Baby’s Adventure

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Whether your day involves a simple stroll to the mailbox, a trip to the store, a jaunt to the playground, or something more out of the ordinary, it’s all exciting for a toddler. Everything is new and wondrous at this age, and this fun game will highlight that fact once you return home.

Today’s “adventure” was simple (a trip to a local playground, followed by a quick stop for dinner ingredients on the way home). But when we got in, I opened up two paper grocery bags so they lay flat, and set out markers.

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Starting on one side of the paper, I talked excitedly to Veronika about how the journey had begun: leaving home and setting off in our car. “Gray car!” she said with excitement when she looked at my drawing. The journey continued along the road and I talked about the scenery we had passed. “Swings!” she said happily as I drew them.

 

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I then talked her through the jaunt to the grocery store on the way home (don’t forget about the train we spotted!) followed by ending back where we had begun.

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As I drew and talked through my version, she happily scribbled on the second paper bag I had laid out. She said she was drawing trucks and motorcycles!

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This was such a great way to make Veronika the main character of her own story. Plus we simply had fun making art together!

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Questing Stone

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This painted rock craft is sort of a DIY riff on a “Choose Your Own Adventure Book”! Travis and I followed Highlights magazine’s suggestion for the two sides of our first stone, and also created our own alternate versions.

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All you need for the craft are rocks and puffy paints.

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For the suggested version, one side was a unicorn head. The opposite side was a dragon’s tail. Mommy’s art skills are noticeably lacking, but I like to think that adds to the DIY charm.

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Give the puffy paint ample time to dry. Then, instead of a traditional story time, we made up a tale together. Because Travis seemed antsy just sitting still, we turned it into game with action figures. Here comes Iron Man to the castle…

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Whenever we came to a crossroads in the story, Travis flipped the stone. We decided the unicorn would represent a good outcome and the dragon’s tail was bad outcome. Yay, Iron Man got into the castle!

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Oh no, the next flip was the dragon, so he was swarmed by enemies at the next turning point of the story.

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Travis didn’t like this turn of events, so decided the blob of paint he’d made on another rock represented¬† “water power.” If we flipped to the water symbol, Iron Man would win.

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And so on! Big kids can get truly sophisticated with their storytelling, perhaps even writing down the all the possible junctures. My 5-year-old just loved the novelty of flipping the stone and acting out a tale as we saw how it all played out.

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Write Your Own Storycube Myth

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This DIY storycube idea is a cute way to help kids understand what a myth is, and then write their own! You can purchase storycubes, but we had fun making our own simply using slips of paper with little pictures.

First, Travis and I played a game of telephone. I whispered a word to him, and he whispered back what he heard. Obviously “telephone” works best with multiple people, but even in our phone call for two, we went from “Firetruck” to “A truck.” It set the stage perfectly to talk about myths: how they are stories told from person to person, but ones that get changed or garbled over time!

We ran through the four basic types of myths:

  • Creation myths
  • Nature myths
  • Hero myths
  • Gods and goddesses myths

Then we talked about some purposes of myths:

  • Explaining the origin of something
  • Teaching a moral lesson
  • Explaining a historical event
  • Revealing common feelings or hopes

For an example, you can watch a read of Anansi the Spider on YouTube!

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Now it was time to write our own myth. I set out slips with simple pictures for Travis. We had 18 strips, which I numbered 1 through 6 (so there were three slips corresponding to each number). Then we divided a piece of paper into three parts, and I had Travis talk me through the basic parts of a story: beginning, middle, and end.

He rolled a dice for the beginning, getting a number 1. We taped on the three slips with the number one. Repeat for the middle and end of the story.

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Now it was time to write our myth. Our 1s were: a magnifying glass, scissors, and a map. I was so proud of Travis leaping in. He told a story of how someone use the scissors to cut the map and so the pieces were lost! Already we had intrigue and a problem to solve.

It did get a little sillier from there (working in characters from his most recent favorite cartoon movie), but for a 4 year old, I was impressed he picked up on the nuance of what we were doing. Big kids can really have fun with these myths, or even complete each other’s stories to highlight the way myths change over time.

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All of this was in connection with a Raddish Kids¬†recipe about the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow – a timely myth, since we’re on the lookout for rainbows this rainy April! We finished up the lesson with a few myths from the library, which made for great bedtime stories.

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Stamp and Stencil Stories

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Well I’ll be darned – we’re having our fourth nor’easter blizzard since the month of March began… which means another snow day from school. Cue up the storytelling fun with these two simple projects!

For this first version, I gathered some materials, including pretty paper cut into squares, stamps, and markers.

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I showed Travis how to stamp a story and fill in the designs with markers to make a scene. You can plan carefully with a plotline in mind as you go, or just stamp randomly and see what story unfolds.

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Our story was coming together!

