Stained Glass Apples

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This whimsical creation is a neat way to do stamp painting with your child!

Cut an apple in half crosswise (not lengthwise, as your normally would) – you’ll be able to see the pretty star where the seeds are, which will make for the prettiest prints!

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Squeeze different colors of paint onto paper plates so that each apple half will have a mosaic of colors. Travis loved helping with this step.

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Now dip the apple in the paint, and transfer onto tracing paper. Here’s the key – don’t smoosh the apple around.

Travis got the hang of this so much faster than I anticipated! He really liked the challenge, in fact, of pressing down the apple only once and then pulling up without disturbing the circular image, which is a bit tricky because the apple suctions to the paper. So this project turned out to be great for our motor skill development.

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Once the paint dried, I covered all the apple prints with contact paper (sticky side down), and cut out around the circles.

Travis helped punch holes in the apple circles…

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… and then I laced them together using twine.

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Suspend from a window where the apples will catch the sun!

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Alphabet Flower Garden

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We are so ready for spring flowers around here, so decided to make them bloom in our home before the ones outside catch up. This beautiful foam sticker garden was a great way to sneak in some learning.

I drew flower stems and leaves on a piece of foam with a permanent marker (poster board would probably work even better), with a letter of the alphabet at the head of each stem. I then wrote the alphabet letters on foam flowers.

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It was now up to Travis to add the flower to each stem, matching up letters as he went.

For a few minutes, he was more interested in just fooling around with the foam stickers. But once he made the connection of what I was really asking of him, he was SO excited each time he found the matching stem for his flower.

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He made it about three-quarters of the way through the alphabet before losing interest, so I finished off our garden, but not before proudly surveying his work!

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The next morning, we added additional stickers of leaves and bugs to round out the picture – a beautiful spring garden.

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Spring Sensory Bin

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Happy Spring! We’re kicking off the new season with this pastel-hued sensory bin. I made dyed rice once before on this blog, but this time I used Kool-Aid for more vibrant color; you can prepare batches exactly the same as for Kool-Aid Dyed Pasta.

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After the rice dried, I set up with a bin with a few spring animals, a rake, and fake flowers, for a pretty pastel garden.

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Travis immediately set to raking – he loves scooping through rice, no matter the theme! For this activity, we talked about how flowers grow in the spring, and he loved “planting” some in the rice. Then we decided we needed to fill up a watering can with the rice, which could then rain “April showers” down on the flowers. This went on for quite a while!

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I also added plastic Easter eggs at one point, which were fun to scoop with, fill with rice to shake like maracas, and more.

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Travis loved the way that the rice started out in 4 separate color piles, and then all mixed together.

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Hopefully this helps make your first day of spring as joyful as ours was!

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Feelings Crate

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Our latest set of activities from Koala Crate was all about friendship and feelings… Parts of this crate were a bit advanced for a two and a half year old, but talking about feelings and emotions is something we always aim to do, and it was nice to have new props!

As with all Koala Crates, you could mostly put these together with craft store items, although the dry erase mirror might be difficult to replicate. Read on…

The biggest hit by far were the felt Funny Face Puppets. Travis loved applying the felt shapes to the provided felt circles, telling me what his creation was feeling (I was especially impressed when he made a “sleepy” one) and designing them to look like relatives.

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On an intellectual level, he really knew where eyes and noses and other features should go in relation to each other, a nice leap forward.

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Older kids may be interested in assembling their faces as a game, using the provided spinner to apply facial features one at a time, but Travis didn’t quite get that concept.

The Friendship Bracelet project was a bit of a dud (although I thought the provided water-filled paintbrush was neat). We threaded the wooden beads onto a dowel to paint, but Travis was more into mixing the colors than painting the beads.

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Once dry, I put together the bracelets for him… and then did love that he chose to give one half of the pair to his daddy! Still, this project was a nice way to talk about the importance of sharing with friends.

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The Feelings Poster was super cute, but Travis preferred just to doodle with the dry erase marker rather than specifically draw emotions on it.

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We then used this crate as a nice jumping-off point to act out our emotions. First we assigned actions to each emotion – stomping for angry, jumping for surprised, dancing for happy etc. Then we played “musical emotions”! I would start a song, and Travis would act out the emotion he felt fit the song best. A great way to build EQ!

