Wednesday, April 28, 2010

My Love Affair with Felt

It started with Counting Fish that I first saw on the blog Counting Coconuts. My neighbor and I churned them out in about two nap times. They have buttons on the front and the corresponding numerical value stitched into the back. They also have washers in thier noses so the boys can use a magnetic fishing rod to catch them! Then, with the leftovers, we made some sea creature magnets for the refrigerator (jelly fish, sea horse, starfish, Nemo, angelfish and other tropical fish) and they turned out great! Felt is super easy to work with, even with beginner skills like mine. Here's a sneak peak at my newest project. I'm almost done with the cutting process and just need to work on the time consuming sewing/embellishing process. Can't wait to show you how it turns out!!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Tot School - Red

Tot School - Week 7 - Theme: Red
Owen & Eli: 19 months old

This week was a little tough. The boys started the week off with their 7th respiratory infection of the winter - this is way past ridiculous - so they weren't into that many activities and they were much more whiney than normal. It's hard to find motivation for learning when you're just trying to keep them happy! It was also a little tough because I feel like I'm in a rut with my color work. It seems like I'm doing the same activities every week but just swapping out one color for another and even I'm getting bored with it. We don't have our printer set up at home, so most of the activities I do have to be either with toys/items that we already have or I have to draw/create them from hand. It's hard to find the time to do that! I'm really going to try to be more creative this week though for Orange and Yellow. I decided to combine them to hopefully give me more ideas for activities.

We started the week with our color tray, including colored popsicle sticks, pipe cleaners, buttons, silicon baking cups, spoons and a juice jug. They always love playing with this, especially shaking all the items out of the jug once they feel it's full enough. I gave them an old spice jar too and showed them how to put pipe cleaners and golf tees into the holes. I thought they might get frustrated with the level of concentration it took, but they really enjoyed filling up the holes. Great fine motor skill practice!

We looked through our book about colors and identified different red items. We reviewed the green and blue pages from the last two weeks too and they remembered most of the objects. I was surprised that when I would point in a general direction to a pile of cars and say 'bring me the red car' that they could actually do it by the end of the week! It doesn't hurt that their favorite vehicles right now are fire engines and ambulences!

We reviewed our shapes and colors with these Sesame Street flash cards from our Dollar Store too. They were more interested in the characters than identifying the shapes, but it kept them entertained for a little while.

Play-doh is always a hit too, especially with cookie cutters. I'm not sure how I can make this activity more advanced or more educational though - any ideas? I'm looking for ways to take everyday household items and use them for Tot School to gain skills without buying new things every week....

... Like this!! This was my favorite project/activity of the week and the boys totally loved it! I had bought a pack of colored foam paper from Target on clearance and had no idea what to do with it. I had some leftover velcro and a cardboard box too, so I went to work with my cookie cutters and made this little game for the boys. I just gave them the red pieces this week, but I made red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple shapes for them to match. There's actually two boards for them to work with, but that's only after we're using all the colors together. I can't believe how good they are at matching up the right piece to the right outline! Eli is my Mr. Meticulous! He lines them up perfectly and makes sure each piece of velcro has a solid stick to the board. Eventually, I'm going to color in the shapes with corresponding colors so they can practice both shape matching AND color matching with the same activity, but for now, I just wanted them to get the hang of the game.

We were supposed to go to a Touch-a-Truck event this weekend but it poured down rain so it was cancelled until further notice. Bummer! The boys would have loved all those red vehicles!

Tomorrow we're starting Orange and Yellow. Even if you haven't done color-specific activities, send me a comment for activities appropriate for 20 month olds... please! Hope you had a great week in Tot School!

To check out what other Tot Schoolers are doing this week, click here.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Don't Mind Me... I'm Just Nesting

That's right. 23 weeks and already nesting. It's like I can't get things clean enough. Already this morning, I bundled up the two bags worth of garbage overflowing in the kitchen, took out the recycling, scrubbed the floor around the garbage can, unloaded and reloaded the dishwasher, washed and folded two loads of laundry (including crib sheets), put new sheets on both cribs, vacuumed the entire upstairs, used the vacuum attachment on both bathroom floors, Clorox wiped two highchairs, put all of my and Charlie's clothes away and took all miscellaneous toys back to the boys room that had walked all over the upstairs.

