N Week!

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Even with the Thanksgiving holiday, we squeezed in games and crafts with a letter N theme this week, as we continue on our Letter of the Week journey. Highlights included…

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Nature/natural: This was really our key theme of the week, and we kicked things off with a gorgeous fall walk through a nature preserve before the weather turned very windy. With the collection of nature items we found, we came home and arranged them on contact paper. Simply fold the sticky paper in half when you’re finished and voila – a nature collage!

We also saved some of the leaves and flowers for a natural dye collage (and added a few store-bought berries because I knew their colors would be vibrant). We used cheesecloth, since I knew we wouldn’t be keeping this project, but make your dye collage on muslin or other cloth if you want to save it for doll’s clothing or another project. Once arranged, Travis loved pounding on the items with a mallet, and seeing the beautiful colors that (naturally) resulted.

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Finally, for all those events out in nature, we needed a trail walking stick.

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Nest: This word was closely linked to the nature ideas above. We used our air-dry clay to shape a nest, and pressed in more great finds from our nature walk – pine needles, grasses, and leaves. The process was so fun I devoted a separate blog post to it.

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Noise: Make some of course! Pull out whatever instruments you have in the house, or use items around the house to create instruments, or simply bang on pots and pans. However you make noise, Raffi’s “Let’s Make Some Noise” is the perfect song to do it to.

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Net: To play with a random butterfly net we own, I fashioned “butterflies” from construction paper and we set them aflutter for Travis to chase around. It was so windy that we were able to do this right at our windowsill, though we briefly tried outside as well. Nets are also great for bathtub “fishing” or just for letting your toddler collect little items.

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Newspaper: Old newspapers are the gift that keeps on giving. You can wad them up and use an old baby tub as target practice…

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…or roll into a “golf club” and aim golf balls at a target (such as an empty shoebox on its side). We also made newspaper hats, and Travis was so proud wearing his!

And our weekly extras:

Fine art: My intended project was a bit of a fail. I hoped to encourage Travis to make a necklace by threading o-shaped cereal (we used Freedom O’s) onto licorice (yes, Twizzlers are vegan) but he decided it would be much more fun just to eat the cereal and watch me work. Win some, lose some!

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Food: We had noodles for dinner one evening. Travis has also gotten a kick out of belly buttons lately, so what better snack than a navel orange?

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Books: Library picks this week included Jan Brett’s Noah’s Ark, The Napping House by Audrey Wood, and Dog’s Noisy Day by Emma Dodd.

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Songs: Give a listen to “These are the People in the Neighborhood.” Then follow it up with a walk or drive around your neighborhood!

Math: Nickles are an obvious choice. Travis knows quarters and pennies, so this week I taught him to recognize nickles as well, tough because they are the “medium-sized” ones!

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I also simply left out all his toys and books that feature numbers, so he could return to them throughout the week.

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One neat way to visually depict how numbers increase is to build increasingly tall towers (Duplo blocks are perfect) on a corresponding number mat or puzzle.

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Bird’s Nest with Miniature Speckled Eggs

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Adding natural elements to a make-believe bird’s nest makes it all the more special – both as a project and to play with! We used air-dry clay to shape our nest, but if you really want to be authentic, try using mud after a rainy day, or make mud by mixing dirt and water at home. Just be sure to place a piece of poster board under your creation to contain the mess!

To start, I helped Travis shape clay into a nest shape, and then we pressed on finds from a recent nature walk – pine needles, grasses, and leaves – for a realistic look.

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Travis loved selecting the items to use!

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As a finishing touch, we made clay eggs. Travis enjoyed rolling the clay between his palms to make egg shapes, but then also loved smooshing them, so I ultimately shaped the final eggs we used!

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I thought it would be fun to speckle the eggs blue, but the mechanics of this were a bit advanced for Travis. Instead, he smeared blue paint on some while I speckled a few others, and then rolled them between my hands for a more realistic look.

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Once everything dried, he loved playing with a clay bird inside the nest!

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We drew a tree on our poster board base to give his playtime a background as well.

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Overall, a very fun way to use our clay!

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Bird Nest Counting

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This little project was so charming. Rather than just teaching toddlers to count by rote, it’s a great way to teach the concept that each number is one greater than the number before.

Roll brown paper snack bags over until you’ve made 5 (or more) little “nests.” Use a sharpie to number the nests 1 through 5 (go higher for preschoolers!). You can use whatever you like or have on hand as the eggs to fill your nests. We used marbles, because Travis loves to play with them, but because marbles are a choking hazard, please use judgment about your own child – pretty rocks or colorful pom poms would also make beautiful “eggs.”

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Now it’s time to fill each nest with the correct number of eggs! Travis gets a little fuzzy when filling containers as high as 4 and 5, but I could see his brain latching on to the concept that the nests with higher numbers required more marbles to be filled correctly.

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As soon as we finished, he said, “let’s do it again!” Dumping the marbles was half the fun, and we played several more times. A great little game with a nice educational component.