Friday, September 5, 2014

DIY Sidewalk Chalk Paint

Before we moved, way back when we used to have a side walk outside our front door, we spent a lot of time creating art with sidewalk chalk. I saw this pin one day though, and decided it was time to mix things up a bit. Using just a few simple ingredients that we already had around the house, we whipped up some side walk paint and headed out into the sunshine. I didn't have any paint brushes that were big enough (or that I was willing to allow to be destroyed), so I just cut up a sponge from the dollar store into strips and those did the job.
Please excuse the less-than-stellar photography, all I had handy this day was my phone. 
This was such a fun activity. The colors were SO vibrant, and it was fun to see the texture of the paint as it dried. It kind of pops off the cement giving it something of a 3-D look. It is also very smooth once dry so it feels neat to walk on it with bare toes. I was slightly concerned about the food coloring staining the cement, but it came right off without any problems. The sponges weren't ideal for the job of paint brush, the paint tended to collect and harden in the ends of the sponges, but they worked good enough for us.
 This was a really fun activity, and if we still had any cement in our yard I think this would be something we repeated frequently. Alas, I now live in the mountains and only have things like grass and flowers and birds and deer and trees in my front yard, but somehow we survive (sarcasm, in case you couldn't tell. We LOVE LOVE LOVE it here!!!).
What a fun way to express one's creative side, enjoy some sunshine, and work those finger muscles all at the same time!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Erik's Book Nook

I thought I'd share with you one of the things that we did for Erik for his birthday. 
He only has about 2 pieces of clothing that normally hang in his closet (I keep his clothes in a couple of small dressers so he can reach them himself), so it seemed like such a waste of space. I moved those two pieces to my closet and turned it into a book nook.
We took the door off, hung some of our Christmas lights on the shelf, put a big cushy pillow on the floor, and set his baskets of books on the floor inside. I used some of the construction paper left over from our Color Wheel activity to make the sign and it was ready to go. I have the material to make a few small throw pillows to make things even cozier, but I haven't gotten around to sewing them yet. Total cost for this project: $10 for the big floor pillow, $5 for material for the throw pillows.
I do need to buy a power strip with an on/off switch so that I can plug the lights into it and Erik can just flip the switch. Right now I have to plug it in each day and un-plug it before naptime and bedtime (he's not allowed to mess with anything plugged into the electric outlets).
Erik loves his Book Nook and hangs out in there for a while every day.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Pine Cone Bird Feeder

 Now that we live somewhere with some outdoor space, it's been fun to get Erik outside and learning about the nature around him. We love to observe the wildlife in our yard; mostly deer and LOTS of birds. The only problem is the birds like to hang out on the far side of the yard from our front porch so it's hard to get a good look at them. I decided we needed a way to lure them a bit closer so we can observe them better, so we decided to make pine cone bird feeders. We don't have any pine trees right here close, so we went for a drive up the canyon, played in the creek for a while, then came home with our pine cones.
These are so easy to make. Take a pine cone, smear the scales with peanut butter (or suet or shortening if you can't/don't want to use peanut butter)...
...roll the PB covered pine cone in bird seed...
...attach a string and hang outside. 
 Now for the sake of honesty, I have to tell you that we didn't ever see any birds eating off our pine cones, but that is because the deer got to them first. I guess next time we do this we'll have to hang them really high in the tree so that ONLY the birds can reach them. Oh well, we like watching the deer too.

I have plans to expand on this activity. I want to make a little booklet with the outline of a bird on each page. Then as we see new birds Erik can color the bird to resemble what we see in our yard and we can keep a record of the birds he's learned to identify.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Color Wheel

I've wanted to do this activity for a long time but never remembered to buy some construction paper. I finally remembered last time I was at the store so we got to have some fun. 
Set up is easy, just tape one sheet of each color of paper to your floor. After that there are several different ways you can play with this. 
First, we just walked and jumped on the colors around the circle, saying the name of each one as we stepped on it. After I was sure that Erik knew all the colors and was fairly familiar with the location of each one I would call out the name of a color and he would have to run to it. We took turns telling each other which color to jump on and he loved it. 

We left  this on the floor, and day two we added a new activity. We went on a color hunt around the house, looking for items that matched each color. It was interesting to discover which colors seemed more dominant in our house. Some of the colors ended up with big piles on them and some we were hard pressed to come up with one thing that matched. 
 Day three we added a circle of tape in the middle to facilitate our next activity. I had Erik stand in the middle with a bean bag in hand. I would call out a color and he would have to throw the bean bag onto that color. This was awesome for firming up his knowledge of the colors as well as working on throwing and catching. 
 Who knew we could have several days of fun with little more than some colored paper and some masking tape. And now we have lots of fun paper to make crafts with in the next few weeks.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Magnetic Exploration Tray

I found this idea in one of my old Early Childhood Education textbooks and figured it sounded easy to put together, fun, and free, which makes it perfect for us. I gathered a selection of small items from around the house, trying to find a mixture of magnetic and non-magnetic things. I put everything on a try with Erik's magnet wand and left it on the coffee table for him to discover. 
The round thing near the bottom right-hand corner is a petri dish filled with iron filings and hot glued shut. We found a bottle of iron fillings and the magnet wand at a teacher supply store. 
Erik wasn't sure exactly what to do with all this stuff at first, but it didn't take him too long to figure it out. It was fun to sit and watch him explore the different items to discover which stuck to his wand. 
Metal measuring spoon=magnetic

Plastic baby  spoon=not magnetic
This was a fun way to get Erik interested in some science and exploring the world around him. Plus it was free and you can't beat that!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Practice Cutting

To go along with our other shape activity, I threw together this quick cutting practice sheet. After we said the name of each shape, I turned Erik loose with the scissors and let him go at it. This was not our first time using scissors, but he still has a long way to go before he's actually able to cut on the lines. Right now we are focusing on cutting technique and we'll worry about cutting on the lines sometime later. 
When cutting, the child should hold the scissors in his dominant hand with the thumb on top and the scissors pointing away from his body at all times. Theoretically the scissors should always point directly away from his body. His other hand is the "helper" hand, which is in charge of supporting the paper and turning it so that he can cut where he wants.
I think it's something of a boy thing, but Erik loves getting to chop things up into little pieces. I love that he can enjoy destroying something while also building fine motor strength and learning valuable skills.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Shape Jump and Sort

Today's activity was inspired by a couple of blog posts I found through Pinterest. Here and here
We made a few different shapes out of painter's tape on our floor and then Erik practiced following directions as he ran or jumped or crawled to the different shapes.
 When he got tired of that, we went on a shape hunt around our house for items that were the same shape as the outlines on our floor.
 We had a lot of fun with this one and it kept Erik busy for a few days, although I didn't want to have any trouble getting the tape off the carpet so we didn't leave it on for as long as Erik would've liked. This is a great way to practice following directions, as well as to learn his shapes.