Wednesday, December 17, 2014

fun with dyed chanukah pasta

When I found this happy bag of Chanukah pasta at World Market I scooped it up with a whoop and imagined how pretty it would be dyed in all sorts of happy colors. So I took it home and did just that using this method.
The bag itself isn't too large so each color is only maybe two cups or so of noodles. The teal and purple were accomplished using liquid watercolor while the dark blue and the white needed a little help from some acrylic paint mixed with water. The white and blue got a bit more wet than usual in the shaking process so needed a day to dry with a manual flip in between to get both sides.
Once the noodles are all dry there are oodles of ways for your kiddos to play! Use the pasta as a stand in for gelt during dreidel play. Add it to play dough or color sort onto a sorting mat made from printed/solid paper taped or stitched together. Felt will work for a more permanent mat but happy scrapbook paper will do in a pinch!
Stack the pieces! Have a contest to see who can stack the most in a set time. Up the ante by using only your pinching fingers. Grab a pipecleaner or some yarn and string the noodles up for a pretty necklace or bracelet.
Work on math and patterning by creating various patterns with your kiddos. Set up an art table with glue, paint, and glitter and get to it! There are all sorts of ways you can play! Happy Chanukah!

Monday, November 17, 2014

press here: 6 ideas for play

Here are some of the fun things we had set up in our classroom for our week of Press Here.

*color sorting pom poms into polka dot containers
*pom pom, buttons, and circle picks in playdough. 
*making pom pom slime in the classroom
*Press Here inspired dot collage
*pom pom magnet play
*painting with primary colors on the easel

Sunday, November 16, 2014

art inspired by press here

We spent a week exploring circles and primary colors for our week of Press Here by Hervé Tullet. As a part of our weekly journal art we made spotty collages on small sheets of paper that were six inches square. We began doing our art directly into our journals but I have found that the pages are too large for the children to focus on so we shrunk down the work surface for them to fill.

Kiddos used glue sticks to layer and stick their circles of choice to their paper. Some of our circles were punched at the art table by the kiddos themselves while others were prepunched by me from various scrapbook papers and some painted newspaper.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

diy halloween fine motor bank

If you have the materials on hand you can whip this easy peasy bank up in about two minutes! For reals! All you need is an empty can (I found mine at Target's Dollar Spot) and a balloon (also from Target) a pair of scissors.
The inspiration for this little bit of happy came from a bag of Halloween chocolates that I spotted at Target (yup, Dollar Spot). I thought they were poker chips or plastic coins and thought how fun would it be to make a bank then I spotted the can and it was the only one and I snatched it up. When I got home I noticed that the chips were actually chocolates. Good thing I picked up two bags! You can also use an empty soup or bean can that has been painted or covered in paper.
For this project you will need a regular sized balloon (whatever that is) not a water balloon. Use a pair of scissors to snip off the open end and stretch over the top of the can. Use a sharp pair of scissor to snip a small incision that you then open a bit more with your scissors. I began with dull scissors which mucked it up a smidge but it still works!
If you do not have chocolates you can use erasers, coins, or maybe the pieces from your homemade matching game? Have fun, enjoy, and remember to always supervise your kiddo when there are small pieces and balloon bits involved. Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 27, 2014

diy halloween matching game

This super easy matching game was made from 16 blank wooden discs, acrylic paint, glue. and round puffy stickers. Super simple!
I had the discs on hand thanks to being a craft supply hoarder but you can find them at your local craft store and/or Amazon. They can be a bit on the pricier side (at least for me) so I usually wait until the wood pieces are on sale or I have a coupon. The stickers were purchased from Target and cost once cent shy of three bucks. Add some paint to your discs (both sides) and allow to dry on a sheet of parchment or wax paper. I will often reuse my wax paper until I cannot. Or, use scrapbook paper punched and glued to one side. For your stickers, make sure you use a disc blank that is large enough and that you have doubles of at least eight stickers so that you can make a matching game. Use a dab or two of glue to adhere puffy stickers on as they do not have tremendous stick to them. Paper stickers can be pretty tacky and should stick easily without the aid of glue.
Once all happy and dry, your kiddos can use the pieces as a matching game, a memory game, play money, sand/or mall motor tweezing and transferring/ If you have an available piggy bank your kiddo can practice putting the coins into the bank! Have fun!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

