Fall Play Dough

DSC02066We made Fall Play Dough the other day and used the recipe found here at Nurture Store which is one of my favourite blogs I follow. My 3yo and I made three kinds. Yellow is nutmeg scented, Orange is clove scented and the Red is cinnamon scented. The Red is by far my favourite as the cinnamon is so wonderful to smell I just want to play with it and smell it too!

I then set out some loose nature items we have from around our house, our nature table, and from outside when we went on some walks in the forest. Some of the items included pine cones, various sticks, leaves, little pumpkins, acorns, a walnut, snail-shell, some decorative cabbage leaves, and some seed buds from a white petal flower that I have no idea what it is.

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Once I set out the tray of loose parts and the play dough, I left all the creativity to my 3 and 4-year-old boys. They actually both started with the sticks and pretended that the sticks were construction tools and then some of the other items became drillers, diggers and pavers. They of course had the loud noises to accompany the construction tools.

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DSC02088My boys then started to create objects, mix the play dough to create different colours and experiment with textures by using the objects and seeing how different things made different textures in the play dough. Their favourite textures were the leaf prints and the snail prints.

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Texture print from the snail-shell

My 3yo made a wonderful person with eyes, nose, mouth and body parts!

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They didn’t use all the items I had out for them, but they did use quite a few of them, and the best part was that the whole time they were smelling fall smells! I love when activities involve more than one sense at a time!

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Happy Fall! Have a great month this October! I know mine will be busy as my 9 month old is fully walking around and getting himself into mischief these days. As you can see he doesn’t sit down! Love this age of exploration!

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Heartfelt Toys: Peg People

Some of you may remember my post on Heartfelt Toys. Well, I finally got around to making some more heartfelt toys for my boys.

Toys do take a while for me to make, as finding time to do it always proves difficult between taking care of the family, my work for my sons preschool (as I am the President), making baby blanket gifts for other people’s newborns, etc… the list goes on, as I am sure you have quite an extensive list of your own. Toys for my own kids seem to get pushed back more than the other things on my list as we are not in short supply of toys in my house. However, it is the toys that we make with love that generally get the most used around here, so I am glad that I finally finished another one.

This time I made some wooden peg dolls with matching cups. All in all, it actually didn’t take me very long to do the project, once I found the time.

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I was inspired by the Waldorf wooden toys out there and thought I could make my boys 7 peg dolls. I bought the dolls and the cups at Lee Valley (very inexpensive) and then my husband made the holes in the cups bigger so the dolls would fit right inside nicely. I then taped around the heads and edge of the cups to leave some natural wood showing. I used  kids acrylic non-toxic paint and DSC02050painted the dolls and cups matching colours. It took about 4 or 5 coats of paint for some of the colours and only 2 or 3 coats for some others. My boys even helped with some of the painting, which was a nice added touch as they now feel they helped create the toys as well.

Once all the painting was done, I simply peeled off the tape and Ta Da! They looked awesome! My boys can now use the peg dolls to play with, do some colour matching with the cups, and we even did some complimentary colour matching for them to see what the opposites of each colour are; for example the opposite of blue is orange. Now, I decided to leave the faces blank and have no details so as my boys cold pretend that the peg dolls were anybody or anything they want, and have whatever feelings they want the dolls to have, I wanted to give them as much freedom as possible with the peg dolls to use their imagination.

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We are planning to build our own peg doll tree house, and then the peg dolls will get even more use. I also have a plan to knit a few hats for the peg dolls, but again, haven’t got to that yet. I will in time. Heartfelt toys are always loved around here, they add so much more value to the toy. A little love goes a long way!

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Chalk Painting

DSC02033I was reading a blog post about painting with chalk and my 3yo looked over my shoulder and said “I can do that!” So you guessed it! That’s what we did. You can find the post with the instructions here.

It was a lot of fun and reminded me a lot of watercolour painting as you get the paper very wet before you use your chalk.

