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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Thanksgiving Craft Ideas

Thanksgiving sneaked up on me this year. I admit it.
I had a whole lot of ideas for Thanksgiving but we are running a little late.
I used this book to see what is out there.

Some crafts in it are easy enough for 3 year olds.  Some are more involved which is more interesting to 4-7 year olds. 
I usually see something I like and make something my own inspired by what I've seen. Today Pumpkin and I made salt dough ornaments(not from the above listed book).
To make salt dough you will need:
1 cup salt
11/4 cup water
3 cups flour

Dissolve the salt in the water and add the flour. Ta-da! Done!
Use cookie cutters, rolling pins, play-dough tools to work with it.  This is art so anything goes.  After you are done decorating your ornaments, put them on the cookie sheet covered with parchment paper and bake at 300F till they are hard (about 40 minuts, maybe more).  Paint the cooled off ornaments with acrylics or even tempera paint.  If you want to add that extra shiny finish, coat them with Mod Podge.
These are our Thanksgiving Turkey and a Rose(there is always room for roses, no matter what occasion it is ;))

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Melissa and Doug - Thumbs up!

I like Melissa and Doug toys SO MUCH I can't even describe it to you.  I want to become a child again to play with them.  There is something in the simplicity of their toys.  It feels good holding them in your hands.  They are very well built wooden toys so if you buy one you can be sure that it's going to be in tip-top condition for the younger sibling as well. 
I ran into this Melissa and Doug Lacing Bear set and thought it might be a good idea for Pumpkin to have something like that.  We did try lacing activities that involve old postcards and a hole-puncher but honestly, she was more thrilled about making holes than lacing.  This toy was a big hit right away.  Pumpkin couldn't wait to get home to play with it.  It is perfect for little girls because it has a number of girly (princess, ballerina, cheer leader) outfits and accessories along with a cowgirl and a soccer uniform which I like for breaking those gender stereotypes.  There are 17 pieces all together and 2 extra-long shoe-laces for lacing.  It is very affordable and durable.  The only  minus is the wooden box it comes in doesn't have a lid to keep the pieces in place.  After we unwrapped it we ended up with a tray.   For now it is just sitting on the table until I figure out the storage solution for it.
Christmas is around the corner.  This set would make a great gift for girls from 3 to 7 years old (it says 3-12 on the package but I doubt that 12 year olds nowadays play with toys like this one).  And for those who have little boys in the house Melissa and Doug has wonderful lacing sets as well(shapes, road signs, trucks...).  Just hop on their web site!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

My Comments Rock!

I just love, love, LOVE awards!  Who doesn't, right? I am a new blogger and I am still learning about blogging and the whole bloggosphere.  I have a couple of awards and I value them a lot. They remind me that sometimes I get it right. LOL.
This award is very personal to me.  And the way Blue Cotton Mom from Blue Cotton Candy put it "... making friends is hard work. It means risking rejection by extending friendliness. We do that with our comments. We can either give cruise-through comments or really sit down and have a dialogue".  I do read a lot of posts and I do try to comment a lot as well.  Reading other people's blogs is getting to know those people and their personalities.  I've made "blogger" friends that I keep an eye on and check on once in a while( by following their blogs) to see what they are up to. 
Good commenting is taking time and reading a post, getting into the topic of it and speaking up your mind.  It is not just plain "great", "i like it", etc.  Every time you see a good comment (you know the one I am talking about) you really, really appreciate it.  And yes, you want to go back to that blogger and get to know him/her better.
Here are the people who take pride in their comments and they need to be rewarded:
Tammy @One Pink Fish
Linda @My Trendy Tykes
Nicole @Tired, Need Sleep
Georgine @Life on James Street
Christine @Propeller Head Mom - A Geeky Mommy Blogger
parentingBYdummies @parenting BY dummies
And if I could I would give this award back to the person who granted me with it.  Silly... But Blue Cotton Mom practices what she preaches.
These are the rules of getting/giving the reward:
1) Put the logo on your blog/post.
2) Nominate bloggers who take pride in commenting.
3) Be sure to link to your nominees within your post.
4) Let them know that they have been nominated by commenting on their blog.
5) Remember to link to the person from whom you received your award.
Thank you all for the wonderful impact you leave in the blogosphere.  Keep it up!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Reading Comprehension For Beginning Readers

