In her post, she also mentioned collecting items from nature to use with the play dough.  We already had some seeds from our Seed Collecting and Sorting activity, and then I gave the kids a bunch of silk leaves that I got at the craft store.  They also used some fall shaped cookie cutters (this super cute set is similar… aff link… thank you!) that I’ve had for a while.  They both had a blast making trees, bushes, and a variety of other pretend creations with their play dough and leaves!  (Gray wasn’t allowed to use the seeds since I was afraid he would eat them, and I was trying to get the dishes done while they played.)

I love how simple this activity is, but how entertained it kept them!  Typically their play dough play is simply with dough and cutters, or possibly different toy animals or cars to make footprints/tracks.  Adding the leaves and seeds aspect was new and exciting for the kids and they loved it!  I think I want to do something similar in December perhaps with buttons they could use to decorate play dough Christmas trees…. hmmm… my wheels are turning!  😉

What do your kids like to do with their play dough?  Do you have a favorite recipe?

Summer Bucket List… Modified.

summer bucket list modified

I keep hearing from folks who have a summer bucket list.  And I’ve done that in the past.  It’s fun.  Especially if you have a cute picture (like this one from Lindsey over at Pen and Paint) to add your list to!  But what I’ve done in the past is try to think of all these amazingly outstanding things that honestly, end up being a lot of work… so I don’t do them.

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This year, my summer bucket list is MODIFIED.  And so far, the kids are loving it!  It’s all about finding activities we already have that they haven’t done in a while, or using dollar store items to try something new and different.

Right at the end of the school year, we made glitter playdoh in two colors.  It still hasn’t lost its sparkle, or its excitement.  When it does, we’ll take a break for a couple weeks, and then make some in new colors!

I got dollar section Crayola bathtub soap/paint – that we’re going to use in our water table outside. (affiliate link, thank you!)

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I got some little toy boats from Dollar Tree that will be another water table outside modification.

They also love it when I let them play in cheap shaving creme – which would be another fun outside water table activity – where it’s easy to hose them down when they are done!

They are still enjoying Gray’s new garden table (affiliate link, thank you!) that my parents got him for his birthday, so it hasn’t lost it’s novelty yet.  If you don’t have an outdoor activity table, this is one to consider because it can double as a sand/water play station, or they can simply pretend they are gardening!

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I re-organized our kid movies and we’re going to watch a different movie that we already own each week as a family.

We’re discovering new recipes on Tasty Junior that we want to try.

My next big goal is to clean out/reorganize our activity closet – and I’m sure we’ll find all kinds of fun things we haven’t played with in a while.

The other day, Becca rediscovered her love of Castle Logix (affiliate link, thank you!), and has played it several times.  She even asked to move it to her room so she can play it in there!

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Grayson is now big enough to enjoy our Animal Habitat Boxes, so I plan to pull those out – a new one every couple of weeks – and let him explore (and Becca can re-explore).

He is also big enough now to start building more complex train tracks, so I plan to play with him (and Becca) to make some of our family name tracks like we did with Becca last year.

mar 12 family names

We have a bunch of puzzles in the family room – my goal is for us to work one each week.

Yes, we’ll take a weekly trip to The DoSeum and Sea World, and a monthly trip to the zoo, but this summer isn’t going to be all about going places – it’s going to be about enjoying and exploring AT HOME.  I feel like our kids get so stuck on going places and doing things that they forget how much fun we can have at home!!  So while two days out of the week we’ll be going somewhere, I plan to have lots of fun at home the rest of the time!

I do plan to take one big, fun trip out and about – to have both kids paint at Painting With a Twist!  Did you know that they have “all ages” paintings that are perfect for kids?  Becca has loved painting there in the past, and I’m ready to take the plunge and let Grayson try it as well!  (I’m thinking I’ll get some adorable pics of him painting in his diaper…;)  Note that while each painter is a $35 fee, they frequently do drawings and giveaways on their Facebook page, so you should follow them to possibly earn your painting trip for FREE!

If you like this idea, but you’re just not sure where to start on activities without spending a ton of money buying stuff, you really should consider getting THIS BOOK – Raising Creative Kids (affiliate link, thank you!)– my friend Colleen has done a wonderful job of compiling ideas to get you AND your kids thinking creatively!  I plan to pull it out at least once a week and set up challenges for the kids!

