Straws and Yarn

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This project is fantastic for keeping motor skills sharp in the summer break between preschool and kindergarten… and the final product easily becomes a gift for someone special, whether a graduation or a birthday!

Tie a piece of yarn to a drinking straw with a tight knot; set aside. Help your child snip straws into pieces of varying size. We used wide pastel-colored milkshake straws, and discovered that the smaller we snipped them, the more they were ilke “beads” for our necklace.

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The straws could be a bit tough to snip, and Travis loved when pieces went flying!

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Have your child begin threading them on to the yarn.

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Travis tried a few tactics, including pushing a straw “bead” onto the yarn, or pulling the yarn up through.

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I loved his patience and concentration as he worked!

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Once long enough for a necklace, tie the two ends of the yarn into a secure knot.

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Travis enjoyed the project so much that he insisted we make two; he didn’t want either grandmother to feel left out, so we’ll be gifting two of these!

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Sneak Through Laser Beams

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Travis returned home from school to discover that, in order to reach his lunch, he’d have to sneak through laser beams!

To set up the surprise, I set out stools and chairs and wound yarn in and out, up and down. For the best results, vary the height and width between your “lasers”.

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Travis practically dove at the setup when he walked in from school, barely sparing a moment to take off his shoes.

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On the first attempt, he got nipped slightly by one of the lower “lasers.” I challenged him to think of how he could go over it, since under hadn’t worked, but this would mean ducking his head from those above.

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Soon there was lots of slithering and maneuvering about. This one will have the kids delighted and sneak in some exercise: a win-win.

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Finish up by sharing this clip with your kids!

Haircut Doll

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This craft is fantastic on so many levels, whether you want to give your kids some practice with scissors, help alleviate fear of the barber shop or hairdressers… Or your kids just want to have fun and pretend it’s a day at the salon!

I made the craft for Travis, but your child might be interested in helping step by step. First, I used a hole punch to punch about 12 holes around the rim of each of two empty toilet paper rolls.

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You can use any color yarn you like for the hair. We stuck with realistic yellow and brown, but why not green or rainbow!

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For each lock of hair, thread a strand of yarn through a hole and knot to secure.

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Once the hair was on, Travis helped pick out clothing patterns for each doll.

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I cut patterned paper into shapes for tops and bottoms. Finally, I added a round face for each with googly eyes glued on.

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Once the glue dried, it was time to head to the barber shop!

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This craft marked a milestone for Travis, moving up from his plastic safety scissors to preschool scissors (these still have a blunt tip, but the blades are real metal). He was so proud!

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He didn’t miss a beat before the snipping began. He loved pretending he was his own barber, making a mess of hair on the floor.

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I watched in delight as the haircuts grew ever shorter.

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Until we had a buzz cut!

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Then Travis decided he wouldn’t be satisfied until each figure was bald!

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(Alas, you’ll notice they lost their eyes in the process, too).

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Overall, this was a fantastic activity: a craft; a fine motor skill builder; an imaginative game, and a way to alleviate fears all in one.

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Yarn Christmas Trees

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Be forewarned: This holiday decoration project is a messy one! In other words, perfect if your kids love getting their hands dirty and helping deck the halls around the house.

For materials, you’ll need Styrofoam cones (available at craft stores) with the plastic wrap still on. You’ll also need red and green yarn. I had pastel shades of each in my craft bin, which would look lovely if you’re taking a pastel approach to decorating this year! Ideally, I would have had darker red and green, but we were eager to do the project so made do.

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Cut the yarn into pieces about 20 feet long. Yes you read that right, 20 feet! Travis loved helping measure out the long lengths by standing at the opposite end of the apartment from me.

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Next we needed glue. You can use watered down store-bought glue, but we made a neat homemade version simply by mixing 1/2 cup flour with water until the consistency of a thick paste.

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I worried Travis might not get his hands in there, but to my surprise, he was eager to see how it felt. Goopy!

