Holiday Card Circuits

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Need to celebrate a birthday with someone from afar during COVID-19? Or planning on sending cards for Passover or Easter (or whatever the closest holiday might be?). In this age of social distancing, here’s a card that will literally shine through, even over Zoom!

This card works on the exact same circuit principle as the graphite circuit Travis made recently. But first we needed to make a pretty card! Since ours was a birthday card, we chose heart-print scrapbook paper and glued a felt heart to the front. Make sure you cut a hole where your LED light will shine through.

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Of course you could go in so many directions with this card, whether one for Easter (a light-up chick or egg?) or just a fun theme to say hello like a UFO beam or fire truck siren. You can use stickers or cardstock cut-outs for the decorations.

Inside, make a rectangle from three strips of aluminum foil and tape down, leaving one corner that still flaps open. Also leave a gap at the top where the LED light will go. Tape down the legs of the LED, one to each side, making note of where the positive and negative sides are (Hint: the positive leg is longer).

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Now tape down a 3V battery in the corner where you’ve left the foil loose. When the flap of aluminum foil folds down, the circuit is complete and the card lights up!

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Here’s mom’s amazement, even if it was a little old-hat for Travis.

Tube Slide

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If you find yourself with a leftover cardboard tube (think from wrapping paper, or a craft paper roll, or even cardboard mailing tubes), don’t head to the recycle bin! These tubes are the perfect item to entertain a toddler.

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Today I wanted to make the best ball slide for Veronika using the tube from a gift wrap roll. It took three tries before I got it right! For the first version, I set the tube at an angle from the couch so it dangled over a laundry bin.

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She tried a few rolls, but was more interested in just tossing balls into the bin from the floor. So not the best version!

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Then I tried dangling it from the end of the stair railing with tape. Again, the landing point was a laundry basket.

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But it was impossible for her to reach the tube without me holding her, and I wasn’t comfortable letting her toddle up the stairs to try it solo, so this version lost her interest quickly. (You’ll notice she preferred to sit in the laundry basket).

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Thinking fast, I taped the tube to the wall just above her toy bin, which she could safely scamper onto like a stool.

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I showed her how to roll the balls through the shoot from here.

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And she had the perfect advantage of height now to see them land in the laundry bin.

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We have a winner folks! This third version made the best tube slide for this particular toddler. Which version does your child like best? Please share in the comments!

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Kindergarten Home School Week 3

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You’ve likely noticed that I paused on posting daily home school updates, as I didn’t want to overwhelm people’s inboxes. Starting next week, Travis’s school will be sending actual lesson plans, rather than suggestions, so I may go back to daily posts. Either way, the week had its ups and downs, some days where we felt on top of home school, some that were a struggle. This post can’t really capture all that, but here’s a run-down of activities from our third week home schooling for COVID-19.

Please stay safe everyone!


  • Computer games through a school program, all focused on concepts of greater than/less than or addends to 10.
  • Stuffed animal counting. We had fun making up silly equations, like “3 animals are having a tea party, and one more joins in. 3+ 1 = 4.”Home School 14 b
  • April weather graph, with predictions for what we’ll see most (rain) and least (snow).


  • Reading a story and then retelling it in your child’s words. We chose ‘Corduroy‘ for this activity, and I then asked him to imagine what might happen next. He said they’d go back to the store and buy a new stuffed animal friend, a giraffe!
  • A book ‘scavenger hunt’, in which Travis had to find things like the title, author’s name, count the words in a sentence, locate a question mark, etc. When we finished the book (Click, Clack Moo), he went back to tell me what had happened in the beginning, middle, and end.
  • Workbook pages
  • Letter tracing pages (G, H, I, J, K)
  • Online story time with his teacher
  • Writing a sentence with a sight word. Travis’s sentence included several (I, am, the): “I am swinging on the swings”. I loved his picture!Home School 12 b
  • Online read-through of Puff the Magic Dragon, followed by drawing a dragon in an online paint program.
  • Writers’ Workshop. Travis really stuck with it this this week, thinking abut a story instead of his latest Star Wars movie. His tale featured skeleton pirates, and he drew a boat to go with it!Home School 12 b
  • Sight word rainbow writing, using a different color for every sight word.Home School 12 a



Social Studies:

  • Community helper video. Travis drew himself as a doctor (which was more about his latest fascination with skeletons and bones).
  • Discussion of why a society might have rules.


  • A BrainPop video about making and testing a hypothesis, after which we tested out what would float and what would sink.Home School 11 h
  • An online video about plants, followed by a nature walk to find plants.