I would also challenge you to go through closets, book shelves, and boxes in the attic – find things that you think your kids are done with… and recycle them!  Find new ways to entertain them with those activities.  Or if they are simply way too young for your kids, stick them in a box for your next local consignment sale and turn them into cash!  Your summer bucket list could MAKE you money instead of costing you money!

Just keep in mind that the summer shouldn’t be all about ONE thing.  It’s not all about sitting in front of the tv.  It’s not all about going somewhere new every day.  It’s not all about swimming every day.  It’s about BALANCE.  A good, wide variety of activities that don’t have to be expensive, or take you away from home.

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Our Penguin Unit

Throughout this post there will be a variety of links.  Some will be to other websites or files for you to download.  All sources are credited where necessary.  There will also be affiliate links which will be denoted with (aff link).  When you choose to click on these links to purchase items, I make a tiny % of the sale profit off of that item.  That goes to helping keep this blog alive.  Thank you for your purchases.

So of course this blog post wouldn’t be complete without a little bit of back story.  I’ve said previously that I’m great about setting goals, but not so great about putting the nose to the grindstone and actually making them happen.  But this year that is going to change!  Because I’ve switched my focus from super long term objectives, so short term monthly objectives.  Especially when it comes to school at home.  Becca’s love for learning is voracious. She keeps me on my toes at all times.  She constantly is begging for more activities, more books, and asking more and more and yes, more! questions.  Since having her own dictionary and LOTS of other non-fiction reference books in her room the questions have backed off a little bit, but not entirely.  She just can’t learn enough, fast enough.

I used to stress out thinking that homeschool needed to look like me sitting down with her all day and actually doing instruction time.  All day.  Boy doesn’t THAT sound like a nightmare with a child who has SPD and has to move ALL. THE. TIME.  Except when she doesn’t because she needs to be wrapped tightly in a blanket and suck on her finger.  But then this fall I read a book that truly changed the way I think about homeschool.  I realized that what it looks like for somebody else isn’t going to be what it looks like for us.  And that is OK!  (Thanks again to Alicia Michelle from Your Vibrant Family for your encouragement and support every step of the way!  I believe I CAN do this homeschooling thing as long as I have to!  Which I not-so-secretly hope is not very long!!)

Anyway, I discovered that I can plan a STACK of activities for Becca and we can sit down and do them in an hour, or an hour and a half.  And then we are done.  I’m now realizing – that’s ok!  We go at her pace, I tell her what activities we’ll be doing, and she selects which order we do them in.  She gets to take breaks between them if she so desires, and play with learning games, engineering materials, etc.  (All of her breaks are STEAM breaks of some sort.)  When she is done, we take a STEAM break (want some STEAM activity ideas?)…  Then we get back at it.  All the while, Brother can play in his room on his own, and is perfectly content since it’s no more than an hour and a half time block.  (Yes, I am blessed!)

So back to those goals – I decided that it was time to do a thematic unit from start to finish.  And actually finish.  So I gave us two weeks.  Which was a perfect time frame.  She goes to Mother’s Day Out a couple days a week, and we often don’t do “school work” on those days, though sometimes we do.  Just depends.  I like having the flexibility to let her be three and a half, while also letting her brain be whatever age it happens to be that day.

learning about penguins

So the past couple of weeks we have been learning about penguins.  I first told her we were going to make a mystery picture to find out what we were learning about.  Granted, this took a little bit longer than her attention span, but I kept it exciting for her by asking her which block to color next, and we traded off who colored and who read the letter/number combos, and who found the right block to color.  We got to a certain point on it, and the light bulb came on!  “We’re gonna learn about penguins!  Like in my Magic Treehouse Book Eve of the Emperor Penguin!” (aff link)  She was so excited she was literally jumping up and down in her chair.

We sat together (she often sits in my lap while we do school) and talked about all she already knew about penguins (which was actually a good deal) and then we both came up with some questions we wanted to answer about them.  I wrote down what she dictated to me on one of the graphic organizers, and then we talked about another way to organize our thoughts – with flaps.

graphic organizers

She really enjoyed the flaps, which I cut from one file and attached onto another.  (Hey, teaching is all about getting creative, right?)  All of the files I used will be linked in a list below.  All were found on teacherspayteachers.com as freebie files.  Later in our study, we talked about how we can also organize our thoughts into a web format.  She decided that for her, she prefers flaps as her method of thought organization.  She especially liked having the definitions of the penguin vocabulary words behind a flap, so that she could easily just flip and see the one she wanted to see.

