Saturday, September 29, 2012

Scrabble Letters Coasters

Months ago, I participated in a link-up party in which someone posted an idea for using the letters from an incomplete Scrabble set to make coasters. Silly me, I did not bookmark or pin the idea, I merely kept it tucked away in the back of my mind for later use. Once I did make the coasters, I could not find that particular link-up party, nor choose from the hundreds of similar posts I found on Google to give the person who inspired me their deserved credit. I do thank that blogger, though, for helping me know just what to do with my own incomplete Scrabble set and for helping me provide a few fun coasters for my family.

To make these coasters, I used only two materials: letter tiles and Mod Podge. After my Google search, though, I wish I had thought to use a cork board backing as some of the posts suggested. Using a triple layer of Mod Podge made our coasters pretty sturdy, but not sturdy enough. Two of them broke after Baby Bear stepped on them. We three bears have had a lot of fun with these coasters, though!

Because I placed the letters in no particular order, Papa Bear and I have enjoyed the challenge of trying to make as many words as possible on each of the coasters. It's like playing Boggle every time we pick up our drinks! Baby Bear has also found these coasters entertaining, even going so far as to pack them with his things to take to church and playing with them during car rides! He knows a couple of letters and points them out to Papa Bear and me when he spots them. He also likes when we name other letters for him. Even though we are not specifically teaching him letters yet, these have provided many teachable moments for us to introduce him to some of the letters of the alphabet. Who knew coasters could be so entertaining?

You're playing Boggle right now, aren't you? ;)

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Books and Songs for an All About Me Unit

As mentioned in previous posts, Baby Bear and I spent the first two weeks of September doing a unit called All About Me in which we learned the names of external body parts and talked about some of the things we can do with those parts. Last night I realized that I never shared any of the books or songs we used to go along with our unit. There were SO MANY to choose from! We only needed eight books though (we go to story time once a week for our reading time), so I went with what we already had at home. I also limited our song list to the songs I thought Baby Bear would enjoy most. Here are our reading and music time lists for All About Me:

  • All of Baby, Nose to Toes by Victoria Adler
  • One Foot, Two Feet by Peter Meloney
  • Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You? by Dr. Seuss (for things you can do with your mouth)
  • Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb by Al Perkins
  • The Foot Book by Dr. Seuss
  • Pat the Bunny by Dorothy Kunhardt (tactile)
  • I Love You Through and Through by Bernadette Rossetti-Shustak
  • So Big! by Anna Jane Hays

  • "If Your Happy and You Know It"
  • "Hokey Pokey"
  • "Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes"
  • "Where is Thumbkin?"
  • "Father Abraham"
  • "Do Your Ears Hang Low?" 
Although I sometimes buy books to go with our homeschool studies, most of the time I use books we already have around the house or books from the library. For songs, I highly recommend purchasing the Go Fish album "Party Like a Preschooler" because the lively, contemporary-style songs encourage movement and dance, which adds an element of physical exercise to music time. Not all of the songs from this list are on the album, so I often use the YouTube app on my phone to find the rest. We had a lot of fun during our All About Me unit, and we are having a lot of fun during our current weather unit as well. I can't wait to share our next books and songs lists at the end of this unit because there are some great ones on there as well! 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Painting on Foil

Baby Bear really enjoys painting, so we paint often. To try to mix things up a bit, sometimes we try new paint recipes, new tools, or new canvases. It keeps things interesting. Our latest painting venture involved testing out a different canvas... aluminum foil.

Call me excessively frugal, but when the sun was blazing on yet another 100+ degree day, I put aluminum foil over the window on my front door where the most heat was coming in. It may not look pretty, but it only cost pennies to perform the same function as a thick shade or a new door with an energy efficient window. Anyway, the weather has been much nicer these past couple of weeks, even allowing us to turn off the air conditioner and open the windows, so I finally removed the foil. It came off in great shape, and it seemed such a shame to just throw it away without having a little fun first. So, I gave it to Baby Bear to paint on!

