Thursday, May 31, 2012

Gardening with a Toddler: Part 2

Baby Bear and I haven't had much luck with our toddler friendly garden. Only a handful of shoots have come up, and most of those are in one little spot where Baby Bear was very thorough about covering with seeds. I'll have to try again with more seeds and spread them a little more densely. For now, Baby Bear and I are observing the growth of the little patch of sprouts we do have. We are using words like grow, leaves, sprout, and green as we look at the plants. Baby Bear is a little hard on the sprouts because he wants to pull all the leaves off. Even though it's a tough concept for a toddler, I'm trying to teach him how to be gentle with the plants so they can grow big and get their flowers. I do still let him touch them, though, because it is his garden.

One thing I've learned from this gardening with a toddler experience is that it might be better to start with flower pots. If I had this to do over again, I would probably choose a fast-growing plant, start the seeds in little flower pots, and then transfer the sprouts to a garden my son can play in. Seeing as how summer is just beginning, we may still do this and see how it goes.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Homemade Popsicles

I hope everyone had a wonderful Memorial Day weekend! I took the long weekend off from blogging to enjoy some extra family time with Papa Bear and Baby Bear. It was a very hot weekend with temperatures already reaching into the 90s around here! One of the ways we stayed cool was by eating these homemade popsicles.

For most of our popsicles, I froze an organic berry protein juice. With Baby Bear's two-year molars starting to come in, he hasn't been eating very well lately, so this was a good way to help him get some of those nutrients he's been missing as well as help sooth his tender gums. For a couple of the popsicles, I decided to try an idea I saw on 40 Fun Ways to Feed Your Kids, and I made a pea-sicle using water and frozen peas. It sounds weird, but when your child is going through a very picky eater stage, you'll try just about anything. As an experiment, I cooked some of the peas from the frozen peas bag and set them on Baby Bear's dinner plate the same day I planned on giving him the pea-sicle. He didn't eat the peas on his plate, but he ate more than half of his pea-sicle! I guess it just goes to show that presentation and form count for a lot when feeding a toddler!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Colored Pasta

At the same time I colored pasta for our macaroni butterfly art, I also colored some penne and set it aside for use at a later date. A few days ago, Baby Bear saw the large bag of pasta sitting in the crafts closet and wanted to play with it. So, I poured the colored pasta out onto a baking sheet and let him explore. I also handed him a shoe lace we sometimes use for lacing practice and a short piece of PVC pipe. He immediately grabbed the shoe lace and tried stringing a piece of pasta. I taped one end to the floor to help keep the pasta from all sliding off, and I helped him add the pieces one by one, naming the colors as we worked. He had the patience to help string about a half dozen pieces and then decided the PVC pipe looked like more fun. He slid a piece through the tube and smiled in delight as it fell out the other end. After a few minutes of this, he began experimenting with ways to get the pasta to stay inside the pipe. He figured out that setting one end on the floor worked best. This made me smile as I watched him use and develop this problem solving skills. I think he prefers gluing the pasta to paper over playing with it because, well, it's glue! But, playing with the pasta in other ways proved fun as well.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Washing Dishes

What kind of mother would I be if I didn't take advantage of the fact that my son loves playing in warm, soapy water by having him help wash dishes? ;) This time, when Baby Bear asked to play with bubbles in his sensory bin, I threw in a handful of his plastic dishes, a dish rag, and a scrub brush, too! I showed him how to wash the plates and cups. He showed me how much more fun it was to pour soapy water from one cup to another over and over and over again than to wash them. Oh, well, at least I tried!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Distressed Shelf

With all this warm weather lately, I've been craving touches of bold color around my house. Mainly, I've had a soft spot for shades of teal. I guess I miss living near the ocean sometimes. I've also got an eye for distressed, antique, and vintage furniture. So, when I found an old bookshelf from my very first apartment (my first staining project), I decided to try my very first distressing project. I wanted this to be fun and not worry about being a perfectionist, so Baby Bear and I worked on this project together. He loved being mama's little helper!

I had just enough blue and yellow acrylic paints leftover from another project to mix together and make teal. Baby Bear thought he was big stuff when I let him paint a shelf rather than just a piece of paper! It took a little smoothing over on my part, but imperfections were fine because we were going to start distressing as soon as it was dry.

Later in the day, Baby Bear and I took some sandpaper to the shelf. I focused mainly on the edges because that's where furniture tends to wear and tear most as time goes on. Baby Bear focused wherever he wanted. :-) During his nap, I took the shelf to the opposite end of the house and banged at it with objects that left small dents and scratches... mainly, a light-weight hammer. I tried to imagine how hard I was on my furniture as a child, bumping, knocking, and dropping various objects in my youthful carelessness, and I acted accordingly. I kind of wish I had done this part on a more stressful day because that would have been a great stress reliever!

