Friday, July 12, 2013

Under the Sea with Swimmy!

I absolutely adore Swimmy by Leo Lionni, not only because the story is one of resilience and courage, but also because the artwork is just stunning.

Inspired by my recent vacation at the beach, I dove headfirst into a week of under the sea adventures all inspired by Swimmy.

At this point, I must confess that I may also have chosen this book because of the watercolor illustrations and the fact that it's the end of the year and I'm pretty much out of every art supply except my handy liquid watercolor.

We started off with some very ambitious sea anemones, which got more complicated as the week went on and could even be more complicated if you have the time and the kiddos have the patience.  

Our first attempt was just the anemone, partially invented by my artsy husband when I told him I wanted it to look 3-D.  

By the second attempt, I decided we should wet on wet watercolor the paper first to give the anemone somewhere to reside.

Next I did a lantern-type design to make the bottom of the anemone stick out from the paper.  These had to be glued and allowed to dry before the final step.
Finally, we used yarn soaked in a thin water/glue mixture to create the tentacles.
If you have older children, you could expand from here and add sand or rocks to create the sea floor or even add some happy little clown fish. :)

One of my favorite illustrations in the book is the picture of the jellyfish.  I had high hopes that with more wet on wet watercolor, we could come close to the original.
Not too shabby, if you ask me!

Sometimes, we create projects that I really regret sending home before taking a picture of all of them together - this was one of those projects - they were all unique and equally beautiful!

The third project I had planned was never completed, but while perusing the local grocery store, I came across some awesome fish stickers and picked up a few for my Parent's Night Out kiddos.
Back to that good ole watercolor!

And the little ones all went home with their very own fishbowl!

What are your favorite ocean-themed books?  I love recommendations!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Baby Sensory Play: Sounds with Found Objects

If I didn't have a preschool, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have any toys.  In fact, I'm fairly certain the toys are here just to make parents feel better - the kids would (and do) play with just about anything - the more open-ended, the better!

My own children, especially Bear, are fascinated with kitchen objects.  Monkey usually cooks - and sometimes builds - with things he finds in the kitchen, but Bear likes to bang, rub and roll everything he finds and delights in the various noises he can make.

In my Mom's house, there is one kitchen cabinet the kiddos are allowed to explore.  It contains plastic storage containers and a few random objects such as a pan for the grill, a stainless steel water bottle, some ice cube trays and a lobster pot.

When I introduced this cabinet to Bear, Monkey quickly stepped in and took control of a few choice items and started cooking and creating.  Bear was left with an ice cube tray and a plastic lid, in which he quickly lost interest.

BUT, a few hours later, when Monkey had settled down for a nap, Bear happened upon his creation and started exploring.

Metal water bottle lid, metal grill pan, bang, bang, bang, rub, rub, rub!!  Bear was so pleased, he babbled, danced, smiled, giggled, and entertained himself for longer than most people think a baby can.

Then he made a new discovery!  Different materials make different sounds!  More banging, more fun!

Eventually, Bear got so excited that he forgot to hang on to the table and had a little tumble, but once all the materials were moved to the floor, he kept right on exploring.  He played with these five or six objects for over 30 minutes, finding various ways to make sounds.

So, what are you waiting for?  Get in the kitchen and start digging out fun stuff!!  Let's see what the kiddos can do with it!!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Backyard Exploration with Kiwi Crate 'Nature Explorer'

Just a disclaimer-type statement before I start: I'm not a spokesperson for Kiwi Crate, I am a paying subscriber and I (and Monkey) happen to think Kiwi Crate is pretty awesome.  If you wanna get in on the action, you can get your very own Kiwi Crate here.

When June's Kiwi Crate arrived, I was ecstatic.  The theme was 'Nature Explorer' and one of the crafts was a nature collection box with scavenger hunt cards.  Being desert-dwellers, nature exploration pretty much comes to a complete standstill in the summer, but I knew the box would be perfect for my Mom's yard in New Jersey, so into the luggage it went and after four days of this....

...we finally had a sunny day just right for exploring.  Monkey started with a color hunt, and found purple, yellow and green on his own, but then he decided he wanted a hunting partner, so Bear and I headed outside to lend a hand.  After we filled up the color card, Monkey decided to move on to shapes.
At first he rushed through, just trying to fill each slot with something and then run inside to show Daddy what he'd found, but after a few hurried hunts, he really started to slow down and examine everything before placing it in the appropriate section of the collection box.

