Sunday, April 28, 2013

{Ten for Tuesday} Screen Free Week Activities & Resources: Simple, Frugal Play Ideas & Quiet Time Alternatives

We participated in Screen Free Week last year and enjoyed it. It was not just the boys either, I was almost completely screen free for the week as well, which was actually really great. The plan is to do it again this year. Since Wild Thing now plays computer games and video games a little bit, I decided a computer game alternative for the week would be a good idea. (I am sharing Ten for Tuesday on Sunday because on Tuesday I will be unplugged!)

Introducing the Humanoid Giant Tablet! He calls it his special computer and is getting very creative with it already. Stay tuned for Humanoid 2.0 and new Apps, which I expect we will spend Screen Free Week developing! (P.S. Our giant cardboard box tablet was inspired by this Bottle Top Calculator from Learn with Play at Home).

I hope you enjoy this activity and the other ideas we are sharing to help you make the most of Screen Free Week! (I prefer thinking of it as making the most of a week unplugged with our families rather than ways to help you get through it. Don't just get through it, but unplug yourself a bit and enjoy!!) Here are 10 tips and ideas... 

1. More Cardboard Box Creations -- Screen Free Week offers a chance to ditch the big talking box and the pinging/dinging small boxes (tablets and computers) and see what imaginative things happen with just a simple cardboard box. (Our cardboard box firetruck remains a favorite for the boys). We recently shared a round up of many of our favorite Cardboard Box Creations, and you can also find cardboard box innovations on my Recycle, Repurpose, Make It Better Pinboard, and I love the Cardboard Creations Pinboard of Housing A Forest. Or, just follow your child's lead. 

Here is a closer look at the Humanoid 1.0. We use it for letter matching and spelling, and Wild Thing enjoys measuring. I included 4 straws, cut to different sizes, a stick, a stray toy piece and a long cardboard box piece. Wild Thing also realized the stick fit through the hole of the stray toy and created another way to play with his tablet.

Impromptu version for Caterpillar
Advantage over a Droid/iPad is that they can both play at once.
2. Keep Calm -- I know that TV and Tablets can be useful for many parents for quiet time or during dinner prep, so I am sharing some nice calming/quiet time activities to use this week instead. Our simple car washing activity is a quiet time favorite and muffin tin magnet letter play is very helpful for me during dinner prep. We also love lavender playdough and got our recipe from The Imagination Tree. What Do We Do All Day has a Quiet Time Jar, which is something that could be useful any day or week, and Busy Kids Happy Mom suggests Audio Books. Lastly, Wild Thing created his own quiet time activity last fall - cotton ball tossing.

3. Play a Game (or 10)! A popular post on my blog is a post that features 10 Toddler Games That Only Take You...many are classic games that little ones love. Some of these are still great for PreK kids. For older children, try classic board games and card games provide a fun screen free alternative. Adventures in Mommydom recently shared several Active Games and Outdoor Games that would be great fun this week (or any week). 

4. Bust the Boredom -- This round-up of Hotel Room Boredom Busters includes many simple and easy play ideas that can be done with items you probably have readily at hand -- they could be perfect in a pinch. 

5. Just Pretend -- Pretend Play is perfect for a Screen Free Day or Week. Instead of watching their favorite TV show, encourage your child to act the show out themselves. My boys love it when we do a coffee shop and library adventure right at home (on days when getting out just isn't an option). They get to pick snacks to buy, select books to check out and play with our cookie sheet computer! Mess for Less has 30+ Pretend Play Ideas for further inspiration.

6. Have an Adventure/Try Something New -- Discover a new park or hiking trail. Try out a new playground or visit a new library. 52 Brand New is always sharing their new adventures with a weekly new experience, so she offers lots of inspiration. Hit up a thrift store and let each child select a new toy and/or new book. Better yet, before you go, have them pick some toys and/or books to take to the thrift store to donate.

7. Bring a Book to Life -- We love bringing books to life, as evidenced by our participation in the Virtual Book Club for Kids. Check out the VBCK FB page or Pinboard for activities, snacks and play related to many favorite children books. Read.Explore.Learn also has lots of wonderful ideas as does The Children's Bookshelf Pinboard. I love the fun ways we explored Boy, Bird Dog! by David McPhail, and Dr. Seuss and Mo Willems books always inspire lots of play and extension activities.   

