Saturday, February 9, 2013

Invitation to Play - Valentine's Sensory Tray

Normally, we have a sensory tote out for the season or a topic we've been exploring however, this month I did something different - a Valentine's Sensory Tray.  Sassy Sis is really into scooping, sorting, matching, patterning, counting, transferring - all of the great skills a sensory tote helps to develop/practice.

Like many of my ideas I was inspired by Happy Hooligans' post because her ideas  are just perfect for little ones and super easy for me to put together!

Here is what I came up with:

Nothing is expensive and most of it we had at home:
mini heart containers
mini heart erasers
heart ice cube tray
empty baby food jar
assorted red/pink/white containers
Valentine lid container
various scoops, tongs, spoons.
metal mailbox
felt hearts
pink and red heart table scatter

I can tell you all of this was bought at Dollar Tree, Joanne's, dollar section of Target, and Ikea ( ice cube tray) and most was probably bought last year when Valentine's day items were 50% off!

Sassy Sis was immediately drawn to the tray and spent the better part of the morning playing with it, even inciting the Owl to come and have a look as well.  

Putting together a sensory tote or tray doesn't need to take a lot of time nor does it need to be expensive.  
We'll play with this for the next couple of weeks and then we all of the components will go in a large ziploc bag for easy storage until next February! 

Friday, February 8, 2013

Invitation to Play - Beaded Valentines

Especially in the winter months I like to have an " Invitation to Play" ready for the little ones when they come down in the morning. This is a simple activity - with everything they need to complete activity - laid out for them on a tray.  Sometimes they'll walk right by it and not even notice it until later in the day while other times they'll dive right into the activity as soon as they spot it.

Sassy Sis spotted this activity right away and stayed with it for the better part of the morning.  She even asked me to replenish it so she could play with it the next day as well.

What's on the tray? 

1. Pipe Cleaners - I had bent some to look like hearts, but neither child was drawn to them.
2. Various pink, red, white and heart shaped pony beads.

What do you do? 
The little ones will simply string the beads on to the pipe cleaner.  I did show them how to bend the end of the pipe cleaner first so the beads wouldn't fall off.  This is a GREAT activity for fine motor skills.

After the kids were done stringing the beads onto the pipe cleaner I helped them twist the two ends together.

Then, we just manipulated the pipe cleaner to resemble the shape of a heart. 

That's it, easy-peasy - 99% child driven - with just a little help from Mama.  Our pile of beaded hearts is growing, but here are some of our first attempts. 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Christmas Reading List - Early Chapter Books

During this time of year I love pulling out all of my Christmas books to share with my little ones.  Some stories I remember from my childhood while others are new to all of us however, each one is enjoyed.  We've been having a blast with our 24 Days of Christmas Stories ( see post here) .  Each night we gather around the tree as a family and open one new book from our pile.  Each child also gets to pick one book that has already been opened for me to read as well.  It is the perfect ending to what usually seems as an always busy day.

The OWL now is getting into easy chapter books.  He is still at the stage where he enjoys having some illustrations in the book. I've pulled our top four Christmas "beginner" chapter books that we've been making our way through:

1. Stanley's Christmas Adventure - the original Flat Stanley book was a staple in my 3rd grade classroom - however Stanley has expanded his line of books recently so be sure to check them out.  In this story the Lambchop family give Santa a helping hand.

Stanley's Christmas Adventure (Flat Stanley)

2. Triplet Trouble and the Runaway Reindeer - Triplet Trouble books are the baby sibling of the Magic Tree House books - three triplets - Ashley, Alex, and Adam usually find some sort of trouble.  In this book it is Cleo the Runaway Reindeer ( aka Dog) that is the catalyst for trouble!

The Runaway Reindeer (Triplet Trouble)

3. Horrible Harry and the Christmas Surprise - there is always drama in Room 2B with Horrible Harry and his classmates and they don't disappoint with their holiday drama!
Horrible Harry and the Christmas Surprise

4. Oliver Moon's Christmas Cracker -  this is one of our favorite new ( to us) series.  Oliver is a wizard in training and is always finding some "magical mayhem" in his travels!

Oliver Moon's Christmas Cracker

So if you have a little one who is ready for a bit more then a picture book, but still needs to have some illustrations along the way be sure to check out any of the Christmas themed books we've mentioned - or the other books in their series!  Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Decorate the Tree Bath Time Fun!