It turned out pretty well for my very first furniture distressing project, if I do say so myself. I'm glad I chose a shelf I had considered throwing away anyway, and I'm glad I let Baby Bear help. I was able to let go of my perfectionist tendencies and just have fun.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Fun with Sticky Notes

Sticky notes + construction paper = great toddler fun! Baby Bear actually came up with this activity on his own and sat there for about a half hour just pulling the paper off the pad and sticking them to his paper. Pulling the sticky notes apart was really good for his fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination, too. Sometimes, the best forms of entertainment can be found in the simplest household items.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Olympics Painting for Toddlers

With the summer Olympics coming up, I thought I'd start doing a few Olympic-themed activities here and there. One of the first images that pops into my head when I think of the Olympics is the symbol with the interlocking rings. So, I grabbed one of Baby Bear's small plastic cups, set out a piece of construction paper, and poured the colors of the rings into a paint tray. I had intended on doing two paintings with Baby Bear: one with the rings painted to look like the symbol and one free-style for Baby Bear to do how he liked. As soon as he saw the cup and paint, though, he happily started stamping away! It didn't exactly turn out like the Olympic rings, but we did get to talk about circles and colors as he stamped. Plus, he had a ton of fun painting circles all over his paper!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Coffee Filter Butterflies

To continue with our new vocabulary word "butterfly," Baby Bear and I made some coffee filter butterflies. I have actually seen these on several blogs and educational Websites, but I had forgotten about them until I saw them again on Z is for Zel. We colored the coffee filters with washable markers. Baby Bear was very good at coloring the centers, so I helped make sure the edges had some color, too. Then, we took them outside to spray with water using a water bottle to help the colors run together and patch like water colors. I thought Baby Bear would be more interested in this process, but he decided that unless he got to use the hose to get them wet, he'd rather let me do this part. Then, I laid them out to dry. I finished them off by wrapping a pipe cleaner around the middle and twisting the ends to look like antennas. I also tied a string around the middle of a few of them so Baby Bear could make it look like they were flying, but he thought tossing them up in the air and blowing on them worked better. I wonder if that means he thinks the wind blows butterflies around like fall leaves. If only we could know the inner workings of the toddler mind!

The colored filters before spraying them with water
The finished butterflies (landing on the flowers on the rug)

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Pasta & Playdough

Baby Bear's most recent batch of no-cook playdough needed to be replaced today. As I set about collecting the ingredients to make more, I came across my pumpkin pie spice. It had been months since I made pumpkin pie playdough, and just remembering that wonderful smell was enough to convince me to make more! Little did I know that I would get to experience that amazing aroma for over two hours straight!

Shortly after setting Baby Bear down with his new batch of playdough, I had an idea for how to make it even more fun. I reached for the bag of colored pasta on the counter, grabbed a handful, and handed it to Baby Bear to use with is dough. He LOVED mixing the colored pasta with the brown dough! Papa Bear, Baby Bear, and I sat in the breakfast nook for over two hours molding, sculpting, and creating!!! Any parent of a 1-year-old can tell you that this is an amazing feat! You better believe we'll be doing this activity again!

He was a little uncertain at first, but not for long!

Once the playdough and pasta faces started, the creativity just kept rolling! And rolling, and rolling, and rolling...

Pasta-playdough man

Baby Bear surprised Papa Bear and me when all of a sudden he started making his sculpture moo. He came up with the idea of making a cow all by himself! We hadn't even been making animals at this point. He made many more animals after this all on his own. I was so incredibly proud! He was proud of himself, too.

Baby Bear loved the duck Papa Bear made

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Puffy Paint

After we painted with shaving cream paint a couple of weeks ago, I started thinking about trying puffy paint. I've read about it over and over again on various teacher and mommy blogs over the past several months, so I really couldn't say where I originally got the idea from. I didn't measure to make mine, so if you're looking for an exact recipe, you can type "puffy paint" into a search engine and come up with a list of other people who have perfected their recipes. This is what I did though, and it turned out pretty good. :)

I started by spraying shaving cream into an empty coffee can until it was about half full. Then, I squirted clear Elmer's glue (I'm guessing about 1 1/2T) and a little tempura paint (about 1t--Baby Bear chose yellow). Baby Bear helped me mix them all together, and he painted! I handed him a piece of paper, but that only lasted a few seconds before he was over painting the bathtub. So, I set him inside the tub, handed him the paint and paintbrush, and let him paint the tub! It sure made cleaning up easier! The little bit of paint that did make it onto the paper dried pretty cool... kind of like 3D paint... so we'll have to try this again some time.

This shaving cream is different. It's sticky.

En garde! I will paint you with my new, sticky paint!

