Monday, April 30, 2012

Focused on Creativity - It's Screen Free Week!!

Screen free for the toddler will be much easier than Screen Free for me. TV will be easy. I don't really watch much. But limiting screen time (AKA computer time) will be more of a challenge. To help, I'm going pretty wordless all week with daily photo posts on the blog that are focused on nurturing creativity!

S checking out the camera at our film shoot this past summer.

You might also like: 

Ten for Tuesday: Screen Free Tips
Mural painting inspired by Diego Rivera

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Cinco De Mayo-Inspired: Diego Rivera & Mural Painting

In looking for Cinco De Mayo children's books, I stumbled upon this amazing book about Diego Rivera - Diego Rivera: His World and Ours by Duncan Tonatiuh, winner of the American Library Association's 2012 Pura Belpre illustrator honor. With my book posts, I love to share 4 ideas the book inspired us to do: 

1. Physical Activity: Dance! Two pages in the book talk about Diego Rivera painting dancers and tell of traditional Mexican dances. Check out this video for inspiration. I love any excuse to dance with my toddler! 

2. Art Activity #1: Paint a Mural I put an old torn bed sheet and another piece of fabric I had on a section of the fence and set out some homemade paints and other interesting objects to paint with (no paintbrushes because all we had were small paintbrushes that wouldn't be ideal for a mural). 

Our alternative paintbrushes.
He also went and found a rock to use for painting.

3. Art Activity #2 - Cubist Play-dough Art Shapes interest my toddler a lot. He always talks about them and looks for them, so when I read him the page about Diego Rivera doing cubist art and explained that it's art made from shapes, he was very interested. So, we created cubist art from playdough. (You could, of course, do cubist drawing or stamp painting or create art using shapes in any other way you like). 

4. Learning Activity - Mexican History 

The end of the book has a great page that explains many of the terms and events in the book in more detail and the book itself references the Ancient Mexican Mayan and Aztec civilizations. I can imagine this being a jumping off point for many children to delve in and learn more about these incredible ancient civilizations, perhaps building their own ruins out of legos, sand, blocks or whatever their imagine desires. 

What I loved most about this book was the way it really created an interest in painting for my toddler, who is often (at best) a reluctant artist as he naturally prefers physical play and loves cars, trains and anything that goes. I think one of the reasons is that the first page of the books talks about how Diego loved playing with trains, but even more than that he liked to draw and that his love of drawing grew into a love of painting. After just the first time we read the book, my little guy asked to paint (which he never does!). 

Glad to share Around the World in 12 Dishes - Mexico because I typically try to have an eat activity related to the book when I do a book post like this. Now, you can go that link up and find several great Mexican food ideas!

Check out Around the World in 12 Dishes: Mexico and here's some other posts you might like:

Learning, Playing with Abuelita
Mexican Cookie Rings
Read Around the World

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Weekly Kids Co-Op: Mexican Cookie Rings, Celebrating Cinco De Mayo

I wanted to make Mexican cookies with my toddler, but (of course) didn't have some of the ingredients for a lot of the recipes I found online. Then, I found this recipe.

It included making thumb indentations in the cookies as well as sprinkles, so I knew it would be a hit. I'll be honest in saying I have no idea how authentic this recipe is or isn't and that ours weren't pretty, but we had fun! 

My 2 1/2 year-old kept taking the camera, so I didn't manage to get any very good photos. If you're curious about his photos, check out his "plog." 

And I LOVE this 5-minute pinata from our friends over at Toddler Approved shared by Carrots Are Orange on her Cinco De Mayo pinboard -- Check out it for other activities and resources.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Cinco De Mayo - Move, Eat, Draw, Learn with My Abuelita

Cinco De Mayo is a great opportunity for multicultural learning. In that spirit, I'm highlighting 2 children's books this week: My Abuelita written by Tony Johnston and illustrated by Yuri Morales and Diego Rivera: His World and Ours by Duncan Tonatiuh. 

 My Abuelita won the 2010 Pura Belpre Illustrator Honor, and the artwork definitely stood out for me and for my toddler. The vibrant, warm and inviting images pulled him in and the added activities we did in relation to the book made it a favorite library book for a couple of weeks. Here's 4 ideas this book inspired us to do:

1. Physical Activity: Stretch and bend like abuelita does. 

2. Cooking Activity: Make Huevos Estrellados like abuelita does. 

 Huevos estrellados or starry eggs were new to me, so I looked up recipes.

When I discovered that many people refer to them as eggs over fries, I was completely sold -- what kid wouldn't like that?

I made them two ways: eggs sunny side up (which is more traditional) for me (referencing this recipe) and scrambled eggs for my toddler (more like this recipe).

