Friday, July 27, 2012

The Dot, by Peter Reynolds: Book and Activity

Today I shared the book The Dot with my daughters.  

In this award winning (Irma S and James H Black Honor for Excellence in Children's Literature) story, Vashti find her creative energy unleashed by a single dot.  Great story, with the take-away phrase being, "Just make a mark and see where it takes you."

As our follow up activity to this book, I offered dotting markers to my girls.  Okay, they were really bingo markers I found at the dollar store, but it's the same concept.
We used these markers on cardstock spread on a plastic tablecover.  Good thing.  These markers were pretty drippy.
They weren't what I was hoping for, which was more like the Do-A-Dot markers, but each child from 1-6 years enjoyed using them.
1YO Blue at work
3YO Purple started with three distinct colors, then swirled them all to black
Making lakes and puddles for mermaids was 5YO Pink's objective
6YO Yellow incorporated the original dot shape the most in her work.  I rather like it.
There is still a lot of liquid color left in these markers.  What else can we make?

Update: About a month later I purchased the Do A Dot Art Markers to use for an arts and crafts activity for Yellow's birthday party.  We have used those markers a lot!  Over a year later and those markers have not ran out.  We have lost a couple of them to curious kids that pull the foam tip off (why?).  I like that the Do A Dot markers are washable, from both table and clothing. We have given these as gifts, too.  I bought mine from Amazon, in both the rainbow and brilliant color groups.  Highly recommend!

Update 3 years later: I just purchased another round of the Do A Dot Markers. The first batch lasted through four kids plus countless playdates for over three years. This time around we also bought the Shimmer and Fluorescent markers to add to the fun.

Olympic Playdate

Sign on our front door

I'm excited for the 2012 London Olympics!  I find the Olympics to be inspiring.  I want to share that with my children, so to help them become excited for the Olympics, too, we hosted an Olympic Playdate.

Here is the party plan:

First order of business is "Registration and Preparation."  This was the crafts portion of our playdate.  Each playdate athlete created their own flag to represent herself.  I have a large laminated world map that I hung from a clothesline purchased from the dollar store (with clothespins also purchased there, as well as with a couple binder clips).  The map helped set the scene for the global event that is the Olympics, as well as provided examples of country flags.

Once our athletes created their own flags, we added them to the display.

Next up was to quickly make our mark - writing our names on blocks we would use to mark our spots in our Track and Field events.  Originally we were going to use rocks that we found in our yard, and write our names on those.  But my hubby offered to cut these blocks out for us, and they worked out great.

Our final preparation was to make our ribbon apparatus for the rhythmic gymnastics portion of our games.  These ribbons were inspired by a post on Strings, Keys and Melodies.  For our ribbons we used shower curtain rings (again, from the dollar store), as they did.  But instead of buying ribbon or scarves, I brought out our large stash of crepe paper.

We began our games with the Olympic Torch Relay.  Our torch is a riff on the torch posted by Rainy Day Mum.  I rolled and taped cardstock for the base, to which I then stapled about 20 strands of crepe paper.

We live in a cul-de-sac, so for the relay I stationed our athletes around the circle.  I played the Olympic Theme, specifically Bugler's Dream and Olympic Fanfare Medley, as they ran the torch to the next runner.  This was really fun as our athletes cheered each other on around the neighborhood.
Purple started off our relay
From Purple to Pink
Yellow holding the flame

As a quick treat after the torch run, to complete our Opening Ceremonies, we enjoyed a sugary snack.  I came up with an easier way to reproduce the Olympic Torch treat created by  Our torches use regular size ice cream cones, jumbo marshmallows, and fruit roll-ups.  Stuff a marshmallow into the cone, cut a slit in the top of the marshmallow, and stick in a triangular piece of the roll-up.
Our Track and Field events were next: javelin (using a water squirter), discus throw (flying disc), long jump (the jump rope was our starting line), and soccer goal shot.  Yes, I realize soccer is a separate sport from Track and Field, but it fit in for our purposes.
Our Track and Field equipment
At this point we were an hour and forty minutes into our scheduled two hour playdate.  And we were hot in the 90+ degree weather.  So we came inside for our gold medal snacks, and agreed to forgo the rest of our games.  For the food I was once again inspired by a blog post, but tweaked it.  Rather than stringing donuts as winner's medals as they did on Make and Takes, I used bagels.  Although I'm sure no one would have complained about donuts.  I rounded out the snack with strawberry applesauce and chocolate milk.

