Thursday, January 26, 2012

Wax paper smush painting

Ellie is 14 months old

After the amazing success of our first craft project and the miserable "failure" of our second, I was trying to come up with something more along the lines of the snow painting, so I combined a few ideas I'd seen and decided to do smush painting on wax paper, so she could see the colors blending as she pushed the paint around. Plus, I figured the crinkly wax paper would keep her interested. So, I tore some wax paper rectangles and randomly squirted some paint on, then folded them in half and let her go at it.

She was mildly interested for a little while. Hitting the paper was especially entertaining.

But what was way cooler was emptying our paint bag. See the wax paper ready to be smushed? It's being utterly ignored.

But the best part of this project? Being pulled around the kitchen floor on the drop cloth at the end!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Mirror, mirror

Ellie is 13 months old

My brilliant and fabulous auntie Jill had mentioned mirrors (these are big in the Reggio Emilia practice of education, too). Then last week, one of the blogs I read, Play at Home Mom, had a great post about using mirrors for play. I bought the 6-pack of acrylic mirrors linked in that post, and could not be happier with them. They're virtually unbreakable and super light, so Ellie can play with them on her own (supervised, of course). I taped three together to make a "backdrop," and then left three solo for other kinds of play.

The first thing Ellie did was dump Marah's water bowl all over a mirror. I don't have a picture of that. Things two through about 17 were staring at herself, kissing herself, pointing to her nose, and other variations of being a perfectly narcissistic toddler.

Then, we brought the mirrors downstairs and I got out her snow bin. She was fascinated! She loved seeing double (or triple, or quadruple) of her favorite things, like the crystals and the snowman.

I'd love more suggestions for how to use the mirrors!

Friday, January 20, 2012


Ellie is 13 months old

Today we built a fort out of a blanket and her table and chairs. We hung out and read for awhile...

Sorry the picture is dark. We were in a fort :-)

Ellie was a little wary at first but then decided it was the neatest thing she'd ever done. I think we'll do it a lot more...especially if I keep getting cuddle moments like this:

Friday, January 13, 2012

Personalized alphabet book

Ellie is 13 months old

One of my friends, Kate, pinned this book on Pinterest a few weeks ago. Immediately, both of us and Shayna decided this was a must-do for our kiddos! Here's Ellie's book should be here in a week and I am SO excited!

(Yes, this one is HILARIOUS and you're allowed to laugh because we do every time)

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Art project FAIL

Ellie is 13 months old

Keeping with our snow theme, and because Ellie has been crazy in love with snowmen since Christmas, I picked a paper plate snowman craft for today. She hasn't really colored before, but Shayna gave her these cool easy-to-hold crayons for her birthday, so I figured I'd give it a shot. I already knew I'd be doing a lot of the work (cutting and gluing), but hey, as long as she got her snowman in the end...

So here are all the things that went wrong:
Instead of coloring, she decided to put all the crayons on one plate and then the other. And then back to the first plate. And then the other plate. 

The she managed to pull the orange crayon out and discovered her finger fit inside there pretty well. Later, there was also crayon nibbling.

I thought maybe if she saw what it was becoming, she'd be excited. So I grabbed the third plate and glued on the eyes, nose and mouth. 

She decided she wanted to pull all the little foam dots for the mouth off. Taking the plate away induced a complete meltdown. We then began a little dance. She would walk around the ottoman to get to the face. I would move it away so I could finish tying the plates together and adding our ribbon scarf and hat. She would yell and walk around the other way. I'd move it. She'd yell.

Finally, she gave up and sat down with the crayons. I looked over and realized that she'd decided to start coloring! ON THE CARPET. The white carpet in our house that we are trying to sell in a few months. In my infinite wisdom, I used our black, never-been-washed, decorative towel to try to get it off. So now I had black dye in white carpet over crayon marks and a screaming toddler clinging to my legs, angry because she now had neither a snowman face NOR crayons to play with. I finally thought to try Spray N Wash, which praise the Lord, worked. I realized Ellie had stopped crying, and then I saw why: 

The snowman's mouth was completely gone, and there were a dozen tiny black foam dots all over our basement.