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Once we had filled enough pages, we added hole punches and laced them together. Hole punching was definitely Travis’s favorite part of the project.

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Voila, your own little story book!

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After I helped put together this first booklet, Travis got more involved with the second.

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Don’t worry if your child stamps repeat images on the same page. The story doesn’t need to look perfect!

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As he worked, he told me the plot that was unfolding, so I jotted it down.

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He was so proud to see his own story take shape.

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Next up we decided to try a new stencil pack as the basis for stories and scenes. We’ve never used stencils before, and now I am a convert; Travis did a fantastic job following around the lines. At first he only dared to try simple shapes like carrots and tomatoes…

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…but soon he was proudly tackling complicated shapes like bugs and dinosaurs.

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For each scene, we filled in the background or just colored them in.

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For some of the scenes that I stenciled, Travis would tell me a caption, which I added in.

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We ended up with some adorable “conversations.”

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What are your go-to plans for a snow day? Please share in the comments!

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Story Wheel

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We’ve enjoyed lots of fun lately exploring different ways to make story prompts. This method combines neat mechanics (a spinning arrow!) with drawing and imagination.

First, trace a large circle onto foam board, using any big bowl or other circular object in your house.

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Divide into as many segments as you’d like story prompts. We only did 6, but you could easily divide your wheel into 8.

I also drew the outline of an arrow, free-form, to be the spinner.

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I urged Travis to think of different things we like to tell stories about. Some of them, he did a great job drawing by himself! Here is a fireman’s ladder and hoses.

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A few of them, mommy still had to draw, including bugs, outer space, and a birthday party.

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Once we had all our scenes drawn in, I cut both the circle and the arrow from the foam board with an x-acto knife – grown-ups only for this step!

To attach them together, cut a small x in the center of each piece, and insert a paper fastener. Fold back the ends to of the fastener to hold the arrow in place.

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A fantastic addition to our storytime fun!

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Travis now insists we do a spin of the wheel each night before bed. Sometimes we’ll just use one space, and sometimes spin the arrow multiple times over the course of a story.

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Markers + Paper = A Long Story

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Snow day here! The school snow day caught me unawares (I was sure they wouldn’t cancel!) which means we had to come up with lots to do indoors and quick! Enter this easy two ingredient game, and you have endless varieties of play.

Travis was intrigued watching me set up. I laid down piece after piece after piece of white paper in a row, and taped them together, until we had a long scroll.

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I told him it was for a story, and if he told me what was happening in each frame, I would draw it in. He ended up dictating a fantastic tale involving a crocodile on a boat, who likes to vacuum.

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Later there were some bells with feet who come to the crocodile’s rescue.

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I happily followed along with my limited art skills.

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Once our scroll was filled, he immediately wanted another story. This time, I posed the challenge that he be the author and illustrator.

His story turned out to be all about bells (bells are big here, these days), who got progressively bigger, and had hair and large eyes to see bugs.

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Even though the story was a bit nonsensical, I loved watching his artistic process, and seeing the way he used markers to capture what he was trying to say.

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Using your same pictures, you can weave new tales with different words, or grab more paper and keep making up new stories. The only limit here is when you run out of paper or tape, whichever happens first.

Long Story (6)Happy snow day!

TV Puppet Theater

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When we first moved into our new home, we used a huge packing box to make a puppet theater… but it wasn’t very convenient to keep something so big around for long. This little version is much easier to keep and store, and is sure to delight!

We made ours from poster board, but if you use cardboard, your theater will be even sturdier. First, I used a ruler and x-acto knife to cut a square from the center of the poster board; this will be the TV “screen.”

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Next, I showed Travis images of old-fashioned TVs online – he was instantly thrilled, and loved designing his own on our frame.

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He made sure to add antennas and lots of dials and buttons.

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To stand the TV upright, I cut the center piece of poster board in half, and affixed each piece with masking tape to the back of the TV. It was a bit wobbly, but it worked well enough!

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Travis “turned” a dial, and the show was on!

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He loved being behind the frame with silly puppet antics.

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And was absolutely thrilled when mommy took a turn and put on a show.

Pretty soon he had a microphone” set up and singing puppets (even if they didn’t quite fit in the frame anymore).

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Later I caught him playing at being a “repair man” who needed to come fix the TV. So all-in-all, endless good fun with this one!

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Pressed Tiles

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It’s rare that I can grab Travis’s interest for more than 30 minutes of crafting these days, so when this activity occupied us for nearly an hour, I knew we had a winner!

I came home with a new package of oven-bake clay, quite different from the white air-dry clay we normally use.

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Travis was thrilled with all the colors, and in no time he had an assortment in front of him for chiseling, shaping, and rolling.

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To make a lasting project, we used our collection of stamps – animal and pirate-themed sets worked perfectly – and pressed images into the clay. Once baked, I knew these tiles could be used for numerous games!