At first, Baby Bear liked to just sit and stare at his reflection in the foil. Once I told him he could pour his own paint, though, that ended quickly! I gave him a paintbrush to use, but Baby Bear seemed to like the smooth yet wrinkled feel of the foil under his fingers. He had a blast pouring all the different colors onto the foil and then mixing them up with his hands. Then, he drew pictures of faces in the muddy-orange color that was left. I have a feeling we'll be using foil as a paint canvas many more times to come.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Potato Stamps

One of the basic maths concepts Baby Bear and I work on at home is naming shapes. Baby Bear gets so proud of himself when he correctly finds and names a circle, "tine-gull" (triangle), "scare" (square), "tangle" (rectangle), "owall" (oval), heart, or star. It makes me quite proud as well. :)  One of the activities we did recently to practice a few of these shapes was potato stamping. To make the stamps, I cut a very long potato into thirds. I left one piece alone to be the oval. Then, I used a knife to carve the end of one piece into a square, and another piece into a triangle. Voila! Stamps!

Just dip...

...and paint!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Dish Soap Paints

I'm always looking for new fingerpaint recipes to try because I love introducing Baby Bear to new sensory experiences. So far, each paint recipe we've tried has had a different texture, consistency, and what I like to call"goop factor." Our latest fingerpaint recipe came from Tipnut, and it consisted of equal parts water, dish soap, and flour. The texture was smooth, the consistency was medium-thick, and the goop factor was high. Dish soap paints hold their color well, are sticky, and work very well for fingerpainting. Although these paints are easy to wash off (and probably leave surfaces cleaner than before you painted), I don't recommend telling your child that these paints consist of soap. He may just decide to rub them all over his body to "wash!"

Monday, September 17, 2012

All About Me

Since Baby Bear and I finished up our All About Me unit last week (aka the parts of the body), I thought I'd share a few of the smaller activities we did. These activities helped us learn the names of the external parts of the body and what they can do.

Play with Mr. Potato Head

A pretend visit to the doctor for a checkup

Paper dolls

Paint on reflection in tall mirror

Make playdough men

Make playdough faces

Make a butterfly using 4 hand tracings and 1 foot tracing

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Chocolate Playdough

Baby Bear and I just wrapped up our home preschool unit on All About Me, AKA the external parts of the body and what they can do. For one of our sensory activities (repeated several times because Baby Bear loved and requested it so much), we made little playdough people. Even though we already had a batch of no-cook playdough on hand, I really wanted to make something new. So, while Baby Bear was working on a playdough man, I set to work on making some chocolate playdough.

I started with a familiar recipe, and then I adjusted as needed. Although I didn't measure, this is the most accurate account I can give of how our successful batch came to be:
  • Mix 1 1/2 cups flour (I used all-purpose), 1/2 cup salt, 1 1/2 T cream of tartar, and 3T unsweetened cocoa powder in a bowl.
  • Add 1T vegetable oil and mix.
  • Add 3/4 cups boiling water and mix. Dough will likely be sticky.
  • Slowly, stir in more flour and knead until dough is no longer sticky. I ended up adding about another 1/2 cup.
It smelled wonderful!

For days, Baby Bear kept asking to play with his "choco paydoh." He just loves that it's chocolate, even though he can't eat it! I think this is a new family favorite!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Salt Tray

I got the idea to do a flour tray for Baby Bear earlier this summer by reading about other people's salt trays, but I never actually tried the salt tray. So, that's what Baby Bear and I did as one of our sensory activities this week. All it took was a cake pan and some salt. Baby Bear thought it was fantastic!

Smell it...

Touch it...

Draw in it...

Shake to erase...

And repeat!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Obstacle Course

On one particularly hot day last week, I set up an obstacle coarse in the backyard for Baby Bear. I wasn't sure if he would like it or not, or even if he would do it, but I gave it a shot. Turned out, he thought it was great! Since Baby Bear is just barely 2, I kept the course very simple and short. The goal was to get the ball into the bucket by going through the obstacle course. He started by jumping into and then back out of a hula hoop. Then, he was supposed to go around the sandbox. He thought going over was much more fun and opted for that method more often than going around. Next, he had to crawl through the pop-up tunnel. Finally, he plopped the ball into the bucket that was sitting at the end of the tunnel. He had the most fun when I went through the course with him, but seeing as how the tunnel is much easier for him to get through than me, that only happened a couple of times. I'll have to set it up again when he has a friend over some time!

