Easy Hot Glued Felt Book

This was a whole lot of fun! Caleb has been really into matching dice with numbers, spelling his name, and working on letters. The one problem is how much paper we were going through on activities like the ones below, so I wanted to create something more permanent that could be done over and over with him instead.

I had seen felt books many times, but here’s a little secret… I can NOT sew. At all. I have tried, but it’s just not one of my skills. Give me a hot glue gun though, and I’ll do my best! So I ordered a pack of small felt squares off of amazon (it was something like 40 squares for $10, but I would buy two packs in the future because I ran though most of it entirely too fast, especially big colors like red and yellow), bought some velcro and hot glue from my local hardware store, and went at it. 1

I really liked the idea of him starting at the beginning of the book by spelling his name and dressing himself up. I used a cookie cutter to get the pieces of the body and clothing. A little velcro on each piece, a sharpie face, and he was good to go.2

This was Caleb’s favorite page! He loved counting the dots to match with the numbers. Caleb is currently (haha, yeah it’s been at least a year) obsessed with dice, so this one was a big win. 3

Puzzles! Caleb’s been super into puzzles, and he loves trains, so I figured this would be a great activity for him. It’s also interesting with the circles to help him with spatial reasoning. Learning the difference between big, medium, and small works really well with shapes that are the same. 4

And finally, the alphabet. Caleb loves letters. He really wants to read, and he knows all of his letters, and we’re working on letter sounds. But, for some reason, he just has a real love for the individual letters. So I made him a matching game so he could match lower case to upper case letters. He loves it, and we can play with it by taking turns as well.

 

I hope you guys get ideas from this, and if you make anything like this or have ideas that I could make for Caleb (or Baby Jace!) please send them my way!

Thank you for reading… YOU ARE LOVED!

Toddler Science: Baking Soda and Vinegar

Best. Thing. Ever.

A plate of baking soda (I used about a quarter box) and four little containers of vinegar mixed with food dye. I gave Caleb an eye dropper, and he went crazy. He mixed colors, watched the reactions, saw how the parts that had already reacted didn’t react again, and then at the end, I let him dump it on our (messy) table and play in it. Not only did he enjoy the science part of it, and seeing what would happen (as well as talking about the colors and testing his own questions/hypothesis), but the feeling was almost like a sandy mud so tactile wise it was a great sensory activity. I don’t have a lot more to say, but I hope you guys try this super easy activity and enjoy how clean this mixture will also make whichever surface you use this on!

YOU ARE LOVED

Moonday! (This year in homeschool preschool…)

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Last school year I was a little obsessed with educating my child. I felt like I needed to spend every moment of his life educating him, but not always on the important things. I was working so hard to “make” him learn his letters, colors, etc… Yeah, I was terrible. Totally not age appropriate first of all, and planning things for him to learn truly bored him. He’d be interested in something else, so the things I wanted to teach him… well he couldn’t stay focused, and got very frustrated with me, which makes total sense. This year, I wiped that crazy board clean and decided to 100% follow his lead.

The first thing I decided to do was set up a “classroom” so that he would have a place to go to focus, and we could still do normal preschool activities like go over the calendar, read books, sit for puzzles, and go over our letters and numbers. These aren’t going to be forced things, but they are available, and if he chooses to do them himself, great! He often does. He loves puzzles, he loves matching games, and he is actually really interested in putting letters together and finding different letters out of a set. Part of the problem last year was that our schedule was always set, I would force him through the activities, and we would be in the living room or kitchen which was set up for other things as well. This year he will have a learning sanctuary that is his choice. It’s also a good way to keep all of his craft supplies, sensory buckets, and blocks in one place.

Now the next thing I did was realize that he had to already be interested in what I wanted to teach, so I decided that every Saturday we’d talk about the things he likes. Trees, weather, space, the ocean, firemen… whatever it may be, is what we will focus. Which leads me to…

Moonday! Last week Caleb let me know that he thought the moon was really awesome. I turned that into a whole week of learning about the solar system, but all he really wanted to learn about/play about was the moon and stars, which is completely understandable since he can actually see and somewhat understand them. At the daycare I work at, I did Moonday (Monday) with all of them, and want to share how it went with you all.

