Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Ten for Tuesday: Hotel Room Boredom Busters

Wild Thing has energy - all the time, so a hotel room can be a big challenge. We've come up with a few great hotel room boredom busters ourselves and from other bloggers who've put their techniques to the test. 

1. Free Maps-Wild Thing loves maps. The brochure section of most hotels/motels have area maps. These work well. He likes adding stickers to them and driving his cars on them. One map that showed nearby airports and hiking destinations was enjoyed by him so much that I grabbed a couple of extra and we still play with them at home (very helpful when I'm cooking dinner).

2. The Educators' Spin On It used the free hotel brochures to keep her baby busy, and has other great tips for baby-friendly hotel fun!

3. Mama Pea Pod suggests stickers (which works like a charm for Wild Thing at hotels and restaurants) and I loved her tip of saving spoons and ice cream cups for a ice cream shop pretend play!

4. Gina at Famiglia and Seoul has special travel sensory bins for trips. She puts items inside of wiper boxes for ease of travel. For other busy bag/travel bag ideas, I love the ideas I saw on Second Story Window when she had a busy bag exchange with friends. 

5. Mama Smiles' kids came up with their own creative activity in a hotel - washing and drying their toys.

6. Make the hotel pen and paper pad more interesting by having your kids use it to create their own comic books. Here's 10 tips to help you get them going with their own book. Or, bring your own simple art supplies - Red Ted Art shares that she always takes a small case of pens and notebooks for each child when they go on holiday and that these items really come in handy.

7. 52 Brand New likes to pack balloons - they take up virtually no space and can be used for balloon volleyball, hot potato or a game of catch - with no worry of breaking anything.

8. Creative Family Fun's farm animal charades would be a game perfectly suited to a hotel stay. (Of course, you don't have to limit it to farm animals -- or you could just have your little ones pretend to be different animals, which Wild Thing loves to do!)

9.Learn with Play at Home suggests bringing a roll of colored electrical tape to make roads for cars/trains to drive on, or to create a tic-tac-toe board or squares for a fun tossing game. We recently did tape roads at home after some inspiration from Tinkerlab, and it was a big hit. I'm definitely taking tape with us on our next trip. 

10. Carrots Are Orange suggests jumbo craft sticks with velcro on the ends to make letters and shapes.

You also will find other great ideas on Mama Scout's list of 10 things to do in a restaurant. Plus, I love the twist No Time for Flashcards puts on videos -- they bring videos of their kids for the kids to watch.

My other hotel tip? If possible, stay at a hotel near a park. If one parent or child needs some extra rest or gets sick, but the other child(ren) really need to get out their energy, you can just walk to the park. This has been a saving grace for us in the past.  

You might also like:

Planes, Trains, Automobiles Busy Bags
Simple Sock Puppet Storytime

Monday, July 30, 2012

Green Bean Fries

Getting kids to eat veggies can be tricky, however green bean fries might just entice them. Either way, they'll have fun making them with you -- Wild Thing and I had a blast making this yummy vegetable side dish that emulates, I've read, the TGIF appetizer. We dipped them in a ranch dip we made using yogurt instead of sour cream to keep it a bit lighter and healthier. I recommend using fresh green beans, which are in season right now making it a perfect time to give them a try.

To make the frying process easier and faster, setting up all of the ingredients and having everything ready before you heat the oil is important. 

After boiling the green beans for about 3 minutes, drain them and put them in an ice bath (I was tempted to skip this step, but don't). Pat them dry (they don't have to be completely dry). The green beans then go through the batter assembly line: flour, egg, and panko bread crumbs. (This was Wild Thing's favorite part). 

Drop them in the hot oil (it must be hot) and give them a quick fry (make sure they are completely submerged). When you get that nice golden color, take them out using a spider or something similar and put on a paper towel to drain off the excess oil. 


You might also like:

Simple No-Bake Cookies
Mayo-less Egg Salad

Friday, July 27, 2012

Bees Sensory Bin & Honey Painting

Wild Thing likes bees - it initially came from his love for Winnie the Pooh who always gets chased by bees as he tries to get honey. We have several Pooh books that we read (many with plots related to bees and honey). 

Then, he saw a Thomas the Train video where Thomas looses the bees they need to make honey and has to lure them back with flowers. I discovered that this concept stayed with him when we did our Earth Day Scent-sory bin back in April. 

With all of his interest in bees, I decided to make him a Bees Sensory Bin and to get some bee books from the library: UnBEElievables: Honeybee Poems and Paintings and What If There Were No Bees? by Suzanne Slade were his favorites.

