Sunday, May 14, 2017

Activity Drawers - Week 1

Remember when we started our "Creative Table" a few months ago? I wanted to get back into a routine with my kids, and provide them with stimulating and intentional activities. It's been a huge success so far! Now that our baby Sweet E has arrived, I've decided to make our creative table more accessible for independent play. Enter our Activity Drawers. They are basically a collection of "invitations" similar to our creative table, except that the kids may help themselves to each activity on their own. I have these set up at their homework station/art corner.


This is a trial week for our activity drawers, for our first week home with our baby. And if they are successful, I will try to change out the activities on a weekly basis! Here is what is inside them this week:

Drawer 1 - Scissors and Punches!

I grabbed a large stack of scrap paper, and provided assorted "fancy" scissors and punches. I know Little M&M will enjoy this, and I have a feeling Honey Pot will take to those fancy scissors too!


Drawer 2 - Fingerprint Art

We loved this activity on our creative table several weeks ago. So in this drawer I provided the kids with our inspiration book, ink pads and blank paper, as well as four drawing prompts I created for them!


Drawer 3 - Playdoh

Playdoh is always a hit. We usually make our own, but I wanted an assortment of colors readily available for the kids in our busy household! To help engage them this week, I've also provided assorted tools, spring cutters, and (new to our playdoh collection) extruders!

   

Drawer 4 - Bean Bin + Alphabet Match

I put this together very easily, mostly for Little M&M. Hidden within the drawer of beans are all 26 uppercase letters (paper cutouts) and the kids need only to find them, and match them to their lowercase counterpart.


So there they are! Our first week of Activity Drawers. They are super simple to put together, and I think they'll be just the perfect thing for us as we transition from a family of two big kids, to a family of two big kids and a baby sister!

Friday, May 5, 2017

5 Preschool Activities, for Independent Play!

At the end of my pregnancy, I'm taking it really easy! But with Little M&M only going to preschool 3 days per week, I still have several days at home with just him and me. So I threw together five "invitations" over the last two weeks to keep him happy and busy independently. Take a look!

Cutting Basket

For his first activity, I pulled together various materials with which he could practice his scissor skills: scrap paper, straws, ribbon, yarn, and pipe cleaners.


Additionally I had drawn a few lines and shapes for him to cut out if he wished.


This basket entertained him for quite a long time! His favorite thing to cut was the straws, though over time he gave everything a whirl. He even grabbed our tape and started constructing various things out of his snippets! I'll be sure to offer this again when the baby arrives. To help gain Honey Pot's interest when I offer this over the summer break, perhaps I'll include more paper and some of my fancy scissors!

MagnaTile Alphabet

The next day's invitation comes from a free printable I found over at Adventure in a Box, and they also offer numbers! I left this out for Little M&M while I was relaxing nearby. MagnaTiles are one of his favorite things to build with, so he mostly just made structures as usual. But he did try out a letter or two!



Lacing Tray

The next day he was home with me I put together this tray for lacing practice. It included charms and beads of various sorts, jingle bells, necklace strings, the straws he cut up on a previous day and a vehicles lacing set I've owned for several years (I believe it originally came from the Target Dollar Spot). This invitation was as popular as the cutting basket. He made several necklaces for the both of us to wear, and he also tried some vehicle lacing cards.


Hammering and Poking Tray

I had been wanting to put together an invitation like this for a while! Inside I included scrap pieces of cardstock, cardboard, an old egg carton, a piece of a foam pool noodle from Dollar Tree, toothpicks, golf tees, giant push pins and a mallet. Nearby I also included toy tools like his hammer, nails and some playdoh to use with them. I told him he could use the items however he wished (this is the whole purpose of "invitations" really) and he had a blast! His favorite thing was using the mallet to hammer golf tees into the pool noodle. Though the egg carton is always popular with him as well--it was completely destroyed by the end of his play session.


Large Number Recognition + Painting with Water

Another offering recently was to paint with water on our chalkboard wall. He enjoys this activity any day, but today I added large numbers for him to identify and then erase with water. A few months ago while we were grocery shopping he took it upon himself to count all the way from 1-1000. He did it successfully too, by the end of that afternoon. So I like to see if he can read these big numbers that he can count to, and he can!


When he was finished, he used all of these various painting tools to paint the whole chalkboard with water pictures. He loves doing this! He pulled out the chalk later too and that really added to his play. In the future we can certainly do more number activities like this, including skip counting by 2's, 5's and 10's!


Saturday, April 29, 2017

Harry Potter Party!

Honey Pot and Little M&M have read the first two illustrated Harry Potter books. As big fans ourselves, my husband and I were thrilled when Honey Pot chose this as her birthday party theme this year! Kids and adults agree: this has been our favorite party yet! Take a look at the details:

The Invitation

We had a small party with just family and close friends, so the invitation went out on Facebook. I quickly made this in Photoshop Elements and included it on the event page.


