Monday, May 30, 2011

A Look Back

I'm currently working on the next article in the Brain Development series. I'm very excited to announce that the next part will be published on I Can Teach My Child! I will give you all of the details once they are set, but it should be at the end of this week. I hope you can show us some lovin on her uber big blog! (Eeek...I'm getting major stage fright.)

In the mean time, we've had so many new followers join us recently! Welcome, we are so glad to have you! I hope you can take a look around and check out the About Page to get a better idea of who we are.

Here is a look back at some old posts that have been lost in the dust but can hopefully inspire some ideas for Baby Play!!

Whew, those boys have grown!

OH, and happy Memorial Day. Can you tell I live in China?

Friday, May 27, 2011

5 Activities, One Great Day {Back Yard Fun Part 2}

YEA! It’s Summer time!

(At least it is for our school!! You?)


Creating a whole Outdoor Classroom Playroom is my favorite ways to spend some family fun during summer. I hope you picked up the items from the previous post! Let's prepare our Playroom and get started!

First Things First:

  • After a hearty, healthy breakfast, dress everyone in a swimsuit, t shirt and water safe shoes every day. APPLY SUNSCREEN before you go outside, after lunch and then later in the afternoon. Make this a daily routine and keep a bottle of sunscreen outside to help cut down on the inside/outside traffic.
  • If you have a pool in your backyard, be sure to have it fenced off and be present to supervise play.
  • Fill a cooler with ice water and have a labeled plastic cup for everyone.
  • Bring out the tub suggested in the last blog post and LET THE FUN BEGIN!

These Five Simple Activities make for One Fun Day:

1. Paint the Fence: Give each child a bucket with water and a large paint brush and ask them to paint the fence, brick or patio.

The water will make the material appear darker when wet. (Magic?) The large arm motions of up and down and left to right will help develop the shoulder muscles, upper arms and wrists which are so needed for writing in later years. It will also encourage eye/ hand coordination.

2. Shaving Cream Play: Next, squirt a handful of shaving cream at a time and let the children paint it on the fence or house or walkway with paint brushes or fingers.

Be ready, they love to paint each other with shaving cream, as well. Mmmmmm… Mmmmmm smells great! Now, think about the senses being stimulated. Smell, touch, sight, even the sound of the squirting. I wouldn’t try to taste though. YUCK!

3. Shaving Cream Balloons: String a line of yarn at your child’s waist height. Then blow up about 5 to 6 balloons and tie them to the yarn so that they hang down next to each other. Let your child smear shaving cream all over the balloons and then give them the squirt bottle of water and have them wash the balloons clean.

They will enjoy this activity and will ask to repeat it over and over again!

4. Sidewalk Chalk: Sidewalk chalk has been around for many years. Hours of creative art on the fence or patio are great developers of fine and large motor skills. It is easily washed away for a new canvas on another day.

ENJOY! We all have budding artists in our home.

5. Rainbow paint: Hang a white sheet over the fence or between trees and give children spray bottles with washable liquid water colors. Let them spray the sheet with the water colors. (You can even take the inside of a washable marker and stick it into the water bottle.)

They will enjoy the activity and the outcome. This activity not only develops their fine motor skills with the squeezing of the squirt bottle but also their creativity. They will also be able to see the effects of blending colors and making others. The best part is that a little bleach in the washing machine will make the same sheet into a whole new, fresh canvas for the next day.

ENJOY and make memories! More Fun to follow…..

P.S. If you've tried out these activities or a variation, let us know, we love to link to you in this post!


If you have ANY outdoor fun up below!!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Rice, Rice, Baby

When you live in China, rice is the easiest thing to come by!

I've been putting it off until C wasn't as obsessed with putting everything in his mouth. Don't get me wrong, some pieces made it in there. :{

He enjoys sticking ANYTHING that is in our table into the holes on the corners.

He was happy with this for about 5 whole minutes.

Then we had to spice things up with beach toys and dinosaurs! And another 5 minutes, we had!

I dyed a bit of rice last night while he slept using the same way-too-easy recipe as the pasta.

This is what is waiting for him when he wakes up!!

