Friday, March 27, 2009

Friday Focus : Creating a Literate Home, Part 4

image from MS

Another tip from PBS is to have props for pretend play. Pretend play actually contributes to literacy skills, and let's your kid have fun at the same time. Here are some ideas for items to collect and keep in a prop or dress up box:

- old necklaces and ties
- hats
- scarves
- boxes (old cereal, packaging etc.)
- toy animals, dolls
- old dishes, silverware
- blankets
- old phone or cell phone
- play money
- bags and wallets
- shoes
- sunglasses and glasses

If your child has a hard time thinking of what he/she can pretend to do, here are some ideas to get them started:

- play store (grocery, toy, clothing, bake etc.)
- play restaurant (fast food, fancy or sit-down)
- play hospital, fire station or police station
- play farm or circus
- play school or work
- play pirates


Thursday, March 26, 2009

15 Minutes : Play It : Toddler Twister

image via flickr
activity idea from "The Everything Toddler Activities Book"

My little girl is just learning her colors and shapes, but the concept isn't quite sticking yet (everything is blue or white right now). I like this activity because it incorporates movement and action in learning. She has fun, and because it is game she doesn't get bored easily. Here's how to play...

Cut large circles out of different colors of paper and place on the floor. Call out simple actions like "put your hand on the red circle". You can also cut out different shapes for your child to find and/or call out different types of actions for your child to perform like "jump on the red circle" or "put one finger on the red circle". The great thing is you can customize the game to whatever your child is learning at that time.


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

15 Minutes : Play It : April Fools

image via
April Fools' is a week from today. I'm not much of a prankster myself but this year I will try putting a raisin in the end of the kids' tube of toothpaste so when they squeeze it they'll think a bug has come out. Check out FamilyFun for more great April Fools' ideas.


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

15 Minutes : Make It : Tracing Letters

This activity goes right along with our Friday Focus topic. Here is a cool find I recently heard about. This site allows you to type in your child's name (or any word for that matter) and turns it into a tracing pattern so your child can practice.
Have fun with it!


Monday, March 23, 2009

15 Minutes : Make It : Painting in the Rain

image via Family Fun
My kids love to draw and color, especially if I break out the markers (during little tyke's naptime, of course). Since we don't get a lot of rain in our area, we'll just save our pictures for a rainy day, and then watch the impressionistic magic happen. Or, I suppose we could spray it with a spray bottle and get a similar effect.

Draw a picture on cardstock with washable markers. Set it outside in the rain for a few minutes. Allow picture to dry.

Idea from Family Fun


Friday, March 20, 2009

Friday Focus : Creating a Literary Home, Part 3

According to PBS, one great way to encourage literacy in the home is to have a variety of writing materials available. In our home, we have a cupboard dedicated to kid-friendly craft supplies where they can find multiple kinds of paper, dry erase boards and markers, crayons, pencils, washable markers, paints and paintbrushes and coloring and/or activity books.

I love the suggestion of having a model of all the letters available for young writers that allows them to refer to it if they have trouble remembering letter formations.

The one above will easily work for now until I can find (or make) a better piece to hang on my wall.


Thursday, March 19, 2009

15 Minutes : Play It : Online Alphabet Game


As a full-time working mom with the luxury of getting to work from home, I spend a lot of time on my cell phone and computer. Consequently, I have a two-year-old who also has her very own laptop (an old one I'm not using anymore). She loves to point out "mom's computer", "dad's computer" and "elle's computer".
One of her favorite online games which I love to listen to her sing and repeat is this alphabet game from Fisher Price. She simply has to push a key on the keyboard to get to the next letter. It not only gives her something fun to do and play while I am working on my computer, but it is educational and helping her learn her letters and ability to say a variety of words.


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

1 Hour : Make It : Decorated Styrofoam Eggs

With St. Patrick's Day scarcely behind us I'm already excited to start thinking of Easter. I love these styrofoam eggs from Original Kids' Crafts. What a fun way to use paper napkins.

Find the complete instructions here.


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

15 Minutes : Read It : Small Beauties

image via Amazon

My daughter and I fell in love with this beautifully illustrated, poignant story of an Irish family who leaves their home during the potato famine. Small Beauties focuses on sharp-eyed Darcy who gathers simple memories of their home to take to America, where her sad, uprooted family craves reminders of Ireland. I dare you to read it without an Irish lilt.


15 Minutes : Know It : St. Patrick's Day

image via

St. Patrick's Day, also known as St. Paddy's Day is a holiday to celebrate the Irish Saint, Patrick. It originated as a religious holiday but is mostly celebrated today for it's secular meaning with many more added traditions (color green, leprechauns, etc.).