After perusing Bath Activities for Kids website a couple of weeks ago I've been thinking about doing more themed tubbies! My two had so much fun with their Peppermint Bath Paint, that I knew I needed to  gather up the materials to have another Christmas themed tubby.

Today was the perfect day for our Decorate the Tree tubby. We had our Holiday Jam session tonight with our Music Together group so we did our tubby earlier in the day. I wish I would have caught the look on the little ones faces when I called them upstairs for a surprise and they spotted the tub all ready to go!

The best part about this tubby was that I had everything I needed at home! I was pleasantly surprised to find out that a wet piece of craft foam acts just like a bath decal - genius! Since my basement is filled with 10+ years of remnants from an elementary classroom I have a sheet or two of craft foam in my stash!  In fact, I actually found these pre-cut ornaments and lights from an old craft project.  I simply cut out the tree trunk and star. For the tree I used Crayola's washable finger paints. I tested it first to make sure it would indeed wash away and it did!

I did make some green peppermint bath paint for the kids by mixing - shaving cream, green food coloring, and peppermint extract together....

And I threw in some package bows to jazz up the bathwater.....
( These actually "stuck" to the wall as well when wet.)

The kiddos loved decorating their tree....

Who knew tubby could be so much fun!

Super easy to pull together and just as easy to clean up - simply turn on the shower and the Owl washed it all away for me, leaving no evidence of our tree decorating party behind! 

Sunday, December 2, 2012

24 Days of Christmas Reading

There have been loads of posts on Pinterest having to do with wrapping 24 of your favorite Christmas stories   to open each day leading up to Christmas Day.  I loved this idea and looked forward to starting this tradition with my two!

At first I was worried I wouldn't have 24 books to wrap.  I knew I had quite a few Christmas books, but 24 is a lot of books. Well I shouldn't have worried because after I  picked out my 24 favorites I still had more then enough to fill our bookshelves in our reading area!

And even more to bring to each child's room for bedtime stories!! Clearly, there isn't a shortage of Christmas books in this house - the result of 10 years in the elementary classroom and a mother who loves Christmas books!  However, if you don't have enough for this year - no worries, visit your local library and wrap their books.  Just be sure to unwrap and read them before they are due!

This year I simply wrapped each book - nothing fancy - and put them in a basket by our tree.

However, there are many ways to elaborate the wrapping.  I love A Matter of Memories wrapping below.  

At first I thought of adding a number to each book - but then decided against it. The only book that I care when it is read is The Night Before Christmas - which I don't have in the basket yet and won't put in until the end.  Adding a number would make it a great advent/Christmas Count Down Calendar!  How simple would that be?  Maybe next year I will be a bit more organized and will wrap each book, # them and then have a corresponding craft/ornament/activity to go with each book.  Guess I won't be wrapping them at nap time on December 1st if I go with that plan.

Here are the books I chose to use - I chose a mixture of  Christmas and religious books that are geared to the younger crowd.

1. How Santa Got His Job - Steve Krensky
2. Auntie Claus - Elise Primavera
3. The Christmas Cobwebs - Odds Bodkin
4. The Biggest Christmas Tree Ever - Steven Kroll
5. Tractor Mac Saves Christmas - Billy Steers
6. The Dog Who Found Christmas - Linda Jennings
7. This is the Stable - Cynthia Cotten
8. The Littlest Elf - Brandi Doughtery
9. J is for Jesus - Crystal Bowman
10. The Story of Aloha Bear - Dick Adair
11. Llama Llama Holiday Drama - Anna Dewdney
12. Pockets Christmas Wish - Ann Bonwill
13. Merry Christmas Strega Nona - Tomie dePaola
14. The Pinetree Parabel - Liz Higgs
15. Polar Express - Chris Van Allsburg
16. I've Seen Santa by David Bedford
17. Thomas' Christmas Delivery
18.Auntie Claus And the Key to Christmas - Elise Primavera
19.Snowmen at Christmas - Caralyn Buehner
20. Arthur's Christmas - Marc Brown
21. The Spirit of Christmas - Nancy Tillman
22.Corduroy's Christmas Surprise- Don Freeman
23.Once There Was a Christmas Tree - Jerry Smath
24. Twas the Night Before Christmas - Clement Clark Moore

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Preschool Arts and Literacy Club - Baking

We had our latest meeting of our Prescchol Arts and Literacy Club yesterday.  Our theme this session was baking - and boy did we have a lot of fun!