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Soak your stands of yarn in the “glue,” one strand at a time. Once it’s coated, wrap around one of the Styrofoam cones, wrapping and wrapping until completely covered – the more the better!

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The key is not to let the yarn get tangled, or you’ll wind up with a clump you can’t continue to wrap. After a few successful trees, we encountered a tangle. Whoops!

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Luckily the cone was just covered enough.

Let dry overnight. Travis had to come over and touch our flour glue occasionally, to see how the drying process was coming along.

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In the morning, snip the plastic wrap from the cone, and slide the yarn tree off – you’ll have to tug the cone out a bit forcefully. Remove the inner plastic, and the yarn tree now stands alone.

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We thought it might be fun to decorate one with little gems and beads, although it was hard to get them to stick on, as the beads were heavy.

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Pinecones made lovely tree toppers though!

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Nature Hunt Treasure Stick

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This neat idea from KiwiCo’s website is a great way to bring home treasures from the outside world. Bonus points if you craft it while you’re still out in the woods!

We went for a short walk after a morning of classes, bringing along two Y-shaped sticks that I’ve hoarded just for this purpose.

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As we walked, we gathered anything we deemed a “treasure” – leaves we liked, little flowers, berries, and more.

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Back at the park entrance, we seated ourselves at a picnic table and I showed Travis how to wind yarn (which I’d brought along) around the Y of his stick. Keep wrapping all the way up the Y, then tie the yarn off.

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Now tuck in your treasures!

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Travis and I each made one, reflecting the various things we’d found beautiful along the way.

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A great way to get outside with your little one in these wonderful autumn days.

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Giant Bubble Wand

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I’ve been eyeing this project for over a year, but it looked too technical and difficult so I kept tabling it for another day; parents and caregivers, I’m here to reassure you not to be daunted! The wand was so simple to put together, and the result is fantastic. With 80 degree morning sunshine on our back patio, how could we not pop out for bubble play?

To make the wand, insert a push pin into one end of each of two dowels; a twisting motion works better than pushing, so you don’t bend the plastic bit by accident. Leave a little space instead of pushing the pins all the way in, as shown.

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Cut a four foot length of yarn, and tie one end to one exposed push pin. Insert that push pin fully to hold the yarn. Loop the yarn through a metal washer, then tie around the other exposed push pin.

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Finally, cut a smaller length of yarn (about 18 inches), and tie a few inches below the dowel on each side – you’ll wind up with a triangle shape when the dowels are held apart. This is now your wand.

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To make the bubble solution, combine dish soap and water in a 9-to-1 ratio – I used 1/3 cup dish soap and 3 cups water.

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I showed Travis how best to dip the wand for the first few tries.

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Wave it in the wind, and you’ll discover that this thing makes serious bubbles!

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It was hard for him to get the hang of holding a dowel in each hand, instead of gripping it with one hand, but that didn’t stop him from loving the mere sensation of wand and bucket.

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When we tired of bubbles, the wand made a fantastic “mop” for the patio, which kept Travis happy in the sunshine for quite some time.

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Y Week!

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Week 2 of my modified Letter of the Week play with Travis was a huge success – I’m so glad I embarked on this project, as it gives me ideas for introducing new concepts and games each week, while promoting letter and sound recognition. Below is just some of the fun Travis and I had during Y week. If you missed it, don’t forget to checkout what we did in Z week!

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Yarn: A fantastic material for play, including making yarn sculptures and yarn squiggles on sandpaper. Another neat idea is to loop a long piece of yarn (in yellow of course!) over and around furniture while your toddler naps, and then surprise them with a little snack or toy tied to the end when they wake.  Be sure to supervise all yarn play closely, as the strings can be a choking hazard.

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Yo-Yo: You’re never too young to enjoy this oldie but goodie! Travis loved watching my husband perform yo-yo tricks, and gave it a try himself a few times over the course of the week.