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My 3yo got really into it and by the end of the 2nd paper he got to be quite a mess. He said he was trying to make different colours….maybe he just like experimenting or maybe he just likes getting messy…I am not sure which but he did have fun and that’s all that mattered to me.

DSC02042 DSC02046I mean look at him! One happy boy. I am a firm believer in the idea that process is everything, especially with kids. It doesn’t matter what the end product looks like, but what they learned and experienced by doing it. Definitely an easy project to have in your back pocket when you are out of ideas, or want something that doesn’t take long to set up. Keep in mind though, it could get messy so be prepared with cloths!

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Tooling Around!

My boys love, LOVE, tools!

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They cannot get enough of tools, and whenever they get the chance they are in the basement building at their own little workbench with Daddy. Well, they also are very interested in how things work and ask about a million questions about everything! So I thought to myself “let’s put those two thoughts together and tool around and figure out how things work!”

I created an investigator bin with a few different screwdrivers, hammers, flashlights, a phone that doesn’t work, an old keyboard and a flashlight that doesn’t work.

I told the boys, while my 8 month old was sleeping, they could take whatever tools were there and figure out for themselves how to take apart an object from the bin, figure out how it works and what it looks like on the inside. But they deal is that they have to put it back together again when they are done.

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I didn’t have to tell them twice before they were tooling around and getting right to it! My 4yo went for the phone and my 3yo started with the keyboard.

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DSC01797They LOVED tinkering with tools!

They helped each other, asked me a ton of questions, which I tried my best to answer to the best of my ability, and they took every single piece of their items apart and then put them back together again!

DSC01870  My 4yo hadn’t had enough so he decided to get his motorized excavator (that doesn’t work) and start taking that apart! He wanted to figure out if he could fix it, and see how all the parts moved inside. Of course I let him 🙂

Now as soon as my 8 month old woke up we had to put everything away until another day. But they kept asking me everyday afterwards, when the baby was asleep, if they could continue to explore with their tools. So here are a few more pics from subsequent days.

DSC01873 DSC01861DSC01992 DSC01994  I found it just amazing to watch them be so intrigued and explore with such concentration! The Excavator is proving to be a very complex toy, so it is still under examination and we haven’t completed taking it apart as of yet, but I believe once that is done, my boys will find something else to tinker with.

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If you are interested in doing this with any children, I have a few things you will want to know and some warnings:

  1. Be sure to put down an old sheet or tinker somewhere that is not where little ones play as there is often tiny bits of metal or dust that come off during the tinkering. We used a sheet and then I carefully folded it up and shook it outside so my baby didn’t crawl in anything.
  2. Be careful what kinds of items you give children to take apart. Electronics are sometimes not very safe for children as they contain lead in the wires and that is not good for them to touch.
  3. I gave my boys a keyboard, but I would not give them a computer until they are older as computers have a lot of lead and dangerous parts in them.
  4. Do not leave them alone and only tinker with tools under close supervision! I did not leave by boys’ side the entire time we were tooling around.
  5. If you cannot put the item back together again that day, keep any loose parts in a ziplock bag so as not to loose them.
  6. A good place to find items to take apart are thrift shops; don’t take apart your favourite items in your house, you may not get them back together again 😉 Flashlights are a good thing to start with.

If you have any questions about tooling around, feel free to ask my or make a comment and I will do my best to provide you with an answer.

I am going to leave you with a short video about Tinkering with tools. It is a TED Talk that I have seen and it is very interesting!

http://www.ted.com/talks/gever_tulley_on_5_dangerous_things_for_kids.html

Now go have fun Tooling Around!

Morning & Bedtime Tug of War!

Tug Of War

Tug Of War (Photo credit: bobweasel)

I sometimes feel like I am playing a game of Tug of War with my 4yo. Sometimes I win and sometimes I loose. But Morning and Bedtime routines is when I feel it the most.

