Friday, February 21, 2014


...the newest member of our Playing to Learn crew: Sharli.
We're pretty busy adjusting to another kiddo around here and enjoying getting to know our new little girl; hopefully it won't be too long before we have some new activities to post to show you how much fun we're having with her.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Field Trip: Rio Grande Zoo

A while back we took Erik on a trip to see the local zoo. It was really a lot of fun! We spent a couple of hours wandering around looking at and talking about some of his favorite animals, most of which he's only ever seen in pictures.
He LOVES elephants, we watched these guys for a long time!
 It was fun to expand his vocabulary as we talked about the names of the different animals, many he already knew, but some he'd never seen or heard of before. We were there in the early morning when many of the animals were just getting started on their breakfast, so we got to talk about what the different animals each eat. 
We worked on gross motor skills running and jumping and climbing our way around the zoo.
 We also bought a few handfuls of food to feed to the ducks and fish in the pond. Having to pinch up the little bits of food was good for his little fingers.
Outings like this are such a great way to work on so many valuable skills with your child, as well as build their self esteem by making them feel like they're a special part of your family. 

Friday, February 14, 2014

Sticky "Stained Glass" Art

To be completely honest, I'm really not sure where this idea came from originally. I've wanted to do this for a while, but didn't want to go buy tissue paper just for this. I wound up with several different colors of tissue paper on hand after a baby shower, and decided it was time to give it a go. 
I started by taping a piece of contact paper (sticky side out) to a window, and cutting up several colors of tissue paper into small pieces. I didn't give Erik any instruction, but by now he's pretty familiar with contact paper and he jumped right in. 

 We both really enjoyed the bright sunshine coming through the colored papers. It was really pretty!
 This was a fun activity! Erik got to create a work of art while enjoying some sunshine despite the cold weather outside. We talked about the different colors, worked on the fine motor skills needed to stick the little bits of paper to the window, and just had fun. In case you haven't already guessed though, things did get a bit messy...
Weeks later I still occasionally find a bit of paper in some dark corner somewhere. I'm beginning to wonder if I'll ever have them all cleaned up. Oh well, he had so much fun, I'd say it was worth it.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Clothes Pin Painting

 Inspired by this blog post, we decided to try some clothes pin painting. The original blogger used pom poms, but instead of digging out my thing of pom poms, I just grabbed a few cotton balls out of the cupboard. Set up was a breeze. Pinch a cotton ball in each clothes pin. Set out the paints and the paper, and turn your kid loose.
Erik had a hard time figuring out how to hold the clothes pin without squeezing it open so the cotton balls fall out. At first I was a bit discouraged and thought it wasn't going to work, but then I realized how good it was for him to have to work on controlling his little hands more carefully. Erik painted for a long time and had a wonderful time! As always, it eventually ended up in a finger painting extravaganza, but I really do think he stuck it out with the clothes pins for a lot longer than he normally does with a brush. 

Friday, February 7, 2014

Edible Glossy Paint

This little art project was a lot of fun. Erik loves to paint, and is always super excited when we do so. I've had this activity pinned for a long time now, but the other day we finally decided to go for it. I dug around in my pantry and found a can of sweetened condensed milk (which happened to have expired and so it really wasn't at all wasteful to put it to good use here) and my box of food coloring. It only took a few seconds to divide the milk into a muffin tin, stir in some food coloring, and turn Erik loose. He started out using a paintbrush and it was fun to watch him swirl the colors together. The paint is really vibrant and shiny, so it's really very visually appealing, if somewhat sticky.
 Yeah, ummm sorry about the bad pictures, I couldn't find my camera and had to use my phone. Oh well, you can get the gist of what's going on.
 It wasn't too horribly long before Erik was literally up to his elbows in paint. He loves finger painting, and it's a challenge to get him to use any kind of brush for very long. I'm okay with that though, this is more about him enjoying some freedom and creativity than it is about staying clean or doing things a certain way.
We really liked the way this paint looked, but I didn't like the way it dried. It was still a bit sticky even after it had dried for a few days (and where Erik had really heaped the paint on it still wasn't dry after two or three days), so I was hesitant to keep the final art pieces around. We hung them up on the fridge for a day or two, but then they "disappeared", never to be seen again.
Would we do this again? Probably. It was cheap (especially since I would probably have just thrown away the expired milk anyways), very visually appealing, and required little prep work. Maybe next time I'll try to help Erik keep from laying the paint on too thick though so that maybe we can keep one or two of the finished pieces.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Field Trip: Belen Rail Yard/ Train Station

One of Erik's obsessions right now is trains. He LOVES them! Just about anywhere we drive around here we see railroad tracks. We can hear the train whistles from our house. One of our favorite weekend activities is riding the local commuter train up to Albuquerque and seeing the sights up there. And when he can't talk us into taking him on the train for a ride, he will happily settle for going and sitting at the train station or near the rail yard to just sit and watch the trains go by. 
 It's really fun to take  few moments to go and explore Erik's interests together. We talk about what kinds of cars the trains are pulling, and what the cargo is that they are carrying. We count how many engines are on each train. When traffic is slow we watch the pigeons flying around or watch the railroad employees going about their work and talk about what their doing.
This is such a simple thing, and is completely free, but I feel like Erik gets so much out of it. What a fun way to spend a few minutes together and build vocabulary and other skills at the same time!