Best Ideas for Kids - Coming Soon!

Friday, December 30, 2011


I am privileged to be hosting a blog party with some of the most talented child centered bloggers on the web.  We will be sharing our favorite posts from 2011, and we will invite you to include your favorite post in a blog hop.  Check back here on January 2nd, and you will be inspired with ideas to make 2012 a wonderful year for the children in your life.  

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How to Be the Best Mother to My Daughter

Thursday, December 29, 2011


I don't like to compare myself to other mothers because each situation and child is unique, but I do believe I am the best mother for my daughter.  Here are some parenting tips that make it easier to parent my energetic, brilliant, sensitive, and focused girl.  This doesn't mean I am perfect or always the best.  In fact, many of these lessons I learned by reflecting on mistakes and correcting my behavior.  I included links to my blog that speak to each idea, and illustrates what works for our family.

Accept my daughter for who she is right now.   It's okay if she doesn't want to attend ballet class because she can still enjoy dance at home, a setting she feels more comfortable.

Let her hands get dirty in the earth's soil.  It was truly remarkable to watch her create her own flower garden.

Transitions are hard for her.  Respond with patience and love when she has trouble dealing with changes. Create times to connect with her in a playful, positive way.

Give her opportunities to care for others.  The best place to start is in our own home, and sometimes I let her pamper Mommy.  Small children are egocentric, but keep encouraging generosity and compassion in relevant ways.

Teach her to contribute to the household.  Start encouraging help with chores at a young age.  Be happy for the help even if it's not perfect.

Provide lots of free play time.  Her happiest days are when she can spend most of the day playing.

Slow down.  Pause to take quiet moments in the day, and spend time doing nothing with my child.  In these times, she can feel appreciated for who she is not what she does.

Share my faith - a belief that there is a God who loves her and can provide her comfort and strength.

Allow my daughter to have her own creative ideas.  When we craft together, I have a vision for how I would like my own projects to turn out, but I allow her to use the provided materials to create something of her very own.  Her art pieces rarely look like mine, and I am proud she has her own self expression.

Appreciate my life.  Recognizing the beauty in my life and finding time to devote to my passion, creating activities for children, makes me a happier person.  Pursue a passion even if it has nothing to do with children.  

Outdoorsy Ideas for Kids Home on Vacation

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


Are you tired of your children complaining they are bored when they are home on vacation?  Here are five ideas for fun outdoors. These activities are suited for older toddler through the younger elementary children.  Check out these five links to inspire your family, outdoor time.  


GO FOR A HIKE!  Bundle up if it's cold and hit a local trail.  You and your child will get a great workout, and it's the perfect cure for cabin fever.  


SWING THE TOYS!  Clotheslines can be used for more than just drying clothes.  Hang up your child's toys and let your child pretend they are going on a wild ride.  If you don't have a clothesline, just tie some rope between two trees, and you're all set to go.  It's amazing something so simple provides big smiles.  


BRING PLAYDOUGH OUTSIDE!  Bring new life to old, hard, colorful playdough by mixing it with water.  Take out water, bowls, and spoons and find a place in your yard to mix playdough and water.  The dough will dye the water making outdoor "cooking" more magical.  


MAKE A WALK AN ADVENTURE! Go to an unfamiliar neighborhood for a walk.  Let your child take the lead.  Even if you travel only four blocks in an hour, your child will feel like an explorer. 


GET OUT IN THE DARK !  Create a homemade lantern to light the path, and your child will glow with excitement. 







Craft Ideas for Kids Home on Vacation

Tuesday, December 27, 2011


Are you tired of your children complaining they are bored when they are home on vacation?  Here are five craft ideas to entertain your children.  These activities are suited for older toddler through the younger elementary children.  Check out these five links to discover fun crafts to do with your children. 


Help! Help! Somebody's in trouble!  Transform your child's doll or stuffed animal into a superhero by making a SUPERHERO CAPE.  Rescue the day with this playful craft.


Create a BIG, modern art piece with a BALL, A BOX, AND A LOT OF PAINT.  Your child will love playing a game of roll the ball while painting at the same time.  


Practice those cutting skills by making a FUNNY FACE.  This is guaranteed to be a project you can do right now because all you need is paper, glue, and scissors.  You get to sneak in some math with this craft.  