My 4yo likes to be very independent and doesn’t like to be told what to do, as with most 4 year olds I assume. But when it comes to getting ready in the morning and getting ready for bedtime, he has a hard time doing the routine in a timely manner and I find myself (my husband too) reminding him and pestering him over and over to get ready. He usually just fools around and does much of nothing! Sometimes it simply ends up in an argument, or he doesn’t get ready in time for bedtime stories and has a meltdown.  I have now started giving him 1 hr before bed to get all the things he needs to do, done. I tell him “bed time is in 1 hour and how you use your time is your choice but you need to be done everything before bedtime”. If he gets done in a timely manner he gets bedtime stories, if he is really fast he even has time to play before story time, if he wastes his time, he ends up just going to bed, maybe catching the last story (I usually read three books). So far, it is working better than before, but could still use improvement as I find myself still reminding him of what he needs to get done.

So I am going to start a new visual aide system that he can look at to see what needs to be done and can do it at his own pace without me pestering him. I am simply trying to avoid getting frustrated with him, pestering/reminding him, and let him choose how to spend his time. I am hoping this cuts down on the fooling around and gives him a sense of ownership. We’ll see…

So here is the system I have come up with and found most of my visual aids here:

Printable picture/word cards

I had a hard time finding a floss teeth picture but as it is an important part of our bedtime routine I finally found this image to use and I enlarged it to the same size as the rest of the picture cards.

Here are some supplies I used:DSC02023

  • Colourful Card stock
  • Scissors
  • Self Laminating Sheets
  • Roll of Magnetic Tape

I choose to use really simple black and white line drawings with words. I then cut them out and glued them to colourful card stock and cut them out once more. I put them in a clear laminate sheet (if you have a laminator that is even easier) and cut them out a third time. Phew…the cutting is the most time-consuming part.

I then simply cut small pieces of magnetic tape and attached them to the backs of all the cards.DSC02025

I found these narrow Dry Erase Magnetic White Boards and wrote his name on one and his 3yo brothers name on the other (of course he has to have one too if his big brother gets one). There is a box underneath to keep the cards not in use, this way he can remove the cards from the board, put them in the box as he completes each task and can see what is still left to complete. I am hoping to find a better alternative to the box, something that just hangs underneath on the wall, but for now the box will do.

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I used pictures that create the exact routine we do in our home, but there are many pictures to use if your routine is different or if your child needs more instruction for each task. There is an abundance of images out there to choose from to suit everyone’s needs if you just google it or use the link for the images I used.

Here is what our routine looks like:

Morning To Do List:  &   Bedtime To Do List:

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So we begin this routine with the beginning of school as morning routine will need to be a little more strict with needing to catch the school bus in the morning. I hope this helps our morning and bedtime routines. I am not expecting miracles or perfection everyday, but I am hoping to find it helps him be independent and me (my husband too) less frustrated. Even if it helps a little then I know we are moving forward. I will let you know how it goes and keep you updated.

Happy September and enjoy the bustle of back to school time!

Patterns, Beads and Play Dough! Oh My!

DSC01999The boys love play dough, and beads. So how could I not take advantage and have them do a little Math!

We started by rolling a big ball of play dough then sticking some wooden skewers into the play dough. I talked to them about patterns (they are getting very familiar with patterns now, so they don’t need much of a lesson anymore, just some encouragement to try a harder pattern). My 4yo just kept saying “I know, Mom. I know how to do patterns!”

Then they started creating patterns with their beads and making “Towers” as they called it.

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I gave them some freedom and tried not to intervene too much, just ask a few questions here and there. I gave a little help to my 3yo to make sure he double checked his work to keep his pattern going correctly.

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As usual, they were very impressed with how the “Towers” turned out. They were beaming big smiles when they were all done!

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It’s a quick math activity to do with the kids to get their minds working and create some pride in themselves! Very easy to set-up and clean-up, perfect for those times when you just need something small to do. Have fun!