And it's only 11:36am.

I wish I could stop there. Yesterday I cleaned out my sock and underwear drawers (why is that such a feeling of accomplishment?!) organized my spice rack and refilled all the jars to the tops, wiped all the lint and extra detergent off the washer and dryer, organized my Tot School supplies and cleaned out both travel toiletry bags. Are we going on a trip any time soon? No.

I have big plans for my afternoon too - sweeping and vacuuming the downstairs, rotating toys, figuring out how to disassemble my double stroller to wash the seats (any ideas?!), make dinner, walk to Aldi with the boys, organize and file ideas from my parenting magazines and scrapbook. It's like the energy is never ending during the day and every time I look up there's something else calling my name. I was actually fantasizing about carpet powder this morning. You know, the stuff that you sprinkle on, vacuum up and it leaves your house smelling wonderfully fresh? I need to have it!

I know that nesting is normal, but when I looked back on this post, it was only a week before I had the boys, not 17 weeks! Oh my gosh, only 17 weeks to go... but there's so much to clean!

What weirdo nesting actions have you caught yourself doing in the past? Please tell me I'm not alone!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Tot School - Blue and Sea Animals

Tot School - Week 6 - Theme: Blue & Sea Animals
Owen & Eli: 19 months old
This week's theme was blue and ocean animals and the boys had a great time with some of the new activities that we tried. I think I want to incorporate more of the 'traditional' tot school activities next week, with more intentionality on fine/gross motor skills, but for now, these things will have to do!

We started the week with a bean and blue sensory tub. I added buttons, Easter eggs, pompoms, shovels and bean and gave the boys lots of blue containers for pouring. They wanted to play with this all the time, but not necessarily how I wanted them to play. I thought it would be fun to have a scavenger hunt for the blue items to put them into the blue muffin cups, but they just wanted to shovel piles of beans into the cups. Oh well, at least they had a lot of practice with transferring!

We had a couple fun snacks this week to tie into the theme: blueberry pancakes and blueberry banana parfaits, berry blue jello and shark shaped crackers, just to name a few.

I printed out some magnet pages from Making Learning Fun - the blue horse from Brown Bear, Brown Bear and the Whale and Octopus from the Ocean themes. We used blue do-a-dots, crayons and play-doh to fill in the circles, and we used flattened marbles on the white circles too. They have a hard time with the marbles because they want them to 'click' into place like a puzzle piece, which they don't do. Maybe velcro might be a better option because they can stick the pieces where they belong.

The weather was perfect this week for playing outside! I filled a giant Tupperware container with water and added lots of blue food coloring and smaller Tupperware pieces and they had a blast pouring and splashing.

I found a package of Sea Animal sponge pellets at the Dollar Store, the same kind that we played with as kids that dissolve into an animal shaped sponge. They really liked making the animals swim in the 'ocean' and we worked on color identification once they were all fully formed. I had to laugh when two of the 18 'sea animals' turned into a rabbit and a horse. I'm not sure how those slipped through!

A week of studying ocean animals isn't complete without watching Finding Nemo and going to the aquarium! They love Nemo, they were terrified at the aquarium... even by the clown fish! If they weren't in the stroller, they were clinging to us for dear life, so it was a bit of a challenge to get a good picture.
Overall it was a great week! We had friends visiting this weekend, so our learning time was less focused than it could have been, but by the end of the week they were able to identify certain animals and I think they are starting to be able to tell the difference between blue and green (from last week).

Next week is red, and I'm looking for ideas involving red items - from flowers to fire engines, send them along if you have any!

To see what other Tot Schoolers are doing this week, check out 1+1+1=1

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Four Ingredient Fajitas

Super simple. Incredibly delicious.

