Bird Watch

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Veronika adores birds right now, whether the tweets she hears on our walks or spotting them out the window. So as a follow-up to a few easy bird feeders we recently made, we thought about birds in a few other ways today.

First up: just listening to their sounds! I put a CD of bird song on Spotify as we sat down together to…

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…read a bird book! She has a great board book about birds, and right now we have to sit and go through it at least twice a day.

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We repeated a favorite bird feeder (pine cones rolled in peanut butter and sunflower seeds), and also made a string of unsalted circle pretzels on yarn. She loved hanging this one from our tree.

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Now when the birds come, we stop to watch through the window!

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A final fun idea is to leave a few pieces of yarn on your back patio. Birds use them this time of year for nests.


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Maybe we’ll even spot a colorful strand on a future walk around the neighborhood.

Rainbow in a Bag

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This is a neat, no-mess way for toddlers to paint a full rainbow!

To start, I needed to make a thick goopy paint. Based on a recipe I found online, I combined 1 cup flour, 2 cups water, and 1 tablespoon salt in a saucepan, then cooked over medium-low heat, stirring with a whisk. It didn’t get as thick as I hoped, but stirring in 1 tablespoon cornstarch did the trick.

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Once thick, I divided the mixture among 6 paper cups and added about 20 drops of liquid watercolor to each, one for each color of the rainbow. Note: If you are worried about staining, use food coloring instead of the watercolor. However, because I knew this project would be sealed in a bag, there would be no chance for Veronika to smear it on her clothes… Or taste it!

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I placed a piece of thick white paper in a gallon-sized zip-top bag, then arranged the colors in rainbow order across the paper. Because the paint was so sticky, it grew harder to work as I went, so the colors sort of ended up at a diagonal! But this still worked fine; I sealed the bag and handed to Veronika.

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At first she was frustrated she couldn’t touch the paint, looking at me with disappointment. Oh that toddler glare!

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But then she realized the paint blobs felt mushy and squishy beneath her hands, and she loved poking around at them.

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By the end she had smeared the paints in such a way that we had a full rainbow of stripes across the bag.

Rainbow in a Bag (8)It’s actually too bad that the paint was so goopy, or I would have pulled the white paper out to dry and hang on the fridge. Next time!

Engineer with Water

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Children’s museums are closed for coronavirus, so today we recreated one of Travis’s favorite exhibits here at home! The museum version involves a large base where kids can dam water with Duplo pieces. We recreated that on a smaller scale with Legos!

Ideally you’ll need one of the large Lego baseplates for this project. Technically it would work on any small Lego base, too, but your results will be in miniature.

First we built a high wall of interlocking bricks so our baseplate could stand upright. Attach this to your Lego base with any Lego hinges.

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Next Travis began adding paths for the water. On the first round, I gave him no guidance and he designed a very complicated set of Legos that were vertical and horizontal and all over the place. He thought he was being tricky leaving tall openings.

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We set the whole apparatus in a shallow tray and poured in a cup of water. Of course it pretty much ran straight down over everything.

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After we poured, he realized that he needed to be much more deliberate in his placement. We removed any vertical Legos except those on the very edges, and soon had horizontal walls. He loved the idea that we were “tricking” the water.

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To visualize our results, we added small red Lego pieces that could run through this “maze”. You could also use glitter or any other tiny object for this part. Now he could really see the flow of water. Check it out!

Then he wanted to try blocking the water entirely. It sort of worked, although his walls  needed to be higher to truly block any flow.

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There are so many ways to play with variations on this, and your child will be engineering all the while!

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Kindergarten Home School Week 10: Friday

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We ended the week on a strong note, and are heading into the weekend in a state that has slightly reopened. Wishing everyone a safe and healthy Memorial Day!

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9-9.30: Letter L. After completing a workbook page that focused on letter L (writing out L words, coloring in L pictures), we played “Last to the Lake”: our fish playing pieces moved from sight word to sight word in a race to the lake at the end. He loved it so much that he wanted to play longer after winning!

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9.30-10: Math. His workbook page involved combining numbers from the tens and ones column. This was new stuff and he tackled it well. We then got silly, thinking of other groups of 10. How many fingers live in our house, if 4 people each have 10? 40! How many fingers and toes were there? 80! We counted out tens with a pretzel snack, too.

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10-10.30: Snack/recess. (Little sister was getting good and messy on the patio, in the meantime!).

10.30-11: ELA. Travis 20 minutes on Lexia, proudly reaching a new level in the program.

11-11.30: Social studies. After learning a bit about the upcoming Memorial Day holiday, Travis made a simple craft: we cut the centers from paper plates, then glued on red and blue stars cut from construction paper.

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It was a simple but patriotic decoration for our door! We also talked about gallant actions we can take for the holiday, like laying flowers on veteran’s graves.

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Honestly, we began the long weekend early, thereafter. It was a gorgeous day to get outside to a local pond for some sand and water play, and he had a social hour with his high school buddy over Zoom.

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Roasted Potato Salad

Roasted Potato Salad

Roasting the potatoes first adds a richness to this brightly-flavored potato salad.


  • 24 ounces new potatoes
  • 4 tablespoons herb vinaigrette (such as Italian)
  • 1/2 cup diced red onion
  • 1/4 cup vegan Parmesan shreds
  1. Cut the potatoes into quarters, and toss with the vinaigrette. Arrange in a single layer on a baking dish.
  2. Place in a cool oven; turn on the heat to 450 degrees F and roast for 30 minutes, stirring halfway through.
  3. Transfer the potatoes to a bowl and add the onion and Parmesan.

