Saturday, May 9, 2015

Nature Scavenger Hunt

We LOVE to take Z-Rex hiking. He's loved it since he could walk. I think this summer we are going to track our miles to see just how far we can go.

Recently we invited some friends from our outdoor art & play group to join us for a hike. 

I love watching the kids at the park. My favorite park is a local wildlife refuge. No play ground, no crowds, no distractions. Just us enjoying nature and each other. 

I made up this Nature Scavenger Hunt that was perfect for the our preschool crowd. 

The kids had a great time exploring and trying to find every thing on their list. 

A kids hike seems to have developed into a weekly tradition I hope to continue. Hands on learning at it's finest!

Friday, February 13, 2015

Valentine's Day Slime

I don't make slime often. Clearly I need to make it more. I had lots of special activities planned for today, but the tots ended up playing with this Valentine's Day slime for almost two hours. 

You Will Need:
2 cups clear or glitter glue gel
1.5 cups water

(I used two 6oz bottles of Elmer's red glitter glue plus one 4oz bottle of clear glue gel)

1tsp Borax
1.5 cups warm water

Pour the glue into a large mixing bowl after measuring. Fill glue bottles with warm water and shake well to get the last little bits of glue. Then measure out 1.5 cups water, pour into the glue and stir well to combine. 
At this stage I added the heart confetti and a few drops Cinnamon Leaf essential oil, it smells like red hots candies!! You could add extra food coloring or glitter too. 

In a separate bowl mix 1.5 cups very warm tap water with 3/4 to 1 teaspoon borax. Stir well until completely dissolved. The more borax you use, the thicker the slime will be. 

Pour the borax solution into your glue solution and mix well, stirring fast. The slime will quickly form and be very sticky at this point. Keep mixing until it forms a ball. You may or may not have some water left in the bowl (we didn't this time). 

That's it! Slime is super simple to whip up and super fun to play with. It's not sticky to play with and doesn't need much to go with it. Z Rex was very excited to start playing.


He loved squeezing the slime in his hands, feeling it ooze out between his fingers. Great exercise for building fine motor strength. 

Z Rex took his time investigating the physical properties of the slime. Squishing, squeezing, pulling, and stretching to see how the slime would react. I love sitting back quietly at this point during sensory play just to watch his expressions and reactions. 

Look Mama, I can see through it like glass. 

He quickly realized that if he held it up, the slime would slowly ooze down and thin out some. The light shining through was really pretty! We took turns pulling to see how far we could stretch the slime. This always ended in fits of giggles when it finally broke.

Slime is SUPER stretchy!
He did this over and over and over again. 

After about an hour of just playing and exploring the slime, I gave Z Rex a few heart cookie cutters to try out.  When he picked it up there is an impression for a few seconds, but it quickly disappears into the ooze. He had fun pressing them into the slime and seeing the slime ooze out around it. 

Overall slime is moving it's way up on the favorite sensory play ideas for Z Rex. He's already asking to play with it again.
There are lots of other recipes for play slime using liquid starch or even  Metamucil. We may try one of those next time to compare. 

Monday, February 9, 2015

Valentines Day Shaving Cream Messy Play

I'm always looking for ways to help make the holidays fun and exciting for the tots. Shaving cream messy play is always a favorite at our house, so I added some Valentines Day bits for extra fun. 

These little faces are really excited to get started! I filled up our sensory table with almost 3 cans of sensitive skin shaving cream. Then I stirred in a few drops cinnamon leaf essential oil as I smoothed it out. Drizzled a bit of red washable paint on top then added some foamy hearts I picked up in the dollar spot. The Kids are armed with paint brushes and an assortment of random kitchen utensils.

They really enjoyed discovering the foamy hearts, realizing they could stick on the walls and on each other!

Little Miss A usually isn't too into anything messy. Digging in with two hands was a BIG step for her. Z Rex on the other hand is all about getting as messy as possible!

It is always fun to sit back and watch how they interact and play with the given materials. Today there was lots of wall painting and drawing.  

 Z Rex is all about the full body experience with any kind of sensory based play. It never takes him long to be completely covered, in the bin, and having a great time. He's a messy play loving kid at heart!

As the kids naturally wind down after their initial excitement, I try to demonstrate a new way to interact with the play materials. They were excited to see they could write and draw on the bottom of the sensory table with the shaving cream. The red paint swirled through beautifully and the cinnamon leaf EO made everything smell like red hots candy. 

