Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Summer Reading Fun; Take #2

You may remember that last year I helped put on the Summer Reading Program at our local library in Glenwood. We had SO much fun! I was so excited to help out again this year that I sat down to make up plans way back in February. I know, I'm a nerd. Well, we ended up moving to AZ in March so I no longer get to be involved at the Glenwood library, but since I already had everything planned I decided to invite some of our new friends to join us for a Summer Reading Playgroup in our home. Each mom pitched in a few dollars to help cover supplies, and we were ready to roll. We've had a marvelous time and I can't wait to share all the fun with you over the next few weeks. 

Like last year, I have tried to incorporate activities for each book in each off the following categories:

Gross Motor

We do play dough as our gathering activity each week because it's so easy to add kids into the mix as they arrive. I let them play until a few of them start to get bored, then I gather them around to read the story. After that we move on to our craft so that any paint or glue has time to dry before the kiddos go home. By this point they are pretty much done sitting still, so we take a break for snacks and then finish up with our gross motor and sensory activities.

Over the next few weeks I'll be sharing our activities with you all, hopefully you can find something that looks fun and doable for you and your kiddos. Pretty much everything is cheap and requires very little prep work because I'm just lazy like that. ;)  I'll also try to include a list of other books that we've enjoyed that fit in with the theme in case you want to expand your kids' literary horizons a bit.

Look for the first installment on July 4th, and then I hope to share a new post about our reading fun every Tuesday until we're done. I'll link all the posts back here so you can easily find them all.

Week 1: Truck Stop
Week 2: The Very Hungry Caterpillar
Week 3: Should I Share My Ice Cream
Week 4: Up, Down, and Around
Week 5: Curious George

Pudding Writing Spelling Practice

In March of this year our family loaded up and moved from our beloved Glenwood, New Mexico to Arizona's Phoenix valley. One of the many HUGE changes that meant for our family was that Erik started attending a new school. He went from a tiny school with one teacher (pre-k through 3rd grade) and a grand total of 8 students, to a school with more than 1000 students and a class of more than 25 kids. His new school has a mandatory homework policy (don't even get me started!), so we found ourselves trying to find ways to help Erik get his work done without pushing him to the point of burn-out. Practicing spelling words was becoming a fight, so I've been compiling a list of fun ways to get that job done. I'll be sharing several of them here for anyone else looking for better ways to memorize things.

For today's Spelling Practice idea, we've got pudding writing. It's so easy to set up! Mix up a box or two of instant pudding in any flavor, spread it on a sheet pan (or serving tray, or whatever you have that works) and tell your child a word to spell. They get to use their finger to write the word, then lick it clean when they're done. Everyone wins!
 Well, everyone wins except for you, because you have to look at my crummy phone pictures. I lost my camera for about a month so this is as good as it gets. :)
 The fun thing about this is that it works for all ages. For Maren and Sharli this was just pudding painting, like we've done before.
 There are several reasons why this is an excellent way to practice spelling. Here are a few:
- the more senses you get involved the more likely you are to remember things. This is great sensory stimulus, bringing in smell, taste, touch, and sight.
- the more emotions you involve in an experience the more likely you are to remember it. See the joy on this face:
 - gross motor (large muscle) movement (moving your whole arm while you write in the pudding) means you're getting more of your body involved which means better memory building.
 So, whether you're looking for a way to learn some new words, or a way to keep little fingers busy, there's something here for everyone.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Color Wheel Sorting

 We've played with a color wheel before, and it was enough fun that when Sharli was trying to learn her colors we decided to give it another try. With 3 kids all joining the fun the papers only lasted an hour or two, but they still had a great time.
 I gather up a basket full of items from around the house and let Sharli match the items to the corresponding piece of paper. Maren just wanted to be sitting in the middle of whatever was going on.
For more ways to have fun with nothing more than a few pieces of construction paper and some masking tape, visit my original post on this activity here.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Baby Water Play