The obstacle course

Jumping into the hoop and then back out

Going around, er, over the sandbox

Through the tunnel

Into the bucket!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Icy Water Colors

One of Baby Bear's latest fads is ice. He loves to hold it, crunch it, dig it out of cups, and play with it. One day, while Baby Bear was playing with ice, I got the idea to use it for an art project. I grabbed an ice cube tray, added one drop of food coloring to each compartment, added water, and froze overnight. The next morning, Baby Bear and I were watching Sprout, and Carly came on the TV and did the exact same thing! Well, almost. She was a little smarter about hers. After she added the food coloring and water, she covered the tray with foil and poked craft sticks into each compartment. This provided a handle to hold the ice by. Ingenious! Of course, I was quite disappointed when Baby Bear and I painted with our ice that day and ended up with colorful hands because I knew too late that this could have been avoided. Oh, well, c'est la vie. We still had fun painting with our icy water colors! I laid out some white construction paper on our patio table, and Baby Bear enjoyed alternating between painting with and eating his ice. The colors did not dry bright, but that was OK because for this activity the process was far more rewarding than the product. Next time, if we want brighter colors for a better product, I will add more food coloring... and some craft sticks! ;)

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Life-size Me

Today was a big day for parents, teachers, and students across the country as many schools celebrated their first day of school. Even though schools around here actually started up a few weeks ago, Baby Bear and I started our first day of school today as well. No, he didn't go to preschool, though that was a tough decision. As smart, curious, social, and structure-needing as my son is, I decided that he's not quite ready for a Mother's Day Out/preschool program yet. No, today we started home preschool! Papa Bear and I turned the guest room into a playroom, and Baby Bear's old playroom into a classroom.

Part of our first day went well, and part of it didn't. Baby Bear loves his "school," and he really got into the art project we did, but anything that required him sitting still for a few minutes or following directions was met with rebellion. That is exactly why we are doing this, though. He's so smart, but he could definitely benefit from some added structure and routine. Anyway, the art project we did went over really well! Over the next few weeks we will be conducting a unit called All About Me in which we learn about the exterior parts of the body. So, for today's art time, we created a life-size Baby Bear!

I began by laying out a large piece of paper cut from a roll. Then, Baby Bear laid on the paper and I traced around him. He was a little squirmy, but it turned out OK. After that, Baby Bear helped me trace a glue stick over the top of the head so we could add some yellow feathers for hair. We also added some sticky-back foam pieces to make the face. Next, we colored the clothing with crayons. I was surprised at how much Baby Bear wanted to work on this himself because he usually doesn't want to do any sort of project without me working alongside him. He let me help color the pants, but the rest was all his! Once our guy was hung on the wall, Baby Bear helped point out where the parts of the body were so I could label them. We labeled all the ones we will be talking about during this unit. He was so proud of the life-size boy we made (he refused to say it was him, just a boy), and he was quick to show Papa Bear when he got home, which was a great review!

It will take some time to adjust, but I am excited to begin my homeschool adventures with my Baby Bear!

This is a small sample of my lesson plans. It's short, simple, and flexible, yet consistent... exactly what we need!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

First Flight

This afternoon, we three bears arrived home from a weekend trip to Raleigh, NC for my cousin's wedding. Normally when we travel a long distance, we drive overnight so Baby Bear will sleep most of the way. That plan failed us this past July, though, when Baby Bear stayed up for more than half the trip. So, this time we flew. We also normally stay with family during these long-distance trips, but this time we stayed at a hotel. Not only did I have butterflies in my stomach before traveling with my high-energy, loud, overly dramatic 2-year-old, but it felt like those butterflies were doing the conga.