How do you celebrate the Olympics with your family?

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Dots on Socks as Labels

There are dots on the socks,
Spots by the toes.
What do they mean?
My mommy knows.

"Dots on Socks" sounds like a lost Dr. Seuss book.  But it is actually an easy way to keep track of which socks belong to each child.  This is not my idea, but one that I've embraced and want to pass on.

Growing up, my mom had three sons that were within four years of age of each other.  So there were plenty of white tube socks, in the same size.  From what I recall, each boy had a particular color dot, or location of dot (i.e. black dot on bottom, red dot on bottom, or black dot on toes).

With my four girls, who similarly have only a spread of five years from oldest to youngest (wow, that doesn't sound possible, but it is), I started to use a similar system.  Just as my daughters' blog names are colors, I color-code in many areas of our home life.  However, I ran into the problem of my girls wearing non-white socks that are more difficult to color-code (can't see a pink dot on a pink sock very well).  And then, if we are able to hand-down socks (more likely to be done with tights or dressy socks, let's be honest), how do I change a yellow dot to a pink dot, and then purple dot?  As for using initials, my daughters' names each start with the same letter (we didn't start out with that intention, but that is a story for another time), plus drawing a letter on each sock is a bit difficult to execute well.

I don't remember where I came across this idea, as it has been a couple years, but it is brilliant: 

Mark the socks (or other clothing articles) with 
* one dot for the first child, 
** two dots for the second, 
*** three for the third, and so on.  

Using this method, it doesn't matter what color of marker is used (grab the nearest).  And when it is time to pass the item on to the next-in-line child, simply add a dot.

What method(s) do you use to mark ownership of items within your home?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Cardboard Box Doll or Pony or Hero House

This afternoon we had a couple thunderstorms rumble by, so I offered this construction craft idea to my girls and a couple of their friends: making dollhouses (or pony or hero houses) out of cardboard boxes.

In our home it's easy to collect cardboard boxes for such a project.  Diaper and wipe boxes work well, as do Amazon boxes.  Yep, plentiful.

The other supply needed is duct tape.  I went a little crazy here, and I do have buyer's remorse.  Long story short, Michael's has a great selection of duct tape in different colors and patterns.  Might I suggest using their frequent 40% off one item coupons to build your stock before taking on such a project.  Hindsight.
The idea for this project is inspired by a pin from Mer Mag.  Here is an image of what they made.
I decided that rather than making an interlocking structure, we would keep it basic by using the box's own structure.  But I liked the look of the duct tape exteriors - such clean lines!

See what I mean...
3YO Purple and her purple house

One thing that I've learned when doing an art or craft project with my girls, it's usually better to explain the project, rather than giving them a picture of someone else's finished product.  The reasons are two fold:
  1. My children will use their own unique perspective to create something, instead of simply copying what they see has been done.
  2. Rather than compare their work with another's and perhaps fall short in their own eyes, they are more likely to be proud of what they have done.
So the kids have not seen what Mer Mag created.  All they had to go on was a box, tape, and my suggestion that they mark on the box where they might like me to cut out windows and doors.  And with that they were eager to get started.

Now that I've shared how enlightened I am at letting my girls' creativity flow, I have to be honest.  Upon seeing 3YO Purple's progress as shown above, I asked her if she wanted help.  The duct tape is a bit tricky to work with, though the other kids were pretty wowed by what Purple had been able to do all by herself.  Purple said yes, that she did want some help.  I think that the scissors were tangled in the tape at that point.  So I started wrapping the box with a line of tape completely around the bottom edge of the box.  Purple liked it, and cut the tape so we could do a second layer above the first.  And then a third.  And then she said "Mom, you do it.", and ran off to do something else.  I think I did too much and ran her off.  Shoot!

This is what we ended up with.

We had a group children, ages 3-8, one boy and six girls, making these boxes.  They kept busy at this for over an hour.  Once they were all done, they headed to the playroom with their boxes in tow (highly tote-able!), found a plaything to live in the box, and played for another hour or so.
The boot-shaped opening and shiny floor of this house were admired by the other kids.
This house opens with a double door.
Nice mix of colors and patterns on this pony's palace.
6YO Yellow created this wall of color, even before I blanketed Purple's house.
So, I have some duct tape left.  What shall we make next?

