Thursday, March 31, 2011

A Flop...Kind-Of

I was looking for a quick painting project yesterday and decided to go for some flowery, spring trees.  I started by tracing the kids' hands, which would serve as the the tree trunk and limbs.  I love projects that use handprints, fingerprints, or footprints as it records a specific time in their lives.   I love to see their little handprints, knowing that someday, all too soon, they won't be such little prints anymore.

Ready for painting.  See my coffee cup?  You will all be so suprised to know that I had to re-heat it once we finished painting.  I guess I had a moment of insanity...planning to drink coffee leisurly while my children painted.  Oh Sarah...

We used circle spongy brushes to paint...purchased, of course, with the 40% off coupon.  Never NEVER pay full price at a craft store.

Per usual, Eli finished in 2.5 minutes and Abby painted on until I finally cut her off.

So, I had really high hopes for this project.  I could envision it perfectly...billowy trees with beautiful spring colored flowers.  We ended up with this:

Maybe I should have done mine first, providing an example.  But, I did let them have their artistic license, albeit somewhat reluctantly.  I will consider it a small personal victory in relinquishing some crafty control.

                   There you have it...a spring, flowery tree...kind of.                                

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Quiet Box

Somewhere along the line, my Eli stopped napping.  A sad day, indeed.  Then again, somewhere along the line, he and I got out of the habit of him spending any time alone in his room while his sister napped.  Now, I love my kids, but I love them a lot more after I have not seen their sweet little faces for at least 45 minutes.  This mom needed a break during the day.

I had tried various things with Eli to have him spend some quiet time in his room.  It was always a battle, though.  Then, as the though the heavens opened up and the Hallelujah Chorus played in the background, I remembered...


When I was doing my student teaching internship, one of my fellow interns was teaching in a kindergarten classroom.  She was having great difficulty keeping her students occupied during any down times, so she did a giant research project on the topic of "Quiet Boxes."  Essentially, she had various boxes filled with different quiet type activities.  Students would then pull out one of these boxes during a down time to keep themselves occupied.  This was the concept that popped into my head and I dived into putting together some materials for Eli.

To get started on Eli's Quiet Box I hit up the Dollar Store and the Target $1 Bins.  I also looked through our stuff here at home for things we didn't use regularly, but would still be fun for him to see.  As I was gathering items I kept in mind that these things would be ONLY for his Quiet Box.  They were not to be played with at any other time of the day.  Here are some things we collected:

Cool beads, yarn, and a kid needle.  String the beads, unstring them, make patterns...

Various activity books of numbers and letters, kid magazines, coloring books, some special books JUST for the Quiet Box

Dry erase letter board, word-search to look for certain letters, flashcards

Tangrams (left over math manipulatives from my teaching days) with a board I made by tracing the tangrams.  Here is PDF file of printable tangrams.  You could back them on cardboard, if you want.  Also at this link are puzzles, things that can be built from the tangrams.

And some toys...JUST for the Quiet Box.  (Eli just peeked over my shoulder while I am trying and said, "There is my Quiet Box")

Everyday, when Abby went down for nap, Eli and I would pick a few items from the Quiet Box stuff and he would head to his room.  We then play a CD in his room and when the music is done, he packs up his stuff and can come find me.  When we first started "Quiet Boxing" about six weeks ago, Eli would run for his room at rest time and even ask me during the day if he could have a Quiet Box.  For the first few weeks, the Quiet Box went off without a hitch and we were all happier because of it.  I had enough time to clean a bathroom, read, or even take a little nap.  Eli had time to play independently, which I do believe increased his ability to play independently throughout the rest of our day.     If I had written this post about six weeks ago, I would end with some incredibly witty comment right now.

Alas, the novelty of Quiet Boxing has worn off, as I should have predicted it would.  These last few days Eli has been playing with Play-Doh during his Quiet Box time which has been going really well.  It is on my mind to be re-vamping our Quiet Box a bit...stay tuned.

Now, this could be as elaborate or simple as you want to make it.  We went through a time not long ago when sweet, little Abby was waking up around 5 am every morning.  After much lamenting, I could not figure out what to do with her.  Then, as the though the heavens opened up and the Hallelujah Chorus played in the background, I remembered...


I can be a little slow on the uptake sometimes.  Keep in mind, I was doing a Quiet Box everyday with Eli while trying to figure out what to do with Abby.   So, Abby got one new Princess coloring book and a new princess book.  I would stumble into her room at 5 am with said items and a cup of milk and she was happy.  A very simple Quiet Box.  