Once Maren learned to crawl, she insisted on being right by me at all times. Most of the time this isn't a problem, but sometimes (like when cooking dinner) I need a little bit of space. I needed a way to keep her busy while I worked, and this was perfect. 
 I laid a towel out on the kitchen floor, near enough that I could keep an eye on things but far enough away to give me room to work. I put a small amount of water in a 9x13 pan, just enough to cover the bottom. Set that on the towel along with a few simple utensils (measuring spoons and cups, perhaps) and you're all set. Maren happily splashed away, and any mess was caught by the towel.
When she was done playing I would empty any leftover water and set the pan and utensils out of the way. The towel got hung up to dry so it would be ready for more water fun next time I needed a few minutes of peace. It was so nice to cook or do dishes without a crying baby clinging to my legs!

Friday, June 9, 2017

Pink Sensory Bin

 When I asked Sharli what kind of birthday party she wanted, she told me "PINK!" With that as my only guide, I moved forward with plans for a pink party. I knew I wanted to keep things fairly simple, more like a play date than a birthday party. The biggest hit of the day was our pink sensory bin. 
I bought 40 lbs of the cheapest rice I could find, a large bottle of hand sanitizer, and a bottle of pink gel food coloring (from the cake decorating aisle at WalMart).
To dye the rice you first empty the hand sanitizer into a bowl (use one you're not attached to, like an empty sour cream tub) and stir in the food coloring. I used the whole jar of food coloring. Once that is well mixed, add it to your rice and stir well (you probably want to do this in a well ventilated space). Let it dry and you're ready to play.
 I went to the dollar store and picked up anything I could find that was pink (it helped that this was around Valentine's day). There were little pink and red hearts, little pink gem stones, pink and red pom poms, etc. These all got dumped into our little kiddie pool with the rice.
 I found some pink measuring cups at the dollar store, and some cute little silver ice scoops. I added some scooping/pouring toys and utensils from the toy box and my kitchen and we were all set. Oh boy did they love this! It got played with for days! At night I would cover the pool with a fitted sheet to keep critters out so that we'd be ready to play again the next day.
 We did end up with pink rice everywhere in the front yard, but it didn't take very long to break down in the sunshine. Even if I'd felt the need to pick it all up it would have been worth the hours and hours of play for all the kids involved. They played with it until there just wasn't enough left to play with, and I had to throw the remnants away. THAT was a sad day! 

Monday, June 5, 2017

Surprise on a String, Take 2

 This oldy but goodie is one I did with Erik when he was little. He tended to think that if he was in his high chair I owed him some food, so we had to do a little improvisation, but Maren had no problem hanging out in there.
 Set up is simple. Grab a few item from around the house, tie them to some string, and tape the string to your child's high chair tray. If they don't figure out what to do after a few minutes you can show them that there is something on the end of the string.
 Once Maren realized there were interesting things at the end of the strings she was hooked. This kept her busy long enough for me to get a few boxes packed for our move. That means it's a win in my book!

Friday, June 2, 2017

Baking Soda Eruptions

 It's been a while since we last messed around with baking soda and vinegar at our house. Sharli loves all things bubbles, so I decided to introduce her to some new fun. As I often do, I prepped the materials and placed them in front of her without any instruction from me. All you need is a shallow dish filled with baking soda, a small cup of vinegar (add a few drops of food coloring for some extra kid points), and an eye dropper/pipette/syringe.
 Sharli had never used an eye dropper before, so at first she wasn't entirely sure what to do. With a little help getting that part figured out, she was ready to rock and roll.
 This activity was a huge hit! She played with this until there was not a single bit of baking soda left untouched by the vinegar.
 In fact, this was so successful that we did it several times over the next week. I was able to set it up for her and then leave her to do her thing while I packed for our big move to Arizona.
Science, fine motor development, and babysitter all in one? Count me in!!