  • Spring walks!Home School 12 d
  • Chalk! Travis drew pictures of pirate skeletons and we also wrote some sight words.Home School 11 c


  • Library:
    • Going through his shelf to sort fiction from non-fiction.Home School 12 d
    • Online video of I Am Yoga – with poses, too!Home School 12 f
  •  Art:
    • Travis drew a self-portrait on a big piece of craft paper, and little sister joined in!Home School 11 e
  • Spanish:
    • Online video with food words
    • Zumba dancingHome School 11 f
  • Gym:
    • An online P.E. video from Mr. Joe. Loved watching him do this one!Home School 11 i
    • Sock Toss: Place a target on one side of the room and make balls out of pairs of socks. Every time he made a goal, Travis had to take a step back.Home School 11 j
  • Music:
    • His teacher sent a full 15 minute class video to follow along! This was super appreciated.

Mental Health:

  • The school counselor sent a link for a three hour loop of relaxing sounds!

Family activities:



Super Silly Animal Sounds Activity

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Veronika loves animal sounds and has a good 20 or so animals in her repertoire now. This was a fun way to keep the learning novel. We were able to go over old favorites and learn a few new ones, too!

I placed a bunch of animal toys into a small brown paper bag. Plastic animals worked best for the game, though we had a few stuffed animals inside, too.

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I presented her with the bag and it was up to her to reach in. As she pulled out an animal, I chanted (for example):

Pig, pig, hey hey hey.

Pig, pig, what do you say?

After which, we oinked!

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The rockin’ rhythm and tapping of the beat on our laps definitely got her attention, a nice change of pace from singing Old Macdonald.

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We went through the whole bag this way. Sometimes instead of reaching in, she would peer inside the bag and say (for example) “quack”, so I would pull out the duck for the chant:

Duck, duck, hey hey hey.

Duck, duck what do you say? 

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Then we played in reverse. Can you put frog back in the bag? Ribbit ribbit! Can you put lion back in the bag? Roar roar!

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We added a few animals that she’s less familiar with, like turkey gobbling and donkey hee-hawing, for a little variety.

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Feel free to reinforce the game by reading an animal sounds book, just after!

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Although much too advanced for a 17-month-old, I jumped at the chance to introduce the idea of letter sounds with this same method. She liked the little chant so much that I filled the bag next with our set of magnetic letters and pulled one out at time.

Ess, ess, hey hey hey,

Ess, ess, what do you say?

Ess says ssss.

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She even repeated some of these back to me! I wasn’t surprised though that she lost interest in this variation quickly.

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This is a great learning game that you could tailor in all kinds of ways beyond animals and letters.

Surprise Tins

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I was in a pinch to keep Veronika occupied while Travis had home school this morning. Thinking fast, I pulled out a few old cookie tins from the cupboard. I had a set of three nesting ones, which was especially great since they moved from largest to smallest and we could talk about size as she played with them.

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I filled the biggest one with a set of magnetic letters. I filled the medium one with wooden blocks. As a bonus, the blocks are magnetic, so they could stick to the lid or side of the cookie tin.

I filled the third with various bottle caps, jar lids, and applesauce pouch tops that I’ve saved up for just such an occasion. Now I gave Veronika all three tins (with the lids loose so as not to frustrate her) and set her busy hands to work.

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The smallest tin, with the caps, was the instant favorite. She loved going through all the different varieties, and even said, “applesauce!” when she recognized the twisty cap.

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She tapped them together, sorted them into and out of the tin, and of course practiced taking the lid off and on.

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Eventually she moved over to the other tins, finding fun in the letters…

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…and the blocks.

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But those little bottle caps were definitely the favorite! When she returned to the game, that was instantly her go-to tin.

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I am going to keep this set tucked away in the cupboard to pull out whenever I need them. You can even mix up the items inside so the “surprise” is different each time and the game never grows old.

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Warm Cooked Oatmeal Sensory Bag

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This easy sensory bag is similar in concept to others I’ve made for Veronika (a smooshy texture, great for squishing in her hands), but adds a new element: warmth!

If you have a bulk canister of oatmeal, just whip up an extra big batch. I prepared 4 cups of oatmeal and divided it among two bags.

I added blue food coloring to one just for fun, but there’s no need. Other than that, I simply sealed the bags and gave them to Veronika.

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“Hot!” she said, and also signed the word for it. I took the moment to reinforce the word and sign for “warm”, to differentiate the temperature for her. She soon was happily smooshing fingers into the bags, rearranging them, lifting them up to test how heavy they were, and otherwise having a grand time.

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I caught her trying to run away with them, my imp!

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Once back in the kitchen, we briefly tried to make squiggles through the oatmeal with fingers or spoons…

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…but I think the oatmeal would have needed to be thicker for the lines to stay visible. Still, a nice pause for sensory play.

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National Crayon Day

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Happy National Crayon Day! Travis, Veronika, and I celebrated this fun “holiday” with two projects, plus the perfect crayon book: Harold and the Purple Crayon.