While we were hunting, we also had a discussion about being gentle with the trees and plants in the yard and only taking a tiny sample of each thing for the collection box.  "See, Mom, it's tiny!"

Finally, Monkey decided to use the most specific scavenger hunt card with pictures of a flower, rock, stick, grass, leaf and clover.  He was actually able to find all of those things in the yard, a task which would be nearly impossible in our yard and he was thrilled!

And what did my little guy say on our very first visit to the mailbox after we returned from our vacation???  

"Maybe I'm going to have another Kiwi Crate!!"

Monday, July 8, 2013

A Summer of 'Firsts'

I've seen a lot of summer 'bucket lists' floating around lately.  They are filled with amazing and usually very simple activities to make your summer something to remember.  I can't say I made any sort of list, which is actually a bit odd since I tend to be a compulsive list-maker, however, I can say that I'm amazed how many firsts we fit into our short vacation this summer.

Monkey's first swim in a lake.

Bear's first up close encounter with a dog - and she was AWESOME with the kids!

Monkey's first fish!  
Caught with my Mickey Mouse fishing rod from when I was his age.

Bear's first feel (and taste) of real grass.

Monkey's first street festival/carnival rides and fun house.

Bear's first nature exploration.

Monkey's first attempt at Frisbee.

Bear's first visit to the beach.

Monkey's first ice cream cone.
The ice cream truck lady actually tried to talk me out of the cone - how can you deprive a kid of an experience like THIS??!!
 Yup, I don't know either, Monkey.

This visit was also the first time Bear met my Mom, which is probably the most important 'first' of all.
What are your little ones experiencing for the first time this summer??

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Baby Fine Motor Play: Block Drop

When you travel about 2500 miles for a vacation at the beach, you have to pack wisely or get bogged down with every possible thing you might end up needing while spending a week in a non-baby-proofed house with a very curious baby.

You may find yourself getting creative keeping that curious baby away from dangerous and breakable objects, which is exactly how I found myself during our recent trip to N. Cape May, NJ to visit my Mom.

Bear had little interest in the blocks, stuffed animals and trucks we leave at my Mom's place specifically for our visits and was crawling at lightning speed to anything he could find that might feel, taste or sound new.  We don't want to discourage our little guy's exploratory nature, so we had to look around for things that weren't his typical playthings, but wouldn't end up shattered into a million pieces.

Fortunately, Mom orders water that comes in handy baby-friendly 3 gallon jugs.  When Bear showed interest in the extra bottles on the floor near the dispenser, I grabbed an empty jug and showed him a brand new (made up on the fly) game: Block Drop!

At just over 9 months old, Bear is showing an interest in cause and effect activities and has the dexterity to plop a block through the top of a water jug, and he was off!

This game actually required quite a bit of skill and patience.  If the block went into the jug just a little bit crooked, it would get caught and he'd have to start again.  He stuck with it, though, and was very proud when he got the block into the jug.

Yeah, Bear, you did it!

After a few days, though, things needed to be spiced up and I happened to pass a display of ping-pong balls at the local grocery store.  And so the game became Ball Drop!



Saturday, July 6, 2013

Reflection Writing

Sometimes activities happen by accident and it usually involves a child who just stumbles upon something that should have been completely obvious to a seasoned preschool teacher.....this was one of those activities.

One of our preschool pals came by one afternoon for a play date with Monkey and she ended up standing at my coffee table with one of my very loved (aka scratched beyond belief) acrylic mirrors and a dry erase marker.  Since I was sitting on the couch chatting with said preschool pal's totally amazing Mama, I was feeling too lazy to get up and retrieve a white board and suggested that she use the marker on the mirror.  Voila!  Reflection Writing was born!

For the next few days, I set out the mirrors and markers together to see what would happen.  A few of the kiddos tried it out, but Monkey really jumped in head-first.

I've seen some great advancements in his drawing and writing lately, and he's been very into suns, faces, people and his name, so the mirror just provided a new canvas for his current interests.

Sun + face = awesome!!

And erasing is just as much fun!!

What creative uses have you found for mirrors or dry erase markers??

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