Click here for some printables (coloring pages, word puzzles, mazes)
Here are some fun facts about the holiday for your family to enjoy.

facts via

Facts about St. Patrick's Day Holiday

  • St. Patrick’s Day is observed on March 17 because that is the feast day of St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland. It is believed that he died on March 17 in the year 461 AD. It is also a worldwide celebration of Irish culture and history. St. Patrick’s Day is a national holiday in Ireland, and a provincial holiday in the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador.
  • In Ireland on St. Patrick’s Day, people traditionally wear a small bunch of shamrocks on their jackets or caps. Children wear orange, white and green badges, and women and girls wear green ribbons in their hair.
  • Many cities have a St. Patrick’s Day parade. Dublin, the capital of Ireland, has a huge St. Patrick’s Day festival from March 15-19, that features a parade, family carnivals, treasure hunt, dance, theatre and more. In North American, parades are often held on the Sunday before March 17. Some paint the yellow street lines green for the day! In Chicago, the Chicago River is dyed green with a special dye that only lasts a few hours. There has been a St. Patrick’s Day parade in Boston, Massachusetts since 1737. Montreal is home to Canada’s longest running St. Patrick’s Day parade, which began in 1824.

Facts about Saint Patrick

  • St. Patrick was born in 385 AD somewhere along the west coast of Britain, possibly in the Welsh town of Banwen. At age 16, he was captured and sold into slavery to a sheep farmer. He escaped when he was 22 and spent the next 12 years in a monastery. In his 30s he returned to Ireland as a Christian missionary. He died at Saul in 461 AD and is buried at Downpatrick.

Facts about the Irish

  • 34 million Americans have Irish ancestry, according to the 2003 US Census. That’s almost nine times the population of Ireland, which has 4.1 million people.
  • Some American towns have “Irish” names. You could visit: Mount Gay-Shamrock, West Virginia; Shamrock Lakes, Indiana; Shamrock, Oklahoma; Shamrock, Texas; Dublin, California and Dublin, Ohio.
  • The harp is the symbol of Ireland. The color green is also commonly associated with Ireland, also known as “the Emerald Isle.”
  • The Irish flag is green, white and orange. The green symbolizes the people of the south, and orange, the people of the north. White represents the peace that brings them together as a nation.
  • The name “lephrechaun” has several origins. It could be from the Irish Gaelic word “leipreachan,” which means “a kind of aqueous sprite.” Or, it could be from “leath bhrogan,” which means “shoemaker.”

Facts about Clovers

  • According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the highest number of leaves found on a clover is 14!
  • One estimate suggests that there are about 10 000 regular three-leaf clovers for every lucky four-leaf clover.
  • Legend says that each leaf of the clover means something: the first is for hope, the second for faith, the third for love and the fourth for luck.


Monday, March 16, 2009

15 Minutes : Make It : St. Patrick's Breakfast

image via here

We like to have "green eggs & ham" for breakfast on St. Patrick's Day. Since I'm not willing to pour in food coloring, I've come up with this simple, healthy recipe that my kids love. (We even have it on non-Irish days.)

Green Eggs & Ham

6 eggs, beaten with salt and pepper
about 1/3 cup frozen chopped spinach (I use the loose packed stuff; boxed spinach works as well.)
about 1/4 cup diced ham

Spray a non-stick pan with cooking spray, saute spinach over medium-high heat until softened. Add ham and cook another minute. Pour beaten eggs and scramble, stirring often. Serve with toast, English muffin, etc., and be sure to tell your kids the Dr. Seuss story.


Friday, March 13, 2009

Friday Focus : Creating a Literary Home, Part 2

image source

Last week Cissy talked about books and gave some great suggestions on how we can create a more literate home by implementing books and a love for reading. Today I would like to focus on letters and how important it can be to expose them not only to our older children but especially to our younger ones. PBS suggests providing a variety of types of letters that children can move around and rearrange. Here are a few ways my child is becoming more familiar with his letters.
1) Foam bath letters. This is his main bath toy. He loves to stick them on the side of the tub and rearrange them. Although, he is too young to know the names of the letters I think it's a good idea to spell his name out or show him which letter his name starts with.
2) Alphabet puzzles. Puzzles require a certain amount of concentration. As your child gets better at identifying the puzzle piece with it's place he/she will ultimately becoming more familiar with the characteristics of each letter.
3) Alphabet cookie cutters. I occasionally will pull out the cookie cutter and let my little man make a mess of them. I think at his age he would love it if I pulled out the play do and let him cut some letter shapes out.