We started when I got there learning about gravity and the difference between gravity on Earth and the moon. We did this in a very simple way. I brought a bunch of Styrofoam balls and asked the kids to each grab a regular rock. We talked about how those rocks, Earth rocks, were heavy. Then I explained that on the Moon they would feel more like the Styrofoam balls and be very light. We played “moon rock toss” and tried to get the balls into a bucket.

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Next was snack time! Let me just add, this was delicious, and it’s my new favorite snack… We started with a rice cake base, smeared with cream cheese, layered with banana pennies and some little pieces of kix. One of our kiddos couldn’t have the cheese, so we used sun butter on her’s instead of the cream cheese, but it still looked really great.

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Then, I had each of the kiddos make their own telescope. I had prepped this activity so that the kids would each have a different color telescope, and wouldn’t have to spend the time painting. Instead they just each got a sticker sheet of stars to decorate the way they would like to.

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From there we went over to the rug and had a blast with this sensory bucket I set up for them. First of all, the bucket itself has a spot for each of the kids to set their wrist so they aren’t fighting for a spot or pushing one another, which I thought was great and a super bonus. Then I stuck on some star stickers, poured two bags of black beans in, added some of the white beans, about 15 glow in the dark stars, clear stones (because space is cold and full of ice!), and these awesome astronaut, ufo, spaceships, and jet erasers that I got at the Dollar Tree. Each child was assigned a different thing to find, and then they were able to just explore freely. They were so wonderfully focused on this bucket, it was a great time to call them over one by one for the big craft of the day…

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These were so much fun, and showed the personality of all of the kiddos. Just looking at them the other teacher and I knew exactly who made what. First each kiddo painted the back ground with their chosen combo of blue and purple. One little girl’s favorite color is blue, and only used blue. Caleb loved mixing colors, so used more purple than the others, because he likes swirling the two paints together. Then they each picked a glitter to sprinkle over the paint before it dried. After it all was dry, they got to glue on five of the glow in the dark stars and a cardboard moon however they wanted. I had painted the moons in an attempt to save time. We have such a limited amount of time the kids can stay sitting, that sometimes we just can’t let them do every part of a craft alone, sadly. Lastly I trimmed up to edges, and these lovely crafts were finished!

Along with these activities we used the sunlight to show how the moon rotates to make different phases, goes around the sun, and the size with little models of the Earth and moon I painted. We sang songs, pretended to be astronauts, and learned the sign for moon and stars. It was an excellent day of learning, play, and creativity, and it was all influenced by Caleb’s love for the moon and stars.

Trust your kids. They will learn if we follow their lead. I’m so incredibly sure of that. You can learn the alphabet during fun activities, you can help them learn their name using sensory boards, themed puzzles, and songs… Children learn through play. When you take the play away is when the learning stops. Trust your kids.

You Are Loved!

Caleb’s Imagination

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^^^ Graphic I Made for Caleb to Print and Pin to His Bedroom Door^^^

Imagination is an incredible thing. One of my greatest joys is watching Caleb play pretend. Our living room is over run by a play house, tool bench, and wonderful wooden kitchen. I wanted to be sure that he could explore those interests in full. He’ll make us lots of play food, build things on his fancy tool bench, and he “goes home” to his play house many times a day. I adore watching this, and playing along when he wants me to.

Another area of pretend play that he’s been working on lately involves his toys. It all started with Po the Polar Bear. He received him as a gift around Thanksgiving from a kind man that lives near his preschool. That bear is his best friend, and they have the most intricate conversations. Occasionally they will be in a  “fight” and Caleb won’t want to talk to or be around him. Then we have to mediate their fight. We’ll tell Po to apologize, and tell Caleb that Po still loves him, and then Caleb apologizes and they are back to being friends again.

Of course though, with his new obsession with Paw Patrol, he’s begun putting his Paw Patrol toys into situations, and it’s just too dang adorable. I wanted to share one exchange from him that had me totally in stitches last night.