Capture the beauty of the outdoors with a NATURE DISPLAY IN A JAR.  Bring some of the earth's treasures inside to enjoy when you are housebound due to poor weather.  


Take your art outdoors by PLAYING WITH PAINT.  Allow your child to express her artistic expression in a unique way.  



Playful Ideas for Kids Home on Vacation

Monday, December 26, 2011


Are you tired of your children complaining they are bored when they are home on vacation?  Here are five play ideas to entertain your children.  These activities are suited for older toddler through the younger elementary children.  Check out these five links to discover fun ways to play with your children.

1. Bowl Indoors!  Use hard candy as a bowling ball and marker caps as pins.  If you don't have those on hand, just scrunch up some leftover wrapping paper for a ball and line up toilet paper rolls as pins.  You will definitely SCORE big with your kids when you bowl indoors with them.  

2. Play Post Office!  Gather an assortment of paper, envelopes, crayons, stamps, and stickers, and you're all set for post office.  Save a big box from the recycling bin, and turn it into a mail box.  You can even bang out some Thank You cards for Christmas presents while playing post office.  

3. Make Porridge!  Get out a few bowls, spoons, water, and oats.  Allow your child to whip up his own culinary creation.  We tied this activity into the story, Goldilocks and Three Bears, but it's not a necessary element of exploring in the kitchen.  

4. Exercise with Balls! Get the kids moving inside.  Balls aren't only for outdoor play.  

5. Enjoy Hide and Seek! Add a twist to this classic game by involving your child's favorite stuffed animals and dolls. Make it educational by adding numbers.  

Merry Christmas!!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Best wishes for a Merry Christmas from our family to your's!


May you be blessed with sweet smiles, warm hugs, a happy heart and delicious food.  

Advent Rocks - Week 4

Thursday, December 22, 2011


This year I have created advent story rocks to illustrate the story of Jesus' birth for my four year old daughter during the month of December.  The prior weeks I have written about Week 1 Advent RocksWeek 2 Advent Rocks, and Week 3 Advent Rocks. I have been inspired by story stones such as those shown at Teach Preschool. Each day I present Miss E with a new rock and add to the story of Jesus' birth.  The story is simple to suit the preschool level maturity of my daughter.  We keep the rocks on a dish at her level so she can use them for playing and storytelling. 


Final Days of Advent Story
22. The three wise men were warned in a dream not to return to Harod to tell him about Jesus' birth, so they did not return to the king when they left Jesus. 
23. An angel came to Joseph to tell him not to return to their home in Nazareth because it was not safe for Jesus because King Herod wanted to hurt him.  
24. Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus went to Egypt because it was safer for Jesus. 
25.  Baby Jesus grew up with his parents, Mary and Joseph.  When he became a man, he would teach his followers and carry out God's plans.  
*The bolded words are depicted on the story stones.


Directions to Make Advent Story Rocks
  •  Find 25 flat, clean rocks.  I bought river rocks at Hobby Lobby for less than $4, but they can also be found outside for free.
  • Print free clip art images on the internet using Google image search.  Resize them on computer as needed to fit your rocks.  If you can draw well, you can draw the pictures too.
  • Use lamination glue or Mod Podge to adhere pictures to rocks.
  • Allow to dry overnight.
  • With a permanent marker, write each day's number on the other side of the rockFor older children, you can tell each day's story element, and the child can draw on the rocks.  Permanent markers work best on rocks, and you can paint over the drawing with Mod Podge or Lamination Glue.

Recycled Paper Ornament

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


We made these ornaments by using recycled paper.

We started by playing with water and paper.  She tore, mixed, kneaded, dyed, and transferred the paper.  I only provided the paper, tray, and water.  Miss E determined how to play with it and added extra bowls, kitchen utensils, and paint found in her outdoor play kitchen.  By far, this was her favorite step of the ornament making process, and she played with the water and paper for close to an hour.  I will definitely add paper as a regular "ingredient" in our outdoor kitchen for future play.








Next, I brought out cookie cutters.  We squeezed the water out of the paper and shaped it inside the cookie cutters.  

I carefully removed the cookie cutters off the paper shapes, and this was tricky so this step should be done by an adult or older child. We squeezed watered down glue on top of the shapes with a turkey baster.