OK, Mom, enough with the pictures.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Macaroni Art

One of Baby Bear's newest vocabulary words is butterfly. Well... sort of. He calls them butts. There's a picture with a butterfly in the entryway of our house, and Baby Bear always wants me to pick him up so he can touch the "butt." When he sees a butterfly in the yard, he goes running after it, pointing and calling, "Buuuuutt! Buuuuutt!" Yes, I laugh almost every time. So, when I wanted to do a macaroni art project with Baby Bear, I thought he might enjoy decorating a butt... I mean, butterfly. ;)

To color the macaroni, I poured about 1/3 cup rubbing alcohol and a big squirt of food coloring into a Ziplock bag, added approximately 1 cup of macaroni, and shook it all up until every piece of macaroni was colored. I laid the bags flat for about an hour, flipped them over, and let them lay for about one more hour. Finally, I laid the macaroni out to dry for a couple of hours.

For the butterfly, I folded a piece of white sketchbook paper in half, cut out half a butterfly, and unfolded. I taped the butterfly to the table to help hold it in place, and then I squirted clear glue all over the butterfly. Baby Bear helped smooth the glue over the paper with a paint brush before adding the macaroni. I honestly wondered if he would have the patience to decorate the whole butterfly, but he loved it and covered the whole thing! I was also afraid he might try to eat the macaroni because he loves pasta, but he listened when I told him those were special noodles for doing art projects with, not for eating. He really had a lot of fun with this craft!

Dudes wear shades while decorating butterflies.
The pacifier really sets off the look.
I better make sure theses pieces all stay on by adding extra glue on top!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Craft Scraps Collage

Right now, I am working on a special hands-on alphabet project for Baby Bear using random scraps and bits of household items and craft supplies (this will take at least a few weeks since the time I have to work on it is sporadic, but I will be sure to post when it is finally finished). While working on this project, Baby Bear became very interested in the craft supplies I had sitting on the table, and he wanted to use them, too. So, I sat him down with a piece of construction paper, some glue, and a small pile of craft supplies. He worked on his project while I worked on mine.

My intention was to give him something fun and constructive to do while I worked on my project, but he got so much more out of making this collage than I expected. I underestimated the amount of hand-eye coordination and the level of fine motor skills that making a collage demands of a toddler. Some of the supplies I gave him to use were small, colorful buttons. Those were his favorite, so he used a lot of them. This required him to pincer grip each little button off the table and carefully set it on the sticky surface without dropping it or pulling the paper up every time he placed a button on the paper. Making the paper sticky was also an effort. I offered to squirt the glue on the paper for him, but Baby Bear insisted on doing it himself. You can tell by the look on his face in the second picture what an effort it was to actually squeeze the glue out of the bottle. He loved the glitter glue, so he exerted quite a bit of effort trying to cover every object on the page in red sparkles.

Over the last few days, Baby Bear has reached for this collage several times. He touches it and shows it to Papa Bear and me over and over again. He is really proud of this work of art that he worked so hard to create.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Three Little Pigs Mask

Baby Bear and I had never tried making masks before, so I decided to give it a try. We made a paper plate pig mask to go with the story The Three Little Pigs. Baby Bear helped by painting a paper plate pink with corn starch paint (minus the glitter glue). I cut out one section of an egg carton and used an acrylic to paint it pink. Then, I hot glued a second paper plate to the back for stability, googly eyes, pink felt ears, and a large craft stick to the bottom. I used a black Sharpie to add a mouth and nostrils. It was a very cute pig, if I do say so myself. Well, for as long as it lasted anyway. That poor egg carton nose didn't stand a chance, even after being doubly hot glued on! Baby Bear loved the way it felt and kept pulling it off. Maybe a bottle cap will work well as a replacement. I guess we'll see!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

No-Mess Finger Paint

During the winter when I was looking for fun indoor activities to do with my Baby Bear, I came across this post from The Hippie Housewife for a non-messy method of finger painting. At the time, Baby Bear was eagerly embracing the messiness of painting, so I put this one at the bottom of my list of activities to try. Last week I began to burn-out on cleaning paint off the floor, walls, bathtub, and child every day, so this activity sounded great!

I squirted blue tempura paint into one half of the bag and yellow into the other half. I only squirted a little, but I realized as Baby Bear played that I should have used big squirts so mixing would have been easier. I did not tape the bag to the table like in the original post because I knew Baby Bear would want to examine the bag and its contents. I think next time I will try taping it, though, so he has a hard surface to "draw" on. I did find that handing him an unsharpened pencil aided in making marks in the paint without tearing the bag.

Overall, Baby Bear seemed to find this mess-free finger painting method intriguing, but he still prefers to be more hands-on with his paints. However, as a Mama Bear, I thought it was fantastic!