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Independent Baking

DSC01805I decided to set up a baking experience to give my boys the freedom to explore their senses and creativity and foster some independence (although my husband seems to think they are independent enough, I say they can always use more independence in the kitchen). I chose making pastries the way to go as they taste so yummy with whatever you choose to put in them.

My boys and I made the pastry dough in the morning as it needed to sit in the fridge for a few hours. Here is the Flaky Pastry Dough Recipe I used. It is from the book “At the Farmers Market with Kids”, a recent buy, that I now love!

While the dough was chilling in the fridge, I made sure to get all the other ingredients ready so the boys could make their pastries on their own. Here is what I put out for them:

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  • greased pans and muffin tins
  • various cookie cutters
  • 2 cutting boards
  • relatively sharp knife, but not too sharp of course
  • applesauce, walnut pieces, blueberries, chocolate chips
  • large apple, 2 peaches
  • cinnamon, brown sugar

When the dough was ready I rolled it flat, they helped a little with that, but in all honesty it was too time consuming to let them roll all of it so I did most of it.

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I then went over the basic ideas of making pastries and what was available for them on the table. They were so very eager to get started they could barely contain themselves!

Then I just let them go! Like really, I just left the table to them and watched as they created their tasty masterpieces.

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It was awesome! I think they worked for at least one and a half hours, maybe even a little longer. It’s amazing the kind of focus they had the whole time, I would have thought they would have gotten bored after 30 minutes, but they kept making more and coming up with different combinations of ingredients and different shapes!

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They asked for little help, but when they did I helped and then went back to watching. My 7 month old enjoyed watching as well, he had a snack at the table while they created.

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The boys were finished when all the dough had been used. We then popped them into the oven and waited….

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They turned out great! My boys were so very proud of themselves, and I was too. We all tasted the pastries and I was surprised how yummy they were, I mean a 3 and 4 year old made them, I think that’s amazing! ( I may be a tad bias, but anyone else who tried them also said they were very good too).

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So go ahead, let your little ones create, bake, and enjoy some pasties. The only thing I would advise would be to leave a lot of time for this activity. A half day is best as it takes time to create and bake and then there is clean-up afterwards, it does get a little messy when they work independently, but well worth it to see their faces when you take the pasties out of the oven!

Happy Baking!

Cutting with Knives

DSC01140It seems in this day and age, in our society, that there is a lot of worry over letting your children learn to use knives and at what age to do so. I know parents want to protect their children, but has it gone too far? When I see 7 year olds who can’t use a knife properly and are not allowed to cut up food to help prepare dinner, I think to myself “why can they use scissors at school but not a knife in the kitchen?”

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Cutting up green beans for a yummy dinner.

Learning to use a knife is a very important and useful skill. I have been teaching my boys to learn how to use a knife for a little while now. I did start very early with them (around age 2) and gave them a kid knife that was not sharp. But we have now progressed onto using a much more sharp knife to help me make dinner. Now of course I don’t give them the sharpest knife in my kitchen, but the knives I let them use are sharp. They are only allowed to use them with careful supervision and they understand that knives are tools, not toys. We have had many conversations about the dangers of sharp knives and how to use them properly, always keeping fingers out of the way. And my boys take cutting very seriously, so when asked if they want to help cut up veggies for a meal they always say yes, wash their hands and get down to work, knowing it is time to be serious, careful and practice their skill.

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Helping cut potatoes and peeling carrots

Both my 3yo and 4yo love helping in the kitchen in many ways, and cutting food with a knife makes them feel very useful and proud.  They are eager to contribute to preparing a meal, and are so excited to eat the food they helped make. They can’t wait to cut into it!

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Excited to help cut into the pizza they helped make with Daddy!

It’s Been HOT!!

The last two weeks have been so HOT around here that I have been spending a lot of time out of the house lately. We do not have A/C and this kind of heat makes me too lethargic to do much of anything other than find somewhere that has A/C. It has even been too hot for me to sit at my computer and blog!

So here is a little snapshot of what we have been up to.