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, sliced thin
1 green pepper, sliced thin
4-8oz white button mushrooms, sliced
Montreal Steak Seasonings (McCormick)

Sprinkle the steak seasoning over the chicken about 30 minutes before cooking. Saute the chicken in a little bit of oil until cooked through. Add the peppers and mushrooms and sprinkle a little more seasoning on the vegetables.

When the meat/veggies were finished, I melted some mozzarella cheese on a tortilla and spooned some of the mixture on top. To quote Charlie, "This is good. I mean, this is really good." I'll take it!

As always, I'd love to hear your take on this super simple recipe. Use what you have in your vegetable drawer and spice rack and leave a comment!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Tot School - Nature and Green

Tot School - Week 5 - Theme: Nature and Green
Owen & Eli: 19 months old

What a fun week! We started our color themes this week with GREEN (as well as nature, springtime and flowers) and the boys really seemed to have a good time. I started off by finding all the green toys in our house and also making a 'drop box' using green Popsicle sticks, pompoms and buttons. They loved putting each little item in the juice bottle opening and then dumping them all back out. We tried transferring the items into the bottle with the green shovel too, though they needed a lot of help keeping it steady. We looked through our color books (Shiny, Touchy, Smelly Colors and My First Colors Board Book) and the boys got really good at pointing out each item that I would ask them to identify. We built green block towers too.
For art projects this week, the boys used crayons and do-a-dot markers to color in the green frog from Making Learning Fun's Brown Bear theme. We finger painted using pistachio pudding (it's naturally green!) though the boys quickly realized that it was more fun to eat it than play in it. By the time I use real paint they are going to think that everything they paint with is edible! We used acrylic paint to make thumbprint flowers and talked about nature, flowers growing and colors.
My favorite activity this week was planting wildflowers with the boys. I found soil pellets, butterfly garden flower seeds and silver pots all in the Dollar Bin at Target! When you add water to the soil it grows right before your eyes. The boys thought it was so cool! We transferred seeds using spoons and then covered the seeds with our shovels. When the pots were finished, the boys played in the extra dirt and were in heaven. Boys and dirt are a match made in heaven! [As a side note, you're probably thinking I'm crazy for having them play with dirt in the house, but the laminate was super easy to clean and the were surprisingly good at listening when I told them to sit on the floor with their shovels. Plus... we're just renting ; ) ]

Thanks for stopping by and checking out our GREEN and NATURE activities this week. Next week we're focusing on BLUE and SEA ANIMALS - leave a comment if you have any ideas for us!

To see what other Tot Schoolers are doing this week, check out 1+1+1=1

Monday, April 5, 2010

Tot School - Easter and Ovals

Tot School - Week 4 - Theme: Easter & Ovals
Owen & Eli: 19 months old
This was a pretty busy week! We started our Tot School activities at home and then travelled from Georgia to Michigan to spend Easter with family. Here are some of the things we did while we were still at home...

We continued learning about shapes this week with the shape of the Oval (since it's the same shape as the Easter eggs we would use so many more times this week). The boys put egg stickers inside the oval outline, and would even say 'uh oh' when they stuck it outside the shape!

They played with their Shrinky Dink Easter eggs all afternoon! (Here's the post where I made them) Looking at them, putting them in cups, pouring from one cup to the next, trying to string them on pipe cleaners and hiding them inside plastic eggs.

We used the plastic eggs to match the same colored pompoms too. They were so focused trying to open and close each egg!
We made Easter bunny hand print cards to send to the grandparents too! I first saw this idea on Tons of Fun but have seen many pictures of this craft since then too. She has some great ideas for other holidays that I'll be sure to make with the kids!

In Michigan, the boys participated in two egg hunts, painted Easter eggs and found their Easter baskets. I found a Melissa and Doug puzzle of farm animals that I'm going to use for a future Tot School theme and they got a Little People Around the Town book that I'll be able to use for lots of different themes too.

Since the boys are a little older this year, Easter was so much more fun! They weren't quite ready for the true meaning of Easter activities, so we'll be gearing up for that next year. This week's theme in Nature, Spring and the color Green. I have a couple ideas but not many days to get them done. If you have any ideas, please leave a comment!

To check out what other Tot School moms are doing this week, click here