Lesson Learned: Us a tarp under the rice bin. Bow Tie Pasta was easy to pick up rice...not so much.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Back Yard Fun - Part 1

Well, summer is almost here and it is time to get ready for those hot, humid days. Absolutely nothing is better than a backyard, a blow up wading pool, a sprinkler and children splashing and laughing all day long in their swimsuits.

The summer months brings with them a carefree, more relaxed atmosphere to the day. Children may linger a little longer in their PJ’s or may stay up a little later with the late sunset. Whether you are home during the day or coming home after a day at work and child care for your children, there is still time for some fun outdoor play and learning.

The next few posts by me will have some simple ideas for fun outdoor activities and a chance to make some wonderful summertime memories with your family.

My first lesson is BE PREPARED!!!!

This week, before everyone is out of school for the summer, take a trip to your local Dollar Store.

Purchase one or two large plastic tubs or laundry baskets.

Fill the tub with:

  • Spray bottles
  • Large paint brushes
  • Small paint brushes
  • Buckets with handles
  • Water color paints
  • Sidewalk chalk
  • Bubbles and bubble wands (fly swatter , plastic strawberry carton, pipe cleaners twisted in shapes) These all make fun wands for bubbles but you can purchase a large assortment of them at the dollar store.
  • Shaving cream
  • Towels
  • Shower curtain
  • Play dough
  • Soap and shampoo for outside bath time
  • Small shovels

-If a Sand and Water Table is not available, use a large storage bin for water play and another one for sand or dirt play.

-Small plastic or rubber dog/cat squeak toys

Take your time browsing through the store and look for items that will use all of their senses;

  1. Seeing
  2. Touching
  3. Smelling
  4. Tasting
  5. Hearing

Organize it in the bin or a couple of bins and hide everything until your summer officially begins.

When school is out pull out the baskets and LET THE FUN BEGIN!!!!!!!

Stay tuned for some ideas to use these items and let Summertime Backyard Fun Begin!

Linked at ABC & 123 and Childhood 101

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Sunday Blog Hop

Playing outdoors is what the summer time is made of.

Mama Pea Pod hosts a weekly Outdoor Play Party
where many blogs contribute their outdoor play fun!

Here is some outdoor fun they had on a class field trip this week:
I want one! (I can't adjust the pictures, but I'm sure you don't mind.)

The park had an adorable fort and herb garden.

Using the herbs from the garden, the kiddies made pitas on an outdoor grill.

Seriously? I wish I could have gone on that field trip!


Here are a few more outdoor play posts from their link party:

Hop around and take a look!

P.S. If you were featured; Thank you for the inspiration. Feel free to grab our button.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Playroom Decor: Alphabet Charts

I have one very large bare wall in my playroom that just taunts me daily. Its like begging for art. Or something.

I have all these ideas for it:

  • I want to find large old wooden frames from garage sales and paint them and hang them on the wall. Then tack my kids artwork in them. Cute right? But that would involve having the time to go to thrift stores, and goodwill. (I am determined to still do this one day!)
  • Image from here
  • Sometimes the nerdy teacher in me wants to go into the attic and dig out my old blue pocket charts and staple them up to the wall. I have visions of using sentence strips and putting little black dots under each syllable of every song I hang up. Then I daydream about getting out all my pointers for them to use. And then... I get a block thrown at my head and I realize we aren't there yet.

  • However, today, Kimberly, from Custom Nursery Art posted a link to a free alphabet printable. FREE. CUTE. ALPHABET. I have picture hanging wire I could string across the wall, and tons of wooden cloths pins. I love it. I really do.
But there is one, little, minor, problem. I am neurotic about alphabet charts and ABC books. It is pretty much my only pet peeve with teacher stuff. The rest I let slide. These things are created by people who have never taught little children to read.

For example: The letter Ee will have a picture of an elephant. Great right? Elephant starts with the letter Ee. What is the problem you ask? It isn't the right sound. In Elephant the e makes the /l/ sound. There needs to be a picture of an egg. Get it. E /e/ egg
Or my other favorite:
Ii, and they show a picture of Ice. Then you have to teach the kids about 'magic e' and how the e at the end of the word makes the vowel before it say it's name and not the letter sound. So I would rather see a picture of an igloo... at least there you get the correct sound.