Whenever I make home fries, I feel like they take so long and I'm just standing over the stove stirring and stirring. So, I decided to cheat and made oven baked fries to use as the base of the dish. Then, I just scrambled eggs for Sky's version. It was a perfect breakfast for dinner (or brinner). We both ate every bite. Sky helped by scrambling the eggs and pouring them into the pan. He also liked arranging the fries on the plate. Here's my messy and delicious plate of starry eggs: 

3. Art Activity - Self Portraits (Frida Kahlo inspired art). 

Frida Kahlo is the name of the cat in the book -- What a great way to introduce her to children!

Frida did a lot of self-portraits, so I having your child draw a self-portrait is perfect. If you decide to select Frida Kahlo art samples to show your child (most likely from the web), please check the examples yourself before you click on an image for your child to see as some of her work contains nudity and violence. 

4. Language Learning Activity - Identify the Spanish words in the book and learn more Spanish words. 

Counting to ten and learning the names of colors is always fun. Also, it's fun to have children see how many Spanish words they already know (mostly food). A Spanish word scavenger hunt at the supermarket could be a lot of fun (and might get your child to try new foods). Here's a few examples of common Spanish words:
  • cafeteria, patio, rodeo, fiesta
  • taco, enchilada, jalapeno, salsa, burrito, guacamole, rodeo
Another thing I loved about this book was the opportunity it provided for discussions about family members (grandparents especially) and about storytelling and traditions. This interests us, in particular, since my husband's mother was from the Domincan Republic, but did not live to see our children -- we want to talk with them about their Abuelita, so she is still a part of their life. Perhaps, your child will want to have a grandparent do some storytelling for them, or will want to get out their stuffed animals and tell some stories themselves. Enjoy the book and the art of storytelling!

Sharing this post as part of the Around the World in 12 Dishes Series: Mexico!
Around the world in 12 Dishes

You might also like:

Ugly Duckling Activities

Creating a Library at Home

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Ten for Tuesday: Screen Free Tips

Screen Free Week (April 30-May 6) beckons, taunts and perhaps frightens as it approaches. Formerly, TV Turnoff week, it's now been expanded to be called Screen Free Week, which I suspect for many of us poses much more of a challenge than TV Turnoff. Earlier this month, in anticipation of this week, I decided to give it a whirl. 

Here's ten suggestions based on my 4 day experiment with our toddler: 

1. Make pancakes (or whatever fun cooking/baking activity your child/family enjoys).

2. Play! (Duh) Big hits/time takers for us included: playdough, magnet letters and, of course, trains. 

3. Socialize -- the local kid-friendly coffee shop ranked high and lunch and dog-walking with a friend helped too. 

4. Schedule a playdate -- when kids have other kids to play with, watching television or playing games on the computer becomes less necessary (unless, of course, you have a video game/texting obsessed pre-teen or teen. Still, I think they also enjoy spending time with their friends without devices -- really, it's possible. Of course, if your child is older, don't call it a playdate). 

5. Paint! or Create! (We made egg carton puppets). 

6. Get outside - go to the park, have a picnic, go on a hike, go for a bike ride, go to the beach. Just get out and enjoy nature. When we're outside, time just flies.

7. Run some errands. (Make it fun). The bank became a fun outing, in which my toddler got to help and a commuter rail drive-by along the way in which we saw some trains proved very exciting.

8. Nap (if this is still possible). If not, have some designated quiet time with some "new" books. (We did this in addition to the nap. I made sure I had some library books he hadn't seen before so reading time got extended and captured his interest even more than usual). 

9. Water play - inside or outside. Kids always love playing with water, so get out the sprinkler or make water balloons or have do bubble bath painting. Keep it fun and be creative. 

10. BE THE ENTERTAINMENT - have a dance party, as a family act out your favorite TV shows (think charades), write a story, make comic books, or use the opportunity to put together the family scrapbook or photo album that has gotten stashed in a box. I recently got a drum, 3 maracas, 2 finger symbols and 2 egg shakers at a garage sale for $2 -- combine that with the guitar my toddler got for Christmas and we now have any entertaining family band with the baby even getting in on the action!

What I learned earlier this month was that being Screen Free may require a bit more work on my end, but it is worth it. It produced some great moments (like building sand mountains and valleys in the sandbox together) and creative results (i.e. the popular Library at Home). 
I also learned that being Screen Free proved much easier for him, than for me. Maybe I can come up with 10 tips for mommies and daddies!! I did manage 1 day screen free (no computer use at all!!) on a Saturday. (TV free is a breeze, but the computer is more challenging because of work). The strategy I think I'll be going with next week for myself is the "egg-timer" strategy, 10 minutes online twice a day (morning and after lunch) to tackle only legitimate and pressing work-related tasks. The rest, will simply have to wait.

