Monday, September 15, 2008

Hello Again and Five Senses

I'm back! I'm back! Well mostly back. Life has felt crazy the past two months. Whew, it's nice to unpack the suitcases again...even if it is only for four weeks. It's long enough to get some projects going. In fact right after we finished putting things away A. said, "now we have to do an art project because it has been so long since we have done one." I guess he's been missing it too!

As an explanation, we've returned to the states for a little while. Saying bye to Fiji was a bit of a heart-break--so many wonderful learning opportunities, beautiful sights, and lovely people we will miss. I console myself only with the discovery of the US East Coast, it's an exciting new adventure awaiting us now.

By the way, thanks to everyone who has been making such wonderful comments here on my little blog. Right now I just can't respond to all of them, but in the future I will. And please know that I read every comment and can't help smiling at the kind words shared with me. Thank you so very much for brightening my day!

Well, enough chit chat, let's get down to business. The LLL theme of the month (it's changed to monthly instead of weekly), is the Five Senses. I have some lousy photos from a nice activity we did one morning focusing on the sense of touch. We gathered several random items and made our own texture book. A. provided the word lists to describe the various items and of course was in charge of the gluing.

Here are the gathered texture supplies:

Here is a page from the finished product--I told you it wasn't anything spectacular:

And this is about how things looked for a week while we were slowly making our way across the country.
Tight fit. I decided to incorporate the 5 senses theme into one of our travel games. We decided to go on a pretend walk in different locations and use our senses to tell us what was there. Our first stop was the jungle; we heard a jaguar, saw a colorful toucan, felt the wet leaves, and more. We followed the jungle with a deep sea dive complete with tasty plankton, rough coral, and striped fish to name a few. It was great fun to transform the boring landscape around us into a whole new world using our imaginations. Everyone loved it. I'm thinking I'll hang on to this idea for when we need a quick waiting activity somewhere. No supplies needed besides an active imagination!

For some other wonderful activity ideas, check out this list of posts!

Friday, August 15, 2008

LLL Theme of the Week: Exercise

I'm really not available much these days, but I wanted to at least put a few ideas down (without photos) on this week's LLL theme: Exercise.

Something I'd like to do is make an exercise calendar or maybe weekly schedule is a better name for it. First you make some cards with cut-outs from magazines or drawings that portray different exercise ideas. Then at the beginning of each week let your children pull them out randomly for the week. They participated in the planning, and can anticipate what activities are expected each day. You can have a week full of activities already decided upon that you can plan for in advance.

Here are a few exercise ideas I came up with. It probably works better to have lots of choices, so be detailed when possible. Also, make duplicates of the favorite activities.

Go for a walk (to the park, to the store, in the neighborhood, at the beach, etc.)
Play in the park (soccer, baseball, choose specific parks, etc.)
Bike ride (again, to a certain destination, or at a specific location)
Dance (when my son was 2-3 yrs I would let him jump on the bed while I danced to Wiggles)
Yard/ Housework (don't tell me you aren't sore after spending the day deep cleaning)
Yoga for Kids (I haven't done this, but I'd LOVE to get a DVD or something and try it...any suggestions?)
Pillow Punching (see here)
Obstacle Course (who doesn't love one of those)
Follow the Leader (make a line using tape and add stations for certain activities like jumping jacks, etc.)
Indoor Wrestling (see here)

Friday, July 4, 2008

LLL: Measurements

The Theme of the Week for Laugh, Learn, Love is Measurements. This sparked some good conversations, especially in the kitchen. It's amazing how just thinking about a certain thing helps me to bring it up more often in our daily experiences. We also had a planned activity focusing on measuring length or height. We took photos, but they were terrible (bad lighting ion a rainy morning), so you have to use your imagination.

Materials: Measuring tape, scissors, string/yarn/ribbon. You will also need several of some other items--we used straws and dominoes.

Using the string we cut a length equal to A.'s hight, then mine, than my husbands. So we had three strings, all different lengths. We taped them to the floor for some comparisons, first to each other. "Oh look, my string is longer than yours, but daddy's string is the longest of all." etc.

Next we brought out the measuring tape and measured and recorded each one in inches. Then we lined up other objects to see how many it took to reach the end of each person's string. "A. is 18 1/2 dominoes tall, but only 6 straws tall." etc.

