Thursday, September 29, 2011

Tea Party for Boys

The other day "A" surprised me with his own version of a tea party. There was no china or fancy tablecloths. fact there wasn't even tea, but juice boxes instead. What I also found was my ceramic ramekin filled with dog food for his stuffed animal and board games propping the toys up to eat.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Cookie Cutter Painting

The newest quest for kid-directed art I decided to lay out bowls of paint and a box of cookie cutters. Then just let them have at it!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

5 A Day Books: Real Babies

I was just reading a great article about reading books to babies by KidsHealth. They highlight the fact that reading to your infant will do the following:
  • teaches a baby about communication
  • introduces concepts such as stories, numbers, letters, colors, and shapes in a fun way
  • builds listening, memory, and vocabulary skills
  • gives babies information about the world around them
The article goes on to say that by the first year your child will have learned all the sounds they need to speak in their native language. WOW! You can read or listen to the article here. This article was so in tune to the 5 A Day challenge started over at The Imagination Tree. I encourage you to go over to her sight and learn more about the challenge and the benefits. For us we chose the theme of books with photographs of real babies. Babies can build text-to-self connections by looking at books of recognizable things, even if they can communicate it.

A side note about the books chosen this week: The majority of them I received in a Hello, Baby! tote bag that my community library hands out to women who are pregnant or recently had a child. Each tote has baby story time hours (which we LOVE), two board books, growth chart, milestone information, and an infant library card application. It is wonderful that libraries also are encouraging reading to infants as well!

This week we are reading:

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Abstract Weave Painting

I have wanted to try out this painting idea for awhile with the boys and then later hopefully in the classroom. The original idea was to flick paint onto two pieces of watercolor paper or card stock (something with a little weight). The child would pick only 3 colors of paint to use. I tend not to have luck with flicking paint...I must be doing it wrong. I decided to try the painting with marbles because to me the result looks the same. So I took 3 marbles in three different colors and put in in a tray with edges, where a piece of the paper was cut to fit the bottom. Roll the marbles around making an abstract painting. When I tried it out with "A" we only did it on one piece of paper (but next time I would use two pieces). After the painting has completely dried cut one piece into even strips and the second piece cut even strips in the opposite direction, leaving a 1/4 inch ledge on the paper (so don't cut the strips completely out of the paper, but leave them slightly connected).  With "A's" I just cut the original painting in half to make the two pieces. Then weave the two abstract paintings. I used a little glue stick on the edges to make the strips stay in place. When done weaving make a black mat or border. The finished product is pretty cool looking! I can't wait to do this with my 5th graders later this year.

Marble Painting
Finished Marble Painting (a wonderful piece of art as is)
Getting ready to weave (a great fine motor skill as well)
Finished Abstract Weave Painting
Close up of the weave so you get the idea!

How Many More Bites?

So I don't know about you but I hear, "How many more bites?" (enter whine here) almost every dinner time. There are so many thoughts on the whole dinner rules and forcing kids to eat that it can be mind boggling! So initially, I always told myself that I would not make my children clean their plate, but they need to try a bite of everything-every time. An example would be that if peas were served at dinner he would have to try a bite, and then if it is served again two days later, another bite (even if he KNOWS he hates them). This way they have exposure to vegetables and new food, and the goal is that HOPEFULLY after the 20th try they will magically love them. Now to be fair I have seen it work that way! Well, this  wonderful plan was not working. I started to realize that my son's ENTIRE diet was made up or carbohydrates. For my family and my medical issues this is very worrisome. To ensure he got more protein and veggies we initiated the bite thing. However, we gear up  tears, whining, and arguing every meal. Not that I mind the fighting but I stumbled upon a way that makes us all happy and makes family dinners more peaceful.

