Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Food Group Placemat

Some time ago, I was working my way through a parenting type magazine and found this little thing I decided to keep:

That's how I roll through magazines:  I rip out what I want to check out later and then one of two things happens:
  • Ideally, the ripped out paper is filed in a binder to be referred to later when I am looking for fun ideas.
  • More often than not, the ripped out paper is stacked on the dining room table, along with other ripped out papers, and then moved to the kitchen counter and then back to the table several times, until I do something with it (like file it in the binder) or toss it.
On this particular occasion, I was fast to deal with my little ripped out clippings, and checked out, the DAY AFTER I RIPPED IT OUT (that's a record, people),  Wow!  I had known that some time ago the classic food pyramid that had plastered the walls of home economics classrooms around the country had been replaced with this "Plate" idea.  The basic idea:  fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables, a quarter of your plate with grains (hopefully whole-grains), and the last quarter of your plate with protein.  Throw in some dairy and you're all set.  Anyways, this site has some really neat features and it was quite fun to poke around.  I went to this site just to look, nutrition is one of my "things" right now, but then I found this page with coloring sheets.

We used "Coloring Sheet Option 1," which is a black and white PDF file of the "Plate" image I tore out of the magazine.  My thought was to make a placemat with the kids, so we could make sure we had all the food groups covered, in the right proportions, at meal time.  And what do you do with pre-readers?  You have pictures to accompany the words.  How I want to just post a document with the pictures I found, but I am just not sure how all the copyright-schmopyright details work.  (Can anyone help me with that??)  But, using Google Images, I found some really nice pictures by just searching each food group name.  And then...we were off...

We backed our plates on 12x12 paper and started coloring.  

Doing craft projects with my kids teaches me a lot about myself and a lot about them:
  1. Moments when I realize how much I like to be in control and have to let go of said control:  Watching Eli smear layer upon layer of weird-waxy-orange-crayon-thing on his placemat and watching Abby color with a glue stick.  
  2. Moments when I get insight into my kids' personalities:  I watched Eli color in his entire "Dairy" cup with great passion.   At the same time I saw Abby watch Eli and then do the exact same thing with her "Dairy" cup.  See in the pictures?  Interesting...
Our usual pattern:  Eli finishes in about two minutes and Abby could go for hours.

Finished projects, which we covered in Con-Tact paper.

Finished kids with their finished projects.  Life is rough when your mom makes you make a Food Group Placemat.

Finished projects in use.  It's confusing that cheese is a Dairy AND a Protein. 

And we are now eating in style.  I am sure that Eli wishes for a placemat that is ALL Fruits and Vegetables and Abby longs for an ALL Yogurt placemat.  Well kids, you'll get no sympathy from me because I want an ALL ice-cream placemat.

As a side note, in case anyone is wondering, this is the first art project we have done in a long time.  A LONG time. Just so you know...

Friday, August 19, 2011

Indoor Carnival

We celebrated Eli's birthday four different times.  That's a lot of birthdays for a five year old and a lot of birthdays for a five year old's mom.  Each celebration was wonderfully fun, but it was still four celebrations.  You've heard of this?

 Well, my husband and I felt that it could have been this:

Taken after the second of four parties.

On the fourth day of parties, I had some restless troops who needed some help waiting until said party was going to begin.  I had one game in mind and Eli invented the rest.  It was an Indoor Carnival, indeed. 

Game #1:  Beanbag TossMy One and Only Idea
We cut a cereal box in half, leaving the front/back panels each attached to one side panel.  Did that make sense?  A hole was cut in the middle of each.
These were then taped, by the side panel, to a table.
We brought out the beanbags and started tossing.
Eli elected to toss from a rocking chair.  I guess at another year older he was really feeling the aches and pains of aging.

Game #2:  Dueling Beanbag Toss
Eli wanted to tape a target to each side of the table and have he and his sister toss simultaneously.  You can imagine how this ended, with the sister sobbing on my lap after a beanbag bounced off her cute little face.

Game #3:  Cup Pyramid Knock-Down
The face says it all on this one.

Game #4:  Beanbag TossA Variation
I happened to snap a picture of the only one that made it successfully to its target.
You can see the sister in the chair...still recovering from her beanbag-to-the-face injury.

Game #5:  Bowling
Cups...a basketball...bowling, of course.  Nice form, Buddy!

Game #6:  Hanging Cup Ball Toss
Eli did actually make a shot into the clear cup on the bottom. 