After this I taped the strings to an empty wall with papers giving our recorded measurements inches, dominoes, and straws.

We have guest arriving today, so we will ask them to participate as well. We'll measure their height and put the strings on the wall next to ours to get even more smaller/taller examples.

I also taped a few things (pencil, spoon, toothbrush) to a paper and helped A. use a ruler to measure and record how long they were. On another day I found a page in his workbook that had 4 clown pictures, all different heights. The instructions said to use a coin to measure how tall each of them are. That turned out to be a fun variation too. I figure it can easily be repeated with other pictures.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Stapleless Paper Chains

The classic paper chain is, well, a classic. But sometimes even an old favorite needs a little "chainge". These new paper chains take extra time, but require no staple, tape, or sticker to secure each link. Plus, it's fun to change the shape, and they are easy enough for a 4 year old to make without injury (didn't you ever staple your thumbs together making a paper chain?) I have, with difficulty, found instructions for Stapleless Paper Chains in two locations. One was rather confusing and lacking any photos or diagrams, while the other was a pdf that was impossible to locate a second time. I decided to attempt my own tutorial for it. So, here we go.

You'll need: paper, scissors, pencil, and two round templates (1-2 inch and 2-3 inch).

Making the Links: I cut a regular size paper into fourths--in half vertically and then in half horizontally. This creates a chain link approximately 3 inches long. You can go for the jumbo size and use a whole sheet of paper (yielding a 5.5 inch link), or even a teeny tiny version. Any size rectangular paper will work.
Fold your paper in half vertically. Next fold it in half horizontally. You should now have one folded edge on the left side, two folded edges on the bottom, and four edges on the right side and top.
Using the larger round template, draw a semicircle starting at the top, left corner with the straight edge along the folded left side. Using the smaller template, draw another semicircle within the larger semicircle. A little less than a half inch from the left side draw a vertical line starting at the bottom of the paper and ending where it connects with the semicircle. I call this bottom part the "stem."
**Note: The center cut must be wide enough for the next chain link's unfolded stem to fit in. Also, try to keep a good distance between the tops of the semicircles. The smaller the distance, the weaker the chain link.**

Now cut along all your lines. This is a finished link. If you want all the links to be identical in your chain, you can create a pattern to trace from this first link. If you want each one to be individual, don't bother drawing any lines--just cut freehand (it adds a charming spontaneity).
Connecting the links into a chain: Vertically fold link 1 and feed it through a horizontally folded link 2. Repeat this process until you have reached the end of your chain. Then secure the very last link with a small piece of tape.

Shape variations:
Rectangle--Very easy to cut the straight lines of the outer shape. Great for younger children if an adult can cut the centers.

"Y"--This was the easiest for my son to cut. I drew a line that curved up towards the top right corner. Then I cut out the centers.

Heart--Perfect for Valentine's Day.


As you can see there is still room for quite a bit of additional improvisation. Hope some of you enjoy trying this.

Crayon Rock Art

I know this isn't a new one, but maybe it's been a while for some of you. We had a wonderful time making these colorful art pieces.

***CAUTION: watch out that little (and big) fingers do not get burned on the oven, hot rocks or melted wax during the project! Constant parental supervision on this one.***

What you need: crayons (our Crayola and RoseArt crayons produced much more vivid colors than the no-name brand), rocks, foil, hot pads, and access to an oven.
  • First collect some rocks, we preferred the larger ones.
  • Wash, dry, and place in an oven for about ten minutes or until hot.
  • Place the rock on a sheet of foil (with a hot pad or towel under the foil) and decorate with your crayons. The hotter the rock, the more runny the wax will be.
As you can see, there was some serious concentration going on here.
The final photos didn't come out too well, but trust me they are better in person--very bright and cheerful.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


Unplugged Project this week:
We decided to go the reading/rhyming route this time. Using some small wooden alphabet letters and a homemade cardboard pattern we rhymed the word "old". If you don't have a wooden alphabet, try using the plastic magnet letters or even the foam ones.
A found the right letters for his template and then we set about looking for 'real' words that rhymed with old by trying out each of the letters in the alphabet.
Our favorite part of the activity was making silly words. A couldn't help laughing at the sound of some of them.