 The best part of messy play in the shower or tub is that clean up is a snap. We let the water run for a little while to add yet another dimension to our messy play experience. They really liked mixing the water and shaving cream to see it 'melt' together. Then we used cups and scoops to splash the walls washing away all our mess. Everyone got a good scrub down, then off to bed for these guys. 


Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Everlasting Play Dough

I jokingly call this the play dough that just won't die. Because it won't. If keep in an air tight container or zip top bag, this dough will last for months without refrigeration. I only throw it away because its gotten gross from so much play. It is super simple to make and change up to meet your child's play needs. 

4 cups flour (I use bleached because it takes color better in my opinion)

1 cup salt
4 tbsp cream of tartar (mine are usually slightly rounded)
1/3 cup vegetable oil
3 cups boiling water

I use to make play dough by hand. Then one day on a whim I tried our stand mixer. The heavens opened, angels sang, and I've never looked back. 

Add all the dry ingredients to the bowl and give it a little stir.
Add the oil and another quick stir. 
Pour in the boiling water and mix until a dough ball forms. 

Put the dough ball on a slightly floured surface and knead until smooth. 

That's it! I know, who knew the world's greatest play dough was so simple. 

Here's some tips and tricks I've learned along the way:

  • Use boiling water! Hot tap water will not work. 
  • Add food coloring or a kool aid packet to the boiling water BEFORE adding to dry ingredients. This will help evenly distribute the color. 
  • You need a good amount of food coloring. You shouldn't be able to see through the water. Gel or liquid food coloring work well. 
  • Essential oils or spices can be added to the dry mix before pouring in the water
  • Only use the superfine powdery glitter, the bigger stuff falls out while playing with the dough
Trouble Shooting:
  • If your play dough is sticky, sprinkle with flour then knead through adding more until it is smooth
  • If it feels dry or is cracking, drizzle with oil and knead well
  • If left out, wet your hands with water and knead through to revive. 

We've done all sorts of varieties with this base recipe. One of our favorites was beach play dough for a play date at the park. I kneaded in some sand from the craft store, then supplied the kids with beach glass, seashells, smooth rocks, and decorative glass beads. 

We continued to play with this play dough for months after our park play date. MONTHS.

Another favorite with our outdoor art group was ABC play dough. For this I used packets of frosting creations and kool aid to scent and color, I added some extra food coloring to give it a boost. We had pink bubble gum, blue cotton candy, and purple grape. It smelled AMAZING and the colors swirled together beautifully. 

We had alphabet dough stamps from Lakeshore Learning, letter cookie cutters, and foamy letters from a dollar store puzzle. Baby Rex got a set of alphabet rubber stamps for his birthday which also work really well with play dough.

 Other favorites have included Turkey play dough. Scented with pumpkin pie spice with feathers.

Red cinnamon scented play dough with heart cookie cutters, foamy spots, and black pipe cleaners to make love bugs.

Blue or white peppermint scented dough with jewels and snowflake cookie cutters for Frozen inspired play.

Strawberry frosting creations with pink glitter. Beads and jewels for princess play dough. 

Black lavender scented with silver sparkles for space dough. 

The possibilities are endless! So get out your mixer and have some fun!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Homeschool Preschool

I have been getting lots of questions lately about our homeschool preschool curriculum. The best thing I can tell you is this- you do NOT need to purchase a curriculum to teach your child.

Children, especially preschoolers, learn best from their environment and everyday activities. We play to learn everyday all day. By providing your child with meaningful play to learn opportunities, interacting with them through play or real life experiences, and allowing them to explore the natural world, you are teaching your child. 

Daily we use everyday toys and activities to make real world connections with academic basics. We also use tons of art projects to explore literature, science, and build a foundation for later learning. Duplos are great for teaching colors, counting, sorting sizes, patterns, and more. ABC puzzles, magnets, and play dough stamps introduce early literacy concepts. 

We are also heavily into sensory play. These provide easy ways to create meaningful play to learn activities that support scientific or academic concepts.  Feel free to take a look at my posts on sensory play 101 and why I love sensory play for more information.

The syllabus we use is very basic and easy to follow. I just made a spreadsheet in excel to keep us on track and for planning. We have 1-2 week theme based units with an ‘of the week’ focus. The themes are usually seasonal or holiday based plus a letter, number, shape, and color of the week. I use books with story stretcher activities to explore themes in depth. We use hands on activities and art projects to teach academics. Weekly letter art is a big favorite at our house.  Our ABC boxes get a lot of use too. Math manipulatives, DIY or store bought, make math practice easy.