So, there you have it.  One game that turned into six.  Now, I did end up with a crying girl that never quite recovered and messier house than when I started, but, I also got this:
Worth it.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Pet Clinic

I know that kids like to pretend while they play.  A recent trip to the Grand Rapids Children's Museum, however, has shown me that kids REALLY like to pretend while they play. 

Abby's favorite part of the Grand Rapids Children's Museum...the Pet Clinic.  That child took care of the same sick puppy for at least two hours.  We had to pretty much drag her out of there.
Much to my surprise, my boy, my through-and-through-Lego-obsessed boy, was caring for the animals in the Pet Clinic.  He dived right into the pretend play in ways that I had not seen him do at home.

Inspired by the Museum and how much my kids loved the pretend play of the Pet Clinic, we decided to make one of our own...

We set up our reception station and found all of our pets, which Eli checked in.

Checked-in pets were put in various recovery stations. 

A new receptionist was soon hired and she was thrilled to land a job in this tough economy.

Eli gave shots to Abby's pets using a Lightsaber from a Happy Meal...she cuddled them afterward.

Finally, recovered pets were allowed a playtime in the idea conceived by Eli.

We have played Pet Clinic several times since our Museum trip, sometimes with all the props and sometimes a more bare-bones version.  In fact, when Abby starts to drag the little table to the living room, I know that the next words out of her mouth will be, "My pet sick."  So, a big lesson learned for me:  I have completely underestimated the value of pretend play!  My kids LOVE it, which has encouraged me to look for more ways to incorporate pretend play into our days.

Kind of ironically, as a child, I had wanted to be a veterinarian.  Then, one day,  I saw my dad give one of our dogs a shot and I almost passed out.  I didn't want to be a veterinarian after that.  Lightsaber pet shots for stuffed animals, on the other hand, are a little easier for me to handle. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Making a Bird Feeder

It was 7:00 in the morning and Eli and I were chatting while he drank some milk.  Here is how our conversation went:

Me:  Can you hear the birds?  What do you think they are chatting about?  Maybe about their breakfast?
E:  Maybe.  What do birds eat?
Me:  Seeds and worms.  Hey, did you know there is a book called "How to Eat Fried Worms"?  We can read it when you are older.
E:  I do not want to eat fried worms.

One of my favorite childhood books.  This is even the cover I remember.  No movie characters here.

At this point we took a brief detour to discuss worms, gummy worms, and if birds can eat gummy worms.  Then Eli asked if we could work on making a bird feeder.  Sure, why not?  We asked Google and found that a common way to make a bird feeder is to cover a pine cone with peanut butter and then roll it in birdseed.  Well, we didn't have a pine cone and Eli is allergic to peanuts, so we kept looking.  We then came across an idea that still used the peanut butter and birdseed, but you put it on bread.  With some modifications, we got to 7:15 in the morning.

Eli and I started by using cookie cutters to make some fun shapes out of our bread.  Not necessary, but the airplane, rocket ship, bulldozer, and race car were pretty cool.  We also used a straw to poke holes in the bread so that we would be able to hang our feeders.  Then, the bread went into a 200 degree oven, just to dry it out a bit.  I didn't take any pictures of the this step because it was 7:20 in the morning.

Eli and I picked up with our project again in the afternoon while Abby was sleeping.  This time, I was coherent enough for pictures, but my camera is still broken, so phone pictures it is.

Fear not...Eli did not spontaneously combust.  We used soy nut butter.

Once the bread was covered in soy nut butter, we pressed birdseed onto each piece.

We hung our bird feeders outside.

Trying to get a bird to eat out of his hand.  No such luck.

And then the hard part.  The waiting.
And waiting and waiting and waiting and waiting.

I was starting to think that birds must like soy nut butter about as much as my kids do, which, is not at all.  We did, however, have some birds fly in for a snack a few times.  I don't think the bread was heavy enough for the birds to sit on, so they could only fly in for quick little pecks.  Quick little pecks are pretty hard for an almost-5-year old to see, though he was very patient.  When we do this again, I think we will use a pine cone, or if we use bread again, we might just prop it up in a tree instead of hanging it.

All in all, it was a fun project that was completely thought up by 7:15 in the morning.  He must be a morning person.  I used to be a morning person, until I had one morning person child and one night person child, a combo doesn't work so well together. 

In addition, I was able to sing, "Feed the birds, tuppence a bag" all day long.  It's debatable if that is a good thing or not.