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Yeast: One of my favorites from the week; I introduced the magic of “hungry” yeast, and it’s amazing ability to make things rise. I won’t go step-by-step through the baking project we did, as another blogger has already done so, but this easy bread recipe is a fantastic intro to yeast for toddlers, including “feeding” the yeast, letting it “sleep,” etc… and ending with yummy Y-shaped breadsticks! Travis was entranced.

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Another great yeast experiment is to inflate a balloon with nothing more than water, yeast, and sugar. You’ll notice though that Travis was equally interested in sweeping up some spilled yeast off the floor!

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I confess watching the balloon inflate was exciting, even as an adult!

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Yacht: We took advantage of late summer weather to stroll the docks in a nearby town! Okay, maybe none of the boats we saw technically classified as a “yacht,” but Travis didn’t know the difference and was very excited we were seeing big boats.

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You: This can be a tricky word for kids; I call you “you” but you are supposed to call yourself “me” – confusing, right? So it was nice to focus on the word here during Y week. One great “you” game is to take a large piece of butcher paper and trace your toddler – then say, “It’s you!”

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Label body parts, invite your child to color the outline in, then hang “you” on the wall. Travis was delighted with this game, and not only wanted me to trace him again the next day, but wanted a turn “tracing” me.

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Yoga: A huge hit! I had hoped to find a Mommy & Me yoga class in the area, but failing that, I turned to a YouTube video. Travis loved it, mimicked all the poses (with varying degrees of success), and couldn’t get enough of child’s pose at the end. “Yoga” was a new word for him, and he quickly identified that it started with “Y” while looking at our week’s poster.

Beyond those games, here were a few more highlights from our week:

Fine art: Yellow is the name of the game, of course! First, we had fun with Travis’ crayons, exploring all the various shades of yellow from light to dark. Then, I suggested he add a little yellow paint. He had so much fun that the yellow crayon was soon covered.

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We finished with gluing practice, putting down pieces of yellow yarn.

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Food: Yogurt is an obvious choice of course, and we kicked off the whole week with a vanilla soy yogurt at dessert, while I showed him our Y poster. Later in the week, Yogurt-Cup Cake gave us a great baking project. He loved being in charge of his measuring cup, and needed to sample a piece as soon as the cake was out of the oven. For dinner one evening, I made sure our veggie of the night was yams.

Books: I checked several Y-titled books out of the library, but these three were the favorites, read on repeat all week: Yaks Yak by Linda Sue Park; Yawn by Sally Symes, and Yoohoo, Ladybug by Mem Fox.

Song: Yellow Submarine was the sleeper hit of the week! I played a clip once and Travis paraded around singing it the entire rest of the week.

Math: Two calindrical concepts begin with Y:  Year and Yesterday. Magnet calendars are a great way to introduce both! I certainly didn’t expect Travis to perfect the concept of either at this age, but each morning we would set up the calendar, and emphasize what day was yesterday, and then talk about what we did yesterday. I was impressed with the way he latched on to the concept!

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Signing off until X week!

Yarn Sculpture and Squiggles

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Yarn is a great 3-D medium for toddlers’ art, lending itself to a variety of projects. To wit, Travis and I had fun with these two activities on a recent morning.

To make a yarn sculpture, give your child a shallow dish of glue and pieces of brightly colored yarn. Drag the yarn through the glue and arrange any which way on waxed paper. Travis wanted to use a paintbrush to apply some of the glue as well, and was very excited when his “sculpture” momentarily adhered to the brush.

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Let the glue dry completely before removing the yarn from the waxed paper. The resulting creation could make a great mobile or decoration in your child’s room!

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Less permanent but equally fun is setting up a yarn “easel”. Glue sandpaper to a sturdy piece of construction paper and let dry, then give your child short pieces of string to arrange as artwork on the surface – the sandpaper will grip the yarn to help it stay in place.

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It took a few demonstrations before Travis got excited about the idea, but then he returned to his sandpaper “easel” a few times throughout the afternoon.

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His favorite was telling me that he’d made an ant!

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What other yarn projects have you and your child made? Please share in the comments!