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You might have seen this picture if you follow my page on Facebook.  This was one of her favorite parts of the unit of study.  I modified her old Antarctic Habitat Box to be just rock salt and white rice (less messy), and she not only got to have free play time with the penguins and their blue activity tray (aka water), but she also used the penguins (want to get your own set? Click here – aff link) and her penguin word bank sheet to sort and classify them.  We pulled a few prey and predators from our ocean habitat box as well.  She enjoyed acting out the food chain in her habitat, pretending the penguin ate a fish, and then a leopard seal ate the penguin.  Morbid?  No.  Not at all.  She is fully immersed in how the animal kingdom functions.

penguin reference guide

Then, we took all of the worksheets we completed and compiled them into a book.  She drew her version of a penguin on white card stock paper for the cover, and I even stapled onto the back cover her story book that she dictated to me.  Not only does it serve as a mini-portfolio of her work, it’s also a great reference guide for her in the future.  She is so proud to have it on her bookshelf in her room.  (And she took it to Mother’s Day Out to show her teacher and coordinator!)  We also wrote on the back cover the title and author of the two reference books we used (Penguins by Emily Bone, and Nat Geo Kids Reader – Penguins aff link).  We also listed the YouTube video we watched to learn more about a crèche, and the fabulous online resource of the New England Aquarium, where we saw amazing penguin pictures (we found them when searching for “molting”) and learned more about penguins in captivity.  It was important to me that she start learning the importance of sighting her references when she does research.  We didn’t go into formal sighting rules, just listed them so they are credited and we could go back to them in the future.

And now, to give more credit where credit is due, here are the links to the files that I used from TPT.  Again, they were all freebies, so I can share them with you, but please realize that these are NOT my creations – each creator has a page within the file that gives her credit for her work.  And each of these files is WONDERFUL!  I’m so thankful for a resource like TPT to find fabulous content for our projects!

Penguin Mystery Picture Graph

Penguin Word Bank 

All About Penguins

Flip Flap Fun

Penguin Pre-Writing Fun

Did you like this post or find it helpful?  Please comment and feel free to share on social media!  I’d love to see how you’ve used these ideas to help your own students!  Follow my Facebook page here.  Check me out on Pinterest here.  And now also on Instagram!

Christmas Activities

I debated about how to do this post – if I should put everything separate so it doesn’t seem overwhelming, or just put it all together.  I decided it’s easier to reference later if it’s all together… and honestly, if I wait on some things until later, you have less time to do them with your kids!  So… get ready.  I’m about to bombard you with a bunch of fun ideas – the first several will be great for even your little toddlers, and the rest will be geared toward your older kiddos.

Many of these activities I have stored in little plastic bags and all inside a storage box (in fact, the same box that once held our Apple Activities).  But a couple of them are ready at the window any time one of the kids wants them.  The great thing about the activities in the box is that while Becca is working on her activities, she can select something from the box for Gray to do, to appease his desire to do what she is doing.  She can also interact with him on his activities, and I love watching the tender moments they share (which usually come right before a snatch-grab-cry-scream fest HA!) together when working on a project.  If you have a toddler and an older child, you know how hard it is to find something they can both do either together, or to keep the little one occupied while the older one does something different.  This box of activities seems to be my best effort yet in this department.. and is about 80% effective!   So, here we go!  Let me know if you try any of these with your kids!  I’d love to see you share pictures on my Facebook page, as well!

sticky window

The Christmas Tree Sticky Window is super simple to make – just draw a Christmas tree onto a piece of clear contact paper, and then attach it to your window with tape – so that the sticky side is out.   Then, cut various shapes out of felt or other fabric (so that they won’t adhere permanently) and let your kids decorate the tree over and over again!  While Becca enjoyed this activity at first, this is definitely a Grayson favorite.  He LOVES standing at the window and moving the shapes around.  Of course, he also loves to carry the shapes all over the house and leave them random places…

shape identification

This felt Christmas tree was a busy bag I made a few years ago at a MOPS meeting – simply by cutting shapes from various colors of felt.  It’s a great activity for the kids to do together – Becca loves to tell Gray the names of the shapes and their colors.  She likes to make patterns of ornaments – he likes to throw them in the air and watch them rain down around him.  Either way, they are happily occupied.