**Update: I had no idea my little set of letters would spark such interest! Unfortunately they are something I found in a Fijian nickel and dime store for about $5. There was no brand or "made in" information on the packaging or on the wooden box itself. So sorry to everyone interested. :-(
Check out Carrie's comment below to see some links to other wooden alphabets. Thanks Carrie!

Monday, June 23, 2008

LLL: Balloons

Here is my post for Laugh, Learn, Love's Theme of the Week: Balloons; four ideas I have created myself and borrowed from others.

Balloon Badminton: Almost every kid I know loves to play some form of "keep away" with balloons. You know, hitting it up and trying not to let it touch the ground. Well, we developed a variation on it that always results in a case of the giggles. Using fly swatters as rackets, we hit the balloon back and forth to each other like a game of badminton. Sometimes I put A on my bed so he is further from the ground (it's easier for me to get to the balloon in time when it's a higher to start with). And sometimes we use the couch as a net we have to hit the balloon over. I pretend it's my exercise on some days, but it's always great for getting A's wiggles out.

Balloon Puppets: The way a balloon slowly sways and bounces makes it perfect for a silly puppet bobbing his head up and down. We used yarn for hair, pompom for a nose, rubber band for mouth, and a Popsicle stick for the puppeteer to hold. Just about anything will work though: buttons, stickers, paper, ribbon, etc. Find what supplies you have around the house, or simply grab a marker and draw until someone new comes to life. (Markers are A's preference--nice and fast.)

Balloon Balls
: I saw this idea on Luckybeans and knew it would be an instant hit in our house. I simultaneously hoped really hard it wouldn't be a disastrous mess too! In the end it was a fantastic, mess-less activity. We made a super large one and a med-small one. World Dad stole the small one to use at work as a stress ball (not that his current job is at all stressful, just boring). We did have fun tossing both of them off the balcony to Solo who was a very good sport about being the target during target practice.

Balloon Science: We haven't done this one yet, but I want to try it soon. We have a two week school break right now, so it's looking like a perfect opportunity. If we do, I'll try to post a photo.
**UPDATE: it was a successful science project. Here are the before and after pictures.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Non-scary activities for the dark

I've become that mom who uses old toilet paper rolls for a multitude of kids crafts. I'm not proud of the extreme tackiness. But what can I say, they are plentiful and free, why not put them to use. Here's the latest activity.

Armed with a push pin and a safety pin we punched holes in several old TP rolls. Some designs were, well, quite abstract. While others were made by following a penciled pattern.
And here is the final product all lit up with a mini flashlight.
We also pulled out a blue Wal-Mart Glow Stick to see how that would work . Not a bad varriation.
We then attempted to play the shadow game. This is really a fun one when you can get it to work right. Unfortunately our flashlights were uncooperative. Let me explain, first gather a bag of random, smallish items. Then in a darkened room have your child sit facing the same direction as you, but in front of you (so they can't see you), and guess the objects as you hold them up in front of the flashlight. Here's the thing, make sure your flashlight has the right shine circumference (is there a technical term for that? Someone help me out) otherwise there are double shadows or blurry images, etc. Our best light for this activity was a headlamp which was even better because I was left with two hands free. Unfortunately the bulb gave out on me. Boo hoo. But try this one next time the power goes out. It's fun.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Yard Soup

This was the product of his creative efforts. He spent all afternoon collecting and adding ingredients, remembering (and changing) the recipe, and constantly stirring his soup. I thought the finished product was rather beautiful.

He enjoyed the experience so much he made a second soup from leaves, sand, paper, water, and I'm not really sure what else, but it sure stunk after a day or two! Not quite as pleasant of an activity that time around, but still perfect for pretend play.

Aphabet Balance Beam

I have tried several times to make a walking line for A using colorful electrical tape. Just something he can follow with his feet while concentrated on balance. He never likes it. But, as we were playing with our small alphabet foam squares he found the very long line irresistible to his little feet. Over and over he walked along his new balance beam. It wasn't long before we were changing the configuration to make a square, rectangle, zig-zag, and more. I'm thinking this is a perfect rainy day activity to get out some wiggles.