Monday, October 20, 2014

The Letter B

B is for Boo!
This is my favorite book for the Halloween season, ever. I love it and every one of my kids has loved it. I've done this activity once before, but we did it again and it was a hit.

 I like acting out each part as we read this book together and your kids can help with the sounds that each part of the (spoiler-alert!) scarecrow makes. My two year old was so nervous by the time that jack-o-lantern said, "BOO!" I knew that was the word that we needed to run with for the letter B.
 Every Fall, I add a bit to my collection of Halloween crafts and I happened to have a bunch of foam pumpkins left over with sticker faces that make them into jack-o-lanterns. You could use construction paper, felt, or even have your child paint faces onto a paper plate pumpkin to make their own jack-o-lantern. The possibilities are overwhelming.

 I let my little ones decorate as many pumpkins as they wanted and we traced some hands because someday I will burst into tears when I open my Halloween bin and see those tiny fingers.

 We talked about the story and decided that we needed to go find a pumpkin head for our own scarecrow we had made out of Edison's clothes, pronto. He currently looked like a lifeless toddler-sized body laying on our front stairs. 
We went on a field trip for Joy School that same day to an elk farm in the valley, which happened to have a self-serve pumpkin farm close by. That's when I realized that I had no cash and had to take all of my children into a local grocery store, by myself. Then back to the pumpkin farm. Then back to the grocery store where they actually had better prices on pumpkins.
But that's another story.
 Gosh, I'm lucky.

 But we did find just the right sized-head for our own scare-crow and Charlotte drew on a face that seemed to shout, 

"B is for Bats"
The next day, my older girls didn't have school so we kept the ball rolling with our Letter of the Week and did "B is for Bats."
 This idea came from a cute blog I recently found called Crafty Morning.
I like it because it's an activity that can work for a variety of ages.

First, I printed off a few of the templates provided by Crafty Morning, HERE.
Then I had the able-scissor-handed kids (did I say that right?), cut them out. 
As modeled so brightly by Charlotte here.

Tape the bats onto white or black paper, depending on the color of paints you want to use.
I gave each kid a paper plate with paint on it and a pencil with an eraser for the dots.

Dip the end of your pencil into the paint and outline the bat first, then move outward, keeping the dots heavy around the bats so they show up when you remove them after the paint dries.

Knowing my personality, I would have never guessed that making a big crafty mess on my table with a bunch of kids (we had a few extras) would be my thing. 
But this picture makes me so happy.
 Even my two year old enjoyed this activity for about 30 minutes. I gave him a paintbrush and he later added some of his sister's discarded bat stencils.

I always try to drive it home with one last refresher before we move on. Today we read some more "B" books from the library and practiced writing the letter B on paper.
I had some bug stickers that we used to cover the B, reiterating it's shape.


Here are some more books that help teach this letter:

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Letter A

Here we go! Here are some Letter A activities that we've been working on. First, we did "A is for Ants." I went to our library and found some books on ants and ant colonies. Our librarians are incredible, people. Do you know your local librarians? I think they are such fantastic resources and so willing to help out. Mine even printed out information from the internet on how to make your own ant farm! I haven't attempted that yet, but I'd like to try something like this.

I found this idea to make ants with your fingerprints in black paint, crawling over a hill that is the letter A. And for some reason, I only took this one, very unhelpful picture. I had some extra kids over that day:

But they ended up looking something like this:

While they crafted, I read the books about ants and we talked about it a bit. I also played the video clip on YouTube for the Letter A from Sesame Street. We love these videos. 
And that was all we did that week.

Then we went to Kauai. Without our children.
A different kind of activity time.

It was incredible. Need I say more?

Then we came home. 

And we started back in with A is for Alligators! My kids have LOVED talking about alligators. I don't know why. Edison might really believe there is one living under his bed. 
Thanks to this great book:

I cut out giant letter A's out of green paper and lots of teeth out of white paper.

 Then I cut out the shape of the eyes (bottom of above pic) where we glued googly eyes. Nice and simple people; do you see a theme here? (Source for this idea found here.)
 Ed glued the teeth all over the A and I was just happy he was participating!
And not eating the glue stick.

 The next day, it was raining so I decided to do some more activities with our alligators. I hid the two that they made in different spots and we played this game I threw together using things I had around the house.
 My kids love the song "Five Little Monkeys" where they tease Mr. Alligator. I had this tree my oldest daughter made for a family night activity, so I put five pom-pons in the tree, representing monkeys. This activity is not meant to impress anyone.
Had I prepared a little more, I could have printed out five pictures of actual monkeys and colored them, or laminated them.
I like the pom-poms.