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Purple's Bad Dream

"Mom, I wish you had a bad dream, and I have a bad dream, and I hang onto you."
Oh, dear.  3YO Purple is going through a stage where she is afraid to go to sleep because she might have a bad dream.  I reminded her of the Blue's Clues story, Blue's Bad Dream.  Blue has a dream about a dragon with big, sharp teeth, and it scares Blue.  She wakes up frightened and afraid to go back to sleep.  Mr. Salt and Mrs. Pepper help comfort Blue, and explain that when she is having a bad dream, she can use her imagination to turn it into a good dream.  And Blue does!

This is a good book on a topic that is important to children.  Purple's words prompted me to pull this book into rotation in our home library.  I recommend this book if you know of a child that has similar nighttime concerns.

Even so, Purple's last words before falling asleep were "Mommy, don't let go of me."  Aww.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Bubbles, Bubbles, Bubbles, Bubbles Bath

Bubbles times four!

Materials Used:
  1. Bubble bath
  2. Underwater bubbles (i.e. water beads)
  3. Bubble machine
  4. Bubbles, Bubbles book
First I filled the bath with our usual bubble bath (we like Johnson's Baby Bath Bedtime or Target's equivalent up&up Nighttime Baby Bath for the calming lavender scent).  

Pssst!  The secret to making a bath extra bubbly is to have it empty of kids while filling.  Start the water, squeeze in your bath bubbles, and then leave it alone to fill. 

I did add a little neon blue food color - it's just such a fun water color.

Then I poured in 3 (three!) containers of clear water beads that I purchased at the dollar store.

These were to be the big secret in the bath.  Literally.  Those things are invisible in the water.  More on that later.  I also set out clear plastic cups and various scoops to be used to collect and play with the beads.

Then I fired up the newly purchased bubble machine, with great hopes.  You see, I've bought many bubble machines.  They are amazing.  Until a child knocks them over, spilling bubble solution onto the fan, and the machine no longer works.  Big buzz kill.  This machine is touted as "No Spill", so I'm hoping it lives up to its promise.  So hoping!  The other bonus is I bought this on clearance from Target.

The final step was setting out the Bubbles, Bubbles book.  I found this in the dollar spot at Target.  Have I mentioned I like Target?  I believe I have.

When I called the girls to come for a "surprise bath", they came running.  Even though the bubble machine was whirring, and bubbles were bouncing out, that was the last thing they noticed.  They were so busy just looking.  To be fair, I did set the machine up high on top of the shower walls.  I wasn't ready to test the no-spill claim or to have the machine immersed in the bath.

And then the girls got in the bath.  And felt something, a lot of something, squishy.  What is that?  Underwater bubbles!

The girls searched for the water beads, caught bubbles from the air, and dumped water on the floor.  Wait, that last item was not on the agenda.  Most of the cups were removed from the tub, thanks to baby Blue.

Here's a look:

After a short time the bubble machine started creating jumbo bubbles that never left the top of the machine.  Bummer.  I found that by wiping the solution off the top of the machine, it would perk back up.  But I had to do this repeatedly.  Next time we run it I will use a different brand of bubble solution and see if we have the same result.  I still have hope.
As the bath was winding down, I left with Blue to dress her in her pajamas, challenging the other girls to find as many of the underwater bubbles as possible.  When I returned Yellow was proud to show me that she had collected a full cup of water beads.  Good, but 3-1=2 means that there were at least two more cups worth in that bath!  At that point the girls were tired of trying to find water beads, so everyone cleared out.  I scooped out as many of the beads as I could.  They just kept coming, but I couldn't see them.

Check this out: here is the tub water after many, many scoops of water beads have been removed.  Do you see the beads that are left?  Neither did I.

Next I set the straining spoon over the drain and let the water out.  Now do you see the remaining water beads?
Here are my thoughts on the water beads:

  • Do not put clear beads in the tub - they disappear, get squished and break, and could accidentally be drained.
  • Colored beads could be fun in the tub, as long as your water is clear or a contrasting color.  We'll have to confirm this at another time.
  • Although non-toxic, watch children closely so that they do not ingest the beads.  It just seems like a bad idea.  I was pleasantly surprised that none of my kids, not even 1YO Blue, put the beads in their mouth.  I think the squishy texture was a turn-off.
There are plenty ideas online of how to play with water beads.  I plan to try some of them out and share the results.

What have you done with water beads?