writing coloring

In an effort to provide activity for Gray AND Becca in the same box, I have a couple of Christmas coloring books and some blank paper that either of them can enjoy, but I also have magnetic Christmas words that Becca can spell, and then write in her bare book (I found a bunch of them in the Target dollar section at one point this summer!).  She also has two rhyming word wheels that she can practice with and write the rhyming words in her book.  Gray loves that he’s “writing” with crayons while Sis is writing too.  He feels so big and important, and it shows!  We just have to watch that he doesn’t run around with a crayon sticking out of his mouth… he has that tendency.

geo shapes

We have some really fun building materials – you could use anything you have laying around – Legos, Duplos (for your little hands), building blocks, marble runs, whatever you  have.  Challenge your little ones to build a Christmas tree out of the supplies provided!!  Looking for more STEAM Engineering ideas?  Click Here!

reading retelling

We have a play Peanuts nativity set (affiliate link – thank you!) available on our low window sill for Becca to retell the Christmas story anytime she’d like.  Gray also enjoys playing with the characters, and he loves to sit and listen to her act out the story.  I also provided in her Christmas activity box Jan Brett’s Gingerbread Baby and Gingerbread Friends (affiliate links – thank you!) books – along with a tiny stuffed ginger baby that she can read the books to, and then use to re-inact the stories.

christmas treeNot an activity for Brother, Becca LOVES making Christmas trees of various designs using green popsicle sticks, red buttons, white pom poms, and one gold one for the star on top.  She has come up with some of the coolest, and also weirdest designs.  Some look like trees, and some, well… don’t.  But she is having a blast, it’s a great sensory activity for her that really allows her imagination and creativity to go wild.

fine motor

Becca struggles with some simple things like getting dressed, and in order to strengthen her hands and fingers to work on those little things like putting on socks and shoes, I try to find lots of fine motor skill practice activities for her.  I had some green colored pasta leftover from one of our habitat boxes, and also have some little Christmas jewelry pieces that I put in some little containers and let her string onto pipe cleaners to make bracelets and necklaces.  She LOVES it, and it’s great practice.  I even made an extension to this that stays in her room for holiday play – mini ball ornaments that she can string onto pipe cleaners.  It’s fabulous for her, and I’ve seen just in the past couple of weeks her fine motor skills making some great improvements!

star math

I programmed several index cards with a variety of patterns and addition/subtraction/multiplication story problems, and had her use these little star cards to solve them.  She even said “I wish all math was fun like this!”  So we’ve started using the star cards for other kinds of math too.  You could use anything you have around the house – scraps of paper, fabric, cut pipe cleaners, Legos, Duplos, crayons, etc.  Hands down, using manipulatives makes math more fun!  (And Mr. Gingerbaby even got involved in the math, too!)

more math

Becca has always struggled with seeing the importance behind having any numbers beyond 20.  She can count to 100 now with ease, but just really doesn’t see the point.  But she does love a good challenge, so I cut some 100s grids into lots of funny pieces, and she really enjoys putting them together.  I also took her sensory box from last Christmas and stepped it up a notch.  She loves playing with it with her balance.  She has discovered that the shiny and matte ornaments do not weigh the same as each other.  She has weighed the cookie cutters that are also in the box, and loves to scoop and pour the rice/split peas into and out of the balance.  She gets so excited when she makes them equal, and loves trying new combinations to see how much she needs to equalize if one side has more ornaments, etc.  I love seeing her creativity come out in this simple hands-on sensory activity, and I love to see her enjoying math.  She’s measuring with her measuring cup each time, and getting better at recognizing the values, etc.  Seeing her enjoy math is so good for me – I’m not a fan of math at all… so I try hard to make it really enjoyable for her so that she will love it.

What Christmas activities do you have going on in your house?  We are also doing daily advent activities, reading lots of Christmas books, and watching lots of special Christmas shows.  I’m hoping we can get out to look at Christmas lights sometime soon as well.  It can be such a crazy time of the year, but when we remember to stop and focus on the Reason for the season, it is all worth while.

May God richly bless you and yours this Christmas!  I look forward to hearing from you on Facebook, and I look forward to starting the new year with some new resolutions and some new post ideas!!  Do you have something you’d like to see me post here on my blog?  Send me an email!  I’d love to hear from you!

 

Apple Activity Box

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you probably remember the really fun activity centers I made for Becca last fall using our water table.  I brought it in from our summer play on the back porch, and she really had a blast… and I was super proud of all I came up with for her to do!  Fast forward a year, and lil Bro is into EVERYTHING… even things he’s not ready to do yet.  So, I found a way to re-make her apple activity center into a box that can easily be packed up and kept out of reach of Grayson’s little grabby hands!

apple box 2

You can find boxes like this one at your local craft store in the scrapbooking section – they are 13×13 and are fabulous!!!  I used scotch tape to stick the index cards on so they can easily be removed and the next seasonal activity center can go in their places.