When it comes to beginning readers, the most important thing is to not discourage them.  You want to raise a lifelong reader not somebody who is able to read if he/she has to.  Children should fall in love with books from the early years when he/she is being read to.
What do little ones enjoy in early books?  Plenty of colorful illustrations, a captivating but rather simple story line filled with situations they can easily relate to and kiddie humor. Children also like patterns and repetitions.
The requirements for early readers are almost the same: illustrations, a simple story line, repetitions and in addition, large font.
Children usually have their favorite book characters and it would be so great and helpful to have the same characters in the books they are about to read all by themselves to make the transition easier, wouldn't it?  Guess what?  Not only they make beginning readers with those beloved characters but also practice books and activity books.
Pumpkin and I have been using a wonderful reading workbook from SPECTRUM series Reading Grade1 where children can learn to comprehend very simple texts and do exercises with their favorite chracters created by Mercer Mayer.

  Who doesn't like Little Critter?  And speaking about illustrations, there is no shortage of them.  They accompany the little passages of text to help your child understand the plot better.
The workbook is for 1st graders but it depends on the level of reading your child has reached.  If he/she can read level 2 readers, knows the phonics - it is good to go.  This is how it looks inside.  The texts get more challenging as you go further which is exactly what you want.

I think, I got it at Barnes & Noble.  It was a great purchase.  The book saved me a lot of time looking for readers with exercises on the back.
You might want to give it a try. ;)

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Pollock-Inspired Salad Spinner Art

A couple of weeks ago Pumpkin started taking seasonal arts and crafts classes.  Now, she wants to do art all the time. We are running out of tempera paint!
  I felt like doing something abstract with her and thought about Jackson Pollock.  He was a "human spinner" holding buckets of paint in his hands and spinning around on the canvas creating his works of art that way(you can give it a shot on a summer day on your back yard). Yesterday we did some less messy Pollock-inspired art using a salad spinner. It's fast and a lot of fun.
All you need is:
  • a salad spinner
  • non-toxic, washable tempera paint
  • paper circles, cut to fit the bottom of your salad spinner( or paper plates if they fit)
What you do:
Open your spinner and put the paper on the bottom. Splatter/pour/drip any kinds of paint of any color in any pattern or non pattern at all(how cool is that!).  Then, put the top back on and spin it!  Open it up - ta-da!  Your art is ready.  All it needs now is some time to dry.
And do you know the best thing about it?  It never gets old because it comes out in a different way every time!
Here are some things that came out of our salad spinner.  We did a couple of them using "fall" colors. 

Here are some Jackson Pollock links you might find interesting: (Pollock interactive: create your own Pollock with a couple of mouse clicks)  (very interesting about if there is a  structure in his art)


I hope all of you will have a lot of fun with it.  Unleash your inner Pollocks!

Friday, October 23, 2009


Pumpkin has a thing for testing me lately.  Yesterday she wrote down a number of math equations for me.  It was my "homework".  And I want to admit that she doubted my knowledge of basic math when the answer to her 2-20 was -18.
Today I had a different test...
She came up to me and gave me a paper explaining that I needed to choose the correct answer.  Here is the paper(please, don't mind the poor quality, one of these days I'll invest in a good camera).

I had two choices: "I love you" and "I don't love you". LOL.
I chose the "I love you" one and looked at Pumpkin. She had that look that teachers have when their students do well on the test.
She also told me: "Mommy, I need to teach you".  LOL.  I guess, I'm past due for some "upgrading".

Thursday, October 1, 2009

stART: Blueberries for Sal

I came across stART a couple of weeks ago and liked the idea of reading and art combination right away.  Our public library has a similar program every Saturday where children have a story hour first and then they do craft related to the story.  My daughter enjoys it very much.  This week I decided to participate in stART carnival created by A Mommy's Adventures. This week she has a fun craft, by the way.
Yesterday we read a classic children's book Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey.