halloween {fine motor} treats and more

This coming week we are reading Elmer by David McKee and while I have plenty of Elmer and elephant activities about the room, I wanted to share some super easy Halloween themed activities that are also set up in my classroom that you can do at home.
finger puppets and halloween books
I have no idea where these adorable finger puppets came from. I found them in our finger puppet box and set them aside for Halloween. The books on display are Two Little Witches, Go Away Big Green Monster, and The Big Pumpkin.
halloween pasta and pipe cleaner threading
I found these crazy cute Halloween shaped pasta pieces at World Market. Not sure exactly how this is going to work but how could I not buy them?
one elephant went out to play...
This is one of our Elmer activities but I thought that the cute tiny spider web played in well with a Halloween theme. I found the web last year at either the dollar store or Michael's. I've seen them around this year as well. The wee elephants are beads that came from a jungle animal pack. I found them at Michael's. We will be learning the song One Elephant Went Out to Play (I sing it a little differently) and this little activity is for the kiddos to act it out. I have a larger set as well using a placemat and these counters from Amazon.
felt pumpkins and creepy crawly sorting
We did this last year and the kiddos loved it. I hope this year's batch adores it as well!  I think I found the pumpkins at Target last year but don't quote me on that. The critters were also a Target find and were once rings. I used scissors to snip off the bands.
halloween picks and a foam pumpkin
Here is my Halloween take on golf tees and pumpkins or foam (though we are going to have the golf tees, hammer, and pumpkin set up as well). One smallish glittered pumpkin from Target's Dollar Spot (three dollars) and two packs of cupcake picks from The Dollar Tree (the cupcake liners are at the art table with glue sticks, paper, and Halloween themed stamps.) We'll see how long the foam pumpkin lasts. I'm hoping it will survive the week.
halloween treasures and tweezers in salt
This happy assortment of critters and fun is a hodge podge of Halloween items from last year. I think I found everything at Michael's. The little jack-o-lanterns are erasers, the spiders, bats, and clear gems were from one of those Ashland home decor packs that I managed to score at 60% off. There are also googly eyes added for fun. I have some silicone pumpkin shaped ice cube trays set up next to this tray which was a wood box from a Melissa and Doug toy. I found the box at our Goodwill Outlet and picked it up for fifty cents (score!)
magnifying glasses at the nature table
Not really fine motor but we have our nature table piled high with mini pumpkins, gourds, and leaves. The children bring things in daily to add to our table. This coming week we will have a pumpkin cut open for them to explore....hence the magnifying glasses.

There you have it. An assortment of activities that can be easily adapted for home. 

Not into Halloween? 

*Set up a book basket full of items, finger puppets, and/or props from your kiddo's favorite book for them to explore. 

*Grab a box of penne pasta and some pipe cleaners for threading. 

*Pick up some themed beads that go along with a favorite song (spider rings for Itsy Bitsy Spider would be really easy to find right now). 

*Use colored beads or buttons for sorting instead of creepy crawlies. 

*Make your own picks for poking and use a real pumpkin. 

*Pick up a pack of flat backed marbles from your dollar or craft store and toss them into a tub of rice or cut up colorful straws and add them to a tub of beans and use chopsticks that are connected together with a rubber band instead of tweezers.


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

diy alphabet tiles

Last June we spent a week with Chicka Chicka Boom Boom. In preparation, we brought out all of our alphabet puzzles, magnets, and fun. I wanted to add another alphabet element and a light bulb hit when I spied a pack of felt letters at our local craft store. I was able to purchase the letters for under five-dollars and while I wish they were in a different color I went for the yellow instead of navy blue.

To make your own alphabet tiles hit up your local hardware store for some wood floor samples. Home Depot carries samples that are about four inches square. I grabbed 26 in a variety of stains and checked with a clerk to make sure it was ok to take this many as they are free! I explained that I was a teacher and they were super cool about it.
Once I got home, I stacked my tiles in a not-too- random pattern, grabbed my felt letters and rifled though them until I had the entire alphabet by my side and got to sticking.
In no time at all I had a happy set of letters to share with my classroom. The children were really intrigued. At three going on four, the children are very interested in spelling their names. I explained that we only had one of each letter and that we might not be able to spell everyone's name with the tiles but that we could using our magnet letters.
The children took turns looking for the letters in their names and lining up the tiles in random patterns. It's a start. Yay for emergent literacy!