We let them dry for three days, but the ornaments were still very wet.  It could be due to the fact we had humid conditions, but I wanted to speed up the process.  I popped them in the oven on a cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil for an hour on 200 degrees F.  The back of the ornaments stuck to the aluminum foil, but I just cut around the foil, and it makes a pretty backing to the ornaments.  Some shapes, like the snowflakes, turned out better than others, but the process of making the ornaments was loads of fun for our daughter.  

We finished by decorating the ornaments with glitter paint and glueing a ribbon on the back to make a loop to hang on the tree.  

Winter Nature Table

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


We have our Winter Nature Table out for playful natural exploration.  Last season we started our nature table tradition with our Autumn Nature Table.  We use a variety of natural objects that reflect the season and put the tray on our living room coffee table where it is accessible for our daughter to use for her imaginative play and creations.

This season we trimmed off branches from our living Christmas tree that we planted two years ago.  We sliced an orange and apple, dried them, and put them on the tray because children used to receive sweet fruit in their stockings for Christmas.  Chestnuts are a traditional nut roasted and eaten for the holidays.  Miss E made an orange with cloves at school, and it provides a delicious fragrance to the tray.  Once we displayed the tray, our daughter added our family picture.

In the past day, Miss E has incorporated the items from the tray in her play.  Last night she practiced her culinary skills and cooked a dinner for a tiger friend.


This morning she drew a plan for a garden, and she was busy planting.  



I can't wait to see how else Miss E plays with her Nature Table.  

Why Play? It Makes Kids Happy!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Unstructured play is the most important activity I provide for my daughter.  I could chatter on about how play increases her language abilities, builds math skills, improves her physical development, and develops her social skills, but that is not the reason why I value it is so much.  While this blog features a lot of craft and learning activities, that is a small portion of our day.  In reality, our four year old daughter spends a lot of her day playing.

My daughter needs to play because it brings joy to her life.  That joy is vital to her emotional well being, and I strongly believe that emotional health is the foundation she needs to succeed in life.  

When she plays, she radiates freedom. 



She can tackle the world and exudes confidence.



The possibilities are limitless, and her creativity shines.



There is no other activity she participates in that causes her to break out in a song and dance.  

Look for my Top Tips to Encourage Unstructured Play in 2012!!  I will be sharing easy ways parents can support the practice of play at home.  

Nature Ornament #5 - Frosted Leaf

Thursday, December 15, 2011



This Frosted Leaf is the final ornament featured in my Nature Ornaments series showing you how to make ornaments using natural treasures and common materials found in your home. All of these crafts can be done with your child.  The first four tutorials were an Acorn Santa, Twig and Berry Ornament, a Sparkly Shell, and a Nature Collage in a Lid


Materials
Salt Dough  using flour, salt, and water
rolling pin
leaves
knife
tempera paint
straw
rock salt, epsom salt (Be careful because this is used as a laxative), or bath salts
liquid glue or Mod Podge
string


Directions
-Make salt dough.  If the recipe is too sticky, add more flour.  Roll it flat onto a floured surface.
-Press leaves into dough making an imprint.





-Cut out leaf shape using a knife.  My daughter was able to do this with a child's knife, but if your child is working on cutting skills, an adult or older child may need to help.  Poke a hole with a straw into the leaf, so you are able to later put a string through it to hang the ornament.





-Place shapes onto a cookie sheet and bake at 200 degrees F for at least four hours until the dough becomes hard.
-Once cooled, paint the ornaments and allow them to dry overnight.  





-Put glue on top of the ornament.  Press the ornament into a tray of salt or sprinkle salt on top of the glue.  Shake off excess salt.










-Thread a string through a hole and tie to make a loop.  Hang on tree.

Here are two of Miss E's colorfully festive leaves.  I think some of her ornaments ended up looking more like hot peppers than leaves, but I love the flavor it adds to our tree.  










The ornament featured at the top is my own creation, and here is another Mommy made craft.  








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This post is linked up with No Time for Flashcards' Kids' Crafts and Early Learning Linky.

Advent Rocks - Week 3

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


This year I have created advent story rocks to illustrate the story of Jesus' birth for my four year old daughter during the month of December.  The prior weeks I have written about Week 1 Advent Rocks and Week 2 Advent Rocks. I have been inspired by story stones such as those shown at Teach Preschool. Each day I present Miss E with a new rock and add to the story of Jesus' birth.  The story is simple to suit the preschool level maturity of my daughter.  We will keep the rocks on a dish at her level so she can use them for playing and storytelling. 