8. Help Others -- Create a Random Acts of Kindness Scavenger Hunt or commit to doing an act of kindness each night instead of TV time. Our Scavenger Hunt and these others RAK ideas should get you started. Or do your own version of these Happy Notes from Coffee Cups and Crayons. 

9. Take It Outside!! -- Have a picnic dinner. You can do it in your own backyard or at a favorite park or lake. Go for evening walks or family bike rides instead of turning on the tube at the end of the day. Work on the garden together or create a family painting together outside. This Take It Outside! Pinboard is full of ideas. 

10. Turn Up the Volume --  Our family loves impromptu dance parties and music time. We turn up the radio and make our own fun as we shake, spin, stomp and bop to our favorite tunes. We also like to pull out our musical instruments and make the music ourselves (the boys have toy drums and a toy guitar, and I play the piano). Or sometimes we just sing our favorite songs. 

The Educators' Spin On It

Saturday, April 27, 2013

{Project 101} Weekly Library Challenge: There Was A Tree

I really love the book I am featuring for Project 101 this week, the weekly library challenge where I share one book that the boys are loving from the library and one book that I am reading. (By the end of the year, we will have shared 101 books in honor of the 101st birthday of my local library). My book connects with theirs, strangely, through the common thread of a tree. Plus, their book is a perfect book to share at the end of a week that marked Earth Day and Arbor Day. 

Rachel Isadora received a Caldecott Honor for Ben's Trumpet and is known by many as the author of Peekaboo Bedtime, the Lill at Ballet series and many more. She also has a series of books featuring classic stories and songs that she has beautifully written and illustrated, which are all set in Africa. The books in these series are among my favorites. I first discovered the series through her wonderful rendering of The Ugly Duckling. Like that book, There Was A Tree offers the same type of beautiful and engaging illustrations and the book quickly became a hit with my 3.5 year old, and my 20 month old fell in love with it too as Wild Thing and I sang the song and created our own actions to go with it. I appreciate that at the end of the book she actually includes the music (written out on a staff sheet), since my piano music and playing has sparked an interest in Wild Thing of musical notation. Every time we read it, we must first read it and then sing the song. I usually just share the book and rarely share related activities, but this book created a valuable early literacy activity that I wanted to include.

The reprise of the story/song includes the lines: and the green grass grew all around, all around, and the green grass grew all around.

Repetition of beginning sounds in stories and songs offer wonderful early literacy learning possibilities. I first discovered this in December when we read The Trouble with Trolls, which has many words that begin with TR in it. We created some TR flashcards featuring words like troll, trouble (of course) and also truck, train and tree -- which are much more common in our vocabulary. Immediately when Wild Thing saw this book he pointed to the big block letters of the word TREE and said: T-R- makes TRUH like tree and truck. Of course, I used this as an opportunity to reinforce his learning regarding those blended letters. (The funny thing is back when I made his TR cards, it was not clear if he was understanding the concept, and then a couple of weeks ago he started spelling with his magnet letters on the fridge and we spelled the word truck together. Then, he said he wanted to spell train and only took away the last letters in the word and left the TR. I was shocked. It was a lesson to me in the value of introducing concepts and ideas and reinforcing them from time to time in fun ways because the concept may catch on later even if it does not sink in at the time).

Okay, back to There Was A Tree. When Wild Thing immediately recognized the TR and shared proudly about it and we began to read the book, I realized I had the same blended letters learning opportunity available with GR and green grass growing all around and the word ground, which also pops up in the book a lot. Like I had with TR, I wrote GR on a piece of paper and then wrote the words green, grass, grow and ground on other pages. Now that he is a bit older, he wanted to trace the words. We also got out our simple grass and flowers sensory bin, a re-purposing of our Easter Sensory Bin (this is now reuse #5 of the bin materials).

You can see how proud he is when he is completing his tracing and that we glued the grass from the bin onto the word grass. Plus, here are some bonus pictures of our Grass/Flower Sensory Bin from a previous play session before so much of the grass and flowers disappeared. (All of the flowers came from our own yard, except the small white and yellow ones which are chamomile that came in my produce box. The blue paper shreds represent the water that the flowers need to grow).  

