525/600:

A Year of Trying to be a Better Mom

Recycled Paper Bag Tiger Puppet August 3, 2010

Zach, Emily, Isaac and I had some errands to run today. We were out and about during that critical hour when kids suddenly become ravenous. It’s one thing for mommy to wait for lunch, but Zach…well…his inner demon emerges within about 2 minutes of deciding he’s hungry. Now. So, I had a crucial parenting decision to make: deal with the tantrums in public, or hit a drive thru. McDonald’s it was!!!

Now, before you make a critique of Zach’s nutrition for the day; he basically ate his side of apple slices (not fries) and nothing else. The boy loves his fruit. He also drank his milk. So really, it was my wallet that hurt more than his tummy today! We won’t talk about what I had to eat (but, am I a sucker for those fries, oh boy).

Anyway. Happy Meals these days come in paper sacks. Not the nifty cardboard boxes we got as kids. When I saw the bag I thought, “Cool. A craft supply.” Yeah, how nerdy am I?

Happy Meal Sack

So I took this paper sack and turned it inside out. A blank canvas perfect for paper bag puppet making! A tiger paper bag puppet to be specific.

Happy Meal Sack turned inside out

Aside from a paper sack, here are today’s supplies:

Paper sack, black construction paper, orange construction paper (not pictured, oops), scissors, glue, googly eyes, orange paint, paint brush

I decided on this project for several reasons, besides the availability of a paper sack, that is. 1.) Zach has acquired an imaginary tiger. We pet the tiger, we watch it eat grass (apparently this tiger is a vegetarian), we make it go away when it is scary. So, I thought it would be fun to personify an animal he likes and 2.) It’s an opportunity to practice cutting with scissors, which is a fine motor skill.

First, Zach painted the paper bag. Actually, I had to BEG him to do this. He’d already spotted his new safety scissors and was semi-obsessed with wanting to cut things.

Painting the paper sack orange. Or, terra cotta, if that's the paint color you have.

While waiting for the paint to become reasonably dry, we cut stripes, whiskers, ears and a nose out for the tiger out of our black and orange construction paper.While I was holding the paper steady for him, Zach was actually surprisingly good at using the scissors. I bought a special kind that has a little plastic attachment on it that helps the scissors bounce back once he squeezes them. Once he gets the hang of the motion, I can turn the plastic part the other way and Zach can do all the cutting on his own.

Cutting the orange paper

Then Zach glued the stripes to the orange bag, to make it more tiger-like. At this point in time, Pete came home from work. Pete was astonished to see that Zach could glue and cut things and that I wasn’t doing it all for him. If my kid doesn’t learn colors or the alphabet after this year of projects, by golly, he will know how to make random stuff out of paper and glue!!

Glueing

And sticking

Of course, now that Daddy was home, Zach wanted nothing to do with craft time. Yeah, yeah. I get it. Mommy is second-fiddle to Daddy. Don’t worry. I’ll make this tiger by myself. No, really. It’s fine.

So, I finished gluing on the whiskers, nose, ears and googly eyes to make a lovely tiger puppet.

What a lovely tiger puppet

Zach did play with the puppet later though!

Rawr

What did Zach learn today? He worked on the fine motor skills of scissor usage. We also talked about colors–black and orange.

What did Mommy learn? That Zach is suddenly a skilled scissor user. Who knew? Guess all that playing with cotton balls played off!

Advertisements
 

Sidewalk Chalk Paint August 2, 2010

Zach loves to paint. He also love to be outside. So, when I saw this activity on No Time For Flashcards, I knew he would love it.

Doing activities outside these days takes careful planning. Since we live on the 2nd floor of our condo building, it’s not just a simple matter of stepping outdoors to get to the yard. There are stairs to navigate. And 2 babies to carry. And a toddler’s hand to hold. And supplies to bring. Just getting set up takes me 2-3 trips up and down the stairs. By now though, I’m an old pro at getting the whole kit and caboodle down to the ground level.

Here are the supplies for today.