The Bees Sensory Bin truly has elements for all of the five senses:
  1. Smell - Lavender 
  2. Taste - Honey Sticks (He loved tasting the honey).
  3. Touch - Dried Black Beans (that feel slick), Yellow Pom Poms (that feel soft), Black Pipe Cleaners (with their unique feel) and the Lavender and Corn Meal were also interesting for Wild Thing to touch.
  4. Sight - All of the colors and the vibrant flowers (cut out from a postcard we received that had several different flowers on it).
  5. Sound - Wild Thing made buzzing bee sounds as he explored the sensory bin. 
I also put some yellow pony beads in the bin and made one sample bee from the black pipe cleaner and yellow beads. Initially, Wild Thing gave up very quickly on making on himself. But, on another day, he spied the sensory bin on the kitchen counter, took his chair over and made a bee for himself (a great activity for developing fine motor skills).

Our Bee Sensory Bin also led us to create some interesting art using the honey sticks - we used them to paint and glue. I loved how the cornmeal looked like pollen, especially on the pink flower.

We painted the heart together because Pooh loves honey.

 Of course, he also loved eating the honey again too!

Oh - and so Wild Thing's little brother wouldn't feel left out (and didn't end up putting dried black beans in his mouth), I made a simple, edible Bee Bin for the Baby (that's a lot of B's). The Baby version has raisins and popcorn. 

You might also like:
Sand Play & DIY Sandboxes
Pretend Play: Library at Home

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Kid's Co-Op: Link-Up & Play!

From this past week's co-op, Dirt and Boogers' post about her 2 year-old being given an old camera stuck out for me because of my own little one's affinity for cameras. (That's her little one to the left with his camera). 

We gave Wild Thing (our son) a camera for his second birthday, and his photos sometimes make the blog. Recently, he took a pretty good picture of me making our 3 ingredient no-bake cookies. 

That day, he also wanted to take a photo of our coffeemaker -- hmm, does that mean my toddler understands all too well the importance of this morning ritual in my life? (His photos continue to improve. Many of his earlier photos were featured in a post about our color hunt nature walk.)

What creative tools do you like to give your little ones? Do they respond to the creative activities they see you doing? (I'm always taking photos for the blog, and my husband is always behind the camera making movies).

We took this photo last year when Wild Thing's initial interest in cameras began.

Please share your latest creative endeavors with your children and get some new ideas through this week's Co-Op!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

3 Ingredient, No-Bake Cookies!

Summers in the valley areas of Southern California where we live can get rather hot, and our kitchen (in particular) can become a sauna, so turning on the oven to bake cookies -- no thank you! However, Wild Thing and I love to make cookies, so I came up with this easy, relatively healthy recipe for no-bake cookies using: 
  •  1-1 1/4 cup of rolled oats
  • 1/3-1/2 cup of peanut butter
  • Just under 1/3 cup of maple syrup (I suggest real maple syrup) 
These cookies happen to also be gluten-free, vegan and free of refined sugar. I want to try a batch using honey instead of maple syrup and think agave nectar would probably also work. 

Dump the ingredients in a bowl and mix them well (incorporating all of the oats) - at this stage it's easy to tell if you need more oats or not.

Next, clump the ingredients together by hand to make cookie balls (that's how we like to do it, anyway). I sprayed my hands with cooking spray to make it easier and Wild Thing took this picture (he's 2.5). It came out tinted red, so I made it B&W. He enjoyed the cookie process too (not just taking photos). He liked dumping and mixing the ingredients.

Then, put the cookie balls in a mini muffin tin that sprayed with cooking spray (you could also put them on a regular cookie sheet with parchment paper) and let them set in the refrigerator for 20-30 minutes. These have become a quick favorite in our house. 

P.S. They have lots of iron (I used a peanut butter with flax seeds) because of the oats and peanut butter. You could add raisins/nuts, etc. or press them down and create no-bake granola bars.  

You might also like:

Homemade Pop-Tarts
Real & Pretend Cookie-Making

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Simple Sunday: Storytelling Board - Hush! Thai Lullaby

When preparing my guest post on Thailand for one of my favorite blog series, Exploring Geography by Mama Smiles, we came across Hush! Thai Lullaby, a Caldecott Award-Winning children's book. We really loved the book. I decided to do a simple storytelling activity with Wild Thing (my toddler). 

In the book, the mom goes around telling all of the animals to Hush! because the baby is sleeping. (One of the reasons, I like the book so much is that Wild Thing has a baby brother, so helping my energetic toddler learn to be quiet so the baby can sleep can be a challenge). 

We looked around at what animals we had that were in the book and retold the story with these animals, adding each one to our storyboard paper.

Wild Thing's thumbprint made the baby. We used a piece from a Melissa & Doug wooden puzzle for the lizard, cut outs from an Eric Carle booklet, a cut up Animal Cracker box, one of our alphabet cards, and an elephant playdough toy. The mouse in the book is in the rice barn, so we also glued some rice on the paper. Obviously, we had lots of fun and got very creative.
 I also had Wild Thing use his magnet letters and look at the cover of the book to spell out the word, HUSH.