Monday, October 6, 2014

flowering tea observation {in the classroom}

Have you ever brewed the loveliness that is flowering tea? As a part of our tea investigation I brought in a ball of flowering jasmine maidens from Harney & Sons. To brew flowering tea for drinking you should have a clear pot and hot water. We were not going to drink the tea (can you imagine three year olds hopped up on caffeine?) so I used my pretty mini pot and then transferred the flowering ball into a large ball jar.
The tea brews just like a regular tea bag but is much prettier. To keep the jar of tea from getting cloudy with green tea, after the ball opened up I discarded the tea into a mug for myself and refilled the jar with cooler water. This was repeated throughout the day so that the kiddos could observe and comment on the pretty jar of tea.
Harney and Sons flowering tea is not really priced to waste but you can now flowering tea at your local grocery store or online. Up above is my nifty single serve tea pot which we used for the initial brewing. The children asked a lot of questions and marveled at the idea that a person sewed the leaves together so that when we brew it the leaves would open up and bloom. Many of the children believed that the tea was a flower that was picked just like that. Some decided it was fairy tea. They also loved the scent of the tea, jasmine tea does smell quite pretty. We saved our flowering tea for the next class to view, it lasted two days before becoming hyper-bogged down with the water. Stay tuned for more tea investigation!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

jewelry boxes in the classroom

I have been wanting a jewelry box for our classroom and it has taken me awhile to find one. I found this gentleman's jewelry box/valet at the thrift store for a dollar. Thrift stores are excellent resources for finding fun small boxes. You might also have luck at local estate or garage sales. While I do wish the mirror was still intact I think the drawer with all the cubbies is enough to entice the kiddos to explore.

The spring themed erasers are from Target's Dollar Spot and the acrylic flowers came from a local craft store. I set out these originally to go along with a spring theme we had been exploring in the classroom.
Of course...the drawers are not only for trinkets and such. Just about anything can be crammed into the wee spaces!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

diy balloon {shaker} drums

We spent a week with the book The Listening Walk. We talked a lot about our senses especially our sense of hearing. So, for the week we set out to make as many musical instruments as possible (which wasn't that many but the heart and soul was there). Our first foray into instrument making was our balloon drum/shakers.
The children painted their cans first. We added a bit of soap to the paint to help it stick to the cans but that did not work too well so we had to add a coating of mod podge. The parts of the can that did not get mod podged flaked a lot. I'm thinking maybe some glue added to the paint will help. Tucking that into my cap for next year. After the cans dried (the next class day) the children did some scooping, pouring, dropping, and dumping of assorted noise-making elements such as popcorn kernals, dried beans, cut straws, and lentils.
 After selecting a balloon, we cut off the bottom and S T R E T C H E D the top portion over the cans (this part took a lot of help from me). We used these happy polka dotted balloons.

And then it was time to put on our rock n' roll mix and get to it! The children loved both shaking and playing their drums...they even asked if they could hold them for rest time. We had so much fun!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

fizzy ice fun in the classroom

Back in May we had some seriously hot weather for our town. The kiddos got a bit lethargic and so I brought out a class favorite and added a bit of ice to the mix.
 The kiddos love mixing colors and experimenting with baking soda and vinegar. They spent about 30 minutes noodling around. We began with ice cubes and watercolor and then a couple of drops of vinegar was added along with a smattering of baking soda. There were a lot of Oooooohs and Aaaaaaahs.
They become so involved they don't even complain about the scent of the vinegar. They were also completely happy with their first color choice and did not ask for other colors like they usually do. Yay for science!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

diy toddler gift {for around $10}

There is a crazy cute young lady in my life that celebrated a birthday back in February. Due to crazy schedules (both mine and mama's) it took a few months to get together and this little gift I cobbled up waited ever so patiently for its new home.
It's like a super pretty busy basket...wait it is a super pretty busy basket. Most of the items inside can be found at your local dollar or discount store. The most costly items in the basket were the bowls and that is only because at a $1.99 each I purchased three of them (how could I not?) at my local World Market.
Now here is the thing you may or may not believe...two of these items are cat toys. Cat toys! Who knew? 