 Some Ways Quiet Boxes Could Be Used: 
  • Rest times 
  • For kids who wake up too early or take a while to fall asleep at night.
  • Do you need a block of time to do some task (e-mails, cleaning, work)?  Have a Quiet Box specifically for those time.  (Kids Quiet Box next to the computer while you send e-mails.)
  • For homeschooling families, have a Quiet Box for younger children to use while focusing on older kids.
  • Kids could Quiet Box while you spend time in personal devotions.
Ok...time to wrap up this ridiculously long post.  Thank you to those of you who persevered to the end!  How do you keep your kids occupied when you need them to be?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Taking a Wonder Walk

In the summer of 1998, I was a summer camp counselor at the most amazing camp of all time, Camp Barakel.  The first time I set foot on the grounds of Camp Barakel was when I showed up for training; I never camped there as a kid and I had heard about it from a friend of mine in college.  It was an awesome summer, to say the least. Camp Barakel, a tool in the counselor arsenal was to take your campers on a "Wonder Walk."  The point of the walk was to be very purposeful in looking for signs of our Creator, seeing God's hand in the beautiful world around us.  Fast forward 13 years (YIKES), one husband, and two kids later...I am doing some sort of task, my mind NOWHERE NEAR Camp Barakel, and I say to myself, "I should take the kids on a Wonder Walk."  That, folks, is how my brain works.  It's crazy.  This came to mind a couple of weeks ago and we finally got around to doing it yesterday.

Before going on the Wonder Walk, I really hyped it up to my kids and by the time we went outside they were pumped.  We talked before heading out that we were going to look for signs of spring using all of our senses.  We made predictions about what we might observe outside and took a chart out with us on which we could record our observations.  Armed with our chart, two cameras (one for the kids and one for me), and a magnifying glass, we were off for a Wonder Walk!

Abby with her hand by her EAR listening for signs of spring.

Using our EYES to look for signs of spring.

We did see a worm, a dead one, but a sign of spring no less.

Feeling the flowers.

Feeling buds on the trees.  Abby...not so into it.  Eli said, "It feels like my Special Pillow."  Special Pillow is his little lovey and it is made of fleece.  Great comparison, buddy.

Eli took these pictures.  He specifically took the one on the left to be "just purple flowers."

And the picture Abby took...with a little help from Mom.

Here I am recording our observations.  There is nothing like a good, organized chart.
Our chart...I couldn't get them to taste anything, but we did "lick the air" and Eli said it tasted like air.  How else would one describe the taste of air, I guess.  When we came inside we reviewed our chart.  I asked the kids what their favorite part of the Wonder Walk was.  Abby said the flowers.  Eli said playing, which we did when our official Wonder Walking was complete.  I asked him which box playing would fit in...he said it needed its own box.  I love, love, love watching his brain work!

After our Wonder Walk, we sat at the table and had a snack over which we chatted about all of the wonderful things God has created.  God is bringing spring, bringing new life and we had a wonderful time looking intentionally for it. 

Then later in the day it snowed.  Ahhhhhhh Michigan.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Easy Painting Project

I did it.  Abby and I just finished our first day of a "Couch to 5K" program.  She is rewarding herself by playing with Play-Doh.  I am rewarding myself by sitting to write a blog post and trying to stop sweating.

So, a totally easy painting project for you this morning.  Put painters tape on a paper in a desired shape, let kids paint like crazy, dry, and peel off paint.  Done.

We did the letter Z.  We had painted on these same papers a few days prior...we turned the paper over to use it again.  Incidentally, I have done this another time and used masking tape.  The painters tape peeled up MUCH better than the masking tape at the end.  

Then you COVER your paper with paint.  This is perfect for my kids because it is their favorite way to paint regardless of the project we are doing.  Then just let the paint dry and peel the tape off to reveal your design. 

Can you see that little streak of paint in Abby's hair?  Seeing that rekindled my desire to dye a little hidden strip of my hair hot pink.  I have secretly, OK not so secretly, always wanted to be Sydney Bristow.  

Yes.  That is more than a strip of dyed hair, but it totally works for a spy...or your average stay-at-home mom.

I have digressed.  Back to the business at hand.

I let the kids pick their own paint color.  Not such a big deal if you using something other than BROWN paper.  Next time we will use more compatible colors.

Really easy and really fun!!

Thursday, March 17, 2011


It was a ho-hum day.  We had been stuck inside for ages, each kid battling their second round of bronchitis since Christmas.  Eli really wanted me to play blocks with him and I half-heartedly built him a letter "Z."  Amazingly, seeing his mother make him one letter did not meet his expectation of "playing blocks."  Again, half-heartedly, I asked if he wanted to build a zoo.  He was all over that.  Suddenly, our ho-hum day was not so ho-hum anymore.