The story has a great plot that children can relate themselves to. Two little ones - little girl Sal and Little Bear - get lost for a little while while picking blueberries which resulted in swapping moms and creating a comical situation enjoyable for young listeners.
We liked this story so much that we decided to make our own Blueberry Hill and the main characters so we could role play it.  I made the characters by drawing them with colored pencils and glueing them to cardboard.   Pumpkin and I made Blueberry Hill together.  Cardboard, colored paper, hole puncher and glue is all you will need.

This is our Blueberry Hill with two moms and two little ones.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Destination: Modern Art

I always admired Baby Einstein  for introducing little ones to the world of classical music and works of art.  I don't particularly agree with watching DVDs since "0" or 3 months like they advise, though.  But I love the idea of incorporating those two things in every day lives of children.  How cool is that when your toddler recognizes the paintings that most adults don't!  And you do know that all kinds of studies proved that classical music is just plain GOOD for all of us, I am sure.  It is relaxing and calming. Expecting women are recommended to listen to it because it benefits the healthy development of the fetus.  Also it has been proven that students who were listening to Mozart during their test did better than the ones who didn't.  It raises I.Q.  You just cannot go wrong with it!
Art is wonderful in any form - bottom line!
So on that note...
The other day Pumpkin and I were exploring the interactive MoMA site for kids. We both loved it!  An alien from a different planet lands in the heart of Manhattan and goes to the museum.  By clicking on the photos of the actual exhibits you not only learn facts about them and their creators but also play games, do activities and print out pages you can use later on!  After the tour around MoMA you go to P.S.1 art center which used to be a public school at one time and check out the art inside there.  The interactive tour is not too long but there is enough stuff at each exhibit that will keep you busy. Enjoy!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Johnny Appleseed and Apples

The end of September officially marks the fall's beginning and the celebration of harvest time. I mentioned in the previous post that last year we took part in Johnny Appleseed's birthday part at our public library. This year I decided to catch the opportunity by the tail and introduce my daughter to legendary Johnny Appleseed whose real name by the way is John Chapman and different types of apples. This topic is so versatile! There are so many links and resources that it'll be enough for years and years ahead without it getting boring.
What we did:
1. Read about Johnny Appleseed
here and here(they have a vocabulary list at this one which saved my time).
2. Watched this wonderful story about Johnny.

3. Watched Disney version of it.

4.We did a browning apple experiment. For this we cut an apple in quarters. 1st quarter we put on a plate and left it on the table; 2nd quarter we put in the refrigerator; 3rd quarter we sprayed with lemon juice and left out on the table; 4th quarter we sprayed with lemon juice and put it in the refrigerator. Every minute or so we would check on all of them writing down our observations: which one got brown first/last, how long it took it. Then, we discussed oxidation and how lemon juice helped preserving the apple halves better.
5.We played an apple memory game
here simultaneously learning about different types of apples.

6. We made a cool paper apple that my Pumpkin noticed could be a notebook as well.

For this project you will need:
red/orange/green/yellow construction paper
paper glue
hole puncher
pipe cleaner (to make an apple stem)
a drinking glass/soup can (to trace circles)
Take your colored construction paper and trace 16 circles. Cut them out and fold them in half. Squeeze some glue on that semi-circle, take another circle folded in half and put one half of a circle on top of the other. Now it should look like a full circle with a divider in the middle. This is the pattern you should follow till you use all of the folded circles. Then, take the first piece and the last and glue them together. Let your "apple" dry for a couple of hours. When it's dry take a hole puncher and make two holes in the first and the eights fold. Take your pipe cleaner and pull it through the holes pull the middle part and twist it making a loop that is going to be the future leaf. Twist the loose ends together as well - this is the stem. Cut out two identical leaf forms out of green construction paper. Glue them over the loop: one part on top, the other on the bottom.
Your apple is ready!
7. We did some word math problems that were apple related.
8. We snacked on apples and had apple cider for lunch. On September 26th we are planning on baking an apple pie for our Johnny Appleseed party.