The most important thing is for your child to have fun. Preschool age is all about instilling a love of learning and fostering their natural curiosity. Use what your child is interested in and go from there. Personally I am not concerned with when my child master’s his ABC’s or 123’s. When he can spell his name or write independently. I do not stress over pushing academics, he will get there when he’s ready. 

And lastly we read. A lot. It is one of the few times Baby Rex will sit still for any length of time. We read together for 30-60 minutes every night before bed, plus other times during the day. He is also really into board games and puzzles which are great teaching extensions. 

Please let me know if you have any questions about anything. Have fun and happy homeschooling!

Date & Theme Letter Num. Shape Color Science & Social Studies
8  Community Helpers M 6 Circle Purple Comm Helpers
15  Community Helpers B 9 Triangle White Fire Safety
22  Apples A 3 Square Red Apples
29  Apples Z 7 Star Green Johnny Appleseed
6  Forrest Friends D 5 Oval Brown Forest Animals
13  Forrest Friends Y 2 Rectangle Blue Nocturnal Animals
20  Pumpkins I 8 Heart Orange Pumpkins
27  Pumpkins O 10 Diamond Black Pumpkin Dissection
3  Fall & Leaves 4 Circle Yellow Fall
10  Fall & Leaves P 1 Triangle Pink Leaves
17  Thanksgiving  & Food E 3 Square Brown Food Groups
24  Thanksgiving & Food N 5 Oval Orange 1st Thanksgiving
1 Christmas & Nativity J 9 Rectangle White Nativity Story
8  Christmas & Nativity C 2 Diamond Green Nativity Story
15 Christmas & Nativity U 7 Star Red Nativity Story
22   Break/Review
29  Break/Review
5  Snow & Ice I 4 Square White Cold/Hot
12  Artic Animals R 8 Circle Blue Artic
19  Transportation G 6 Triangle Purple Wheels & Ramps
26  Transportation F 10 Rectangle Brown Sink/Float
2 Valentines/Friends Q 1 Heart Red Character Dev
9  Valentines/Friends V 13 Heart Pink Character Dev
16 Space S 15 Star Yellow Planets
23 Shadows X 18 Oval Black Shadows
2  Dr. Suess T 12 Rectangle Blue Mixing Colors
9  Noah's Ark & Rainbows H 20 Circle multi Noah's Story
16  St. Patrick's Day W 16 Shamrock Green Folk Tales
23  Easter K 19 Triangle Orange Easter Story
30  Easter A 14 Oval White Easter Story
6  Farm Animals P 17 Square Pink Farm Animals
13  Farm Animals D 11 Diamond Red Visit Farm
20  Weather O 15 Rectangle Blue Weather Words
27  Weather R 19 Circle Yellow Weather Experiments
4  Flowers/Seeds S 13 Triangle Purple Plant Parts
11  Flowers/Seeds E 16 Heart Orange Plant Growth
18   Caterpillars/Butterflies B 18 Square Green Butterfly Life Cycle
25   Caterpillars/Butterflies A 20 Circle Pink Butterfly Life Cycle

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Valentine's Tubby Time

I wanted to do something special on Valentine's Day for Baby Rex. We've been playing with conversation hearts, making crafts, and all things heart themed all week. It was time to just be silly and have some fun.
I painted the tub with washable paint while Baby Rex was napping. I used a heart shape cookie cutter to stamp the hearts on, it was an easy and fast way to decorate. By the time he woke up everything was dry and ready to go. I made jello hearts following the jigglers recipe on the box using the same heart cookie cutter to make the shapes. Next I added his heart shaped measuring scoops and a bag of conversation hearts. He is super excited to play.

  The jello hearts made for an interesting texture to squish with his hands and toes.
Since Baby Rex is only 16 months old I kept all his play material edible just to be on the safe side. As always the rule is 'no mouth' and he is really good about keeping things out of his mouth since we've always done lots of different sensory play. 

The conversation hearts were a great addition that provided many teachable moments. 
We identified and sorted colors and practiced counting. He really liked it when I stacked a few up for him to knock down again and again. 

 This is my FAVORITE picture from today. One of the reasons I love sensory play so much is the goofy grins, silly faces, and endless giggles on my son's face. These are the moments I cherish. 

 As Baby Rex was winding down, I turned on the water to add a new dimension to his play. 
The jello hearts quickly melted while the conversation hearts took a bit longer to dissolve. Baby Rex enjoyed splashing, scooping, and pouring the red cherry scented water.
When he was done playing I just turned on the shower to give Baby Rex and the tub a good rinse.Now we are all set for our next tubby time adventure.