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For the cleanest method, press the clay into a square, cover with plastic wrap, and press the stamp on top.

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Travis didn’t always use the plastic wrap, which was just fine.

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He mostly did his own thing with the stamps and clay while I made an actual set of tiles we could use in the future. I confess my fingers hurt by the end from warming up so many different colors and flattening to 1/4-inch thick! Travis meanwhile pretended he was baking some of his in an “oven.”

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When it’s time to really bake the clay, arrange your tiles on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and bake according to package instructions – ours went in at 275 degrees F for 30 minutes.

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Now what to do with them! We decided we could use these as a more permanent version of our printable story cards.

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You can also play games with the animals, assigning them by habitat or finding other ways to sort them.

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If you want any of your tiles to be jewelry, make sure to poke a hole with a toothpick before baking. However you use them, these tiles are great for arts and crafts, fine motor skills, imagination, and more.

Printable Story Cards

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Following on the heels of great exploration with our Koala Storytime kit, we used templates from the company’s blog for even more fun making up stories.

Simply print the story card templates, and cut out along the dotted lines. If you want to get a little fancier, print on heavy paper and in color.

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At storytime, I told Travis we’d be doing something a little different; instead of reading a book, we’d write our own story!

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Have someone in the family select a few cards from the top of the pile, and begin the narrative. (Alternately, you can arrange all of the cards face up and take turns selecting what comes next).

“Once upon a time…” Travis began. He loved it so much that we made up three stories before turning to regular books.

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He’s still getting the hang of narrative (“There was a balloon and jeep who wouldn’t share their milk…”) but the basic ideas are setting in!

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These cards also make great flashcards for word recognition. For variation, they are also useful for sorting.

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Try sorting them into piles like ‘things with wheels,’ or things that are a certain color, or any other category that your preschooler comes up with. What else can you do with these story cards? Share ideas in the comments!

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Storytime Crate

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My hunch seems correct, that these Koala Crates are growing more sophisticated as our subscription moves along. To wit: the storytelling box we received tackled excellent preschool skills, including the parts of a story, the flow of narrative, imagination, and basic letters/handwriting.

Travis carried the box in from the package room so there was no stopping him – nor time to gather myself together as the adult assistant! – and next thing I knew we were setting up our puppet theatre.

The theatre is easy to slot together, simply adding a white magnetic board background, scenery inserts, and a curtain to the provided cardboard “stage.”

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We talked about what might happen in each scene… What would he see in the city, for example? Lots of helicopters, he decided! Already I loved the dialog that this crate was opening up.

The curtain comes on a rod that slots into place and then is secured by foam circles, and can twist up or down.

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As a slight fault in design, the curtain is very easy to twist up, but was really frustrating for Travis to twist down. I managed to curb a tantrum and found that it worked best while twisting with one hand and gently tugging on the curtain with the other.

Crisis averted, and very quickly we were moving on to the Dress-Up Puppets. This craft would be hard to replicate at home – you’ll have to buy magnet sheets and do a fair amount of coloring and cutting.

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I was thankful to Koala’s efforts as we punched out all the characters, clothing, and props. The props stick right to the magnetic white board hiding behind our scenery!

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For the people, place on a magnetic strip, then dress them as you’d like.

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Travis and I had a great time selecting a background and discussing which props made the most sense in each scene.

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I loved the imagination that followed. Here was a story line about two friends who share a snowsuit when one was cold!

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He loved being silly, too, like putting a car in the icy mountain setting, having a crocodile chase people at the beach, and dressing this little character in a cloud:

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The third activity in the kit was alphabet cards and Alphabet Card Games to go with them. Mommy was excited about this one, Travis a bit less impressed. First, they are fantastic for handwriting practice. The white board slides out of the puppet theatre, and becomes an erasable board, thanks to the provided dry-erase marker. I was really glad for this prompt to practice handwriting. Show your child a letter, then either have them write it or guide their hand, for those just learning.

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Another option is to show your child the picture on each card, and have him or her tell you what letter it starts with, great for phonetic skills.

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Or, ask your child for another object that starts with the letter. Here’s Travis drawing an ant for a.

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And of course he loved cleaning the board with a paper towel. I can see us having fun with this deck of cards for a long time to come!

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The Imagine booklet also included great creative prompts to get your little storytelling acting, like being in a dark cave, or eating a birthday cake.

Finally, we put together suggested monster bookmarks, great for marking your place in a book as your enjoy many a storytime together. First, trim the corner from a business envelope.

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Use remaining parts of the envelope to cut out teeth.

Travis made pink monsters, and I colored in a green one.

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To finish, simply tape the teeth on with clear tape, then glue on two googly eyes.

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We won’t forget which page we’re nibbling – er, reading – now!

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In sum, this felt like the most “advanced” crate in terms of topic. Can’t wait to see what’s next Koala!