Ooey Gooey Noodle Worms

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I love activities that introduce new textures to a toddler, even if they might seem a little gross to us grown-ups. Veronika has no qualms about getting her hands dirty, so on today’s menu was mud worms!

I cooked up a batch of linguine for the “worms”, and then placed them on a shallow tray that we could take out to the patio. Now we just needed to bury them in “dirt” a.k.a. chocolate pudding.

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She gleefully began scooping through, using both fingers and a sand shovel

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In retrospect, I would have used a lot more pudding and a lot fewer “worms”, as this wasn’t really hunting or digging. We just had lots of worms crawling all over the tray! But of course the pretend play was a bit advanced for her anyway, and she loved scooping.

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We got our fingers in the mixture together and used words like “slimy” and “goopy” as we played.

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When the noodles landed on the patio, they did sort of look like little worms after a rainstorm.

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Then Veronika decided it was even more fun to scoop them up from the tray and toss them on top of other items on the patio.

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Admittedly that made clean-up a little tougher, but she was having so much fun I didn’t stop her! All in all this was good gooey fun.

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Safari Binoculars

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Here’s a classic craft that I knew Veronika would love because it involves one of her current favorite things: stickers!

To assemble your toddler’s very own binoculars, start with two empty toilet paper tubes. I had bug and fish stickers, both perfect themes for this project, and she loved placing stickers all over.

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I find it helpful to peel up the edges of stickers slightly at this age, so she can then pull them the rest of the way off the sticker sheets without frustration.

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Resist the urge to correct your toddler’s sticker placement; it was just fine if a few overlapped, or if she clustered them in one spot!

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I glued the tubes together (or you can use tape if you don’t have time to wait for the glue to dry), then punched a hole near the top of each tube on the outer edge. I threaded yarn through to make a loop so Veronika could wear them around her neck.

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Now it was time to head out into the wilderness! Off she goes for her first safari.

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Honestly she was probably more into them as an accessory than a viewfinder, but they were particularly neat for watching bugs up close.

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Older siblings may just clamor for a turn, too!

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If you prefer to have your safaris indoors, consider using these on a stuffed animal hunt instead.

Kindergarten Home School Week 10: Thursday

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I’m so happy to report we had a successful day. Travis was focused and motivated on his lessons in the morning, so much so that the afternoon was very light on schoolwork, everything already accomplished.

9-9.30: Math. He started with a workbook page counting up summer vegetables. I then gave him a few challenges. What would the number be if he added 10 to each (hint: a number in the teens). Then we made a number line and used it to answer simple equations. What was 1 more than 16? Three less than 16? Two more than 18? I could tell the visual number line really helped him think.

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9.30-10: ELA. He did a page in his Star Wars writing workbook, and laughed so hard when we made up silly answers to fill-in-the-blanks. A proud 20 minutes on Lexia followed (while little sister drew with cars).

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10-10.30: Snack/art/free play.

10.30-11: Music. Travis recorded himself singing high and low for the music teacher.

11-1: Lunch/free play.

1-2: Science. After reading an encyclopedia page about cameras, we headed outside (in gorgeous weather!), to take pictures.

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I let Travis play around with settings, especially the zoom function. His photos were actually quite artsy! This counted as great fresh-air time for the day, too.

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2-2.30: Spanish. There was a live Zoom today, a fun chance to go over familiar songs and watch a Spanish puppet show of the Three Little Pigs. I had hoped to engage him with an activity on fast and slow animals (rapido/lento) but it was late in the day and we called it quits.

Sponge Printing

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I recently introduced Veronika to the idea of stamping, by making Duplo prints. Today, we made sponge prints instead!

This was a great activity for outside on the patio, since first we needed to get the sponges wet. I misted them with a spray bottle until saturated, then showed her how to chalk all over the surface of the sponge.

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Press down firmly on a piece of thick white paper and the mark of the sponge will be left behind. The sponges have a bubbled appearance, with more surface twists and turns than you might expect!

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Next I cut a few of our sponges into shapes like hearts and plus signs.

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She liked seeing the various shapes in our prints.

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Then we discovered that if we used the chalk on wet pavement and then dipped the sponge in the colored water, we ended up with a more saturated print.

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The wetter the sponge the better the print, so eventually we used a bucket of water to dip instead of the mister bottle.

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Of course then Veronika just loved dipping the sponges in the bucket and squeezing them out, and lost interest in stamping!

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But this just fine; it meant this craft was a great way to spend some time making art and simply playing outside.

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Drawing with Cars

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Kids love to paint with cars, but this time there was a twist on the activity! As opposed to letting the tires make the art, Veronika’s cars had passengers along. Crayon passengers that is!

To set up, I taped a long piece of craft paper to the floor so we had a good long “road”.

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Use masking tape to attach jumbo crayons to the side of toy cars. The bigger the car, the better this worked; the crayons were a little wobbly on some of Veronika’s smaller cars.

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I mostly tried to tape crayons to the same color car, but we had a few mismatches, like our yellow car with a black crayon.

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Now it was time for Veronika to drive! She took the cars for a few spins around the road, and the crayons left fun scribbles in their wake.

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To be honest, she was soon more interested in the pieces of tape than the crayons! But this was still a cute art project while it lasted.

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