Here we were with the same, "Wah, Not four more bites" when I suggested we play a game of chance instead. He could roll a die. Whatever number he rolled he had to have that many bites. He may only get a two and I told him I would accept it, but if he rolled a six he had to accept that number too. He was so excited he could hardly contain himself. Guess what he rolled?- A five....and he happily ate every bite. Since then he doesn't even ask the bite question. We keep the dice by the dinner table and when it is toward the end of the meal he announces, "I'm gonna roll the dice, Okay?" He loves that not only is it a game, but he gets to be in control. Some times it works in his favor, but often it doesn't. When he rolls a six, "Ah, Man!" (but instead of enter whine here it is enter laugh here).
Ahh, the dreaded turkey burger patty- 5 more bites Buddy! Ignore the super not healthy dinner ;0)

Friday, September 23, 2011

Top 10 Books for Fall

1) The Little Yellow Leaf by Carin Berger. A little yellow leaf clings is hesitant to let go of a giant oak tree. As he hangs on out of indecision he watches the signs of fall turning to winter unfolding. It isn't until he spies another leaf hanging on that he gets the courage to let go, now that he doesn't have to do it alone. The illustrations are fabulous mixed media.
2) Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert.The wind has picked up a man made of leaves and carried him away. Follow his travels as you see leaf collages and die cut illustrations Ehlert is famous for.
3) Applesauce Season by Eden Ross Lipson: A look into family tradition as a boy from the city goes to the farmer market with his family, buys apples, and makes homemade applesauce. A recipe is included. Perhaps it will encourage you to start a family tradition your own.
4) The Very Best Pumpkin by Mark Kimball Moulton: I just discovered this book a few weeks ago and fell in love. It is the story of a boy who lives on a farm with a pumpkin patch. The best pumpkin and grown far away from the others and the boy gives it special attention. The pumpkin helps form a friendship with a neighbor.A truly sweet and remarkable friendship. If you go to pumpkin patches during Harvest Season this will provide tons of text-to-self connections for your little ones. 
5) Goose by Molly Bang: A goose egg falls into a woodchuck's den. She loves her adoptive family and all the skills they taught her, but is sad knowing she doesn't totally fit in. It isn't until falling off a cliff and discovering she flies that she really embraces her uniqueness. Bang has such a talent to making books that make you think and leaves room for wonderful discussion.
6)Look What I Did With a Leaf by Morteza Sohi: This is actually a craft book that shows multiples of animal creatures you can make from leaf collecting. A great companion to Leaf Man. I pull this book out every year to create something with the freshly fallen Autumn leaves.
7) Thank You Sarah- The Woman Who Saved Thanksgiving by Laurie Halse Anderson: Well, technically Thanksgiving is in the Fall and if you haven't heard of how it became a national holiday you must read this picture book. It was a woman named Sarah who petitioned to numerous Presidents over 38 years with numerous letters to make it a reality. Fun fact mentioned in the book: This Sarah is the same woman to create the "Mary Had a Little Lamb" rhyme.
8) Goose's Story by Cari Best: Based on a true story that happened to the author. The geese arrive every Spring and they notice one who is missing a foot. After the flock shuns it the little girl befriends it (without trying to interfere too greatly). Slowly the goose learns to survive with the missing limb. When it returns the following year the flock has had a change of heart. This story does take place in the Spring but in the Pacific Northwest Canadian Geese come in September/October for their migration. So here we associate Geese with Fall.
9) Pumpkin Town! Or, Nothing is Better or Worse Than Pumpkins by Katie McKy: A family of pumpkin farmers accidently scatter pumpkin seeds that the wind carry to the nearby town. When the town becomes overrun with pumpkins they try to fix the consequence of their actions. A great read-aloud with the coolest, funkiest illustrations.
10) How Many Days To America- A Thanksgiving Story by Eve Bunting: A modern tale of how a family a boards a boat for America to escape soldiers in his Caribbean country and finally be free. They arrive on Thanksgiving. This is great to read in conjunction to Molly's Pilgrim by Barabara Cohen.This is a very short chapter book about a Russian Immigrant child, who when asked to make a pilgrim doll for school makes it resemble her mother. She argues that since she game to America for religious freedom that makes her a pilgrim as well.
As I was writing this list I realized I could have kept going. Autumn is by far my favorite time of the year and I would love to hear your recommendations as well.

Soup & Salad

I know I don't normally share recipes, but this week as I was making some of my favorite meals I thought you might like to have the chance to make them as well. Both of these recipes take less than 30 minutes to make and are low calorie. They are my two most fabulous swaps for higher calorie meals: creamy potato soup (I think it is the yummiest potato soup I have ever tasted) and broccoli, bacon, raisan salad (one of my favorites at the deli, but too fattening normally). Feel free to play with the recipes for your liking...I know I do!