There are other good resources that I would recommend to check out:
Teachers' Resources for K-Gr6(download files of activities, projects and coloring sheets)
Apple activities (book lists, songs, poems, games, worksheets)
Apple unit(lesson plan)

And some good apple recipes:
Betty Crocker
Easy Recipes for Kids
Healthy Apple Recipes
Everything from apples

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Apples And Apple Related Activities

Autumn is in the air. Mornings are cool and crisp and afternoons are sunny and filled up with the last warm breath of summer. Beautiful New England autumn...
The change of seasons, our Saturday farmers' markets and of course, reading blogs of my fellow-bloggers gave me an inspiration for this post.
September is an apple picking month and also, on September 26th we celebrate the birthday of Johnny Appleseed. Last year Pumpkin and I attended Johnny Appleseed's birthday party at our local public library. We listened to the story about him read by the librarians, tasted apple treats washing them down with apple cider and did apple related crafts. It was a great time and this year I decided to do something similar to that.
First, we read the book How Do Apples Grow? by Betsy Maestro that tells the story of an apple from a tiny bud to the final result - fruit.


I especially like the simplicity of the illustrations that deliver the concept of flower fertilization to even the youngest of botanists. Look at that!

Maybe it was not that easy for my 5 year old to grasp the idea of how apples grow from the first time but I am pretty sure that after a couple more times of reading it she'll be correcting me sequence of events.
To explore the apple core with its seeds we cut a couple of apples across to observe the star-shaped compartments. We took the seeds out, counted them and compared to the flower seeds we planted outside earlier this month. Then, we did the classic apple printing giving it our own abstract twist. You can see the star-shaped compartments of the apple core her and there.

Check out what you can do with apple printing and apples at The Wonder Years as well.

After that we could not skip the classic "apple" book Ten Apples Up On Top! by Theo LeSieg.

It is a good book for reading beginners and also it is a good one for those who are learning to count up to 10.
I had a Flipbook: Matching and sequencing by Learning Playground. It is suitable for kids from around 2,5-3 and up.

It was a bit easy for my Pumpkin(she didn't show any enthusiasm at all) but we did a sequence with apples anyway. Here it is.

We did a whole lot more ...and still doing it. Stay tuned. ;)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

I Am Special: All About Me.

Another year of homeschooling is ahead of us. Even though Pumpkin has just turned 5 and was eligible to go to kindergarten, I decided to leave her at home for one more year. I don't think she is socially ready for it.
I want to go through the most topics that are discussed in kindergarten with her. The first one is All About Me or like we stated it I Am Special: All About Me. I wanted to make an emphasis on how people are different and how they are special in their own way.

This is a sketch of our lesson plan. (The reason I am not saying "plan" because we didn't follow it step by step and went with the flow adding some extras too.)

1. GettingAlign Center to know you.

learned how to introduce herself

recited her address

spelt her full name

2. My body and personal hygiene.

bath time hygiene (I took the activities from here)

video about brushing teeth

watched video about hand washing

learned some fascinating facts about bodies

read the poem Somersaults by Jack Prelutsky

read the story Big Feet Are Neat, Sometimes by Laura Hitchcock(all from Little People Big Book. All about Ourselves. (published by Time Life For Children))

3. Everyone is unique and special.

read the poem Me I Am by Jack Prelutsky

completed the funny questioner All About Me

read the story The Bear Who Wanted to Be a Bird by Adele and Chateau De Leeuw

played a silly game How Would It Feel to Be an Animal? (all from Little People Big Book. All About Ourselves.)

In addition, we found a number of books that we thought are suitable for this theme.

1. The Legend of Spookly the Square Pumpkin by Joe Troiano.

2. Something Special by David McPhail.

3. Leonore's Big Break by Susan Pearson.

4. Impatient Pamela Asks: Why Are My Feet So Huge? by Mary Koski.

5. I'm Gonna Like Me by Jamie Lee Curtis and Laura Cornell.

6. It's Hard to Be Five by Jamie Lee Curtis and Laura Cornell.

Pumpkin could really relate to this one since she turned 5 a couple of weeks ago. After reading it she completed a project which was called 5 Reasons I Like to Be 5. We went a little crazy with number 5. She traced her hands 6 times(5 for the pages + 1 for the cover) and cut them out to make a little booklet. On every page she gave a reason why she liked to be 5(opposed to 4 that made it less abstract which is still a pretty hard concept to grasp). Then, we punched a hole and tied the "hands" with a ribbon.