The kids went crazy with this.  We ended up filling our playroom with various exhibits, filling those exhibits with animals, and adding signs.  Honestly, I did not expect our zoo-building to turn out to be anything to write home about, but the kids made it so, so cool.  Their ideas, mainly Eli's,  just kept coming and coming and our zoo got awesomer and awesomer.  (I know that awesomer is not a word, but I am going to use it, regardless.)

Not a Petting Zoo I might want to go to, but Eli was adamant. 
Did you know that farm animals drink root beer?  It's the black bottle on the right.

This exhibit was all Abby's.  Intuitively, Eli steered clear while Abby decorated with cups and legos and food.
Eli was insistent that we needed a "No Petting the Lion" sign.

The Sea Animals Exhibit.  Real water makes for real fun.

While we were working, my teacher brain clicked on and I was practically jumping for joy as I saw all the learning unfolding while we were playing.  Here are some skills we used:
  • Sorting and classifying as we decided which exhibit each animal should go into.
  • Counting the animals in each exhibit.
  • Discussing letter sounds as we decided what letter each animals' name began with.
  • Using verbal skills...Aunt Katie came specifically to visit our zoo and Eli gave her a tour and then another tour when Daddy got home from work.
  • Discussing needs of living things.  Eli took play food to each exhibit.

Most importantly....
We were able to talk about God's amazing creativity in how He created each of the animals.  So many animals...all so different...all created out of nothing by God.  WOW!  God thought to make an animal with black and white stripes and another with a really long neck and yet another with a really long nose.  That's cool.

We were zoo crazy for a few days.  You can even do a Google search for "Zoo Webcams" and watch animals live.  That was fun and strangely hypnotic.  I think I could watch the San Fransisco Zoo elephants for quite a long time.

                               What I Learned From Our Zoo                           

"Adults don't play."  That's what Eli told me not long ago and it made my heart sad.  I don't remember the context in which he told me this, but it has stuck with me.  So, I am trying to remember to play and make playing a priority.  There will always be toilets to clean and dusty bookshelves.  But in this season of my life, I have two little ones wanting to play blocks.  God has given them to me...amazing packages of creativity, energy, passion, and fun in little bodies.  What a joy it is, indeed, to play.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Lacing the Letter "Z"

Good Morning and Happy Monday!

Eli likes to watch me sew and always wants to try himself.  Once I let him push the pedal of my sewing machine and then quickly vowed to let some time pass before we tried that again.  I have also let him pull needles through fabric, but it is just a matter of time before blood is drawn, his or mine.  We needed something safer.  Introduce what we affectionatly call...KID NEEDLES.  I purchsed these kid needles at Joann's by the pony beads.  They are big, plastic, and have a blunt end.  Perfect.

I had been holding on to this piece of stryfoam long after the watermelon that came on it was gone.  I poked holes in the shape of a Z, threaded a kid needle with yarn, and taped the end to the back of the styrofoam.

Eli then threaded the yarn through the holes.  He said he was "sewing" and loved it!

Once you reach the end, go backwards to make a complete line instead of one with spaces between the stitches.  We went back and forth over our Z a few times.

I am partial to the letter Z, as I have been called Sarah Z for more than half of my life.  To that end, we displayed Eli's sewing project on the mantle.  A few days later I found it broken into pieces behind a chair.  Styrofoam does make a very cool sound when cracked in half.

This could be done with all letters, shapes, or designs on cardboard, an old filing folder, a cereal box, etc.  Probably looking into your recycling bin would yield something on which to sew.  Eli really liked this and it took me a two minutes to do the prep work.  Really easy clean-up too!  It was fascinating to watch Eli work on this.  He really had to concentrate on his hand-eye coordination.  We were working those fine motor skills!

Here are a couple printable lacing cards I have seen out in Internet-Land.  Enjoy!

Printable Sewing Cards at Mini-eco

Shamrock and Rainbow Lace Ups at Chalk in My Pocket

Friday, March 11, 2011

On My List

I get a lot of ideas by checking out various blogs.   There are so many fantastically creative people out there!  Here are some things I've found that I would like to do: 

Giant Sunflower at Frugal Family Fun Blog

Sewing (Lacing Cards) at Mini-eco

Daffodil crafts at The Imagination Tree

Do It Yourself Bathtub Puffy Paint at Chalf in My Pocket

Would anyone like to add to the list?? 

Have a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Indoor Hoop

A common request we get from Eli is to make a "tall hoop."  This involves a mom or dad or an aunt standing and holding their arms in a hoop formation.  Eli, with the aim of a four-year old, then starts to shoot balls at us.  Really no one, besides Eli, enjoys playing "tall hoop."  One day I thought...there has got to be a way around this.