 I colored a clothes-pin with a green marker and we sang our song and they got to SNATCH that monkey right out of that tree! They loved it.
Then I got really quiet and told them that there were two REAL alligators hiding in our house.
And they believed me.
'Cause I'm the mom and I hold that much power.
They searched around until they found their alligators from the day before. Then they made those alligators eat the pom-pom monkeys out of the tree and we sang the song a few more times.
(Do you like the mixed-matched half-gone pajamas we have on here??)

That afternoon, my Eloise was bored and STILL wanted more alligators in our house, so we made a very simple craft using a paper plate, green paint, white paper teeth, and googly eyes. She did most of it on her own ("More teeth please mom!).

Run with it! Email me your crafts. I'll share them and praise you for your hard work.
Know you're doing a good job, whatever you're doing with your kids.
These are just ideas if you need them.
Don't stress.
You're amazing.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Letter of the Week

Let's talk about ACTIVITY TIME. I think it's the best thing I've ever done, but I also know it can sound overwhelming. Here's some answers to common questions:

I almost never prepare the night before. I do keep an "art cabinet" filled with basic supplies (funny, it started out as a "Fancy Nancy bucket," but now its a cabinet). I always do activity time in the morning, with the kids that are at home. We do activity time every day, but it does NOT always include a crafty craft. We count library trips, our local museum, walks, etc. as activity time together. Sometimes the days I plan the most are the days that fall apart immediately and I've learned to LET GO and follow what my kids want to do, even if it's just jumping on the trampoline with me until I pee my pants. I go through the alphabet, focusing on one letter a week, but sometimes we go two or three weeks on the same letter, depending on how many fun things we want to do with that letter. I introduce the letter on Monday, we go to the library on Tuesday and find books that are about that letter, and go from there. It totally works for me, and hopefully you can find some helpful tips here that will work for you.

Starting a Letter of the Week schedule was one of the best things I ever did for activity time with my kids. It's simple, easy to track, and gives a nice backbone to the limitless things I want to teach my kids. We just finished our second time through the alphabet the week before Charlotte started Kindergarten and it felt so good to celebrate her big step into school with that much anticipated letter Z. The whole thing was bittersweet to me, but the best part was knowing that I had been the one to introduce all 26 letters in fun, interactive ways. And it really felt good when she would randomly say, "H-H-Horse! That starts with an H!" and I knew I taught her that.

Even if you have your child enrolled in a preschool, doing Letter of the Week activities is a great way to play with them and teach them all kinds of new things, all the while reinforcing those basic building blocks of our language.

With that said, we are starting over now with my three (almost four) year old, Eloise, and my two year old, Edison. I will be posting weekly about our Letter of the Week activities, so come check it out if you need ideas and want to follow along. My greatest resources for our activities are Alison McDonald's No Time for Flashcards, Pinterest, and my local library. I will post our activities on my Instagram as well.

Tomorrow I'll be posting what we've done this week for the Letter A. Has a little to do with ants and a LOT to do with alligators...

Meanwhile, here's a funny video of Edison today (best part is at the end):


Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Best of the #likeaninja posts

Hellooooo ladies. How was your summer? I tend to take a few months off at a time, but I'm ready to dive back into the blogging world this fall. I love having the chance to connect with all of you. Are you following me on Instagram? Not to sound pushy, but you SHOULD. Because it's in the day to day stuff that we can relate to each other and I try to post the REAL LIFE stuff on my feed, just in case you also have dried spit up on your shirt and can't remember the last time you took a "shave your legs" kind of shower. We're in this together. In fact, a few weeks ago, I started a #likeaninja tag and asked some of my followers to share the "little things" that they did that day that probably went unnoticed, but merited an applause. Here was my post:

I've just had one of those weeks that humbled me to the dirt. I know there is no woman out there who has a clean house, happy kids, and balanced hormones all at the same time, but it's easy to think there is. We all make daily efforts in our homes that often get little or no credit. So, to bring light to those efforts, I want to see if you'll share something you did today, #likeaninja. For example, today I scheduled 15 minutes of clean-up WITH my kids before we dove into the fun stuff. Cleaning with my kids is hard for me, but I did it anyway #likeaninja.