FYI - In case you were wondering, my toddler (he's 2 1/2) usually gets to watch 1 or 2 episodes of whatever his current favorite show is on Netflix. This often happens mid-morning during what used to be his morning nap. Occasionally, he plays through the morning and I resort to a show during a challenging afternoon when he doesn't want to nap because he'll fall asleep soon after a show starts. On 2 of our 4 screen free days (the 2 in which we were at home all day), nap time was more challenging than normal. Extra reading time helped as did having a special activity for him to look forward to after nap time. 

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Morning After (Earth Day)

For Meditation Monday this week, I've selected #9 from Marc and Angel's List of 20 Things to Stop Doing to Others . #9 says "Stop being selfish: You get what you put into a relationship. Nothing less, nothing more." 

While this is an important reminder for our relationships with others, I've selecting it for the morning after Earth Day because it is equally important in our relationship with Mother Nature. If all we do is take, take, take, eventually there will be nothing for us in return. 

Thus, on this morning after Earth Day, I am focusing my meditations this week on not being selfish. I will concentrate on respecting the Earth, and I will pass this respect onto my children. 

These are 5 of my favorite simple earth-friendly tips:

  1. Drink tap water - filter it if you prefer, but drop the bottle. Bottled water generates a lot of waste (not just the bottles, but the resources to produce the bottles). Plus, bottled water is typically not any cleaner/better than your tap water (There are no safety standards for bottled water. There are rigorous safety standards for your tap water).  
  2. Start Meatless Monday AKA Eat More Vegetables - Animal agriculture is responsible for 51% of global greenhouse emissions. Eating more vegetables is better for your health, a great example for your family and better for the Earth.
  3. Once a week, walk, bike, take public transportation or carpool to a destination. 
  4. Compost - I used to be intimidated by the idea of composting, but discovered it's not hard. Plus, kids love helping with the composting process.
  5. Eat In - Skip the drive-thru and make food at home. The production of take out food uses a lot of resources and the packaging creates a lot of excess waste.

The bonus? Everything on this list will save you money (the average family of 4 spends $4k per year on bottled water), and will improve your health and your waistline. Wait - maybe we don't have to stop being selfish after all. ;)

You might also like:
Library at Home
Earth Day Scent-sory bin

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Simple Sunday: Nature Arrangement

Featuring a simple nature arrangement on Earth Day seemed perfect. A friend of mine made this arrangement. Some people, like to use a glue gun and make their arrangements permanent and even frame them, but there's also something nice about arranging, appreciating and rearranging. 

I also love this simple activity because it can be enjoyed with your children or on your own. It would be a very nice, quiet moment/relaxing activity for mom (assuming a nice quiet moment is ever possible.) 

Also, if you're a pinner, check out this great Earth Day board for wonderful activities that you can do today, or any day for that matter!  

You might also like:

Simple Sunday: Mayo-less Egg Salad
Ten for Tuesday: Sticks!!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Weekly Kids Co-Op: Plastic Bottle Activities

As I continue my Making Something Out of Nothing Series leading up to Earth Day, I thought I'd focus on plastic bottles. We rarely have plastic bottles at home because I long ago decided not to buy water: saves money, waste and emissions. (We drink from the tap, and I'm in love with my reusable stainless steel water bottle). However, I know many of us have plastic bottles coming at the wha-zoo (from other beverages or because we may not be able/feel comfortable drinking our tap water).

When I ran an after-school program, our recycle bin was always full of plastic water bottles, so one day we decided to make fish!

Here's the 411: Take off the bottle cap and twist the bottom to make the back fin; Spread glue all over the plastic and paste squares of tissue paper of different shades for the fish scales. (I recycled tissue paper leftover from Christmas presents and baby gift bags); Cut fins out of construction paper and glue to the sides; Add google eyes.

Plastic bottles have lots of reuses/upcycles/artistic assets. Here's one of my favorite, innovative plastic bottle ideas: Blow Up a Balloon With It from Momto2PoshLilDivas! (And I know there are other plastic bottle ideas and other Earth Day activities below as part of the Weekly Kids Co-Op!)

Find out how, here!
Also, if you're interested in learning more about plastic bottle use in the U.S. and the importance of recycling, visit CRI (Container Recycling Institute). Last I checked, their ticker had over 36 million plastic bottles in U.S. landfills. Also, Take Back the Tap provides great resources/information about tap water safety, protecting ground water, water conservation and more (including curriculum resources).

