Valentine’s Poetry & Signs

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With a clever little template to follow from Raddish Kids, Travis wrote his first poems this Valentine’s Day! I loved guiding him through the project, and the final result makes the perfect Valentine’s gift for a teacher, family member, or friend.

First, we brainstormed a list of three categories: things that were red; things that were blue; and things that were sweet. He had some very definite opinions about what to include i.e. blackberries are bluish purple, not black, so they could go on the list.

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What ensued was a sort of Mad Libs game. I read the original poem to him first:

Roses are red,

Violets are blue,

Sugar is sweet,

And so are you.

Using the lists he’d made, we slotted in a new word for each line.

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The results were adorably hilarious, and will likely be so different from anything you’d come up with!

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Overall, this was a great way to introduce poetry to my four-year-old, and a fun way to make some last-minute Valentine’s cards.

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For still more language fun this holiday, teach your kids to sign ‘I love you’ in American Sign Language. Here’s his super excited face working out how to properly make the sign with his fingers!

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Travis and I decided this can be our secret way to say the words at school drop off, now.


Baleen Whale Kiwi Crate

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Travis received his second box from Kiwi Co today, and literally asked to start the moment we got the box inside the house. Kiwi actually terms this one the “mechanical sweeper” crate, but the term was so opaque I found it completely unhelpful as the adult assistant. Rather, the material inside is all about baleen whales, and the way their baleen “sweeps” the ocean; this explanation made Travis quite excited since he’s been learning about whales at school

First up was to Create Watercolor Whales, the crafty component before we moved on to the science of baleen. I sat back and completely let Travis pick colors and dictate how to paint.

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As he worked, he had a game going in his head; it was a humpback whale, but he could change colors and camouflage. Neat!

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He loved the wax-resist element along the whale’s jawline; the beads of water ran away from the waxed parts, leaving stripes of color behind. We wiped these clean with a paper towel, as the instructions suggested, for a streamlined look.

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For the second whale, we used an extra coat of water and then sprinkled on the provided salt.

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After the whales dry, your child can see the difference between the two paintings. Where you shake off the excess salt, you’ll see spotty patterns (more on this idea later).

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Now was the moment he’d been waiting for: to Build a Mechanical Sweeper. The idea is to illustrate how baleen whales “sweep” the sea with their mouths, thus capturing more food than they’d be able to with teeth. (Note: the Explore booklet has a cute story explaining this idea further).

I won’t go step-by-step through the sweeper here, but do note that it’s complicated, and took mom and boy a good twenty minutes of concentration. But wow did I love watching his fine motor skills, trying mostly to sit by and let him do the work. He slipped the foam sweeper tabs into the foam sweeper bars…

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Added tiny rubber bands to hold things in place…

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Slid dowels through the proper holes…

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Used stickers to hold things in place…

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And more.

At last, our sweeper was ready. We sprinkled the provided pom poms on the rug (the krill, of course), and munch munch munch – our “whale” ate them all.

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We then attached our dried watercolor whales to the sides for a finished look.

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Travis was thrilled, and needed to experiment immediately. What else could his whale eat? Was anything too small? After testing out tiny Legos, we decided the answer was no.

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Was anything too big? Only if an item was wider than the distance between sweeper blades, but this hot wheels car got through…

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…as did loads of Playmobil.

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I have a feeling it won’t be a chore the next time I ask him to pick up Lego pieces from all over the rug!

Finally, we made Watercolor & Salt Paintings with the provided extra paper, for a clearer salt-and-water experiment. Because Travis had loved the wax-resist on the original whales, I knew just how to add in this element for him – wax crayons.

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Once he’d painted, we sprinkled on big piles of salt this time.

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This allowed him to see better how the salt sucks some of the water up. You can explain to your kids that the salt and water molecules are attracted to each other, hence why the water gets pulled up, and creates that mottled final look.

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My overall opinion of this crate, aside from the very confusing name, is that it was a really digestible way for kids to understand baleen, to learn about these amazing giants of the sea, and to build a very cool STEM project in the process.


Picture This

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Today, Veronika and I had a very different sort of story time. Rather than simply reading text to her, I wanted to actively engage her with the pictures and words. In fact, because we were focusing on what she saw rather than the story line, magazines were better for this game than books. You can use adult magazines, kid ones, or even catalogs!

We snuggled up and talked about the images. “Look, the girl is in a red dress. Look, the boy is at the beach.”

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This will help your baby process the images on the page, without having to follow rhyming words or plots.

You can also encourage your child to point to what they’re seeing. So if I said, “Let’s touch the maraca,” I would then place her hand on it.

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She doesn’t understand yet of course, but over time this will help her associate a word with the proper image.

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You can also have your baby practice turning pages. Magazines aren’t as good for this, with their thin paper, but her latest issue of Hello magazine¬†was perfect.

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“Let’s turn the page!” I said, and then guided her hand until we turned it together.

Overall, this was an engaging activity, and a nice quiet pause just the two of us.

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