Third Week of Advent Story
15. The shepherds on the hill heard the angel, and they came to the stable to worship Jesus.
16. King Herod had heard of Jesus' birth.  He was angry because he wanted to be the only king, and he didn't want baby Jesus to become the king.
17.King Herod sent for three wise men because he wanted them to find out if the story about Jesus was true.
18. The wise men followed the brightest star to find Jesus.
19. When they found Jesus, they bowed down to him and each presented him with three gifts One gift was gold.
20. Another gift was myrrh - an oil.
21. His third gift was frankincence - a perfume. These gifts were precious and valuable.
*The bolded words are depicted on the story stones.


Directions to Make Advent Story Rocks
  •  Find 25 flat, clean rocks.  I bought river rocks at Hobby Lobby for less than $4, but they can also be found outside for free.
  • Print free clip art images on the internet using Google image search.  Resize them on computer as needed to fit your rocks.  If you can draw well, you can draw the pictures too.
  • Use lamination glue or Mod Podge to adhere pictures to rocks.
  • Allow to dry overnight.
  • With a permanent marker, write each day's number on the other side of the rockFor older children, you can tell each day's story element, and the child can draw on the rocks.  Permanent markers work best on rocks, and you can paint over the drawing with Mod Podge or Lamination Glue.

Look for Week 4 Advent Story Rocks next week!


Nature Ornament #4 - Nature Collage in a Lid

Monday, December 12, 2011


This Collage in a Lid is the fourth of five ornaments in the Nature Ornaments series showing you how to make ornaments from natural treasures and common materials found in your home. All of these crafts can be done with your child.  The first three tutorials were an Acorn Santa, Twig and Berry Ornament, and a Sparkly Shell
These Nature Collage Ornaments were inspired by Teach Preschool's Nature Shadow Boxes done in shoebox lids.  
Materials




-a collection of small objects found in nature (If your children still put objects in mouth, this is to be done with close supervision as some items in nature such as berries can be poisonous.)
-jar lids
-liquid glue
-ribbon or string
-glue gun

Directions
-Collect natural materials outside with your child.
-Pour liquid glue into the underside of a lid creating a thin layer of glue.
-Allow child to create her own natural masterpiece by placing materials on top of the glue.




-Allow glue to dry at least a full day.  
-An adult can attach a ribbon to the back of the collage with a glue gun, so the ornament can be hung on the tree.  If using berries, they will wither and turn black over time, so this ornament may last only one season unless you varnish the top of the ornament which is optional.  

Miss E thoroughly enjoyed this craft project, and made the three ornaments.  She created the ornament featured at the top of this post and the two ornaments found below. 











I joined in the fun and created an ornament too.






This post is linked up to Friday's Nature Table at The Magic Onion and Nurture Store's Play Academy.

Christmas Lights Scavenger Hunt

Friday, December 9, 2011

Our dear friends invited us to watch their daughter's Christmas performance held at the Wimberley Trail of Lights, and before the performance we enjoyed the light displays with our girls.  I created a scavenger hunt for viewing the lights. You don't need to go to a large light display to enjoy a scavenger hunt because a neighborhood walk to view the lights is just as fun for the little ones.




Directions
-Use clip art or draw pictures for items you think your child can find on a Christmas lights walk.  Feel free to borrow my ideas, but I didn't scan a copy of this scavenger hunt list since I am sure you can create images as good or even better than my art.
-Cut out the large rectangular side of a gift bag.  Glue the scavenger hunt onto the plain side of the gift bag.  
-Cover it with clear contact paper or laminate if you have access to a machine. The contact paper gives it durability to be used several times.  
-If you want, your child can bring a dry erase marker or crayon to check off items found or keep a tally, but it's not necessary.  

Here is Miss E's friend enjoying her scavenger hunt. 




While the scavenger hunt was a hit with the girls, and they want to go on another Christmas Lights Scavenger Hunt, the magic of the twinkling night stole the show.  

Lights under a blanket of our rugged oaks 

Christmas melodies rang out in the dark.





Enveloped in a cozy sphere of lights and hay



 

Even a little romance





This post is linked up with the Outdoor Play Party - a blog hop with inspired outdoor play!!