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We ended by putting together a suggested craft in the kit – a “Feelings Friend” that Travis can take with him or use to help express his emotions. Punch a hole in a cardboard tube, then use scissors to make that hole the size of a quarter.

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Slip in a piece of paper, and trace a circle through the opening. Repeat all around the paper. Remove the paper from the tube to draw different emotions on each circle, then slide back into the tube.

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Now your toddler can spin the faces around!

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We’ll likely return to all these items once Travis is older, and his emotional vocabulary develops. Thanks Koala Crate!

B Week!

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It’s hard to believe this is our second to last week of our Letter of the Week journey, begun last September. We had a (n appropriately lettered!) blizzard hit, and frigid temps, but that didn’t deter us from B week fun.

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Bird: My favorite moment of the week was a stop into a local bird sanctuary, where we spotted early spring birds, including a beautiful cardinal! A great way to get out into nature.

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Bubbles: Bubbles are always a childhood favorite, so to make them different this week, we used bubble bath and played bubble barber, piling on silly beards and hairdos. Travis loved giving me a beard and rubbing bubble “lotion” all over his and my arms. We also made a painting with bubbles (simply add food coloring to bubble solution, hold up to paper and blow!), for a neat way to visualize them.

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For more bubbly fun (but not the soap kind), we also painted with bubble wrap.

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Boats: Speaking of bath time, make an easy boat that will really float in the tub. Use an empty Styrofoam tray from the supermarket as the base; place a blob of playdough in the middle, and insert a straw with a paper sail taped to it for the mast. Travis loved it so much he didn’t wait until bathtime to play, and he loved that it really floated.

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Balloon/Bounce: Balloons are another constant favorite, so we needed to make them special for B week. What could be better than balloons that bounce? Buy large balloons, and smaller rubber bouncy balls. Slide a ball up inside each balloon before inflating, then inflate and watch them bounce – they’ll be off balance and wonky and super fun. The bouncy balls turned out to be a huge hit on their own. Travis used them in musical play, to bounce backwards off the wall, and more.

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Backwards: Be silly this week and do whatever you can backwards. Bounce a ball backwards, wear a shirt backwards, or even eat a backwards meal (dessert first of course, or breakfast for dinner and vice versa).

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Baseball: Read a cute intro to baseball like Little Baseball from Sleeping Bear Press, listen to “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”, and then take a few practice swings with a soft bat and ball!

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Beanbags: Beanbags have nearly endless possibilities; race with them on your back, squeezed between your knees, on your head – the sillier the better!

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Beanbags also make great musical props or color-learning tools.

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Buttons: With the help of some sticks we collected, Travis made a button tree. Or just play with buttons! Travis loves sorting them by color, or piling them into and out of containers.

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Butterfly: This word was the prompt for three fantastic art projects, one messy and fun (footprints), another a touch more scientific (balancing), and one just beautiful (zipline butterflies). It was nice to think about spring butterflies flitting about, here in our late winter weather! Of course you can also flutter like a butterfly using scarves as wings.

Our weekly extras…

Fine art: Travis helped construct an entire block city for our 3-D art project this week. Admittedly, I did most of the crafting, but he loved building stacks and towers in the final creation.

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Food: Some favorites this week were baby bananas, blueberries, and bagels… And of course we had to take a field trip to a bakery for a brownie.

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Books: Your child will get gales of laughter for The Pigeon Needs a Bath! by Mo Willems. You might also check out any of the Angelina Ballerina books, The Bear in the Book by Kate Banks, Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey, or The Lamb and the Butterfly by Arnold Sundgaard. Our favorite reading moment this week was with our Usborne Young Beginners Bugs, matching them up to Travis’s bug kit.

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Songs: Make sure you listen to Baby Beluga this week!

Math: We talked about the concept of before, as in 1 comes before 2, 2 comes before 3, etc. Floor puzzles or number mats are nice ways to visualize this idea.

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I’ll be posting our final installment – letter A – next week, so stay tuned!

Sensory Rainbows

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I haven’t a drop of Irish blood in me, but I’ve always adored Ireland – the literature, the music, the wit, the music, the scenery… Did I mention the music? So I wanted to bring a little luck of the Irish to our St. Paddy’s Day just for Travis’s enjoyment. Aside from making a rainbow snack, we put together this sensory rainbow while talking about the lore of the pot of gold that waits at the end. Now I just need to find a green shirt for Travis to wear!

