Saturday, January 29, 2011

Music Man

Baby B celebrated turning 8-months-old with a little piano music.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Chinese New Year Playdough

We are studying China in anticipation of the Chinese New Year on February 3. When I saw the idea for "lucky" playdough over at Fairy Dust Teaching, I knew M would love it. We had already discussed how the colors red and gold were viewed as lucky, so she was on-board to make red playdough with red and gold glitter kneaded into it.

It does take quite a lot of food coloring to get a bright red, but it is definitely pretty and sparkly!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Hibernation Station

We wrapped up our winter month with some study of hibernation and migration. One book Miss M particularly enjoyed was Hibernation Station by Michelle Meadows. It is a cute story about the hibernation train (made out of hollowed logs) picking up all the animals that hibernate for winter. Bear has to get everyone situated before they hit the hibernation station. The rhyming text and cute illustrations were a huge hit with everyone in the house.

To go along with it, Miss M made a bear hibernating in his cave.

First she colored the bear printout.

Then she glued paper scraps onto a paper plate to make his cave. This time she did the complete project with no help from me, including cutting all of the collage pieces herself.

I am linking this to stART at A Mommy's Adventure and Kids Get Crafty at Red Ted Art. You can see many great book ideas and craft projects at both sites.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Family Game Night

Now that M is 3.5 years old, she is taking a much bigger interest in our Family Game Night. Saturday night we were playing Jenga, and she played with us for the first time.

To our surprise, she turned out to be a great player, and didn't need any help at all to move her pieces. In fact, she was the only one who didn't end up knocking over the tower at some point!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Pinewood Derby

This is J's last year of Cub Scouts (he'll move to Boy Scouts next year) and that made it his last year to build a pinewood derby car. He and Daddy spent a lot of time making the car, and it looked great. It starts as a square block of wood, and they have to design it, cut it out, sand it, paint it, and add wheels and axles.

J's car is the black one in the middle.

J ended up finishing in second place on the day, and we were all there to cheer him on.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Penguin Cupcakes

We wrapped up our study of the polar animals with some penguin cupcakes.

I used dried apricots for the beak and feet and chocolate covered cookies cut in half for the flippers and head. Chocolate chips were the eyes, but mini M&Ms would work as well.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Polar Poetry

We found two fun books of poetry recently while studying the polar regions: Polar Bear Arctic Hare by Eileen Spinelli and Antarctic Antics: A Book of Penguin Poems by Judy Sierra. The poems are fun to read, nicely illustrated and informative as well. This was one of Miss M's first introductions to poetry, and I was glad to find that she really enjoyed them.

Our family read aloud right now is The Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett. This was a favorite of mine when I was a child and I am glad I can share it with my kids. I think it's a classic for a reason.

You can see other suggestions for books at the What My Child is Reading blog hop over hosted at Mouse Grows, Mouse Learns.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

stART: Penguins Everywhere

This week we are studying Antarctica, and in particular penguins. We read a number of books on penguins, but the one Miss M enjoyed the most was Penguins, Penguins Everywhere! by Bob Barner.

To go along with the book, we made handprint penguins. M wanted us all to make them, so Baby B and I participated. She had me do Baby B's hand in grey, since penguin babies are grey in color. Once they were dry, we glued them onto a piece of blue paper that was fingerpainted with a white ice-scape.

M really liked this one, probably better than the paper cup penguins we made before Christmas. She still really loves any handprint/footprint craft and painting is still her favorite medium for art.

You can see more stART (story+art) projects over at A Mommy's Adventures.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Walrus Craft

Since we were learning about the Arctic this week, I had originally planned to do a polar bear craft. However, M became fascinated by the walrus and wanted to do a walrus craft.

This involved painting a paper plate brown and cutting circles from brown paper for the head and flippers. The mouth is also a folded circle glued down. The tusks are painted white craft sticks. The only thing we are missing is the whiskers. I had intended to use brown yarn around the mouth, but Miss M didn’t want to do that part.  You can find the complete directions for this craft on Danielle's Place of Crafts and Activities on the Walrus Crafts page.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Arctic Science

We did two simple science experiments this week to go along with our unit on the Arctic. I have seen both of these on a number of places around the Web, but they were new to Miss M and she greatly enjoyed them.

The first was the blubber experiment. We filled the sink with ice water and felt how cold it was with our bare hands.

Then I sandwiched a large amount of vegetable shortening between two plastic bags to represent blubber. Miss M put her hand inside the bags and placed it back into the water. This time, she couldn’t feel the cold at all.

The second was an illustration of how animal’s fur acts like a coat for them. We filled two jars with hot water. One we wrapped in a lightweight summer shirt, the other we covered with a sweater and hat.

We then put both outside in the cold for 30 minutes. When we brought them back in the one with the light shirt was cold, but the water in the other one was still warm. (This is a great illustration on why we wear a coat and hat in the cold, also).

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Winter Week Wrap-Up

Today's snow was a great way to end our winter-themed week of school. We had a lot of fun this week. Some of our activities included:

Name snowman (I took the picture before M finished writing her name - one letter on each circle). She cut the arms herself.

Journal writing

Counting snowman-shaped marshmallows

Making shapes with marshmallows and toothpicks

Cutting mittens, sizing from biggest to smallest, measuring with marshmallows (mittens from Musings of Me)

Sometimes the simplest activities are the most fun. This week's favorite was ice-skating using wax paper for skates.