Okay, so my ninja moment that day was kinda lame, but you get the idea. Here were some of my favorite responses:

Eserenity7: "Today I cut both of my older kids hair for the new school year, #likeaninja. I've never done that before but I feel accomplished that I did a great job and saved us some money at the same time!"

dmjones5: "It may not seem like much but I got two loads of laundry done and was able to get the two year old to take a nap without being in the car, #likeaninja."

jennavela: "Oh sister. Husband is out of town and I rallied the troops and took them to a state park. At one point, I had one kid in the stroller, another in the underneath of the stroller, and another on my shoulders. I was sweating and pushing uphill. It was #likeaninja status. Then I successfully bathed all three, fed them a hearty delicious dinner, and only had one freak out moment. We can do this."

lisadegraff: "I took both kids to three different quilt stores looking for some fabric AND I didn't yell once. I usually avoid running errands with them because I am a wimp, but today I did it #likeaninja.

aballard: "I had Cheetos and a Coke for breakfast. #nailedit"

juliannlaw: "Today started with an email saying I didn't get a job I wanted. After moping for a while, I got up and cleaned under my desk (can you guess where I had my pity party?). There are still piles on and around my desk, but beneath it is clean. Then I went outside and directed my anger at a wasp nest #likeaninja because one of them got my four year old yesterday. #vengeancefeelsgood #mamagrizzly

kelseytay: "I had a babysitter coming in two hours and my house was a disaster (I'm weird; I like my house semi dent before I have a babysitter over). Instead of cleaning I played with my kids in the backyard for an hour and a half and then turbo cleaned #likeaninja for the half hour before my babysitter got there. Swinging with my kids and jumping of the tramp was my favorite part of the day and I'm glad I chose to let go of the cleaning and enjoy my kids!

And the WINNER is....

karaspringsmith: "Today I braved taking all three children to the pool for the first time on my own. Jumped in the water with my clothes on to save my three year old that couldn't touch, and I managed to put away the laundry that has been sitting in the basket for four days, #likeaninja."

I had to share these. We are ninjas! And most of the time our amazingness goes unrecognized. So give yourself a pat on the back today for the big (and little) victories you achieved by doing your best as "mom." If you have any more ninja moments, please do share. I will personally applaud each one of you.

Happy Tuesday.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Setting Summer Goals with Your Kids

I've been inspired by Saren over at Power of Moms to help my kids set some summer goals. Since mine are still very young, I wanted to find a way to keep it simple. Here's what came to mind:

 Paper chains! 
They are easy to make and I think they help teach goal-setting very effectively.
(Aren't Charlotte's poses impressive? Don't worry, there's more coming.)

 I recently read the book The Power of Habit, where it talks about how habits are formed. It mentions two factors in forming a habit: 1) a prompt and 2) a reward. I've been thinking of this as I look over my own goals for the year and I've tried to incorporate a prompt, or reminder, for my goal as well as a reward for myself when I take action toward reaching that goal (always involves food).
 I think this same formula is effective with kids and that's why I'm testing out these paper chain goals to see if it actually works.
1) The prompt (or reminder): a bright and colorful paper chain hanging where they see it every day.
2) Reward: The satisfaction of tearing off a link in the chain as they work toward their goal. We are also rewarding them with ice cream when they reach their goal.

I think that's our reward for everything. 'Cause mom needs a reward just as much as they do.

 So tonight for our Family Home Evening, we talked about the importance of goals, using this awesome lesson plan as a guide. Then we gathered some markers, paper, scissors, and glue and went to work on our paper chains. (We also had our cute neighbor next door join us for the evening:)
 I had them write their end goal down on the first strip of paper. (We wrote on them before we made them into chain links). This one was Charlotte's goal: to learn to swim by herself, without floaties.
 On each subsequent link, I helped them think of specific steps they would take to reach their goal. That's another reason why I like these paper chains because it helps them to think of a goal as a sequence of smaller steps that lead them to their final desired outcome.

Some of Charlotte's specific steps to reach her goal to swim without help are:
1. Go to swim lessons! We added a link for the last four days of her lessons this week so she can tear one off when she gets home.
2. Practice with Dad in the pool.
3. Practice going under water in the bathtub (supervised by mom).
4. Practice "bobbing" underwater in the pool.
5. Practice jumping into the pool and swimming to mom or dad.

She thought of most of these herself, with a little encouragement from mom, and she wrote them all down herself, with LOTS of help from mom. I wanted her to have as much ownership as possible in this goal.
 And then we ate popsicles.
Hazel's goal is to get better at telling time and understanding the calendar. She thought of that one on her own, but needed a lot of help thinking of her specific steps to reach that goal.
And then Hazel was grumpy. But I took a picture anyway.

I'm excited to see how these work! Happy summer. So glad it's finally here.
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