Which brings me to my post.... I decided to get an alphabet chart to hang up there! I will make it a teachable wall rather than just a cutesy wall.
Here is my favorite alphabet chart of ALL time. This company was founded by a teacher. She has done workshops for my old school. Her stuff is awesome.

However, the free one is precious and cute and FREE. So if you aren't the crazy alphabet police, then I doubt you will find issues with it!!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Early Childhood Brain Development

Can I speak with you in my office?

Please, close the door.

Take a seat....

Let's have a serious talk. Don't worry, you aren't in trouble and honestly, I don't even have an office!

BUT I really do want to talk with you about something I think that is important...

This blog started out as a way to not only keep our "teacher-brains" going while at home with our little ones but to honestly give our children the most we can. It was kind of a way to keep ourselves accountable and to hopefully inspire others to try new things whether it flops or takes off, which is always the day of a teacher. Here is a bit about why these early years are so important:

A common thought shared about teaching, parenting, or caring for young children is: It may not be the most intellectually stimulating job but it is full of love and fun.

Thankfully our job is full of love and fun but it doesn't get as much credit as it deserves in the other department. You know what I mean right? How this job isn't viewed by everyone as uber serious, intellectual, urgent, thoughtful, etc. I know that while in the classroom, I usually left work with glue on my skirt and marker on my hands. Now days, I constantly have food stuck on me somewhere. I get why we aren't viewed as the most serious profession ever. But I have some very serious information I would like to share with you because I want YOU to know seriousness of your job or role as a parent to young children and how what you do each day with your little ones impacts the future.

These first 8 years (known as Early Childhood) are so important and crucial to a person's development. You've noticed how your child grows and changes so quickly, right? Well, what you see in your child's physical appearance is just a little, tiny glimpse into what is going on with their BRAIN.

At birth, your child's brain is only 25% developed and they have BILLIONS of cells that haven't even been connected into working networks. By the time they are 3 years old, their brain has developed about 100 THOUSAND TRILLION connections...all from experience they've had in those 3 years! Crazy, right?

15 years looks like less, right? Well, after the first 3 years, it slows down a bit and their brain even begins to selectively "trash" some of those connections. The least important ones, we hope!!

The fact that their brain matures in the world, rather than in the womb, means children are deeply effected by their experiences. These early years are crucial. They are moldable, constantly learning and their personal "wiring" is happening.

Think of the brain as the organ of behavior, feelings/emotions, intelligence, creativity and values. How the brain is encoded during these first years of brain development establish life-long patterns for peace or for violence; for love or for hate; for mental excellence or mental mediocrity; for creative social harmony or for social alienation and discord.

No job could be more important than nurturing this, right?

Stay tuned for more Brain Development information, coming soon!

Monday, May 16, 2011

DIY: Matching and Tactile Letter Cards

I've been MIA.
SO.... You get TWO ideas for the price of one!
But, this is what our yard looks like:
So needless to say, my free time has been spent outside, cleaning up dirt, giving baths, and doing laundry.
But, they LOVE the dirt so much, that I decided to bring a little inside!

I decided to make my own tactile letter cards using the dirt in the back yard!
I picked the letters in their name, but you can just pick a couple. (Try not to put them in alphabetical order, sometimes I think the kids just memorize the song.) Use school liquid glue, glitter glue, or tacky glue... and then sprinkle your letters with (dirt in my case) glitter, jello powder, sand, colored sand, tiny pebbles (like fish gravel). Let dry. And touch away! (Hold their hand and show them how to touch and say each letter. Do it over and over.)
Teacher Tips:
If you child is left handed, put the letters on the left side of the page, so he can hold it with his right hand and touch with his left. (Look at Luke's card for example.)

DIY: Matching Animal Cards:
Seems so easy, but is a great skill to work on! AND the boys have no idea they are learning, they just think we are playing! I LOVE this age! Everything is so new and fun!

Print the animal cards from here: Counting Coconuts
Why re-invent the wheel?? Tons of awesome stuff is out there, just use it and make it your own!

So here is what I did:
I printed two sets, just on regular paper. Nothing fancy here, my kids will destroy it anyway.
First, I wanted to see if they could just match cow to cow, and etc. Start with just 3-4 pictures on one side and then slowly add more or take some away.

Store them in a plastic baggies and tack the baggies to the playroom wall... wait, what?? Sorry, my organizational skills went out the window when the twins came.