My 3 and 4 year olds had a morning summer camp the week before last, and a couple of days were “dress-up” days. So of course they wanted to put a lot of effort into their costumes which took us some time in the afternoons and before camp to do. One day was Clown/Circus day…

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Another day was Space day…

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The robot costume that my 4yo came up with was quite elaborate and took a whole afternoon of crafting to put it together.

Last week we visited The Museum in Kitchener to get out of the heat. They have a lot of children’s activities on right now and we all had a fantastic time!

DSC01706We spent about 40mins in this room making a ball run. Again my 4yo came up with quite an elaborate track for the ball, all by himself! Very impressive!

DSC01711 DSC01712The boys each had a turn laying on the bed of nails.

And then they built some great creations while my 7 month old slept.

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They had a blast at the Museum and of course asked to go back the very next day. We may just have to head back there before the summer ends!

My boys made some crafts independently…

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DSC01739DSC01742Then I decided we should actually make something fun all together. I found a recipe that did not need baking. I didn’t want to turn my oven on and make our house hotter than it already was, so we made these No Bake Energy Bites.

The boys got out all the ingredients and I let the boys take the lead. I read the instructions to them,  they found the ingredients, measured and mixed.

I let them be in control and even decide what extra ingredients we added and how much.

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DSC01751The rolling of the dough into round bite sized balls proved very difficult for my 3yo and he decided he didn’t want to help with that, and my 4yo got tired of rolling so I took over and rolled the rest of them.

The Energy Bites ended up tasting great!

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All in all it has been a hot two weeks and now that the weather is turning and not so humid anymore, I think I will manage to get beck to creating and playing at home with my kids. Thus, will be able to blog more again.

Happy playing!

Treasure Box: Music

My Two oldest boys are at summer camp for the mornings this week, so this gives me and my baby some much needed alone time together. Sometimes I feel that he doesn’t get all the attention he deserves with all the boys home for the summer. So we are making the most of this weeks mornings.

I decided to create a Treasure Box of Music for my 6 month old this week. He loves taking things out of a basket or box and looking at it and then tossing it and finding something else. Most of the time he tries to find something that is extra good to chew on, so I had to make sure everything in his treasure box could go in his mouth and was not a choking hazard. I also know he likes anything shiny and colourful, so I tried to add lots of safe metal and bits of colour.

I came up with this:DSC01655

  • 2 plastic pop bottles, one filled with red rice, the other with chick peas
  • plastic spice jar filled with orange split peas
  • 2 soup spoons: one metal, one wood
  • baby safe enclosed bell
  • small metal pot lid
  • small plastic yellow lid
  • very small homemade drum I made years ago
  • small drumstick
  • 2 large round soft rocks (well cleaned)
  • metal baking pan to hold all the items

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Well, the treasure box was a hit! He loved taking out all the objects and investigating them. Everything went in his mouth to taste of course. His favourite at first was, surprisingly, the homemade drum. But after going through all the objects he stayed with the shiny metal soup spoon for quite some time.

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Once my oldest boys came home they immediately saw the new “instruments” and went to play with their baby brother. They got right to it and started making music and investigating the objects. They even went into the kitchen to grab a few more larger pots and lids to really make some music!

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The “Band” making some music!

My 3yo really enjoyed banging the “drums”, shaking the “rattles” and singing. While my 4yo decided to get a little creative and make a new instrument out of the metal soup spoon, metal lid and an elastic band. A sort of “cymbal” that he hit with the drumstick.

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They all had a great time together, and that’s the part that I couldn’t have planned, even if I wanted to. Sometimes, the best of times just have to happen on their own.

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And yes, that is my 6 month old standing by himself, something he has been working on for a few days now. He can not only crawl, he can pull himself up and is trying to cruise around the furniture. Oh boy! I am in trouble now! Time to baby proof the tops of the tables.

For more ideas on what to include in your music box/basket you can check out this website where I got some of my ides from.