Cornstarch, water, food coloring, brushes to paint and stir, containers to hold the paint, and a tennis ball

First, I simply poured a bit of water and a bit of cornstarch into the containers (I have no exact measurements here) and stirred until I got it to about the consistency of milk. And that’s Whole Milk, rather than Skim Milk.

While using the paintbrush to stir, Zach kept saying, "Making circles. I'm making circles."

After this (and all of my aforementioned efforts at getting downstairs), rain thwarted our plan! Drats!! Never fear, I have no problems using sidewalk chalk upstairs on the deck, dry, under our awning.

Next, I had Zach help me squirt food coloring into the mixture to color it. This requires A LOT of food coloring. And by A LOT, I mean…think red velvet cake a lot. Don’t be shy, just put food coloring on your grocery list for next week if you try this!

Zach liked this part best, he went to town adding the food coloring to the cornstarch mixture

Once the color is mixed into the cornstarch and water, it’s time to have fun. We tried “painting” with a tennis ball by soaking it in the chalk paint and bouncing it on the deck. This lasted all of 3 throws before the ball rolled off the edge of the deck and down to the yard, but it does make a cool effect. Kind of Jackson Pollock-like.

Dip the tennis ball into the chalk paint

Fresh tennis ball paint splatters

This is what they look like dry

After the loss of the tennis ball, we turned to paint brushes. Zach painted the deck and asked me to draw him pictures. We made circles, rectangles, triangles and hearts. He asked me to draw snakes. He even asked for a birdcage! Apparently, while watching Jack and the Beanstalk, the Giant keeps a golden goose in a birdcage and Zach had it on his mind.

Zach painting the deck (don't worry, rain will wash this all away, just like it does with chalk)

My repainted deck

What did Zach learn today? This project is kind of neat in all of the areas of learning it encompasses. It covers science: similar to our tie dyed milk experiment, you can talk about what happens when you mix things together. What will happen when we add cornstarch to water? The water turns white. It thickens. What will happen when you add color drops? The mixture changes color. We learned about colors. We learned about shapes (which is a building block to learning math). He got to be creative and creativity helps him have an open mind and develops problem solving skills.

What did Mommy learn? How creative Zach is getting and how he is starting to connect one activity to the next. Watching a movie translates, through his imagination, into the art and activities he does. Oh, and a tip for my friends. If you’ve just paid for an expensive manicure, wait until it wears off to do this activity. Here is what my hands looked like at the end of the day:

My dye stained hands. Don't worry, it washes.

 

Whoa…is it dusty in here or what? July 30, 2010

Um, hi.

I know, I know. I said I would write. I said I would write EVERY day. And I intended to do that. And then, well. You see, I got BUSY. And I bet you can hardly imagine that, as a mother of now nearly 7 month old twins and a 2 1/2 year old, I might be busy. But I was.

Sorry for neglecting you, my precious blog. Sorry for abandoning you, my handful of faithful readers! I am back. And that’s the thing about journeys right? You may get off course, but it takes just one step on the old path to get back on it again. So. Here I am.

And never to fear. I may have been too busy to write (and boy do I have the list of excuses, but I’ll spare you), but not too busy to be keeping my children busy!

To fill you in on the past almost 2 months, I’ll just do a sneak peek here. Then, as I have time, I will update these sneak peeks with posts and tutorials. But I will simply move forward as I do that, so as not to create an even FURTHER backlog as I try to catch up.

So, since we last spoke. Here is what we have been  up to.

We….

Wrote our own songs & lyrics

Went on quite a few road trips to Michigan and Minnesota

Got to ride on Grandpa's tractor

Got to see our G.G. when she came to visit

Made a fort out of blankets in the living room

Painted picture frames for all our grandpas

...and for Daddy

Painted a t-shirt for our cousin, Ethan, because it was his first birthday

Made the wrapping paper for Ethan's present

Celebrated Father's Day

Learned to use a train whistle

Went to a BBQ at Uncle Chris' and made new friends

Went out for ice cream

Flew remote control toys with Daddy (this is a helicopter)

Painted the letter D

Made a Chinese "Dragon Kite"