Kielbasa Potato Chowder
  • 1/2 pound smoked kielbasa  (I use turkey), cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 3 Bacon Strips, diced
  • 1 small onion , finally chopped (I use only about 1/2 because family not too fond of onions)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 1/2 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 cup water
  • 2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon chicken bouillon granules
  • 1/8  teaspoon pepper
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh spinach
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream or 2% milk
  In a large nonstick skillet, brown kielbasa and bacon; drain, reserving 1 teaspon drippings. Add onion and garlic; cook over medium heat for 2-3 minutes or until tender.
  In a large saucepan , bring broth and water to a boil. Add potatoes, bouillon, and pepper. Cook 10 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Add the meat mixture and spinach; cook over medium heat for 2 minutes until spinach is wilted. Reduce heat. Add cream ; cook 1 minute or until heated through. Makes: 4 cups. (got from a Light and Tasty magazine)

Nutrition Facts: 1 cup equals 190 calories, 6 grams of fat (2 saturated fats), 28 mg of cholesterol, 852 mg of sodium, 22 carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, 12 grams of protein.

Crunchy Broccoli Salad
  • 8 cups fresh broccoli florets
  • 1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced (again I 1/2 this part because we aren't huge fans of onions)
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 3 Tbsp. canola oil or Extra Virgin Olive Oil (I use EVOO because I like it and it is heart healthy)
  • 3 Tbsp. seasoned rice vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp. sugar ( I use two packets of Splenda)
  • 1/4 cup sunflower kernels
  • 3 bacon strips, cooked and crumbled (If making with above soup cook with that bacon to save time)
  In a large bowl, combine the broccoli, onions, and cranberries. In a small bowl, combine oil, vinegar, and sugar; drizzle over broccoli mix and toss to coat. Chill until serving. Sprinkle with sunflower kernels and bacon. Makes: 10 servings (or if you are like me about 4-5). Got from a Heart Healthy Magazine Apr./May 2010.

Nutrition Facts: 3/4 cup equals 121 calories, 7 grams fat (1 gram saturated fat), 2 mg cholesterol, 233 mg sodium, 14 carbohydrates, 3 grams fiber, 3 grams of protein.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Experimenting with Ramps

Over at PreKinders Blog I found another great science idea, using ramps. I set up ramp with some materials from my backyard. Then I chose 10 items to have "A" roll down the ramps. I made two boxes to sort the ones who would roll and the ones who would not. The rule was that the item needed to roll down the entire ramp and not fall off halfway, if it did then it went in the No box. Of course, he was able to test the item more than once to make sure it wasn't user error. Now like all good scientist it is important for the child to first make predictions and then test them out, which is exactly what we did. I have to say "A" loved this and keeps pulling the ramp back in the house to try new items.

Our original 10 items were:  tambourine, water sensory bottle, baby grip ball, sorting ring, triangle, wooden circle, wheel, wood dowel, Mr. Potato Head (without accessories), and a heart cookie cutter.

Science Center all set up

The Experiment:
The Results:

Did any of the result shock you. They did us!

Monday, September 19, 2011


My son and I recently got the Roly-Poly Egg by Kali Stileman. I wasn't sure "A" would like it from the cover but we opened it up and fell in love with the main character-Splotch!
Splotch is a sweet bird who is made up literally of a splotch of paint. One day she laid a small, spotty, and perfect egg. As the egg goes on a rolling adventure among african wildlife Splotchy desperately tries to catch up. There is a fun dotted line on each page to track the path of the egg. When the egg hatches we meet Baby Splotch.
After reading the book we couldn't resist make Splotches of our very own! Using Splotches of paint (which are basically mistakes) was a true test of my patience with kid-directed art. I got to say I didn't have my best Mommy moments after paint ended up on the library book, floor, and dining room chair. The fact that I lost six hours of school work today didn't help my mood. That being said as always the finished product is always worth the trouble.
My Splotch and Baby Splotch with the hatched egg.
"A's" lift the flap egg.
"A's" Splotch and Baby Splotch.
Speaking of the Splotch character if you are into art at all pick up the book Beautiful Oops by Barney Saltzberg immediately! Most libraries carry it. It is pages of mistakes (torn paper, ink spots, holes, etc) turned into something new. In fact: check out the motto for the book:
So have fun making mistakes and turning them into beautiful pieces of art or perfectly wonderful characters.

