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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!

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Day 33: Ripping Paper May 23, 2010

When your child seems to be in a destructive phase, rather than a constructive phase, it can really grate on your nerves as a mother. Instead of coloring, he’d rather throw the crayons. Instead of reading, he’d rather test the strength of the book pages. Instead of building towers, he’d rather knock them down. You get the idea. So the best thing to do is to remember the mantra, “If you can’t beat him. Join him.”

Today’s activity not only harnesses fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination, it also spoke to Zach’s desire to tear things up and make a mess. It’s pretty simple. Tearing and crumpling up strips of paper. Yep, it’s a legitimate learning activity! I read about it HERE.

First I gathered up the junk mail newspaper pages that we get in our house every day. Mostly ads for the sales at the grocery store (clip the good coupons first, of course).

Making use of junk mail

Then I called Zach over and told him I needed help (this works better than, “Let’s do a lesson!” because he likes to be a “good helper”). I said I needed to make paper strips. I showed  him how to tear the paper into strips and handed him a piece. You may not really think about it, but tearing paper into strips takes some dexterity. Dexterity that adults come by easily, but 2-year-olds are still learning.

Attempting to rip the paper

At first he was just trying to pull on the paper, as if he were ripping off little bits, or pulling it apart. So, I had to show him again how to rip it into long strips. I actually had to start the rip for him and then let him tear the rest of himself. After we ripped off enough strips (read: after he started showing some boredom in ripping strips of paper), I then asked him to help me make paper balls.

Crumpling paper is another activity that takes more dexterity than you think it does. I had to show Zach how to smoosh and crunch the paper up in his hands. At first, he just crinkled along the strip, but then he understood how to crunch it up between his two hands to make the “ball” shape.

Crumpling the paper

Then, the fun part. Throwing the paper balls!

Throwing? Easy! This part I got down!!

Yes, my living room floor DID look like this in the end. But thats OK, newspaper is not the messiest thing I have had to clean up in the name of crafts and learning!

What did Zach learn today? He worked on fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination.

What did Mommy learn? To think on my feet. We had another color learning activity planned and it ended disastrously (“No, no, no, no, no, we don’t put pipe cleaners in the toilet!!!”). I was super frustrated, but once I began an activity that fit his mood, things went much smoother.

 

Day 29: Feet Painting May 18, 2010

Filed under: colors,Craft,paint,recycle/upcycle,sensory — Erin Brambilla @ 4:11 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

Feet painting. It’s like finger painting, but with your feet. And it’s ooey-goowey, slimy, squishy, slippery fun. And it’s messy. And it’s sensory. And it teaches colors. And spurs creativity. And gives Daddy a heart attack over the hardwood floors (but don’t worry Daddy, it’s washable paint).

I’ve had this cardboard box sitting around the house for about a week now. A bridesmaid dress was shipped in it. It was long and flat. Zach has been playing with it, but honestly, I was to the point that I just couldn’t stand looking at it one more time on the living room floor. I saw a commercial, for who knows what, that showed a little girl running across a long white thing (maybe it was paper, maybe it was carpet…I was only half paying attention), she had bright pink paint on her feet. I thought, “THAT looks like fun, let’s try it.” So we did.

Supplies:

Paper plates, 1 for each color; finger paints; trash bags or other drop cloth; and your painting surface.

I squirted a glob of paint onto each plate. I had forgotten how thick finger paint is, so I added a tiny bit of water and mixed w/ the back of a spoon on each one so it would spread on the plate a bit, kind of like pizza sauce.

Paint on plates

Then I broke down the box and was delighted to see it looks like one long runway. I set it on the plastic trash bags on my kitchen floor. I set down the four paint-filled paper plates at the end.

Looks like fun, huh?

Then I called Zach over (actually I had been holding him back and was now ready to let loose). I helped him dip his feet into a color each. I told him which color we were using as we went. Then I set him on the box and told him to run around. The paint makes things a bit slippery, as you can imagine, so he was kind of leery. He felt better when I agreed to hold his hand so he could walk up and down the cardboard. He got excited when I told him it was OK to jump.

Walking down the cardboard with paint on his feet

Once the paint had come mostly off his feet, I switched the colors up. And just repeated the process until he was sick of it and telling me, “Want take shower Mommy.” Along the way we talked about how it felt–wet and slimy, gooey and sticky. I made sure he saw the effect his actions had on the cardboard, showing all those colors. It was fun!