Made thumbprint art

Killed time at the Dr.'s office by practicing shape recognition

Made an entire orchestra's worth of paper plate and cardboard instruments, like this Paper Plate Violin

and this Paper Towel Tube Flute

and these Paper Plate Cymbals

and finally, a cardboard box "Color Piano" (I think my kid is going to be a musician one day)

Had to go in the basement and hang out because of tornado sirens

Made thunder noises with a big sheet of paper and talked about weather (so it's not so scary next time there is a big storm)

Did 4th of July themed activities like hand print fireworks with Mommy

and lit up "snakes" with Daddy (insert Mommy "eyeroll" here)

Got our first set of golf clubs at Grandma's house in Minnesota

Went to the splash park (and the beach, and played in our sprinkler, and played in our kiddie pool)

Started solids

Found our feet

Went to Aunt Ciana's graduation party in Michigan

Made an awesome race car out of a big, cardboard box

Played "house" and "restaurant" and "this is where the puppy lives" with a big, cardboard box

Painted whatever we wanted with brushes

Made scribble drawings

Played with Easter Eggs (again)

Pretended to be a puppy (a lot).

Decided that THIS is how you play with a bouncy seat (and there's no stopping us)

Started trying to CRAWL (Mommy says, "AHHHH!")

Played with textures like crinkly newspaper

Made an elevator on our living room wall

Painted with noodles. How silly!

Decided we should do things, "All by ourselves"...like put on our sunglasses.

We went to the park, and on playdates. We pretended to be puppies and frogs. We developed an imaginary tiger as a friend.We colored and painted and cooked and made things…like I said…we were BUSY.

And there you have it. Whew!

(please check back for individual posts on these projects as I get time to update them. I will link the posts to the pictures.)

 

Day 44: Flour Writing June 1, 2010

Filed under: colors,letters,sensory — Erin Brambilla @ 11:43 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

Zach has been rather stubborn lately and does not want to be “taught”. Anytime I attempt to talk with him about what he is doing, or start a project, I am met with a refusal to continue to participate. This does not bode well for mommy blogging! I mean, doesn’t this 2-year-old know I’ve got an internet audience to please? Sheesh. So, today I thought I’d start with something I knew he’d like, sensory tubs,  and build around that. And it “kind of” worked.

I remembered a tutorial involving tracing letters in a tub of cornstarch. The cornstarch had been poured over some brightly colored cardboard. When the child traces the letters in the cornstarch, the color pops through and it’s like “magic”. So I decided to do a spin on that. Her tutorial calls for cardboard, markers and cornstarch. I did not have cardboard, shockingly. I only had a little bit of cornstarch. So, my improvisation involves a plastic tub, flour and construction paper.

Supplies:

Plastic tub, construction paper, flour, tape

I used colored construction paper folded up and placed in the tub, instead of coloring it as was shown in the tutorial, because I didn’t want to color my tub! So, I folded up the paper, placed it in the bottom of the tub and taped down.

Paper in the tub

Then I enlisted Zach to help me dump the flour into the tub.

Dump! Hey, look, the kid is wearing clothes today!

Then I took and patted and smoothed the flour down to make a clean surface to start out with. I traced the first line or two for Zach to see what happens. He thought it was pretty cool.

Flour spread out and patted down

Drawing lines in the flour to expose the colored paper

Drawing in the flour

After a while, he told me that his dinosaur was hungry. And that dinosaurs like to eat flour. So, the dinosaur had a little snack.

Unbeknownst to archaeologists the world over, T-Rex liked to eat All Purpose Flour

While he was busy using his imagination with his dinosaur, I thought I’d teach him to write the Letter D, for Dinosaur. So, I traced a letter D into the flour. And that’s when he was on to me. He did not want anything to do with a letter lesson. So, I thought maybe I’d ask him to help me dig for colors. I’d dig and brush the flour aside and say, “Oh my goodness! Look, I found a color! What color did I find???” and he wanted nothing to do with that either. Though he did ask me “What color flour is?”, which I thought was a pretty smart question, so I told him it was white. And then I just let him continue to play.