5 A Day Books: Olivier Dunrea Books

The author, Olivier Dunrea, has an adorable set of books about goslings. These books are great for toddlers with humor, repetitiveness, and deals with friendship. The first in the series is about Gossie who loves her red rain boots.The next introduces Gossie's best friend in Gossie & Gertie. Another book is Ollie the Stomper who follows Gossie and Gertie around and is jealous of their boots, only discover he doesn't even like wearing them. Another book is about Peedie who has a red cap instead of boots and has a tendency to forget things.The last book we will be reading this week is BooBoo, a blue gosling who eats everything-even bubbles! Check them out-I promise they won't disappoint.

If you want to know more about the 5 a Day Book challenge please read the wonderful blog over at The Imagination Tree.

Caterpillar Fractions

Another Pinterest idea: Introducing fractions by making a caterpillar out of poms. Choose three different colors and then have your child figure out how many of the poms is one color out of the total amount. You can download the worksheet from The First Grade Parade blog or make one yourself. It was actually a great way to introduce the idea and simple for my Kindergartner to understand.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Yakkity Yak

"Take out the papers and the trash
Or you don't get no spendin' cash
If you don't scrub that kitchen floor
You ain't gonna rock and roll no more
Yakety yak (don't talk back)"
~The Coasters

We love this song in our house-along with the rest of the Stand By Me Soundtrack. Many times "A" will be caught singing the above lyrics. Now that Daddy is gone I know that not only I was going to need more help around the house, but with "A" going to school he may need some spending cash. I put together a chore chart in Excel. The first couple of items are chores he must do simply for living in our house and being a part of the family (pick up toys before bed, brush teeth, fold and put away his own clothes). The second half of the chart has different jobs with money attached to them. The most expensive chores are vacuuming for 75 cents and there are various chores worth less (folding towels-50 cents, feed the dogs-10 cents, get the mail-5 cents, etc). Payday is every Friday after school. It works like this: He doesn't have to do chores worth $ but he must do the chores that are part of being a member of our household. If he does not do those chores he is docked 5 cents each time. At the end we tally it all up. An added bonus is for every large gem he earns and keeps all week he gets an additional 50 cents. You can read more about our behavioral gem system here. Basically big gems are earned for doing items above and beyond. Little gems are earned for being good, being a good listener, etc. Big gems are for doing chores he doesn't have to do without being asked, sharing with brother for no reason, etc.
This weeks chart
The house in amount paid column are ones he must do-as you can see he got 5 cents docked for leaving dishes out.
The bottom half is the chores worth $. It is all visual because he can't read yet.
This is the second week in and it has been a huge hit. The first week he earned $2.20 and then this week he earned $3.60. He is constantly looking to see what chores he needs to do to get $ and gets excited to see the tally marks add up. Now of course my 5 year old does not get $5.80 to spend like crazy! We divide the allowance up three ways. The first is he must put 10% towards a charitable cause. We did research of different things he could do: make care bags for homeless people, soccer balls for third world kiddos through UNICEF, books for kiddos from World Vision, and then we hit the idea that got him super excited. He has decided to save up for a flock of chicks through Heifer International. The chickens will got to a family in a third world country. The eggs provide nourishment and the remaining eggs can be sold at market to provide income. He loved the idea of the chickens so he is saving up for the $20 price tag. Another 40% goes into savings at the bank (I will deposit it every time it reaches $5). Then the remaining 50% is fun money to spend how he wants. He has bought candy (YIKES) and toys. Next week he wants to save for a book fair at school that is coming up. Overall, I am happy with how it has all turned out, and honestly it makes taking care of the house by myself SO much easier.
The chicks "A" is saving up for a family in a 3rd world country
An idea I hope to implement for the three ways to divide allowance from Pinterest.
My current way of organizing the $- a pacifier container (ghetto, I know)