Our routine is finally flowing and the children, even though it is a slightly different group each time, are beginning to know the flow.  For the first 30 minutes while everyone is arriving we have activities set up around the house ready for the children and parents to enjoy.  Our center activities were:

Gingerbread Play Dough - make and decorate your own cookies.

 If You Give a Mouse a Cookie Dice Game - I used this printable number assessment found here. The children would roll a 20 sided dice and then dot the number they rolled on their sheet.

Printable Number Clip Cards - also found here.

If you Give a Moose a Muffin Counting Game  - I found this online as a printable and of course can't find the link again!  Children place the numbers in the box and then count out that number of muffins on the plate.

Kristen, my partner in crime, created this great rhyming game .  The children must organize the words by rhyming words.

Of course since we are in the Christmas season we needed to have a few holiday selections.  This sensory project was perfect for not only our club participants, but also their littles. The older kids would pick a tree and then place that number of presents under each tree.  The littles enjoyed scooping, sorting, and playing with the little presents and drums, which can be found at Dollar Tree!

And especially for the littles - a cookie sheet covered with some wrapping paper and some present bows with magnets attached!

For our first book we read:

If You Give a Moose a Muffin Big Book

Then we crafted these adorable cupcake ornaments:

I just loved how they came out.  I simply hot glued a Christmas ball ornament into a paper cupcake liner. The kids then applied puffy paint, glass beads, and a red pom-pom for the cherry.
The worked diligently on these....

Our second book was....
Gingerbread Baby

The children were enthralled while Ms. Kristen read about that mischievous gingerbread baby! 

Then we all decorated our very own felt gingerbread men.

And two of our finished products.....

It was a great morning of learning with friends - of course a bit chaotic at times, but overall a fun productive time! 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Advent Calendar 2012

I've always grown up with an advent calendar- whether it be one filled with little chocolates, the simple paper kind where you opened the flaps each morning to see a new picture, or one that actually held little trinkets. Last year I made my first handmade calendar, mostly for the OWL whom was 3. We had a blast with it!

Here is this year's calendar ....

With 24 individual paper pockets......super simple!

The best part is it made with items I already had on hand:
paper pockets ( purchased at Dollar Tree)

Now of course, this calendar will have a one year use, but there are simple ideas out there where you can make a calendar with containers that will last for many years.  

Some ideas:

I decided I wanted our calendar to include activities - but you could very easily make one with a simple trinket/treat inside, or a combination of both. Inside each of our pockets is an activity for us to do that day.  Now to make it easier, much easier, on myself I first printed out a blank calendar template for the month.  I put each and every event we had planned already for the month on the calendar.  This included items such as: trip to Santa's Village, Santa's Land at the GYC, Edaville RR, Visiting Santa, Santa Train,Christmas Party, etc. All of these items will be activities for our calendar. Super simple - using things we already had planned to do.

Using a simple piece of scrap paper with a little sticker decoration I  wrote each activity down and placed it in the correct pocket.

After the events on my calendar were done I came up with a list of other activities we could do as a family to fill in the rest of the pockets. I made sure I wrote this on my printable calendar page so I knew what I was doing each and every day!  Here are some of the ideas:

Bake Christmas cookies
Make salt dough ornaments
Make Applesauce cinnamon ornaments
Write a letter to Santa
Watch a Christmas movie and have popcorn
Decorate Christmas cookies
Make a gingerbread house
Go out to see the lights after supper ( Edward St.)
Deliver cookies to neighbors
Make reindeer food
Buy canned food and deliver to food pantry.
Have picnic dinner in front of Christmas Tree
Make Christmas cards for friends
Make ornament for tree.
Set up nativity
Decorate trees
Play Christmas game
Put up train around Christmas tree

The beauty of this year's calendar is the pocket design - if I need to make a change or adjustment to an activity based on how the day is going, I can simply slip it out to make changes!

My plan this year is to take all of the photos from our Advent ideas/activities and make them into a photo book.

These sites have great ideas for activities to use for your calendar, especially with little ones:

Enjoy and have fun with your countdown to Christmas!