Eventually he spotted the tape I had set aside and asked for it. At first I told him no. And then I thought, “Why not?” I mean, we’re going for sensory, right, so why not talk about “sticky” (along with smooth and fluffy, but also gritty and grainy, when feeling the texture of flour and flour on paper, and taste..flour is edible). So I tore off a piece of tape or two and let him play with it. We saw how it was sticky at first, but not sticky any more once we stuck flour to the tape.

Sticky tape

Not sticky anymore

And that was pretty much the whole of our lesson. Yes, we did make a grand old mess doing this!

That's one flour covered little boy

I just love a messy face, even when that face refuses to smile for the camera

What did Zach learn today? To talk about the senses some more. About color. To look beneath the surface (whoa…deep). Imaginative play.

What did Mommy learn? That she needs to figure out how to get his attention again.

 

Day 36: Snacklet May 24, 2010

A snacklet is a bracelet, made out of snacks. It could also be a necklace (but would then be called a snacklace). It’s fun because it’s an educational activity, but you can eat it!

Today’s supplies:

Cereal with holes (like Cheerios or Fruit Loops) and pipe cleaners

I admit that I bought the Fruit Loops solely to do this project. We don’t normally serve them here, so needless to say we all went crazy with cereal eating and 2 days after I bought them, they are GONE. LOL! What a treat. But, I managed to save enough to do this. Cheerios work just as well, skills wise, but the Fruit Loops just make it look so much more festive and colorful (and teach color). I could have used string instead of pipe cleaners for this, but I wasn’t sure how easily Zach would be able to get the cereal on the string, so I started off easy. Next time, I’ll use string or yarn, he did pretty well with this today. I read about this activity HERE. It helps him with his fine motor skills. As I mentioned, the Fruit Loops can provide a lesson in colors. And you can count each piece as you put it on. We didn’t, but if you wanted too, you could also teach pattern (Red piece, blue piece, green piece. Red piece, blue piece, green piece, etc.). It’s also a nice after nap snack.

So, basically, I just had him slide the cereal onto the pipe cleaner. It was a little difficult to convince him to not eat the cereal first, but as soon as I did one as an example for him and showed him he could eat the cereal later, he was in.

Showing Zach how to lace the cereal onto the pipe cleaner

After doing a few pieces for Zach, I held the pipe cleaner and let him slide the cereal on.

Figuring out how to get the cereal on the "stick", as he called it

Then, after we filled the pipe cleaner up, I tied it to his wrist and let him eat from the snacklet. He thought this was pretty fun.

Tying the bracelet to his wrist

What a fine looking bracelet, I mean, snacklet

Yum!

Then he decided he was confident enough to do the next one himself.

Doing it all by himself

And, if you’re wondering why his face is so messy, it could be because he decided to eat his lunch like this today:

Eating like a puppy

Talk about an imaginative kid! He was pretending to be a puppy this afternoon. And uh, no, I didn’t clean his face before nap. Oops.

What did Zach learn today? He worked on fine motor skills, counting and colors. And he got to eat some yummy (forbidden) sugary cereal (notice I also included some healthy Cheerios too though!).

What did Mommy learn today? How fun it is (however messy) to watch my child pretending. He’s so silly!

 

Day 34: Abacus May 23, 2010

Today I spent the day with some girlfriends at a teeny little store we like to call Ikea. OK, so it’s not so teeny. And it’s pretty much impossible to go there and not get sucked in for a good 4 hours. And besides carrying the world’s greatest selection of particle board and wood veneer furniture, Ikea also has an impressive display of educational, reasonably priced kids toys, like the wooden abacus I bought for Zach.

Zach's new "toy"

According to the New World Encyclopedia (whose website looks suspiciously like Wikipedia, so take this definition for what it’s worth), abaci have been “in use centuries before the adoption of the written Hindu-Arabic numeral system and is still widely used by merchants and clerks in China, Japan, Africa and elsewhere.” In other words, a really long time.

I basically bought it because I knew that Zach would have fun sliding and rolling the beads under his hands, so it’s a sensory toy. I also knew he’d like to count them. The beads are colorful, so I can use it to teach him colors. They are also grouped in 10’s, so we can learn to count by 10 (up to 100). It’s all sorts of usefulness. It also looks like part of the playscape at our local playground and Zach loves to play with that.