This stinker never smiles for the camera. He had fun, LOL!

Toe prints

Surprisingly, he didn’t try to bee-line for the living room with paint on his feet, I was prepared for that! I think once he felt how slippery it was, he became cautious, so my vigilance was unnecessary. After we were done, I put him straight to the bathtub to clean up.

What did Zach learn today? More sensory learning. Along with more color lessons. He also had a chance to just be creative. Craft time doesn’t have to be about crayons and paper. And we don’t have to only use our hands to make art.

What did Mommy learn today? The finger paint really is quite slippery, so be careful. And Zach may have had just as much fun running across the cardboard, sans paint. But this was cool too!

 

Days 26, 27 and 28: Repeats, Mommy Out and Mother’s Day Reveal May 17, 2010

This weekend Mommy hosted and participated in a rite of passage we all call a Bachelorette Party. Anyone who has been to a B-Party lately will tell you that they are no longer one night of partying, they are weekend long extravaganzas. While Mommy was out having fun, Daddy was on duty with the kids. You can give him his cookie now.

So, since I was for the most part absent this weekend, I’ll run through a quick retelling of the events and then will reveal the details of last week’s Top Secret Mother’s Day projects! Woot!

Day 26, Friday, Repeat: Today Zach learned the art of waiting for delayed airport guests :). While we waited for friends to arrive, we busied ourselves doing what I like to call the “Hurry up and clean! PEOPLE are coming!” dance.  After our guests arrived and Zach charmed them with his freshly awoken from nap shyness, he asked me for a repeat activity. And, well, I never promised we’d do NEW activities everyday. Just that we’d do SOMETHING. So, we took a repeat visit to the Car Wash, since that’s what he wanted.

Day 27, Saturday, Mommy Out: Friday evening I left to stay at a hotel with the girls. So, Pete was on duty. So here is Saturday, as told by Pete:

Actually, Pete’s entry will come later. Whenever he writes it. In the meantime, here are the pictures from what they did.

Took the "SUV" out for a spin

Went to the playground

Went to Lincoln Square

Learned to fly oak tree "helicopters"

Off it goes!

Day 28, Sunday Sundae: Sunday’s are fun for Zach because he gets to spend time in the nursery at church. It’s his time to see friends his age, play with toys, do arts and crafts and eat snacks. I am told that Zach sometimes can’t be bothered to stop playing with toys to participate in the craft, but he never. EVER. misses snack. This does not surprise me. Then after he woke up from his nap, we went for a walk as a family and got some ice cream at George’s. I ordered myself the most DIVINE chocolate ice cream in the whole wide world, Zanzibar Chocolate and got it in a cake cone. It’s a little serving of bliss and whimsy all at once. I ordered Zach his typical plain vanilla in a cup with a spoon. Today though, he decided he wanted MY ice cream. And nothing was going to stop him from getting it. So, wanting to avoid a big, public temper tantrum, I gave in on this battle and switched ice cream with him. I hope he knows how much I love him. I don’t give up Zanzibar Chocolate for just anyone.

Anyway, I so wish we’d have thought to bring the camera. He had chocolate ice cream everywhere. Up his nose. All over his face. His shirt. His arms. His hands. Man, did he love that Zanzibar Chocolate. He is his mother’s son.

And that pretty much covers our weekend!!

So, to update you on our Super Top Secret Mother’s Day Projects That Can Now Be Revealed. We did 2 handmade crafts for the 3 grandma’s. Both using items that you can recycle from your own home and probably have sitting around right NOW.

The first was Milk Jug Watering Cans. I read so many kid blogs these days that it’s hard to say for sure if I read about it or not. But I’m 99% certain I came up with this one on my own. Woot!

First. Drink a lot of milk. We needed 3 watering cans. So, 3 gallons of milk. That’s part of the reason this particular set of projects took a few days to complete, we had to go through those gallons first. Also, the 2-year-old only has a certain amount of patience for crafts. Doing 3 jugs at once was not happening, but spaced out over a few days was fine. Even if his only job was to scribble.

So, I washed out the milk jug and removed the labels. Then, I took a fondue fork and heated it up over my stove flame. I used it like a hot poker to make holes in the milk cap, arranged like you would see on a watering can. I ran some cold water over the cap after that was done, just to kind of harden the plastic that had softened from the heat.

Water holes

Before going further, I decided to test out the watering can on my own plants, just to make sure it would actually work. It does.