Storytelling with toddlers encourages literacy and early reading skills. Plus, it's fun! Carrots Are Orange has a great storyboard activity on her site as well in which she and her toddler told their own story! 

You might also like: 

Elephant Craft & Thailand
Alphabet Sensory Bin
P is for Peas!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Kids Co-Op: Link Up & Play! Series Featured: Kids Get Arty

Once again, it's time for the Weekly Kids Co-Op, which always has so many creative activities linked-up. Lately, I've focused on sharing blog projects or series that I enjoy from another blog who participates in the Kids Co-Op.

This week, I'm sharing Kids Get Arty from Red Ted Art. These link-ups focused on Exploring the Great Artists with kids are held every two months and feature great art ideas to do with children of all ages.

Our latest project in participation with this series was inspired by Van Gogh and was so much fun.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Exploring Great Artists with Kids: Van Gogh for Toddlers

For the 4th of July, I did a post of Ten Art and Science Explosions to do with Kids. In the process, we discovered a milk/dish soap/food coloring science experiment that creates the effect of magic paint as the color moves through the liquid. 

Some of the effects made me think of Van Gogh's Starry Night, one of my favorite paintings. It seemed like a great way for Wild Thing (my 2.5 yo) to create his own Van Gogh-ish masterpiece, particularly since he loved the milk activity the last time we did it. 

I thought this would be perfect for Red Ted Art's awesome Kids Get Arty link-up!

So, I pulled a photo of the famous painting up on my computer for us to look at as we did our experiment. We discussed the colors in the painting and the way they swirled.

We put the foil sculpture in the pan first and added some black paint. Next, we poured the milk on the cookie sheet. Then, he looked at the painting and selected food coloring drops and placement based on the painting. Finally, we added the drops of the dish soap and let our magic paint get to work -- creating our paint swirls.

He had so much fun with this activity and as the paint moved, he often decided we needed to add more color here or there. Since Wild Thing is 2.5 yo, this activity provided a fun way to recreate an artist's painting and to discuss the colors and styles of the painting on his level. 

Please visit Red Ted Art to see other activities to do with kids as they explore great artists! 

You might also like:
Learning about Diego Rivera
Mixed Media Outdoor Art
iPod Baby Art

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Summer of Giving


This summer, Kiwi Crate is committed to giving back to the community by reaching out to kids who might not normally have access to fun and enriching crafts and activities. So they reached out to me and a few of their favorite bloggers and charities to launch the Summer of Giving.

During this program, for each new subscription ordered, Kiwi Crate will donate one crate full of arts, crafts, and science activities to St. Jude. 

St. Jude is a non-profit that puts saving the lives of children at its core. With our support, St. Jude can provide families with everything they need to get them through hard times as their children face the unthinkable, and they freely share the research and learning in their hospitals to help save the lives of children around the world.

Our goal is to donate 100 crates to St. Jude. Will you help us? If you've ever wanted to try out Kiwi Crate, now is a great time to give it a spin. YOU get a crate and a child who's facing a terrible illness gets a crate too. Win - Win.

To learn more about the Summer of Giving or to donate a crate, please connect to Kiwi Crate here. 

What is Kiwi Crate? 

Kiwi Crate is a subscription service that delivers a beautifully packaged thematic crate of hands-on projects to your home each month.  In each box are 2-3 carefully designed and kid-tested projects, which cover a range of developmental areas and subjects, including art, science, and imaginative play.  All the materials and inspiration to encourage creativity and curiosity are included – you just supply the kid! 

Kid-friendly blogs that are participating in this week's Summer of Giving:  Creative Family Fun  .  Edventures With Kids  .  Famiglia and Seoul   .  Glittering Muffins  .  Make Do and Friend  .  Mama Smiles  .  Plain Vanilla Mom  .  Playdough to Plato  .  The Golden Gleam   .  Tinkerlab  .  Train Up a Child

Note: I have not been compensated for this post.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Summer Virtual Book Club: Audrey Wood

Since Wild Thing loves anything (and everything) that goes, especially fire trucks, this Audrey Wood book suited us perfectly. Plus, Wild Thing shared one night as I put him in bed, "I love letters." So, this book has 2 things he loves: fire trucks and letters. 

We used an empty juice box and egg carton to make the fire truck. Then, we brought a pared down version of his Alphabet sensory bin to add to the mix so that we could re-tell alphabet rescue ourselves.

The other half of the egg carton is underneath the top half.

Adding the letters! (Saying letter names as each letter goes in the truck).

Firetruck rescuing the other letters!
After he played with the firetruck and letters for awhile, he (accurately) said he needed water for his firetruck, so I gave him a spray bottle with water in it. This led to pretend play in the backyard as he ran around putting out pretend fires.