THEN (another day when you want to feel good about yourself)... see if they can match the baby animals to the right mommy!!!! (But start with a small stack first!)

If this is a bust, try it again in a few weeks. I promise it is the BEST feeling when they can do it!

Remember, I am not super mom. My house is a mess, I have laundry to fold, and this activity only took 30 seconds to print and cut. (Stack them all together and cut once!!)
And we played for 3-5 minutes. But, I feel better about my day knowing we did something fun together!

Also shared at We Play and ABC123.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Sunday Blog Hop

Need a little bit of inspiration for this week? Hop over and check out this posts to get the creative juices flowing:

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Outdoor Stations

With the sun a shinin' and temperature a risin'...we've been lovin' the balcony.

We don't have a big, green backyard but that doesn't stop Carter from banging on the back doors each morning, ready to start his day outside!

He loves it out there!

So, with a few little (very simple) stations set up outside, now there is actually fun outside rather than him just coming in and out, in and out.

First, we freshened up the pasta station with a little color!

Here's the recipe:

A few handfuls of dry pasta (up to your heart's desire).
About 2-3 table spoons of vinegar.
A couple of drops of food coloring.

Throw all of the above a zip lock baggie. (One bag per color.)
Let it sit for about 30-60 minutes.
Lay them out to dry.

Next, Window Art!

Washable Markers + Window = Masterpiece!

Don't you see all of those animals he drew? ;)

He also LOVES to wipe it clean with a Baby Wipe. And then has to show me, and I have to say... "Wow, look at all of the colors!"

Okay, seriously, remember when he couldn't get a clothes pin into the baby wipe container? This is what developing fine-motor skills means!

He is getting the marker lid onto the marker!
(I'm a nerd...this seriously makes me excited when I catch these little things!)

Oh and just so you know and aren't deceived by that picture, about 2-4 markers are destroyed each day we do this. So, buy the super cheap ones.

And a splash pool! Think: Big Water Table.

Sometimes this is cool.
Sometimes he plays from the side of the pool.
Sometimes he gets into the pool.
Sometimes it's just not today.

But there is evidence he was in and out of the pool, just last night.
See all of that lovely dirt on the yellow mat?

Whoops, I forgot a picture of bubbles! We've been doing lots of bubbles. BUT chances are, you've seen bubbles and probably done them before! ;)

Linked up at We Play.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Weekend Blog Hop: Your Big Cardboard Box

This book is so sweet.
One of the sayings it repeats is:
" much depends on your big cardboard box."

I couldn't agree more.
You know the routine. Kiddo gets a big, shiny, new toy and just LOVES the box it came in!

Remember all of the creativity a cardboard box can spark?

How? I'm not quite sure. It is one of those magic moments of childhood.

Well, my favorite Early Childhood Art blogs, TinkerLabs, just had it's one year blogiversary. She hosted a Cardboard Box Challenge for other art blogs!

Their one rule was to use at least one cardboard box.

Take a look at all of the different ideas submitted to the Challenge!

Here are a few of my favorites:


Thursday, May 5, 2011

Beach Net Weave

Some recent blog posts on here and here brought up some old memories of a Weaving Fence at my favorite preschool of all time.

Well, as I was cruising our "Chinese Dollar Store" for a blow-up pool, I stumbled upon some beach/water toys wrapped up nicely in a fishing net. Now, you know I can't pass up a treasure like that!! ;) Low and behold:

What? Not impressed? Neither was Carter.


He added the Q-tips, though!
I thought it was a nice touch.

He is a bit young for this...but those of you with kiddos a bit bigger, give it a try!

This, of course, was a trial run for us. I'm thinking next time, I will look for a bigger piece and stake it into our big back-yard, with grass and blue CANADA! Woo Hoo! We are moving to Canada next month!

Okay, I had to sneek that in.

Last revelation through doing this pathetic attempt at art and fine-motor work...I'm thinking it would be fun to weave our chairs with colorful yarn and decor for a "special" chair! The Birthday Chair. The Valentine's Chair. The Father's Day Chair. Etc.

There is no way, my pictures could have inspired you, so go, explore, please check out these great posts from strangers I've never met:

If you try it out, let us know, we'd love to feature a much better example on our blog!!


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