*The little rattan (heehee...that one is for you Za!) balls were in the pet section at my Dollar Tree. They come 4 to a pack and I bought a few packs because I really liked the colors and I may have made a garland out of them (I really need to photograph the August and soon-to-be September bed). They are perfectly sized for little hands and too big for little mouths. I thought the balls would be fun to pair up with the bowls as they are a perfect match. They also roll there.  

*The clothespins I had in my stash so I am not including their cost in this diy. I included six and tied them with a length of velvet ribbon for texture. Loose ribbon is not safe for wee ones so make sure it is retied  and quadruple knotted to some other object so that kiddo can touch and feel but not chew and swallow or get tangled in it.

*The pom-poms are also cat toys and not a recommended size for wee ones unless you know the wee one really well. They were another happy collection of color and they sparkled.
*The wee wooden bowls are from World Market and cost $1.99 a piece. I use these in my classroom all the time and they are just so great for sorting, stacking, and dramatic play. They are also simply beautiful and it doesn't hurt to have beautiful things available for little hands to play with.

*The basket was a thrift store find and cost me fifty cents. Fifty cents! For reals! If you are not a thrifter you can find small baskets of a little less quality at your dollar store. I highly recommend thrifting though. It's good for both your pocketbook and the environment so why not?

*The little soft doll was something I made for a swap years ago. I made a bunch of them for the shop as well but they did not sell so now I gift them. I may have a few left and can list them if you think it is something you are interested in. Just give me a shout! 

*I bought the poms to use with a small container for fine motor play. The container used to house peanuts in it. The nuts were added to our giant jar of trail mix and the canister was thoroughly cleaned. If you are gifting this to a household with a nut allergy, find a different kind of container. Even though this has been cleaned out there is always a possibility for contamination. Better to be safe than sorry. I went for the smallest I could find with a lid so that it would fit in my basket. After washing and drying, the container was covered in happy paper. The lid had a hole cut into it just a smidge smaller than the poms. The plastic of the lid is super soft so the cut edges are smooth and will not bite little fingers. If your lid is testy, use washi tape around the inside edges to soften it up.

*Lastly in the basket is a quartet of washcloths also from the Dollar Tree. The cloths can be used for peek-a-boo and/or stuffed into the basket, etc. Wash them in a gentle organic soap (Dr. Bronner's is a lovely brand) before gifting.
This little bottle of fun did not fit into the basket but I really wanted to include it because it is fun and pretty! I used a Martinelli's blood orange juice bottle because it's what I had on hand. The beverage is super tasty and often on sale at the market and is both small and double walled (another classroom crinkles all on its own). All the bits of happy inside came from home...rice, beads, sparkly pipe cleaners, and buttons. Give the inside of the cap a dose of tacky glue before putting on to hold it in place and keep the happy bits safely away from the happy kiddo.
There you go, hopefully a basket full of inspiration for you to make for your own wee one or as a gift for another. Just make sure it is safe, age appropriate and allergen free. Happy almost Fall!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

chalkboard butterflies in the classroom

 When I was shopping for butterflies the first time around, I spied these already-made chalkboard butterflies at Michaels for three dollars and scooped one up for the children to draw and color on.
The chalkboard came with a twine hanger threaded and knotted through the holes at the top. I cut the twine off so we could use the butterfly at our art table. The set up was really pretty simple. Just the chalkboard and the chalk in one of my insect trays from Cost Plus World Market (from 2011). I mean really, look how pretty the chalk looks...all those happy colors. The children had a damp sponge and/or a piece of flannel to wipe the board clean. One of my industrious kiddos got a hold of a wet wipe to wash the chalk dust off his hands and continued to use it as an eraser. While a lot of fun, this board did not work as well when wet. You know how vibrant chalk looks on a wet board, or wet chalk looks on a board? It didn't work on this board...I have no idea why but that did not deter the kiddos at all.
Sorry about the blurry photo. This is the only one I managed to get of the set up. Even though I wiped it down you can still see evidence of the chalk all over the surface. For some reason, the children also preferred the brown chalk above all the other colors. Go figure. You can find chalkboards in all shapes and sizes now. I have chalkboard teapots, pumpkins,  birds, many!