We discussed how the characters were different/special/unique. We made sure to mention that everybody is special just the way they are and it is important to accept them and yourself that way.

Also, Pumpkin is still working on another project: All About Me Book. I hate writing in books even if that's what they are for. I am talking here about My Book About Me by Me, Myself by Dr. Seuss and Roy Me Kie. We made something resembling it by stapling filler paper together and making a cover from recycled cardboard out of Cheerios box some colored construction paper and a ribbon. Pumpkin decorated it.

Finally, I want to let you know that of course it was not a 40 minute class. We've been working on this topic for about a week and are not finished yet.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Paper Rug

This is a good way to introduce your children to weaving. It is easy, fun and functional! We are using our paper rug as a coaster on top of which Pumpkin puts her desk lamp. You can make one to use as a place mat.

For this project we used:

  • 1 sheet of colored construction paper 5''x10''
  • assorted colored construction paper cut in 1''x 10''(for weaving)
  • glue

What we did:

We folded 5''x10'' piece of construction paper in half to make cutting easier. Like that.

Then make a number of cuts like this( up to u how wide or narrow you want to make them, ours were about 1'' each).

Next step. We unfolded the paper and started weaving in the strips of the colored construction paper creating a symmetrical design

When we finished weaving we glued two parallel strips on one side of the rug to hold the strips in place. Ready! Turn it to the other side and you can put your new rug to good use. This is the finished product.

You can change the sizes of both the base and the strips accordingly to come out with different rugs for different purposes.

MckLinky Blog Hop

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Color Matching Games For Toddlers

The other day I happened to be at a hardware store looking for some garden supplies. When I was passing paint swatches I thought of this activity I used to do with Pumpkin when she was a bit younger.
You need a number of paint swatches of different colors(totally up to you) in doubles. I couldn't resist Disney Color by BEHR at Home Depot. They are a real attention getter and very kiddie friendly.
This is what you do after you scoop them up from your store(they are absolutely free!).

Activity #1: Color Matching

1. Sort out the swatches dividing them in two piles so that each pile had 1 of each color.
2. Mix them all up not to make it easy for your child.
3.Take one set of colors and line them up in front of you little one. The older the child is the more colors he/she can handle at once.
4. Give the other set to your kiddo and ask to match the colors naming each one.

Activity #2: Shades of green, shades of blue

1. You will need several paint swatches of different shades of the same color. Just one set.

2. Mix them all up and ask your child to line them up a) from the darkest to the lightest or b)from the lightest to the darkest.

Activity #3: Memory Game

1. Pick out 6 pairs( or more if your child is a little older).

2. Mix them all up and put them face down 3x4.

3.Take turns drawing cards and trying to find a match like in any other memory game.

Have fun!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Birthday-Themed Books for 3-6 Year Old

We were getting ready for Pumpkin's birthday in all kinds of different ways. Reading birthday-themed books was on top of the list. Before every holiday or event I am trying to read books to her about it.
Call me paranoid but with whole swine flu thing I am trying to keep her away from public places as much as I can. We didn't get a chance to visit our public library for a more extensive list but we had some good ones at home already.

Here are the books I'd like to recommend to you.

1. A Birthday for Frances by Russell Hoban

Great old classic! Sounds like a conversation from your living-room making children comfortable with the characters that come alive from the pages of the book and sound just like your kids' peers.
2. Make a Wish, Honey Bear! by Marcus Pfister

This one is for younger preschoolers but older ones enjoy it equally. I am speaking from the experience. Pumpkin loved it! Sweet and kind. Full of bright cute illustrations. Lovely !!
3. Alice and the Birthday Giant by John F. Green

Preschool fantasy. The Giant is not stereotypical at all. He is kind and friendly. Captivating plot, whimsical illustrations. This book would be more appropriate for older preschoolers.
4. Lyle and the Birthday Party by Bernard Waber

Love , love, love books by Waber. We read I think all the books about Lyle and most of the rest. I like the vocabulary in his books. In this particular book Lyle gets a little jealous. The feeling of jealousy bothers the crocodile and towards the end of the book he learns how to cope with it. Good lesson!