The Decorations

First and foremost we had to make one of these super cool entryways that I kept seeing on Pinterest. We ordered the brick backdrop from Amazon, and cut it to fit in our doorway. Notice Honey Pot is also wearing a Gryffindor shirt for her party (also from Amazon)!


Throughout the house we also had a few nods to the first two Harry Potter movies:

The "third floor corridor is out of bounds" sign, a giant balloon spider, a trail of magnetic spiders and a simple banner made from the four house logos and a couple of floating candles...


Hedwig (Amazon), a jar of floo powder (stones from Michaels), "the chamber of secrets has been opened" written in watered down red paint on the mirror, a framed Daily Prophet sign, the two books the party was based on and a Moaning Myrtle printed on vellum paper that we hung in the bathroom.


Snack-time

We made some green punch called Polyjuice Potion, and also offered water bottles with Skel-Gro labels.


We offered subs, chips, salads and fruit for our afternoon party. And we served the fruit up on these neat broom skewers that we made. 


Party Activities

First we stopped at Ollivanders, where the wand would of course have to choose the wizard. To make the wands, we followed the tutorial here.


We had the kids sit in a circle, and spun around one wand at a time on a lazy susan. This way the wand decided to whom it would belong! As each wand chose its owner, that child would leave the circle, and we continued until everyone had a wand.


Defense Against the Dark Arts Class

For our next game, we had hidden and taped up 36 images of Cornish Pixies around the house. The kids had to "round them up" and bring them back to their cage (our fire pit lid). They used their wands to stun them before bringing them to the cage. They loved this game--scavenger hunts seem to really be a hit with this age group (5-7 year olds)!


Charms Class

Next we headed to Charms class, where the professor first instructed everyone on how to perform the levitation spell. They learned the proper pronunciation of wingardium leviosa as well as the swish-and-flick motion.


Then they had to use what they learned to keep their white balloons up in the air! This was so much fun!


Free Dobby the House Elf - Egg Relay

For this next game we headed outside. The kids went in pairs from the starting line, around the cones, and back again. They had to balance a plastic egg (wrapped in a baby sock) on a spoon in order to free Dobby. (Remember he's freed when presented with clothes!)


Quidditch Practice

The next game was a favorite. My husband created a quidditch pitch out in our backyard, using hula hoops and wooden stakes. He spray-painted them gold and they were just beautiful!


Using sticks from around the yard, brown paper bags and Dollar Tree hula skirts, he also created a broom for everybody! The kids all worked together to score points with a large ball (the quaffle) while a few grown-ups threw two smaller balls (the bludgers) at them! So many laughs, and such a great time was had by all!


We played this for a while. And how does every game of quidditch end?


By finding the Golden Snitch, of course. So we headed inside for dessert to find it. We made chocolate cakepops, dipped in peanut butter candy melts. (We followed the basic cake pop tutorial here.) They were perfect, because they were gold and also because Honey Pot is a huge peanut butter fan! We only put wings on hers, but they were a huge hit! We served them with a variety of ice creams and toppings.


And finally, to conclude the party, we had one more activity:

Potions Class

This was deemed the favorite by all the kids. We made a few bottles of ingredients just for show: Dragon's Blood (flour + water + food coloring), Gillyweed (water + grass), and Infusion of Wormwood (water + food coloring + sesame noodles leftover from the previous night's Chinese food lol). I created a recipe for the kids to follow, using the ingredients that we left out on the table: Wolfsbane (dish soap), Lethe Water (vinegar + food coloring), Dried Nettles (glitter), and Powdered Root of Asphodel (baking soda). 


To begin, the professor read the recipe, which everyone followed carefully.


But then we left the students to add the ingredients in their own way. There were so many glorious, bubbling cauldrons and such sparkle and color!


The play went on for a long time like this. So glad we got some cake pans from Dollar Tree to contain the mess!


They really could have stayed here all day. When the Dried Nettles (ahem, glitter) started to run out, I told them all it was time to open presents. So they retired to another room, and we quickly cleaned up.


Party Favors

For our party favors, we recreated the Honeydukes Express. You remember, the trolley that comes around on the Hogwarts Express to offer sweets to all the kids? I transformed my small table into that trolley, and it came out super cute! I printed the blank labels from this website, and added the titles of the candies I was recreating: Bertie Botts Every Flavor Beans (Amazon), Acid Pops, Liquorice Wands, Chocolate Frogs (mold is from Amazon, and we melted Ghirardelli dark chocolate into it, with a sprinkling of Rice Krispies cereal for crunch), Droobles Best Blowing Gum and Jelly Slugs. At the end of the party, each of the kids put together their own bag of goodies. They had such a blast trying out the Bertie Botts Every Flavor Beans. And even some of the adults gathered around a table later that evening, with a deck of cards, to create their own tasting game. It was hilarious!