A working watering can made out of a milk jug

Then, I had my child use permanent markers to color on the jugs. We did this BEFORE the infamous dining room table incident and is where we got the permanent markers to use for that other project. But, I used permanent in this case because these jugs are meant to be used to hold and pour water. I figured washable markers would run right off of it eventually, especially if they get stored outside. I did attempt to make them a bit prettier with my own embellishments, but wonder if I should have left well enough alone. Oh well!

Coloring the jug

Pretty

We did this times 3 for our specific number of grandmas. But you should do whatever number you need. In case you couldn’t figure that out.

Then, I tied some ribbon to each handle, just to be festive. And the watering cans were complete. Easy peasy.

Finished projects

The next project we did was coffee filter flowers. These were also super duper easy to make. I got the inspiration for our project from two sources. Here and Here.

I used new coffee filters to make my flowers, but I love the idea of recycling used ones. I certainly drink enough coffee (actually, it’s my only means of survival!), but this particular week I was out of them and so was boy scouting my coffee filters out of paper towels. A trick my roommate in college taught me. He said he learned to do it in boy scouts, hence why I called it that. So, I bought brand new ones so I wouldn’t need to do that, but did not have enough time to drink  enough coffee to recycle them. Make sense?

Anyway–my supplies:

Coffee filters, spray bottles with water mixed with food coloring inside

and

Green construction paper, a black marker and pipe cleaners and scissors (which are not pictured, oops)

First, I took some spray bottles and filled them with water. Then I added a few drops of food coloring in each bottle. This actually took more food coloring than I anticipated. Just a drop or two will instantly turn your (hopefully) clear water into what appears to be a deep hue. But, after spraying a filter or two, I figured out that it actually required more like 10 drops per bottle to color the filters properly. There is still a lot of dyed water left in each bottle after this though, so we will certainly use it for other projects.

Then, I had Zach spray the coffee filters with the dyed water. The spray bottles are actually difficult for him to use. They took a lot of pressure to push the pump down and he would get frustrated, so we did it together. I think a trigger style sprayer would be easier for the little ones. Or maybe we just had especially difficult spray bottles.

Zach spraying the filters

All colored and drying out

After the filters were dry, I took each one and gathered it around my finger in the center of the filter. Then I wrapped a green pipe cleaner (which they now call chenille stems these days, fancy huh?) around each gather to attach the “stem” to the “bloom”.

Connecting the flower to the stem

Then I just kind of spread the filter out a bit to make it look more flower-ish.

Unfurling the bloom

It almost looks like a real flower

After I created all of the flowers, I made some leaves out of the green construction paper. I folded the paper in half and drew a rough leaf shape. I drew it along the folded edge so that when I cut it out there was a crease in the middle of the leaf. This crease would be the part that wrapped around the stem. The leaves created a kind of “card” effect. I made 1 leaf per flower.

Drawing the leaves

All cut and ready to go

After Zach got up from his nap, I asked him to help me with the next part. I asked him what he loved about his grandmas. This was a little bit of an abstract concept to him, especially since his grandmas weren’t there with him. So we looked at some pictures on the computer. I was kind of prompting him, I’ll admit, but he did recognize his grandmas and answered yes when I asked if he liked the things they were doing in the pictures or things that the grandmas do when they are here.

On the front of a leaf I would write, “I love my grandma because…” and on the inside I wrote a reason (“she gives me cookies” or “she plays trains with me” or “she reads me books”, etc.). Other leaves said, “Happy Mother’s Day” on the outside and “Love, Zachary” on the inside.

Outside of the leaf

Inside of the book

If I were to do this again, I’d make the writing on the outside a little further from the crease. It got difficult to keep the glue away from the writing when I did the next step, which was to glue the leaves to the flower stems. Once the leaves were all glued on and dried, our bouquets were complete. 2 flowers for each grandma. And an extra for mommy. Because I want one.

Finished flowers

Oh Grandma, I love you just as much as I love my sippy cup of milk. Happy Mother's Day.

What did Zach learn? Patience. That worthwhile activities are worth repeating. About gravity and toys don’t always need batteries. The concept of love, even when those we love are far away. That we give gifts for special occasions.

What did Mommy learn? Once again, Daddy can handle himself with the kids, even overnight by himself. That worthwhile activities are worth repeating. That I am not 22 years old anymore (we did this cardio dance class that I am STILL sore from 2 days later. OUCH!).

What did Daddy learn? That it’s not so easy getting 3 kids out of the house by yourself in a timely fashion.