Caleb had Marshall stuck inside of his boot calling for help, and his plush Chase was heading off to rescue him. Chase said, “Ryder need us!” He was loud, enthusiastic, and oh so cute. Chase finished saving him and he yelled, “We did it! Yay!!!” Then he walked off with them for another “rescue.” I love this child so dang much. His innocence is beautiful, and fills me with joy.

 

Turkey, Broccoli, Egg Muffins!

Okay, I have a REAL winner for you all today! My son has a new obsession with eggs, and I’ve made scrambled, fried, and omelets already this last week. I on the other hand have been on a muffin making binge, and also made a whole turkey yesterday. When Caleb asked for eggs today, I decided to put these delicious egg muffins together.

Ingredients:

cooked turkey (enough to fill the bottom of the cup, you can use deli meat)

broccoli (three pieces per muffin)

6 eggs

1/4 cup milk

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

1/2 tsp garlic powder

2 tsp minced garlic

1 1/2 slice cheese of choice (I used American)

Preheat oven at 350 degrees and prepare your muffin tin. I love, love, love these silicone muffin liners. They are reusable, and anything cooked in them just pops right out.

Next, microwave your broccoli. 30 seconds from fresh/thawed, or 60 seconds for frozen. Put the turkey and broccoli in each cup (like in picture three.

Now whisk together the eggs, milk, and seasonings until you have a consistent mixture. This is the same egg recipe I would use for scrambled eggs. Caleb loves them, and they have just enough seasoning without overpowering the eggs. I recommend whisking this in a measuring cup, or anything with a pouring spout really. It’ll make it much easier to poor over the turkey and broccoli, which is exactly what you need to do next.

Lastly, place a quarter slice of cheese on top of each muffin cup. If you don’t press it in, it should float, and will be the perfect topped layer. Put the muffin tin into the oven and let it bake for 25-30 minutes. Just like a regular muffin, stick a toothpick or knife into the finished muffin to test if it’s done.

These are really great, because you can prep them the night before, and stick them into the oven in the morning if you want. You can also freeze them for later. Microwave them 45-60 seconds from frozen, or 30 seconds from thawed. These are easy to transport, and totally dip-able.

Enjoy!

Finger Paints and Stamping Fun!

I LOVE painting, and Caleb has been talking about painting a lot the last few days. First thing this morning I made a batch of my edible finger paint, and when my sweet boy woke up I surprised him with this painting station.

I really wanted to do more than just finger painting, so I grabbed straws and toilet paper rolls (two things I obsessively collect which drives Corey crazy) and stuck one of each into each of the six colors I made. I got Caleb naked, and gave him some paper. Then (last picture) I created examples to show him how the stamps work, and also to show him with the straw you can blow the paint around. He LOVED blowing the paint.

He really focused on the color red today. I was surprised. I made two purples and pink for him because he’s been so into them, but red was the cool color today.

After three of the toilet paper roll stamp paintings and one of the straw paintings I gave him a paintbrush. That’s what led to the second picture, and I loved watching him paint lines and then smack the brush against it like a stamp. It was cool to see that the concept we were working on really stuck with him. Lastly I took a straw and drew his name into his painting! I think once it’s dry we’ll put it on his bedroom door.

Originally I planned to do more. I was going to “stamp” his hand to make some Valentines Day cards, animal prints, etc… but he wasn’t having it. My normally messy loving boy really didn’t want to get his hands dirty today, so I didn’t force it. The paint only takes a minute to create anyway, so if he seems more willing later on, we’ll just do it then. I want to get some actual stamp pads and stamps. I think he’d love that, and he liked stamping his hand last Friday.

Best Apple Oatmeal Muffins Ever!

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These were a serious treat. I knew I wanted to make apple muffins, and I knew I didn’t want to use a recipe, but instead create my own. What came next makes my taste buds sing! The beauty of these muffins is they are great for snack time, breakfast, or just something to bring along in your purse for when you’re out and about. I so hope you all try these, and let me know what you think.