5. This Is Actually My Party by Lauren Child

We've been fascinated with Charlie and Lola series since Pumpkin was about 2. They were not as popular back then as they are now. We started off with the book-based cartoon series about brother and sister who live in the UK and their everyday discoveries and adventures. Very polite and logical, well behaved and well read they'll win your child's heart in no time. In this particular book 4-year -old Lola is trying to take over her older brother's birthday party. Read it and see how it turns out . ;)
6. Birthday Presents by Cynthia Rylant.

This is another wonderful book that is well worth having in your home library. This is a journey of one little girl from birth to 7 told her by her parents. This book gives you a feeling of looking through the pages of somebody else's album. Both younger and older preschoolers will enjoy it.
I hope you will enjoy reading books from my list.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Pumpkin's 5th Birthday!

I cannot believe how fast time flies...

It seems like I was pregnant not too long ago.

It seems like just yesterday I was in the hospital with the new crying baby and changing a diaper for the first time trying desperately to figure out where the front was. I was that clueless!

It seems like we were celebrating the first steps and the first birthday with a lonely candle sticking out in the middle of a chocolate cake.

It seems like Pumpkin started saying her first words and then, first coherent sentences. She was "talking" way before that! She was talking Pumpkin(the Pumpkin language as we called it).

It all seems like it happened in one day...

Now I look at this little girl and ask myself:"Where is my baby?".

After last year's craziness with her little friends we decided to have a quiet celebration and also I wanted to make a surprise party for her. Little did I know! As soon as she opened the door to the room where we sent up a table, put up the decorations and saw a chocolate cake she asked for she freaked out completely. It would not be a big deal if we didn't record the "surprise!" entrance... Every single shot and angle indicated how miserable she was. But the balloons and bright colorful wrappings of the gifts did the job they were supposed to do. Of course. In no time she was playing with new toys and tossing the balloons. After that we took her to a secret destination which was a new Children's Museum she's never been before. She had a blast there!

5 years old...

But I still refer to her as "my baby". In conversations with other moms I slip sometimes:" You know, my baby had an upset stomach the other day." And they usually reply the usual mommy stuff:"How old is your baby?" Hmm...5. New moms give me that look usually but women with older kids sigh understandingly.

5 years old...

Even though she wriggles and squeals I still cuddle and squeeze my Pumpkin to death and catch those fast "baby" feet to kiss them. And sometimes I even try to carry her putting her on my hip. This trick doesn't work any more - her legs get tangled in mine. Well, maybe I won't carry her any longer but she'll always be my baby!

Happy 5th, Pumpkin!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Germination of Beans

The experiment with germination of seeds works great every time. Everybody does it and everybody loves it, adults and children alike. Even if you have done it before it is still worth doing it with your little ones. There is something magical about seeing the beginning of life.
There is tons of material about it. But I was using
Handbook of Nature Study as an inspiration. There is a number of links there that you will find useful for this project. It is a wonderful blog for people who want to bring their little ones(and themselves as well) closer to nature. Take a look at it!
I also saw this experiment at
The Wonder Years. I liked the idea of planting the seeds right next to the wall inside a clear glass jar so children could observe the development of the root system. Excellent!
Thank you both for sharing!
This is what Pumpkin and I have done with this experiment during the past week.
First of all, we found a glass container from our favorite strawberry jam and filled it up with organic soil that we had left from planting our herb garden. Then, we dropped 3 beans next to the wall so we could see how they germinate later on and poured a little of water. In the beginning we closed the jar with a lid to keep it moist all the time(we tend to forget to water our plants) and after the beans germinated and the sprouts started shooting up we left the jar open.
This is how it looked.

I also decided that it would be good experience for Pumpkin to start writing a journal. Yes, the very first journal! The advantages of it are numerous but my main reason was to let her practice writing. If your child is too small to write just let him/her draw pictures to document the experiment.
Pumpkin's journal was made out of red construction paper and simple filler paper. We made it by stapling it. I wrote the title of our experiment on the cover.

The very first page was our vocabulary, a list of words that we were using for our science experiment.

After that Pumpkin was writing down her observations day by day accompanied by a picture.

It was such a wonderful experience for both of us! And our beans are still growing tall and strong. I am thinking about transporting them outside.

Have fun germinating! ;)