 As for me, this week I decided to read a play: Waiting For Godot by Samuel Beckett. My brother and one of his good friends performed this play in high school and I have neither read nor seen the play since. I am sure I selected it for the nostalgia of a long ago memory of my brother on stage. I hardly know what to say about Waiting For Godot and apparently I am not alone. I loved finding this New York Times review from 1956 in which the reviewer states: It is a mystery wrapped in an engima. The tree in the play is quite significant, though quite different from the tree in the boys' book. This tree is stark and the marker for Didi and Gogo of where they must come every evening to wait for Godot. Rather than dive into what Beckett might be saying about humanity, faith and all the rest, I am focusing on a simple parenting reminder that I drew from the book. Occasionally as a parent, I can fall into a waiting mode and can feel, perhaps a bit like Didi and Gogo as if I am repeating more or less the same day over and over as I wait for the next big thing: waiting to have no little ones in diapers, waiting for Wild Thing to start Preschool, waiting for our next visit with Grandma, etc. Watching Didi and Gogo wait and wait reminded me to embrace each day and savor the current moment--enjoying whatever stage the boys are currently experiencing rather than waiting for the next milestone. 

My reading experience with Wild Thing made me realize that the milestones are happening all of the time with every book we read and every song we sing. What milestone will you celebrate today and what are you reading? Please share! I love comments or would love to chat about books, milestone and anything else over on Facebook. (On FB, you will also see a photo of our snack inspired by the book).

You might also like:

Trouble with Trolls Learning Activity
Outdoor Play + Poetry
Do Good with Baked Goods

Friday, April 26, 2013

Kids Co-Op: Arbor Day + Engaging Play Ideas for Screen Free Week

April 26th is Arbor Day so Happy Arbor Day! With Earth Day on Monday and Arbor Day today, it seemed appropriate to share these planting posts: Recycled Seed Planters from Life with Moore Babies, 5 Excellent Plants to Grow with Kids from Preschool Powol Packets,  Milk Jug Herbs from Making Boys Men, and Seed Saving Tips from Housing A Forest. The last two are part of a Planting with Kids Blog Hop. 

For even more about seeds and growing, head over to Housing A Forest. She did a great job rounding up and highlighting great seed activities from the Kids Co-Op last week.

Look What Mom Found shared a cool paper bag tree craft, which is also a great activity for Arbor Day. (For Project 101: the Weekly Library Challenge last week, I shared a book that is perfect for Arbor Day and another tree art activity that is among my favorites).

I am also sharing some simple play ideas to help you out for Screen Free Week, which is April 29-May 5. I loved 20 Play Dough Play Ideas (from things you have on hand) from My Nearest and Dearest and 30+ Pretend Play Ideas from Mess for Less -- these are great ways to encourage your kids to be their own entertainment!   
This Nature Sensory Bin from Little Bins for Little Hands fits both of my themes - Arbor Day and Simple Screen Free Play!

Plus, I love this post from JDaniel4s Mom on Observing Nature with little ones - another great way to celebrate Arbor Day and enjoy your Screen Free Week -- by getting outside and enjoying nature. House of Burke shares tips for Exploring Nature with Baby too! 

We also shared some Screen Free Toddler Tips last year and will be sharing even more ideas tomorrow when we participate in a Screen Free Blog Hop to make sure you have plenty of inspiration and encouragement to enjoy a screen free week with your kiddos.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Baked Goods - Do Good: Join the Great American Bake Sale

Yesterday, I hung out with Megan from Coffee Cups and Crayons\ to chat briefly about the Great American Bake Sale - a great way to get your children involved in helping the 16 million kids in the U.S. who struggle with hunger. Through No Kid Hungry, $1 provides 10 meals so every little bit really does make a difference. The Great American Bake Sale kicks off today and lasts through May 1st. This site will help you find a bake sale near you and get you inspired to jump in and do a bake sale of your own!

Check out our short hang out for some great tips and inspiration for getting involved. 

I recently asked on my Facebook page what Baked Goods people can never resist at bake sales and, by far, ooey-gooey brownies were the big winner! So, do not underestimate the Power of the Brownie!! Other favorites were rice krispies, blondies, lemon bars, cookies (esp. chocolate chip, nut or M and Ms), and fudge. I love peanut butter cookies or oat cookies. Even better, cookies with both. I also love popcorn. This Red, White and Blue Popcorn from J Daniel4s Mom would be great for a bake sale (especially if you decide to do one at a Memorial Day or July 4th event -- remember you can host a bake sale for No Kid Hungry anytime. It will always make a difference). 