While the kids were busy, I made a batch of purple crayon play dough. For this you’ll need:

3 cups flour

1 and 1/2 cups salt

2 tablespoons cream of tartar

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 jumbo purple crayon

2 cups water

Combine the flour, salt, and cream of tartar in a bowl. Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Remove the paper lining from the crayon and chop into pieces. Add to the oil and stir until melted. Slowly stir in the water, then add the dry ingredients. Continue to cook for a minute or two, until the play dough pulls away from the sides of the pot.

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Turn the dough out onto a cutting board. Let cool slightly, then knead a few times. It makes a fantastic dough, and it’s now ready for play!

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We read Harold and the Purple Crayon to set the stage, then got our hands messy with the purple play dough!

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I suggested recreating a few of the drawings from the book like the apple tree or a house with a window.

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Travis just loved making purple worms, which soon led to a very elaborate game in his head!

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Veronika loved pulling up bits of the dough.

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Oh no, she grabbed the “ocean” from under Harold’s boat!

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In other words, the kids had a blast. I thought they might play with it all afternoon.

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But we had one more crayon project to go. There was a collection of rocks on our patio thanks to a family walk on the beach last weekend, and I set a few of them in the oven at 300 degrees for 15 minutes. (Note: I’m told you don’t want to heat them much longer than that, or they may explode, although that could just be urban legend).

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Remove one rock at a time with tongs and place on foil or parchment paper on a table. Using jumbo crayons with the liners removed, I showed Travis how to press one against the hot rock. It instantly melts!

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This had big wow factor, and made for fun art.

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Travis loved watching big runnels of color drip over the rocks, although I showed him how to get a little more artistic and deliberate with his colors, too.

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These would look so pretty in a garden! Happy National Crayon Day.

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Mini Bots

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Travis built a robot today! Armed with a few specially ordered items, even younger elementary kids can do this project. My kindergartner needed adult hands for a lot of the steps, but could understand the process behind creating a simple circuit.

To start, we used sandpaper to smooth one side of a cork so it would sit flat once the robot was complete.

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Using an Xacto knife, I made a slit in one end of the cork; this was for a 3V battery to slot into. Initially I made the slit such that the battery would sit horizontally, but we later changed it to vertical for ease of attaching the wires.

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On the opposite side of the cork from the battery slit, I cut a square large enough to fit a pager motor. Hot glue the motor in place for security.

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Attach two wires (about 3 inches long), one on either side of the pager motor. Secure with masking tape. I used a thin floral wire for this step.

Now poke both ends of an LED light into the cork, taking note of the longer (anode) side and shorter (cathode) side. Wrap the wires that extend from the pager motor around each leg of the LED, and continue along until they reach the 3V battery. Tape it all securely in place with masking tape.

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Every time you touch both wires firmly to the battery, it will kick into action. The light lights up and the motor starts whirring! If you have trouble, go back and check that all your + sides are aligned, as well as all your – ones.

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Your child may want to decorate their mini bot with wiggle eyes or pipe cleaners for personality, but Travis loved it just like this! Here it is in action:

A Box to Extend Train Play

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Chances are you have lots of extra boxes these days; certainly we’re having more items delivered in this time of social distancing, and are so thankful to the fearless delivery folks out there! We put one such box to good use this morning by making it a tunnel for Veronika’s trains.

The set up was simple (although you could get really detailed and crafty with this if you have the time). First, I cut a few holes to be tunnel entrances and and exits.

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Next, I placed a strip of masking tape on the top as a road. Little bits of orange tape down the center served as the lane divider.

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I put the box on the ground and showed Veronika how she could make a train enter through one hole…

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…and pop out through another!

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She loved it, although she seemed mildly disappointed that she didn’t fit in the tunnels herself. Soon she was happily chugging trains to and fro.

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The road on top was a big hit, too!

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The box happened to be the perfect height for her to stand and zoom her cars around, which interested her almost more than the trains.

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This is a great way to keep your toddler busy, even if trains aren’t necessarily his or her “thing”!

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Bear in the Basket

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This simple game is pure delight for a toddler! I put Veronika in her crib, which startled her momentarily since it’s not a place she normally plays. Surprise turned to excitement when I added all her stuffed animal friends.

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I placed a basket below the crib (a laundry basket would be perfect, or any old storage box like the one I had on hand), and then showed her how drop in a stuffed animal. “One, two, three, whee!” I counted. The first animal jumped in.

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Well she had to see what this was all about!

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She was eager to copy me, parroting my words and holding an animal over the railing. Sometimes she didn’t realize she needed to let go with those little fists; there’s a cognitive step of cause-and-effect here that’s great for motor skill development.

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Here goes reindeer!

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Once the basket was full, we tossed the animals back in the crib…

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…and played again.

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She was happy to play so many rounds of this game.

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Or sometimes to pause for a hug.

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Just for the heck of it, we extended the stuffed animal play with a dry animal bath tub!

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This oldie-but-goodie never grows old. Simply throw all the stuffed animals in for a soft landing and add one toddler.

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