Here are the skills that I included:
Math – apple patterning / apple adding & subtracting / measuring
Reading – a book to read and retell / a poem to read and recite
Writing – magnetic words to build / a blank book to write them in
Art – markers to make illustrations in the book and on the poem cards
Science – non-fiction book to read
Hand-Eye-Coordination/Fine Motor/Engineering – create an apple tree with popsicle sticks and buttons

apple box 1

Here are the direction cards, which guide play but certainly don’t limit it – she has gone way outside the box of just following these cards, though the lil OCD in her followed each card in order to some extent before moving on to do her own thing.  I also included with each instruction the list of items your child will need to complete the activity.  Some require prep, some don’t.

apple writing1. Write and illustrate a book about apples using the words on your magnets.
–>I got packs of 3 blank books for $1 at Target before school started!  Score. You could make your own just by folding paper together and stapling.  You’ll also need to write a few fall words on index cards, cut out, and stick magnet tape on the back.

2. Practice saying the poem without looking. (Recite from memory).
–>You’ll need to write the poem on index cards.  I got it online – original source unknown.  Here are the words:
—->card 1: Apples are so good to eat,
—->card 2: To have them is a special treat.
—->card 3: Red, green, yellow too,
—->card 4: All of them are good for you!

3. Draw pictures on the poem cards to illustrate what the words say.
–>Provide markers or crayons for illustrations

apple pattern4. Make an apple pattern. / Add the apples: green apples + red apples = how many apples all together?  (We extended this and did subtraction and multiplication as well – we have 2 groups of 5 apples.)
–>I got these little apples at Dollar Tree.  You could easily use buttons or gems or place apple stickers on index cards and cut out.  As long as there are at least red and green so that your child can make patterns, you’re good!

apple buttons5. Make an apple tree with popsicle sticks and buttons.  How many buttons did you use?  How many are left over?
–>You’ll need a bunch of random red, green, and/or yellow buttons, and some popsicle sticks.  I had green popsicle sticks, so we used those.  Any color will work.  You can really extend this by having your child pattern with the buttons, sort by size, add, subtract, make even groups for multiplication, etc.

6. Read the book “Apples” by Ken Robbins.  Retell to a grownup.
–>Any non-fiction book about apples will work.  This one fit well into the box I had.  I selected a non-fiction book to add in a science aspect to the box, but you could easily do a fiction book.  In my apple center last year, we had Ten Apples Up On Top and did a block activity with it.  You could easily have your child use the buttons to put ten apples on top of the book characters, or some such.  Use what you have, and you know your child – if your child won’t be “into” a non-fiction text, use what they will love!

apple word build7. Build the fall words on your magnet tray!
–>This activity is totally a repeat from last year’s apple center, because it’s just so fun and it’s always great to practice spelling!  I didn’t want to buy a bunch of magnetic letters, so I just wrote the words on index cards, cut out the letters, and put magnet tape on the back!  Super simple and cheap!  And obviously, you can save them from year to year to use again!  You’ll also need some sort of magnetic tray – I got this pizza pan from Dollar Tree and she uses it for all of her magnetic activities, including building sandcastles, which she loves.

apple measure8. How many cups of apple “tea” mix?  Find and bury treasure!
–>Again a repeated material from last year’s apple center, I simply took a bag of green decorative fish tank rocks from Dollar Tree and added some Black Apple Tea leaves to it to make it smell like apples.  We didn’t know that she has Anosmia back then… (Anosmia = no sense of smell.)  To extend this activity this year, I took the rock/tea mix and put into a small container and provided her with measuring cups to measure with, and a couple of fall shaped mini cookie cutters to bury and then dig around for.  She loves digging in the rocks, and will bury and find and rebury and find the cookie cutters over and over again.

This apple activity box has already brought us HOURS of fun, and I just created it this week.  It’s sure to be a hit well into early October, when I plan to take them out and convert the box to a pumpkin activity for Halloween/Thanksgiving!  I hope you enjoy the ideas… I’d love to know how you put them to use with your kids!  Please share!  If you’re not following my Facebook page, please be sure to click over and “like” the page and then share your photos and ideas anytime! 🙂