I think it was at this point that I realized I was being an idiot. I try to have a go-with-the-flow mentality in my parenting, and I have a very firm belief that exploration is a child's best learning tool. Yet here I was, trading both those in an effort to get my Pinterest-perfect snowman.

I gave up, collected dots off the floor (at least that was a good fine motor activity!) and let Ellie play with her hatless, mouthless snowman. 

She loved him.

Here are some things I learned today:
  1. Do not plan crafts for just before naptime. 
  2. A dropcloth may be overkill, but then again, better safe than sorry.
  3. Really, seriously, don't overplan.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Story stretchers

Here are 50 neat ways of expanding story time beyond just reading a book together. Some of these are generalized from Story Stretchers (which has great specific ideas for dozens of popular kids' books like Where The Wild Things Are, Corduroy, Runaway Bunny and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs). Use one for (almost) every week of the year!

Let me know your own ideas...I'd love to get this list up to 100.
  1. Echo short or repeated lines.
  2. Recall and discuss feelings or emotions the characters or reader experienced during the story.
  3. Read or echo dialogue in different kinds of voices.
  4. Talk about changes from the beginning of the book to the end.
  5. Make a rebus to retell the story (substituting simple pictures for key words).
  6. Draw a picture of your favorite part of the story and write about it.
  7. Come up with an alternate or expanded ending to the story and draw or write it.
  8. Act out scenes from the book. Try pantomime, puppets or costumes.
  9. Read books in a setting similar to the one in the story.
  10. Role play a made-up scene as characters from the book.
  11. Use blocks to build an important set piece from the story (a castle, tree house, school bus, etc.).
  12. Act out each strong action word as it's read.
  13. Predict what's going to happen on each page before you read the story (can do this before you turn the page or once kids can see pictures).
  14. Make a snack or meal inspired by the book.
  15. Make a book cover for the book. Include a summary and recommendation quote for the book. Older kids can research the author and include a short bio.
  16. Pick an important object from the story (like flowers, a particular food or hats) and go on a hunt for them. 
  17. Talk about a lesson from the book and brainstorm an activity to practice it (e.g., for sharing, make a snack to share with a sibling; for friendship, invite a friend for a playdate).
  18. Use a flannel or felt board to retell the story.
  19. Make a mask or hat to represent a character from the book.
  20. Use your computer or phone to make a recording of the book.
  21. Make up or sing a song from or related to the story. 
  22. Make a collage about the story.
  23. Find all the things in the book that are similar to the child's life, school, family, etc. Talk about the things that are different. 
  24. Draw a comic strip to retell the story.
  25. Make copies of each page and have child sequence them.
  26. Make a card for a character in the book (birthday, congratulations, get well soon).
  27. Write a poem inspired by the story.
  28. Retell the story to dolls or stuffed animals.
  29. Get 5-10 items representing things from the book and play "what's missing?" or hide them and play "hot and cold."
  30. Build a fort and read by flashlight.
  31. Read outside on a blanket or in a hammock.
  32. Take photos and make a photo story retelling the book or representing a theme from the book.
  33. Write a letter to someone telling them about the book.
  34. Host a party for a character. Make an invitation, decorations and snacks. 
  35. Brainstorm some questions to ask the main character.
  36. Write or draw a sequel to the story.
  37. Research something interesting (a country, animal, time period, etc.) from the book.
  38. Make a timeline of the story. Write or draw it on butcher paper, or put events on index cards and sequence them by hanging them on clothespins. 
  39. Make a matching game with pictures from the book. 
  40. Make a puzzle from a copy of the cover.
  41. Copy pages and lay out on ground with masking tape in between. Tip toe on the tape and retell story as you go.
  42. Try to mimic the style of illustration in the book (watercolors, torn paper, line drawings, etc.).
  43. Have the child close their eyes and imagine the book as you read it the first time. Then look at the pictures and talk about what was similar to your imagined scenes and what was different.
  44. Provide background noises as the book is read (like birds chirping for a forest scene).
  45. Pick something (noses, balls, a particular word) and count how many appear in the book. Or, make a simple graph based on counting the frequency of different kinds of things.
  46. Bury objects representing things in the story in sand or rice, and go digging. Or, magnetize the items and use a magnet to pull them out. 
  47. Play "I spy" while reading.
  48. Make a clay or Play-Dough sculpture inspired by the book.
  49. Clap, stomp or jump to the rhythm of a rhyming or poetic book.
  50. Take a field trip related to the book.
  51. Make a clay model (idea from I Can Teach My Child)
  52. Have family or friends record story to listen to ((idea from I Can Teach My Child)
  53. Recreate the story with stickers (idea from Play at Home Mom)