We also had an indoor snowball fight using cotton balls. At J's holiday party I had used bath puffs purchased from the Dollar Store for 2/1.00 as snowballs. The puffs were better for the bigger kids as they went farther but still didn't hurt anyone. The cotton balls worked great for M and I.

Snow Day!

The kids were so excited when it started snowing this morning. We usually only get snow one day a year, if that much, so any snow is cause for celebration and snowball fights. It's only about 1/2 an inch so far, but the kids are making the most of it.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

stART: Snowballs

For our stART (story + art) project this week we read the book Snowballs by Lois Ehlert. It's a cute story about making a snowman family using all kinds of fun household items. After reading the book M made her own "snowball."

The illustrations in the book have snowmen made out of crumpled paper, and M selected some natural fiber paper with leaves and flowers pressed into it for a similar look.

We then searched the craft room and house for unusual objects she wished to add. She added hair and feet to her snowball and said it was herself.

She keeps asking me to make the rest of our family, so I forsee many more snowman portraits in our future. You can see many more stART ideas over at A Mommy's Adventures.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Winter Journals

M is in a pre-writing stage. She can hold the pencil correctly, the drawings she does have purpose even if we can't always tell what they represent, and she is starting to make letters and letter-like drawings all over her pages. She will often include letters she already knows how to write (v, z, m) and tell me they represent a certain word. Of course, she is obsessed with trying to write her name.

Since we are working on a winter theme, I wanted to make her some fun journals (as she calls them) to have to go along with our theme. One has blank pages and is for her to use as she wishes and the other one is for us to do some shared writing. Some of the pages have simple topics that M can do on her own such as "draw a snowman." Other pages have a topic that we will do together. M will answer the question out loud and I will act as her scribe. These are still simple topics such as "I like penguins because.."

I am hopeful that not only will this journal be a keepsake of her thoughts at three, but also establish a foundation that writing can be a fun experience.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Treasure Baskets

Baby B is able to sit on his own now, and can hold things in his hand. This is the perfect time to introduce him Treasure Baskets. I saw this concept in Tim Seldin's book How to Raise an Amazing Child the Montessori Way and couldn't wait until Baby B was old enough.

The idea is to use a low basket filled with interesting objects from your household and nature. Of course, you need to make sure they are large enough not be swallowed and safe enough to be mouthed. Ultimately you want to gather between 50 and 100 objects of different shape, color, texture, weight and smell.

I started out with just five objects to see how he responded, and he LOVED it! Baby B spent over 30 minutes expoloring the objects in the basket. I found it fascinating to watch him as he carefully pulled the items out, explored them, and then put them aside. He went over each item and when the basket was empty he picked it up and explored that as well.

I used:
two unpolished interlocking wooden circles,
a black and white crocheted rattle with jingle bells inside
a fabric book with a baby-safe mirror inside,
a fabric owl puppet,
a satchet of lavender
and a small animal figure.

There are so many things you can include in a Treasure Basket and I plan to add more items soon.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

A New Year & New Plans

I have the decided that the new year is a great time to make some changes to our school for M. What we have been doing just has not been working for either of us. Prepping a new theme each week is too time consuming for me, and she is bored with many of the activities I have planned for her. I have also had to face the fact that M is ready to learn to read and write (based on the fact that she is teaching herself to do so) whether I think she is too young or not.

So, for the month of January we are trying something new and moving more into a preschool format. We will be setting aside a formal school time each day when we will be working on reading and writing and math activities of my choosing. Since M has dropped her nap, she will still have plenty of time for free play each day. I have selected one theme for the whole month that we can arrange a lot of our "extra" activities around, but there will be fewer of those extras offered each day. We will still have some Montessori activities available for M to choose to work with as she wishes, although some of the materials have been removed to make it safer for Baby B as he is now mobile.

I expect these changes will be well-received by M, as she has been forging ahead even without my help! It's been hard to acknowledge the fact that my little girl is more grown-up than I want her to be, but I think we will both be happier with this new plan.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

2010 Wrap-Up

I know it is officially 2011, but since this blog serves as our family scrapbook, I wanted to make sure I got up some pictures from 2010 that I had not posted yet.

This was Baby B's first Christmas! We were blessed to have my parents, my grandmother and one of my brothers come visit us this year. It was so nice to see everyone, and the kids loved all the attention. We tried to get a family shot before mass on Christmas Eve, but getting 9 people and one dog to all look at the camera was pretty much impossible!

The day after Christmas we all went to the Dallas World Aquarium. We love this aquarium, which is more like a zoo. You walk through the various levels of the Orinoco rainforest and an exhibit dedicated to the world of the Mayans, seeing all the plants and animals from the treetops down to the water.

My mother and grandmother.

This time we were able to see a fantastic dance ceremony put on by some Mayan dancers to welcome the new year.

We stopped to buy my brother a pair of cowboy boots (it is Texas after all) and Baby B got to try on his first cowboy hat.

Baby B turned seven months old at the end of December. He is sitting up on his own, he can scoot himself backwards, and he is trying desperately to crawl forwards.

2010 was a great year for us, and I am hopeful 2011 will be the same.