These are only a few ideas of how you can expose letters in your home and in different ways. Others include: magnets, blocks, stickers, songs, educational videos. You may also want to consider creating an specific area in your home for writing where there is easy access to paper and pencil, crayons ect. This is a great way to promote learning.


Thursday, March 12, 2009

1 Hour : Make It : Spool Crocheting

As a little girl, my sisters and I would spend hours crocheting with a tool my mom made with a spool and 4 nails. With this week being National Crochet week as part of National Craft Month, read more to see basic instructions on how you can make your own for hours of crafty fun with your kids or check out this tutorial from CraftyPod.

Making & Using a Knitting Spool

Use an empty wooden thread spool or a cylinder of wood with a 1/4 inch diameter hole through the center. Hammer 4 small finish nails (without heads) at regular intervals around the center hole. Thread the end of a ball of yarn down through the hole, and hold in place with left hand while working.
Wind the yarn in a counterclockwise direction around each nail.

Working in a clockwise direction, take the yarn around the outer edge of the next nail and, using a tapestry needle or small crochet hook, lift the lower loop up over the yarn and over the nail.

Continue working around each nail in this way, working in a continuous circle to form a tubular cord. To bind off, pass each loop over next nail in clockwise direction. When one loop remains cut off yarn, pass the end through the last loop and pull firmly.

Info from Sweaterscapes


Monday, March 9, 2009

15 Minutes : Read It : Tell Me a Season

image via

The changing weather in March always has me explaining seasons to my kids. "Tell Me a Season" is one of our favorite picture books for this concept. The illustrations are pretty and simple, yet portray the essence of each season; the poetic words provide lovely descriptions.


Friday, March 6, 2009

Friday Focus : Creating a Literate Home,Part 1

Reading is simply a part of me and I'm thrilled to find it becoming a part of my children as well. Even as I scold my 9-year-old for staying up too late with a good book, I'm quietly glad that reading is his activity of choice. I love to hear my 6- and 4-year-olds ask for "reading time" in lieu of their daily "resting time" (and then I carefully, smilingly remove the books after they fall asleep). I cuddle with my 2-year-old as we read the same books every night, the same books I read to my other kids when they were tiny. Reading is what we do at our house.

I like the suggestions from PBS on how to create a literate home, especially the advice on acqiring books; here are some ideas that work for our family.

1. My children live by the same rule as I do: read a lot of books, but buy your favorites. Of course, to find our favorites, we have visit the library frequently. We generally choose out three books apiece, and by the time they are returned we have them almost memorized (which I think is a good thing). We keep a list of books we like (for checking out again another day), and books we love (that we want to add to our own collection).

2. I like to receive books as gifts, and so do my kids. This past Christmas, my oldest loved receiving a B&N giftcard for the first time; the younger kids were surprised that Santa knew just the book they had always wanted. Grandparents have been good book-givers as well, and the kids especially like the books that are inscribed with a special message.

3. We have a fantastic used bookstore nearby that is always excellent for browsing, and a great source for classics, vintage children's books, or "temporary" paperbooks (these are good for the car, the toddler's room, and the bottom of the bookshelf--we won't cry if they're ruined.) I also check out Amazon (often used books) and Ebay (good for collecting a series) when I'm looking for specific titles.

4. We make time for reading everyday: that is what truly makes our books special.


Wednesday, March 4, 2009

15 Minutes : Make It : Easy Kite

image via FamilyFun

The weather is warming up here and today we had a gorgeous warm breeze. My kids are ready to break out the kites. Check below for instructions to make a super easy kite with just one piece of paper from FamilyFun.

Kite template printed on an 8 1/2- by 11-inch sheet of office paper
Clear tape
Single-hole punch
Embroidery thread or kite cord
5-foot-long ribbon

1. Cut out the kite from the template and make creases as shown. Reinforce the side points with tape as shown, then punch a hole in each point.
2. To make the kite harness, tie the ends of a 2-foot length of embroidery thread or kite cord to the holes.
3. For the kite string, tie one end of a length of thread or cord to the harness. Make the loop loose so that the string slides easily along the harness. Our string, for running with, was about 8 feet long. For a higher flying kite, you can use a longer string.
4. Staple the ribbon to the bottom of the kite for a tail.


Tuesday, March 3, 2009

15 Minutes : Make It : Kitchen Garden

image via Martha Stewart Kids magazine summer 2005

Little did you know that sitting in your pantry are all sorts of things that sprout and grow. Try this easy experiment. It will have your kids saying "It's a jungle in there".

place a dried pinto bean in a jar with a damp cotton ball. In about a day it will open, revealing the first signs of life. In five to ten days you'll have a plant with leaves and roots.