Sunday, January 8, 2012


Ellie is 13 months old

Confession: sometimes, I get bored with Ellie's toys. I love that she's entertained by endlessly rolling balls down a slide or singing Old McDonald with her farm (and I am incredibly grateful for these toys precisely BECAUSE she loves playing with them over and over). But momma gets a little sick of watching the panda flip up over and over.

But blocks? I could play with blocks all day. All. Day.

We have four awesome sets of blocks.

  • Green Toys: these are great first blocks and stack really easily, but are harder to incorporate into other structures
  • Alphabet blocks: love the bold pattern on these, and they're a great size for little hands to hold and stack
  • Haba fantasy land blocks: beautiful blocks that add a lot of creativity to building, plus have some really interesting shapes
  • Melissa and Doug's 60-piece set: the workhorse set, with a ton of different sizes and shapes, all very nicely cut and sanded from nice heavy wood
We also have some blocks that came with her toddle truck (which we all LOVE, by the way). 

Today, we got them all out and started building.
Digging through her box of blocks

Mommy's beautiful city of block towers

(almost) total annihilation!

Ryan wasn't feeling well and was lying on the couch. For 15 minutes, Ellie carried one block at a time from me to Ryan and waited for him to add it to his pile...then toddled back for more. It was incredibly adorable :-)

P.S. I am not nearly famous enough to review products, so these were all purchased by us or as gifts for Ellie.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Snow painting

Ellie is 13 months old

I decided to start planning some activities for Ellie this year -- just a couple of things a week that are based in art, music, reading, building or exploring. Because I'm me, I wanted each month to have a theme. I picked "snow" for January. We all know how that's turned out (in case you don't, I'll give you a hint -- we spent about 4 hours outside today, with no coats, barefoot part of the time).

This was Ellie's first official art project. I found this on Pinterest (this will be a theme in the posts to come, I'm sure). It's AWESOME stuff. You mix one part shaving cream and one part white glue. I did enough to make 1/3 cup total, which was more than enough for our two paintings.

I put a giant glob on a piece of construction paper. You'll notice a dropcloth under us -- it turns out this wasn't really necessary, as this stuff is very washable, at least when wet. This ended up being a huge blessing (more on that later).

She started by using one finger and poking at it, then two fingers and pinching it. 

She quickly realized this stuff was awesome and started smearing it all over her hands. It was a good chance to talk about texture -- slimy and squishy!

She then decided it was WAY more fun to paint Mommy's pants. This is where the washable-ness came in quite handy. 

Our finished masterpieces. This stuff is SO neat when it dries -- really spongy and mushy and a whole other fun activity!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Snow sensory bin

Ellie is 13 months old

This is our January bin.

The bin contains: cotton balls, big crystals, sparkly silver pom-poms, polyfill (I have a feeling I'm going to regret this when it gets all over our carpet), the snowman from last month, and a felt tree ornament. 

I'm also introducing tools. I got the coffee scoops 2/$1 and the measuring cups in a set of eight (four cups and four measuring spoons) for $1, both at Dollar Tree. The big tweezers are from Amazon (this set of 12 was on sale for $5 with free shipping when I bought them!). This will be the first month she'll have tools on hand, so we'll see how it goes!

Here are some of the first few days with the bin. Favorite activities so far are picking out all the crystals and putting them in the big measuring cup and squeezing and smooshing the sparkly pom poms.

Collecting crystals

Putting them into the cup

Do you see any more?

She discovered the crystals made noise if she flung the cup around