One more thing before I get to the recipe… I my six year old niece and two year old son helping with every step of this. I used a chopper for the apples where you push down a piece on top of it, and it chops everything. Both kiddos got to do that. They both got to stir both the apples and the batter. We used this as a chance for a math lesson, using only a 1/4 measuring cup and adding fractions to make half or whole cups. Kids in the kitchen are awesome! Alright, to the recipe…

First thing you’re going to want to do is preheat the oven to 350 degrees, prepare for 24 small or 12 large muffins by spraying the pan or using liners. I did 12 small in liners, and six large heart muffins. They all cooked at the same time, and all came out great.

Next, gather all of your ingredients:

a fry-pan to cook the apples

3 chopped (1/4 inch pieces) apples

spray olive oil (1/2 tsp)

1/2 cup brown sugar

2 eggs

1/2 cup milk

2 1/4 cup oatmeal (I used quick cooking)

1/2 cup flour

1 cup sugar (remember this is being divided into 24 muffins!)

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

Let’s start with the apples, the real star of this dish. Spray your fry-pan, or add the olive oil, then add in the apples and brown sugar. Mix well for about five minutes over medium high heat. Put a cover on it, and let simmer while you mix the rest of the batter. This will make the apples nice and soft, and the muffins won’t get to moist when the apples cook in the oven. This is the most important step when baking with apples.

While that simmers, add the milk and eggs to a bowl and give it a good whisk. Once you’re finished, toss the whisk in the sink and grab a spatula. Add all of the dry ingredients to the bowl, and fold the wet ingredients in. DO NOT OVER MIX.

Now, to finish off this great batter, shut off the stove, and poor all of the apples AND liquid from the pan into the batter. That’s all apple juice, and it’s the main wet ingredient for these muffins. Fold these apples in gently.

Scoop your batter into the muffin tins, then put into the oven for 22 minutes.

Now here’s a couple of tips: use an ice cream scoop to get the perfect serving of mix into each muffin cup. One scoop for small, two for large, half for mini. Before you put the tins into the oven, bang them a little bit onto the counter. This gets any air bubbles out, and helps the muffins cook thoroughly.

Enjoy!

 

Loving Hand-Print Crafts

This weekend was really peaceful for my little family. We all had it off of work and school, so it was the perfect time to work on some crafts and cooking! I shared my heart shaped banana, peanut butter, and oatmeal muffins last night, and was inspired to do some loving crafts as well.

The first was the hand-print tree with heart leaves coming off of it. How cute is that? Very simple too. I just traced Caleb’s hand and arm, cut it out and taped it into place. Then I cut out a bunch of different sized hearts, and Caleb helped me put them into place. I was quite impressed with his choices, and only guided him if there were too many overlapping. Then I cut a piece of green paper to look like grass, and fanned it out to make it 3-D. Lastly, I pinned it up onto our butterfly wall, and it looks completely adorable.

The next project was the hand upon hand project (picture three). Super simple, but I love the way it over laps. Blue for Corey, Purple for me, and Orange for Caleb. This one, believe it or not, was the biggest pain because Corey’s hand is so big! I had to trace it three times because it kept fitting weirdly. Eventually we fixed it up to fit on the background with ours. Imagine having it with a teen, elementary aged kiddo, toddler, and new born… Someday my friends! That would be so cute though.

Lastly was the middle project; family hands making hearts. I loved this idea! All you need to do is fold a piece of paper, then trace the hand you want to use with the thumb and pointer touching the crease. As long as you don’t cut the crease in those two places, when you unfold, you’ll have a cute heart! I taped ours together and pinned it above a painting of a heart I did many years ago. It’s a good addition to our living room I think.

Valentines day is coming up soon, and these would be some fun crafts for any age. Caleb prefers stamping his hands compared to having them traced, but he loves picking colors and placing items. I’m a big fan of tape, because you can move things around if it’s not “just right.” I hope y’all enjoy these, and if you try them out, please share them with me!

DIY Educational Book Shelf!

Quite a while ago I bought this book shelf for Caleb. It was a dingy white with partially ripped flowers all over it. I was so sure that I’d be able to get some paint and work my magic on it… six months later, it was still just sitting around in it’s original state. This morning specifically we were just using it as a foot rest in the living room.