My first attempt at making a tall hoop.  I started by taping plastic straws together and then hanging them from the ceiling.  We did notice that it was hard to tell when the ball went through, so I taped wax paper to the straws, making it more hoopish.   We soon found out that straws do not hold up well under indoor basketball and wax paper doesn't really stick to tape.

Tall Hoop #2

This time I took a wire hanger and unfolded it into a straightish line.  I knew that we needed something for a net so that we could tell if the ball was reaching its desired aim.  (Just now a Happy Gilmore quote popped into my head..."why don't you just go to your home?")  I had some left over tulle from a previous project...folded over a hem of about an inch and sewed a seam with my sewing machine.  The wire was fed through this seam, I bent the wire into a circle and duct taped it closed.  We tired yarn to the wire and taped it to the ceiling with painters tape.

It might not be pretty (though Eli did tell me it looked like a dress) but it works and is a blast!!


Fun for big boys too.  One of the many many reasons I love him.  I also love him for letting me post these pictures, though he was a bit reluctant. 
Super Fast

I do feel compelled to tell you that after some serious dunking, the hoop did get ripped down, taking a chunk of the ceiling paint with it.  Oops.  The hoop is currently tied up.

A great way to chase away the winter blues.  
Have fun!


Why did I have left over tulle?

From this great no-sew project that Abby wore on her first birthday and is now in our dress-up box. 

Super easy.  Super cute.

Just a fun side-note for you...

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Coffee Filter Fun...Second Way

One of my favorite blogs is Frugal Family Fun Blog;  it is very true to its name.  On this blog, I found a second way to bring spring into our home via the coffee filter.

 Coffee Filter Sunshine

What You Need:
  • Coffee filters
  • Washable markers OR watercolor paints
  • Water
  • Paintbrush
  • Scissors (optional)
This is so easy!!
  1.  If you want...fold the coffee filter into thirds and then snip to make a zig-zag edge.  (Does that make any sense??  I forgot to take a picture of this step!)
  2. Color or paint on the coffee filter.  If you opt for the paint, you are finished, and just need to let that sunshine dry.
  3. If you used you get to paint with water!  That's right, folks.  Water.  
  4. Let the coffee filter dry.
  5. Hang it in the window.
I don't have any watercolor paints so we went the marker route.  They look so thrilled.
Abby painting with water, causing the marker colors to bleed and run together.  (We lost Eli after the coloring.  Refer to previous picture.)  She LOVED this...the painting part...not the losing Eli part. 

How can painting with water be so messy?  A mystery for the ages, I guess.  Make sure you have something down underneath the coffee filters once you start in with the water.

So, with our first coffee filter project it is true that the kiddos outdid me.  I liked theirs MUCH better than mine.  Sorry kids.  Mom wins on THIS coffee filter project.   Theirs were good this time around too, but I did like how mine looked as I had covered the entire coffee filter with marker, contrasting their more sporadic coloring.

One of my creations in all three stages:
  1. COVERED the coffee filter in marker.
  2. Still wet from the water painting.
  3. Dry and on the window.

The Finished Product

With the zig-zag edges.  So sunshiney.

Please stay, blue skies.

So there you have it.  Fun with coffee filters...two ways.  
Who has another?

Monday, March 7, 2011

Coffee Filter Fun...First Way

We're bringing in spring around here regardless of what it looks like outside.  All of the snowflakes and winterish things have come down and in its place we are growing some flowers.

Coffee Filter Flowers

What You Need:
  • Coffee filters
  • Washable markers
  • Spray bottle of water
  • Pipe cleaners
  • Green tape
We started by coloring on the coffee filters using the washable markers.

After we finished coloring, I sprayed the coffee filters with water, completely dousing the whole thing.

Here they are post-spraying.  You can really see on Eli's how the colors are starting to bleed and run together, hence the need for WASHABLE markers.  I thought that Eli and Abby's turned out better than mine, a fact that I am embarrassed happy to say surprised me.  The more marker...the better.

Abby blowing on them to speed along the drying process.  They dried REALLY fast, even without the additional help of an adorable 2-year old.  We made them in the morning and they were easily dried by lunch time.

The Finished Product

A centerpiece.  Kind of gather up the center of the coffee filter to make a cone-ish type shape.  Wrap a pipe cleaner around it and pop it in a vase.
A made-over Winter Wonderland, though Eli did insist on keeping his penguins by their house.  The leaves and stems are just green painters tape that I found at Walmart.

The kids LOVED this and it was super easy.  Eli and I actually did some more in the afternoon, while Abby was sleeping, at his request.  I was surprised at how good it felt to be growing some Spring in our home.  Our inside-March was in like a if outside-March would just follow.

Coffee Filter Fun...Second Way