I drew a line for each color of the rainbow on poster board, and set it aside.

Then it was time to sort our supplies! For the best sensory experience, use a variety of items – we used buttons, pom poms, stickers, beads, pipe cleaners, and more. Travis helped sort, and I put everything into little paper cups by color.

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I decided it would be least confusing to glue on the items one color at a time, so first asked Travis to make drops of glue on the red line and presented him with our red cup of items.

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Once he grasped the idea of what we were doing, he was very determined and excited to decide where each item would go. It was a bit exhausting, so we didn’t finish all in one session, letting the glue dry in between.

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As you work, talk about the textures! Our beads were hard, our pom poms were soft, our buttons were smooth etc. As a final sensory touch, I glued on cotton ball clouds.

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Wishing everyone a Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Over the Rainbow Snack

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There might not be a pot of gold at the end of this rainbow, but it still makes the perfect St. Paddy’s Day snack!

Spoon blueberry non-dairy yogurt onto a plate or shallow bowl and spread into a thin layer.

Top the yogurt with a rainbow of fruit – we used red strawberries, orange mandarin oranges, yellow bananas, green kiwi, blue blueberries, and purple grapes. A little sprinkle of shredded coconut at each end gave us puffy clouds.

Perhaps a few gold-wrapped candies could make an appearance as well…

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Zipline Butterflies

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We’ve been on a butterfly kick lately, and as a final cute project, we put together these coffee filter ones.

The toddler appeal here is that you need to use dot paints to decorate them – and you need to press down HARD. Travis didn’t need to be told twice – he loved pressing the paints and then lifting up to see if the color had bled through.

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Once he’d made as many dots as he could ever wish to, I opened up the filters to show him that we now had… symmetrical butterflies!

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When the paint dried, I twisted a pipe cleaner around the middle of each, twisting at the top to form two antennae. Tape the antennae to a small piece of plastic straw, and now your butterfly is ready to zip along!

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We attached a string in our kitchen and living room for the butterflies to fly. As an alternative, thread your string from tree branch to tree branch in warm weather, or have two adults hold the ends of the string so the butterflies can zip back and forth as you raise or lower your arms.

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One way or another, your toddler will be delighted.

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Block City

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No day like a snow day to build a whole city!

Save empty food containers (rectangles and squares work best, so set aside items like aseptic milk cartons, cereal boxes, cracker boxes, or pasta boxes ahead of time), and you’ll have a nice assortment when you’re ready to make the buildings for this game.

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We covered the boxes in bright construction paper, and then decorated. You can use markers and crayons, or tape on pictures from magazines – by the end, we had a fire station, gas station, trees, homes, and more.

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You’ll notice that my crafting skills are fairly abysmal – beauty wasn’t my goal here, just imaginative fun!

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Now it was time to make the road! I pulled out a sheet of butcher paper (an old tarp or any flat surface would work fine, too). While Travis arranged his buildings, I drew roads and scenery. I thought he’d want to use the markers on the paper as well, but he was more interested in driving around the cars I had set out.

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No reason we couldn’t add some real blocks in with our cardboard boxes, to round out the buildings in town!

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In sum, this ate up over an hour of a snow day – perfection!

Butterfly Balancing Act

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This balancing experiment is a nice way to talk about things like symmetry and centers of gravity, no matter how young your child is! They’ll love the beautiful butterfly you make, and absorb just a little science in the process.

First, I folded a piece of white paper in half and traced butterfly wings. Cut out the wings and unfold – you now have a perfectly symmetrical butterfly!

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Now place that paper over something sturdier (we recycled a cereal box) and cut out – this part was definitely a grown-up step.

Travis loved decorating his butterfly with dot paints.

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Once dry, it was time to see how it flew!

Using a little bit of playdough to anchor it, I inserted a straw. This will be the stand for the butterfly.

 

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Tape a penny to each corner of the butterflies wings for weight.

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Now balance it on the straw! You may need to shift a little until you find the center of balance, but once you do, your little butterfly friend will be aloft.

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I confess, I think I was more impressed with the final results than Travis was!