For another bit of inspiration, read about Faux Gourmet raising $3,000 last year!

What is your MUST buy at a bake sale? Have you ever done one in your community or at your school? 

If so, please share your best tips -- here or at our G+ event where you will also find more tips about getting involved with the Great American Bake Sale!!

More resources/ideas for getting kids involved in fighting hunger:

Thank Yous/Round up from Moms Fighting Hunger
10 easy ways to help

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Magic Milk Painting for Earth Day

A favorite art activity/science experiment for Wild Thing is what he and I call Magic Milk Painting. This simple activity involves putting milk in a dish (pie dish, baking dish or similar) and then adding a few drops of dish soap and of food coloring. The result is awesome - the color magically moves. The swirl happens on its own, no mixing or stirring is required. 

The magic happens because the detergent lowers the surface tension allowing the food coloring to move through the milk. The detergent disrupts the protein and fat in the milk. Steve Spangler explains the scientific reaction quite well and shows the proper method (using a Q-Tip), but we never do it that way! We decided to see how the movement of the colors might change if we used different milks, since we happened to have almond milk and soy milk at home. (Many stores have a small box of soy or almond milk for $1 and many dollar stores now carry soy milk if you want to try this out and do not already have those milks on hand). Here are images of how the different milks reacted and differed - in general, we saw the most motion from the cow milk and the least from the almond milk. We used blue, yellow and green in order to evoke an image that, perhaps (we hoped) looked something like the Earth, and the cow milk one created in a pie plate eventually did. 

At the beginning, this is how it looked.

After a few minutes, this is what the three trays looked like.
Our most Earth like image from the day.

Wild Thing took this photo close up of the cow milk tray.
He enjoyed also blowing the liquid and encouraging even more motion.
In the end, Wild Thing and Caterpillar ended up stirring it all up -- creating a very cool blue-ish green colored liquid that proved very fun to splash hands in and stir up with spoons. I definitely recommend having some magic milk fun at your house too!  

Sharing at: Montessori Monday, Tuesday Tots, Discover & Explore, Artsy Play Wednesday, Mom's Library, It's Playtime           

You might also like:
Summer Science for Kids - 10 Activities
Favorites from 2012
Baby Play

Saturday, April 20, 2013

{Project 101} Weekly Library Challenge: Earth Day

This week for Project 101, my weekly library challenge where I share one book from the library that the boys have been reading and one book that I have been reading, I am focusing on Earth Day, coming up on Monday, April 22nd. I know many communities have events today. Our community had a major event last Saturday and their celebration is an Earth Arbor Day event with an emphasis on planting trees as well as ways to conserve water, reduce waste, encourage recycling and much more all in a commitment to help us all be a little more Earth-friendly. The book I selected of the many the boys have been reading from the library is perfect for both Earth Day and Arbor Day, which is April 26th. 

One Tree by Leslie Brockol and illustrated by Jillian Phillips is a Green Start book, printed from 98% recycled materials. I love the way the book shows how many creatures in the world truly benefit from one single tree from the birds with their nests, to the caterpillars and butterflies, to the squirrels, rabbits and deer. Plus, it takes the child through the seasons with the tree demonstrating the cycle of life for the tree and many of the creatures connected to the tree. At the back of book, there are also some tips and facts about how trees benefit the earth as producers of oxygen and absorbers of carbon dioxide and ideas for helping to save trees and reduce waste -- for parents and kids. This is the second Green Start book we have gotten from the library, and we will definitely keep our eyes out for more of them. 

This book naturally lends itself to art activities illustrating the four seasons, such as this hand print tree craft from Living Life Intentionally featured on 123 Homeschool 4 Me.

As for me, last week at the library I decided to pick out something humorous and selected Earth (The Book): A Visitors Guide to the Human Race by Jon Stewart and other writers from The Daily Show. Having a light, easy, satirical book on hand can be a nice change of pace, and the book does feature facts here and there that are quite relevant -- like the reality of the giant plastic mess floating out in the ocean because of all of our excessive waste. Perhaps not your typically Earth Day reading material, but an easy enjoyable read.