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Earth Day Scent-sory Bin

I'm new to sensory bins, so I may not have "done it right." I provided my toddler with natural elements with an emphasis on the sense of smell: flowers, grass, lavender, rosemary, mint, spring onions and purple garlic. (Perfect for my  Making Something Out Of Nothing series leading up to Earth Day - a sensory bin from our own backyard).

The scent component didn't really captivate him, but seemed more like something he did to appease his mother. What attracted him was the possibility of putting the items in a bucket of water to create a pond. (We went on a nature hike Sunday and the pond made a big impression). 

After emptying the bin of everything except the sand, he decided he needed more flowers for it and began picking flowers from the yard to add to the pond creating a truly lovely pond that the baby had to explore too. 

I always love it when I plan an activity, then my little guy takes it in a whole other direction. Aside from the pond creation, he also got really excited about bees. At first, it confused me. Then, his toddler talk made sense - "the bees and the flowers, Mommy." I thought, and then figured it out. In a Thomas the Train story, Thomas loses the bees he is hauling because he drives near a field full of flowers. So, for him a sensory bin full of flowers made him think of bees -- and a toddler science lesson is born! Love it!! 

On the list for my next library trip (real one, not pretend) is to get a children's book about bees collecting pollen. If you have any recommendations, send my way via a comment.

Oh, and check out this great sensory spice painting activity that explores scent and taste from Make, Do and Friend. So cool!  

Shared this at: Montessori Monday       

You might also like:

Egg Carton Baby Sensory Tub
Ten for Tuesday: Sticks!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Earth Day

Recycled Art and Nature Projects from Earth Arbor Day in Santa Clarita. Hopefully, you get inspired to make art from your recycle bin!
Bird Feeder

Can you guess what this was originally?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Ten for Tuesday: All You Need Are Sticks

It's my S.O.O.N.'s (my making Something Out Of Nothing son) fault that stick-mania hit our house. He picked up the branches/sticks my husband had cut down for a project and started hitting them together and singing -- what a great idea, I thought. So, here's our tribute to the wonderful stick. What a perfect way to Making Something Out Of Nothing for Earth Day!!

1. Musical Instruments. We had some sticks/branches cut for a project of my husband's. My toddler picked them up and discovered the great sounds they make when clicked together. Another day, he discovered the great sounds they make on an upside down bucket. Sticks are awesome instruments!

2. Painting. Put down the paintbrush and use a stick instead, or go with bark. Dipping bark in paint and "stamping" is also fun and interesting. (For other cool paintbrush alternatives, check out No Paintbrushes Allowed over at the Nurture Store). 

3. Tic-Tac-Toe Board. My husband and I debate what the perfect X's and O's are for a board made from sticks: I say painted rocks. He says rocks and sticks. Either way, a perfect game from natural elements.

4. Stick Men/Women. Of course! Multiple Mummy made some great ones, so check them out!

5. Hangman. It's way more fun to place this classic game outside. All you need are sticks, a rock and sidewalk chalk. (In our case, we were out of sidewalk chalk, but I found a rock that wrote on the sidewalk). Easy and fun.
6. Trees for a DYI Train Table. My husband built our train-loving toddler a train table out of materials leftover from our patio-building project. It was a fraction of the cost of buying one (and is much cooler). He's still working on it, but here's his trees made from sticks and styrofoam balls.

7. Building. Bridges, houses, tents, etc. What can be built depends on the sticks you have and the skill, but sticks make awesome building materials.

8. Art. I love these woven art pieces that utilize sticks, yarn, ribbon and other elements.The ARTree, a local community arts center, was making them at our Earth Arbor Day event last Saturday. 

9. Sailboat Mast. Or just as a fun floating object. You need rather straight sticks for this, but sticks would be a cool alternative to straws when making egg or milk carton sailboats. In general, kids love playing with sticks in water because they float. If you have a river/creek nearby, I've found that just tossing a stick in the water and watching it ride the tide provides simple enjoyment. (Would love to try this sailboat made from pine bark, a stick and a leaf).

10. Roasting marshmallows. (Or hotdogs or whatever else is your fancy over a campfire -- real or pretend!) You could put pretend hot dogs (made from playdoh) over your pretend fire. This would be a great additional element to an indoor camping featured on Lasso the Moon recently.

(Bonus stick use for those of you with talented dogs: Dog Toy for playing fetch, of course!)

If you loved this list, head over to Raise a Boy for her list of 10 things you can do with rocks! 

You might also like: 

Toddler and Colors-from Carrots Are Orange
Ten for Tuesday: Plastic Eggs