Well, we survived the weekend, and most of it was good. My cousin and her wedding were beautiful, I was told that Michael Jackson lives on through my Baby Bear after he led the dancing at the reception, and we got to visit the most awesome children's museum I have ever seen (Marbles Kids Museum). Parts of the trip were a little rough, though, like when my son kept screaming at the airport because he really wanted to get on the plane that would take him home. I definitely learned some lessons about traveling with a 2-year-old.
  1. We decided to take only my Nook for Baby Bear to watch his favorite movies and play games on, thus saving space in our bags. We copied a few of his favorite movies onto the SD card and packed the headphones. +2 point for saving space, -10 points for not taking the DVD player he knows and loves. Even with the headphones, the movies were hard to hear because the sound on the Nook is pretty soft. And, even though I bought a stand for my Nook so we could set it upright for watching the movies, Baby Bear has a thing about using familiar objects the "wrong" way and would not accept the stand. We should have stuck with the familiar and forgone the little bit of space we saved.
  2. By playing Tetris with our belongings, we were able to travel with 3 medium-sized carry-ons and not check any luggage. +5 points for not having to spend more time standing in lines to check and claim bags, -4 points for having to lug so much through the airport. This decision was nearly a wash, but in the end I think it was worth not having to check a bag because Baby Bear and waiting in lines do not mix well. I was in charge of Baby Bear, my purse, and occasionally one of the checked bags, and Papa Bear took care of the bags and car seat, and that worked for us. This would not have worked with just one parent traveling.
  3. We took our own car seat with us instead of renting one with our rental car. + 10 points for having his seat to fall asleep in on the way home and not having to deal with a questionable rental seat, -5 points for the bulk of carrying it around, especially at the airport. At first, I questioned the decision to put Baby Bear into his car seat on the plane because it put his feet at just the right level to kick the seat in front of him and made it so we could not put his tray table down. When he was able to fall asleep comfortably on the way home, though, that seed of doubt washed away. It was a royal pain to lug around, for sure; but, Papa Bear found a way to attach it to the top of our carry-on with wheels so that it could be wheeled along. It's worth having your own car seat.
  4. Hotel rooms are really boring. Aside from the fun Baby Bear had playing with the phone (which we knew to disconnect right away thanks to Jenny at The NY Melrose Family's tip), the novelty of the hotel wore off quickly. Walking around, playing on the escalators, and swimming in the pool were only fun for about half a day. I don't know what we would have done if my cousin hadn't suggested that children's museum. Next time, I will be sure to map out some child-friendly places to visit ahead of time so there are less tears of frustration about wanting to go home.
  5. Even though flying means a lot of hassle, it still beats driving. At least, for us it does because the overnight driving thing was so much harder on Papa Bear who usually sat behind the wheel the whole 8+ hours while I tended to Baby Bear.
  6. Kids will be kids. I was not expecting Baby Bear to be a little angel on our trip, or even just on the plane. I accepted that there would probably be more outbursts than normal due to frustration at all the new things around him and his desire for the familiar, and keeping that realistic picture in my head helped.  I was slightly more forgiving of his outbursts (yes, plural) than normal, but he still faced consequences for unacceptable behaviors. In fact, he got a couple of timeouts right there in the airport. I think being some place new made Baby Bear test his boundaries even more because he wanted to know if the expectations and consequences were still the same. I think it also helped that they were. My husband had a great sense of humor about one tantrum that Baby Bear threw just as we were nearing our gate to head to Raleigh. He looked right at the wide-eyed people standing in the boarding line and said in a joking tone, "Yep, he's getting on the plane with you!" This caused quite a few chuckles, and instantly the mood was lightened. Being realistic and keeping a sense of humor was key for us.
 I'm sure there are more lessons I could list, but those are probably the biggest ones we learned. I'm not scared of flying with my son again, but at the same time, I think we'll be spacing these trip out as far as possible because they really are a lot of work!

Our home airport had a neat little playground area for little ones in our terminal!

Calling his Sesame Street and Hundred Acre Woods friends from the hotel room phone

He slept nearly the whole way home... yay! I think the fact that he had a little Dramamine to help with his upset tummy may have had a little something to do with it. ;)