I looked up at this super cute snowman hand print project we did yesterday, and it just came to me. I grabbed the book shelf and brought it out to the table for a scrub down. Once it was clean, I put a quick layer of yellow paint over the whole thing. Then I traced Caleb’s hand, and made two of each rainbow color. Next I painted another layer of yellow paint, and placed the hand cut outs where I wanted him.

A few hours later I went back to it with a sharpie. The top hands spell out Caleb’s name, and each finger (as well as the purple heart) have the alphabet on them, and then the side hands have their color written on them with 1-15 written on the fingers. I’m debating on adding more, like maybe some shapes on top? I’m quite pleased with how it came out so far though. The last step, once I’m totally sure, is to modge podge the whole thing so that Caleb can’t rip the hands off, because that’s totally something he would do.

Either way, this was a wicked easy project, and has a lot of uses! Alphabet, spelling his name, counting, practicing colors, and holding some of his wonderful books inside make it totally worth it! What do y’all think?

Let’s Read!

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When I was a child, I had very few friends. What I did have though, were books. I would spend all of my free time laying on my bed, snuggling my cat Bootsin, and reading the newest book to hit my library. I remember one time in fourth grade I stayed up all night to finish The Guardian from Nicholas Sparks in one sitting. I bawled my eyes out, threw it across the room more than once, and still remember the emotions I felt reading that incredible book.

Caleb seems to be following in my book loving footsteps, and that makes me so excited. Every night he grabs his Daddy Hugs book by Karen Katz, and he reads it with Corey. He’s learned how to count to ten with that book, and understands what each of those numbers mean. Throughout the day, he will grab many books for us to read together. He’s a big fan of “First Word” books, because he likes to identify items. Recently he has started reading very basic words (cat, hat, all, ball, etc.) so we’ve started working on the kind of books that have about three words each page, and many words are repeated. He’s loving it. He’s also picked up quite a few sight words, such as “pizza.” Last night, Corey brought home a pasta meal that said Pizza on the box. The box had no hints that it was pizza flavored, but Caleb saw the world and started cheering for “zaza!”

For Christmas Santa brought him something fantastic, and I so wish I had a picture of his face opening it. He was grinning from ear to ear when he opened up the Big Book of Booboos (Doc McStuffins) from V-tech. He loves Doc, but this is a really fantastic tool as well. There are multiple settings. One teaches the words, another teaches the first letter, and then there is a game setting to test these things. Each page has a sentence about the section, which when touched will read aloud what it says. It’s in book form, and a real favorite around our house now. I love toys like this that help inspire reading skills!

I’m not a fan of forced reading, and I don’t expect him to read proficiently any time in the next few years. Reading is about finding a world besides our own, learning many different things and hobbies, and also spending time with those we love. Reading is about experiencing something that we don’t always have access to. We can learn new skills, find inspiration, and reading can even influence our future.

There is a man named William Kamkwamba from Dowa, Malawi who was too poor to attend school. This didn’t stop him from borrowing books from the library, and teaching himself to build a windmill from spare parts. That windmill brought electricity to his whole village, and earned him many scholarships and grants to attend college. I highly recommend his Ted Talk. Reading helped this man create an incredible life for himself!

To end this post, I’d like to share some of my favorite tips for reading and early literacy. If you have any book recommendations, please share them with me!

  1. Make sure books are always available by setting up a book shelf in every room, including the bathroom.
  2. There are many phone apps with interactive books, similar to leap frog’s old reading systems. My favorite, which I currently only have the trial for, but will be investing in around income tax time, is called “Endless Reader.”
  3. Both sight words and phonetics are important. Sight words for important things you see everyday, but phonetics allow you to read anything and everything.
  4. My favorite beginning reading tip… When learning the alphabet, you can start with the names of the letters, but even better is to teach the letters as sounds.
  5. Breakfast time is a great time to read. Set up a small magazine rack by your table, and you’ll always have something even more interesting than the cereal box.
  6. Let your children see you reading. If they see that you love it, they will too!
  7. Most importantly… it is okay if your child won’t sit down while you’re reading out loud to them. Let them play or run around. Just keep reading! Reading is fun, and shouldn’t be turned into a chore.