So, when I got home from the Ikea-fest, I unwrapped the abacus and put it in front of Zach. He took to it immediately. He slid the beads back and forth. He took the palm of his hand and spun them around (this made him laugh because it kind of tickles). He counted them one by one. And he even told ME the colors of some of the beads. Yellow and Green specifically. On his own. Yay Zach!

Moving the beads over one by one

No. We have STILL not painted that wall. It'll happen. Someday.

Of course, you know that we can’t do anything here without enlisting the help of the front loader and/or dump truck. Zach said, “Yellow tractor. Here tractor, yellow.” I assume the last yellow as for the beads. And then he made the tractor play with the abacus.

Tractor + Abacus = Fun

What did Zach learn today? The abacus was good for all kinds of things: sensory play, color learning, counting practice, imaginative play (with the tractor) and motor skills.

What did Mommy learn? Occasionally I hit the nail on the head in the toy department. And this is great for long-term use as he gets older and learns more math.

 

Day 32: Color Train May 22, 2010

Filed under: books,colors,Craft,Games,trains — Erin Brambilla @ 10:58 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

Ever since the National Train Day family outing, trains have been subject numero uno on Zach’s mind lately. I mean, “tractors” (construction equipment) is still up there, don’t you worry, but trains are the flavor du jour. So after a fun day of playing at the park, we took a trip to the library to pick out some books. I spotted a book that I thought would be perfect to take home. Zach has been struggling to pick up the concept of learning colors, this book deals with colors. It also deals with trains. Awesome.

Freight Train by Donald Crews

The book is a simple board book. It shows a freight train and each car is a color in the rainbow. Zach seems to enjoy it. To go along with the book we got from the library, I decided to make a little game for Zach to play. The Color Train Game.

I took a long piece of thin cardboard I had lying around. It came in the box a bridesmaid dress was shipped in (that I also recycled for a project!). It’s about the thickness of regular poster board. So, you know, if you don’t have a bridesmaid dress getting shipped to you in the very near future, you could use that instead. I also used some construction paper, markers, scissors, an envelope and a glue stick.

Supplies

I needed each color of the rainbow for both the construction paper and the markers. But I didn’t have purple construction paper, so I just colored a white piece of paper purple. It works. I also didn’t have indigo. But that’s OK, the book doesn’t mention indigo, so we’re in the clear. Poor, left out indigo. I guess it’s a misspelled rainbow–ROYGBV.

My idea was pretty simple: connect a bunch of different color squares, train like, and make a matching game to teach colors. First, I had to figure out how big to make the squares. You might decide to measure. I forgot to grab the ruler from the supply bin and was too lazy to get up. So I guessed. And then cut. And recut. But whatever. It’s only wasted paper…right (note sarcasm)? Those scraps will work for some other projects. After I cut my color squares, I traced them on the cardboard (that I had already drawn some “tracks” on).

Colored squares all fit (there are two black pieces b/c the book calls for a black coal tender and black engine)

Trace the squares and draw lines to connect them, I decided to leave the engine on permanently

Then I took out my markers and wrote in each corresponding square on the cardboard what color paper square belongs there. I also drew a little block line to show the color more. Then I drew wheels, so the train didn’t look like it was floating.

Colors written in

At the top I wrote, “What color are the train cars?”. I was going to consider it done at this point, but then I had a stroke of genius and decided to glue an envelope to it so when he’s not playing the game, there is a place to store the color squares. I am good!

Titled and storage envelope glued on

After Zach woke up from his nap, we read the book together and I had him play the game. He was patient enough to humor me for about 2 color matches and then he just scattered the squares around the play area. Oh well. We can play again later!!

Playing the color train game

What did Zach learn today? A new game. He took some steps to learning more colors.

What did Mommy learn? Measure, measure, measure. Haste makes waste, right? Or maybe it’s laziness that makes waste. Either way. And also Zach LOVES the library. The last time we were there he discovered that they keep crayons and coloring books there for the kids, he doesn’t actually color for very long (at home or the library) but the attraction of it is enough to make him excited to go there. He actually likes bringing the books home to read as well.