So there is our Harry Potter party, based on books one and two. Thanks for stopping by!



****************************************************************



Friday, April 21, 2017

Preparing for our new baby!

We are having our baby very soon! I wanted to do a few activities with Honey Pot and Little M&M to help them prepare. We did this five years ago with Honey Pot, and it was a great success. Click on the link below to look back on how we prepared our toddler for her new brother:


This time our big siblings are much older than toddlers. So to begin, we purchased a new book called Babies Don't Eat Pizza from Amazon. There are so many great big sibling books out there for toddlers and preschoolers, but I wanted something for older kids--something that went into a little more detail. And this book was perfect! We read all about what they can expect when mom and dad go to the hospital, and how their new baby will grow. We often stopped to discuss things and answer their questions while reading.

 

Next we made a countdown! I was inspired by this one that I found on Pinterest. When we were 20 days from our due date, we traced each of our hands, only gluing down the palms. We explained to the kids that sometimes babies come early, so it was possible that they'd have to fold down the last few all at once. And in our situation, we wouldn't go beyond that date, so it works well for us.


Here it is after a couple of days:


And a few more!


And finally, just as we did the first time around, we had our big siblings decorate onesies for their baby sister! We slipped a piece of cardboard inside them, and had the kids use fabric markers.


These are really special for them, and I can't wait to see our new baby wearing the clothes they decorated for her!

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Creative Table - Week 7 {Easter}

I do enjoy the freedom of not centering our creative table around themes; however, when it is a holiday I can't resist! This week's theme, of course, was Easter! We've done some incredibly fun projects in the past, with such a variety of activities! Please take a look back at the following units, or keep scrolling to see what we did this week:




MONDAY INVITATION - DRAWING or WRITING PROMPT

{Complete the Picture - Symmetry Drawings}

I love this drawing prompt, and have seen several types on Pinterest. So I created three options, using coloring pages from the Internet. For the invitation, I provided a pencil for each of the kids, and a multitude of crayons!


Here is a close-up of our three drawing choices:


Honey Pot loves drawing, and I knew she'd want to complete each one!


Here are her creations--super cute!!


Little M&M has become more interested in drawing prompts recently, and I was so proud of his efforts today too! He seemed to really enjoy this!


He used yellow for the chick, so it didn't capture well, but here are his completed drawings. Adorable!


WEDNESDAY INVITATION - ART or CRAFT

{Collage Eggs}

For today's craft I provided assorted materials including markers, stamps, scissors, glue, ribbon, pompoms and foam stickers. I set out the invitation by leaving an egg-shaped piece of foam in front of each of their seats. I also left a paper template of the egg in front of the remaining pieces of foam, in case they wanted to make more!


They sure did! I think the sheer volume of supplies in front of them really piqued their interest in this craft. They were tracing the template, cutting out eggs, and decorating for a long while!





At the end of their creative session, this is what they had come up with. Some ordinary eggs with patterns and textures, some Pokemon eggs (Little M&M's main contribution) and a whole basket of eggs made by Honey Pot (on the left there). They were so proud of their creations, and had such a fun time.


Here they are up close:





FRIDAY INVITATION - SENSORY or STEM

It was a busy time of the week for us, so I set out a few very quick invitations for our STEM activities. First I started with this free printable from Picklebums. It is a Find and Color, and the kids both worked hard on these! I thought this page wouldn't be popular, due to the commitment it requires. But I was so surprised when both kids sat down and completed the entire thing with such interest!





For the next activity I printed these two mazes from Artsy Momma. I had forgotten how much Honey Pot and Little M&M enjoy mazes! I placed each inside a plastic sheet to save on printing, and had the kids use dry erase markers.




I knew I wanted to use some leftover plastic eggs for a STEM activity, but didn't know what to do! Finally I stumbled upon this idea from Frugal Fun for Boys, and knew it'd be perfect. I stuck some golf tees into our trusty piece of Dollar Tree floral foam, and left beside it a bucket of plastic egg halves to be stacked and balanced.


This was mostly for Little M&M to do while Honey Pot worked on her homework for school. He liked the challenge!


Later Honey Pot came over to see what he was doing, and took an interest too.



So she tried it out later!


And while she did that, I quickly set up a pattern egg activity for Little M&M as well. We've done this in various forms since 2014, and the kids enjoy it.


So there it is: an easy, Easter week at the creative table! We have something super special planned for next week, so stay tuned!