Here, too, are some of my favorite Earth Day activities and posts from last year, since I have not had time to share many new ones this year. (I am hoping to get our Magic Milk Science Experiment added to the blog as it ended up being very Earth-y!). In the meantime, I hope these posts from last year and some of our favorite recycled art/craft posts will inspire you to have some creative, Earth Day fun:

Earth Day Scents-ory Bin (turned kid-made pond)
Earth Day Event Photos

Save Gas: Library + Coffee Shop Outing at Home
Plastic Bottle Fish Craft
Recycled Art + Crafts from the Kids Co-Op

As I was picking what to highlight, I actually realized that so much of what we do on the blog involves recycled materials as was evidenced by the Recycled Art and Play round up we do for America Recycles Day last Fall.

Sharing at: Tuesday Tots, The Children's Bookshelf, Discover & Explore, Mom's Library        

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Kid's Co-Op: Fun with Food - Wild Thing Picks

The Kid's Co-Op has been full of great ideas for Earth Day, and I was tempted to highlight all of those this week, but Wild Thing really wanted to look through all of the photos from the link up and pick his favorites. So, I am featuring his picks. Given what he chose, I think he must have been hungry at the time!! 

Being a train lover, Wild Thing obviously wanted to check out the post featuring a Thomas the Train party from Craftulate. Likewise, he was a fan of My Nearest and Dearest serving snacks via trucks and tractors - super cool! He also liked the fun frog sandwich from Kiddie Foodies and Oscar the Grouch dinner from Creative Kid Snacks.

We have had some fun with food lately ourselves inspired by a renewed interest in The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

P.S. If you do need Earth Day inspiration, Reading Confetti featured 100+ activities from the Co-Op, so check it out! And, please check back here tomorrow. I will be sharing our Magic Milk Earth Day Science Activity (finally!). 

Monday, April 15, 2013

{Virtual Book Club for Kids} Blocks for Breakfast & Too Many Toys - Move, Eat, Draw, Learn with David Shannon

Each month (well almost each month), we participate in the Virtual Book Club for Kids, and I like to share 4 activities for the book we select from the author for the month -- a movement/physical activity, a food related activity, an art activity and a learning activity. Here is what we did with Too Many Toys by David Shannon, a fabulous book that highlights the wonderful simplicity and joy of a simple cardboard box and the ways that we can let our worlds get overrun by stuff from time to time.

1. Move - Have a toy relay, which could be a helpful and fun way to get toys picked up, or to sort toys into two boxes: a donate and keep box. (We love toy relays. I just can never manage to get a picture while one is happening!)

2. Eat - I see lots of cool Lego/Mega-Block Brownies online and had planned to make some, but ended up doing something easier and healthier instead...we made blocks for breakfast! Okay, so they are just pieces of bread with your O cereal of choice, but Wild Thing thought they were cool blocks for breakfast and did a little bit of building before he gobbled them all up. (He, 3, took the photos himself along with a photo of Mommy and Daddy too). 

3. Draw - Paint (or stamp) with your toys! I was so proud of my fabulous set up for this activity. 

In the end Wild Thing mainly stamped himself - further reiterating the point of the book, actually. 
Sometimes the toys are unnecessary.

4. Learn - The book helps children understand the value of appreciating what you have and of not being greedy and wanting more than you really need, as well as the value of giving to others and the fun that can be found through the imagination! My boys certainly agree that a cardboard box is one of the greatest toys ever -- as do many kids...obviously! (Many of the activities in the photos below have been featured in our Ten for Tuesday: Things That Go Series - specifically Community Helpers, In Space, Trains, and Cars posts from the series and from Make Something Outta Nothing - Library at Home). We also have a fun firetruck made from a cardboard box too. For more fabulous cardboard ideas, make you are following Cardboard Creations, acollaborative Pinboard started by Housing A Forest or simply give your child(ren) a box and see what they create.

I love all of the wonderful learning extensions this book offers, whether it be creative, imaginative cardboard box play or learning the value of giving. There are so many great messages in this one simple book. So, fess up - do you have too many toys? Consider starting regular toy purges, if you do not do them already. Toy purges and book donations are cyclical at our house. Inspired by Family Magazine shared about how this is part of their Christmas tradition and we made it part of ours this past year too. (Actually, the whole family got involved, so Mommy and Daddy also parted with some of our things). If you are ready for Spring (or Fall) decluttering, get this book from the library and read it with the kids to help them get into the spirit of giving, then see where their imaginations take you.  

Shared at: Mom's Library, Tuesday Tots, It's Playtime, Artsy Play Wednesday