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Nature Ornament #3 - Sparkly Shell

Thursday, December 8, 2011


This sparkly shell is the third of five ornaments in the Nature Ornaments series showing you how to make ornaments from natural treasures and common materials found in your home. All of these crafts can be done with your child.  The first two tutorials were an Acorn Santa and a Twig and Berry Ornament

Materials
-shell
-glitter paint or glitter glue
-letter stamps (optional)
-pipe cleaners, ribbon, or string
-beads (optional)
-glue gun or liquid glue

Directions
1. Collect shells. We always bring home shells from trips to the beach, and have an enormous collection.  If you don't have any shells at home, ask a friend if she will give you some shells or craft stores sell them.
2. Paint shell with glitter paint.  If you have letter stamps, dip the stamps in the paint and press them onto the shell.  Childhood 101 shows how to use letter stamps with air drying clay to make holiday decorations. 
3.String beads onto a pipe cleaner and adhere it to shell with glue gun to make a hanger. Caregivers may need to do this step if you have little ones. You can use liquid glue but it will take longer to dry and not be as strong as the hot glue.  I think the beaded hanger adds a special touch to the ornament, but it's not necessary.  You can attach a ribbon or string to the shell with glue.
4. Allow shell to dry. 

Miss E used her first initial on one ornament.


She was super excited to decorate a shell using one of her word wall words - YOU.  We painted the other shells to say, "I love you."

This shell is my Mommy craft since I usually create one of my own art pieces alongside Miss E when crafting.


This post is linked up at Red Ted Art's Craft Link Up Party and Nurture Stores' Play Academy Blog Hop


Making Magical Christmas Memories

Advent Story Rocks - Week 2

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


This year I have created advent story rocks to illustrate the story of Jesus' birth for my four year old daughter during the month of December. Last week, I wrote about the first week of Advent Rocks. I have been inspired by story stones such as those shown at Teach Preschool. Each day I will present Miss E with a new rock and add to the story of Jesus' birth.  The story is simple to suit the preschool level maturity of my daughter.  We will keep the rocks on a dish at her level so she can use them for playing. 


Second Week of Advent Story
8. Joseph and Mary need to go to Bethlehem for a census.
9. They traveled to Bethlehem while Mary was pregnant.
10. When they arrived, there were a lot of people there, and there was no room for them to sleep at an inn.
11. Mary and Joseph found a place to stay at a stable.
12. Baby Jesus was born.
13. Jesus was wrapped in swaddling clothes and put in a manger to sleep.
14. An angel came to a hill where there were shepherds and announced Jesus' birth. 
*The bolded words are depicted with an image on the stones.   


Directions to Make Advent Story Rocks
  •  Find 25 flat, clean rocks.  I bought river rocks at Hobby Lobby for less than $4, but they can also be found outside for free.
  • Print free clip art images on the internet using Google image search.  Resize them on computer as needed to fit your rocks.  If you can draw well, you can draw the pictures too.
  • Use lamination glue or Mod Podge to adhere pictures to rocks.
  • Allow to dry overnight.
  • With a permanent marker, write each day's number on the other side of the rock
For older children, you can tell each day's story element, and the child can draw on the rocks.  Permanent markers work best on rocks, and you can paint over the drawing with Mod Podge or Lamination Glue.

Look for days 15-21 next week.


This activity is linked up at Nurture Store's Play Academy - a place to find and share play ideas!

Nature Ornament #2 - Acorn Santa

Monday, December 5, 2011


This Santa is the second of five ornaments in the Nature Ornaments series showing you how to make ornaments from natural treasures and common materials found in your home. All of these crafts can be done with your child.

Materials 
-large acorns and acorn caps
-pipe cleaners
-googly eyes
-paint
-permanent marker
-liquid or hot glue
-string

Directions
-Glue acorn cap on top and bottom of acorn.  Even if acorn cap is attached to top, it helps to remove it and glue it because the caps tend to fall off with age.
-Paint the acorn cap on top like a Santa hat and the bottom acorn cap like Santa's beard.
-Allow paint to dry.
-With a permanent marker, draw Santa's mouth.
-Glue on googly eyes and pipe cleaners for the legs and arms.
-Adhere string with glue to hang the ornament.

As I said these ornaments can be done with our children, and my four year old daughter made an acorn ornament too.  When we do crafts together, I show her what I am doing, but I allow her to take creative freedom with each project.  Miss E decided not to make a Santa.  

In case you couldn't already identify these creatures, they are a Mommy and Baby Pig.