Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Noodle Stringing

I decided to give this classic child's craft a try the other day. I dyed our noodles using the same method that I used to dye the rice; 2 tsp rubbing alcohol plus food coloring, then shake the colors in separate ziplock bags. The noodles take a little longer to dry than the rice, so be patient and prepare ahead of time. Then I cut long strips of yarn for stringing. I made a little "needle" out of a pipe cleaner and we had fun making these pretty neclaces. I've made this a permanent activity on our "preschool" shelf at our house; instead of yarn, I am using a shoelace with masking tape on the end for a needle. The kids have picked this up several times since we did this activity, and enjoy just making the long strings of noodles and then pulling them off one at a time and putting them away. Try it! Your kids may like this too!

Friday, January 23, 2009

The Rice Rainbow

Okay, this is my last activity with rice, I promise! But just think--I've used this same 1/2 cup of rice to teach so many things already, I feel so "green"! After our first activity with the rice, we made a rice rainbow, which turned out really cute.
Besides being cute, what I liked about this project was that it required my little ones to follow directions, pay attention to detail and color, and work with a glue pen and the fine kernels of rice.
To do this project, you will need colored rice (see my posts under "fun with foods" for instructions on dying rice), a piece of construction paper and glue--I used a glue pen. Have your child draw (or draw it yourself) an arch with the glue. Then have them add red rice as you would add glitter, to the arch. Repeat, varying the colors until you have a completed rainbow. You can use this activity to talk about the letter "R" because both rice and rainbow begin with R.

Another Activity with Rice

So, I expanded on the drawing in rice activity, and my kids really enjoyed it, so I will share it with you! It's a really simple activity, and one that I am SURE we will be repeating again and again. Pour out about 1/2 cup of rice onto a plate. Place the plate on a cookie sheet to contain the mess. Give your child different utensils to manipulate the rice. Things like measuring cups, spoons, medicine spoons and cups, or a funnel are great ideas. Let them scoop, pour, transfer, and otherwise work with the rice.

An activity like this is a wonderful learning tool to help teach a child about cause and effect, and it develops manual dexterity. My children both had a great time with this activity, especially my 2 year old. She kept at it for 30 minutes or so, and I know she'll be asking to do this one over and over. I hope your little ones enjoy this as much as mine did!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Writing in Rice

I had read about how to dye rice different colors and so we gave it a try this week. First, I poured about a half a cup of brown rice (any kind of rice will do, I just used brown rice because that's what we had) into several different ziplock bags. Then I poured 2 tsps of rubbing alcohol into each bag and a couple drops of food coloring. The kids helped me make the colors by shaking the bags once they were zipped. We started with the primary colors, and then we mixed red and blue food coloring to make purple and red and yellow food coloring to make orange. Who would've thought? A little review of primary colors just in the preparation for this activity! To finish, I layed the rice out to dry. I doubled up the wax paper that I layed it on to ensure none of the dye leaked through to my counters.
Once the rice had dried, which took about two hours, I poured each color onto a plate. From there, I showed the kids how to draw and make designs or letters in the rice. We drew shapes, tried to make hand prints, drew with a pencil in the rice, we even tried cookie cutters on the rice! The first picture my son made he lifted up the plate to show me, spilling half the rice on his plate. It was okay; he learned a valuable lesson about gravity from the experience! Both kids got really creative with their drawings. They enjoyed the sound of the rice against the paper plates, the feel of it between their fingers, the way it looked dropping from their hands like rain, and even the smell. They especially loved the colors! They had to learn to be gentle and show restraint or otherwise they'd spill all the rice on their plates.
This was a really fun activity that we will probably do again and again. Not only that, but I had another activity in my mind for the rice, which I'll be posting on here soon!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Orange Prints

This week I decided that I am going to do a string of projects and activities involving food in some way. Why? Well, first because I have tons of ideas involving food, and second because my kids love doing food related activities, and I want to feed off of that enthusiasm (no pun intended!). I have a bunch of activities and ideas in mind (some I made up, some I gleaned from books and some from other blogs like mine), so I don't know how long the focus on food will last, but stay tuned--we've got some tasty projects coming up!
For today's activity, we did orange printing, which I've seen recently on one of my favorite blogs, and in books as well. First, I took a small orange and cut it cross-wise. If you cut top to bottom, it will still work, but a cross cut gives it a much more interesting print. Then I dropped a bit of paint into three separate paper bowls. I set half an orange in each bowl and swished it around a bit to cover the entire bottom surface of the fruit. Then I let my kids have at it, using the oranges like stamps on white construction paper. I discovered the oranges were a little difficult for my two year old to grasp due to the suction of the orange to the paint, so I poked a fork into each orange for use as a handle.

The kids were intrigued that we were using food to make art, and enjoyed the novelty of using food in such a way. They also liked that the oranges smelled so juicy! The prints turned out really neat. All in all, this was an enjoyable little activity. And of course, we ended the activity by eating a nice, clean orange for snack!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Going Vertical

Here's a bright idea! How about going vertical with your play? We tried it with playdough this past week, and it was a blast! Really, you could try this activity with any activity that you normally do horizonally--writing, coloring, playdough, you name it, and then just take it vertical.

We whipped up a batch of new yellow playdough and then smooshed it into little pancakes on the sliding glass door. You could also try using a wall or the fridge; any vertical surface will do. Then we dug out the rubber stamps to make imprints and the cookie cutters to make some nice shapes. What fun, and oh, the novelty of trying an old activity in a new way! The kids really loved this, and I loved seeing how they had to use arm muscles in ways they had never had to in previous play.

Going vertical uses upper arm muscles in a unique way that horizontal play doesn't allow for. I loved seeing my kids using those muscles to make sure their pancakes stayed put on the door. Try this activity and let me know how it goes for you!

Friday, January 16, 2009

"Feely" Board

This one takes a little bit of preparation, but for me it was well worth it because it's a project that you can keep and that the kids can enjoy for months to come. Here's what I did: First I took a large piece of cardboard (a cereal box will do, or just some heavy cardstock) and I drew a little scene on it using simple shapes. Instead of drawing a scene, you could simply draw a couple rows of squares. Then I gathered different materials which I cut out to match the shapes I had drawn in my scene. I made sure to get materials with a lot of different textures--tin foil, wax paper, saran wrap, cellophane, corduroy, velvet, tissue paper, felt, even Velcro (which by the way, ended up being the favorite!). Cut out the shapes and then have your child match the shape to the correct shape on the board. Glue the materials down. I then attached ours to the fridge with some masking tape and the kids had a ball sitting there feeling the different materials.

This activity is so great because it deals with several different areas of learning. Children learn to match and sort the shapes, work with a sticky medium like glue, and they get a really tactile experience handling all the different materials. It's a great verbal booster as well. You can use the opportunity to talk to your child about how each material feels, whether it's durable or fragile, whether it's quiet or crinkly, soft, smooth or rough. My kids just loved this activity, so it was well worth the extra time it took to gather and cut out the materials. I have a feeling it will be gracing our fridge for many months to come.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Puffy Paintings

Yesterday, my kids and I had a great time making these puffy paintings. I gave each child (and myself!) a piece of finger painting paper, though any heavy paper will do. Then I whipped up a batch of homemade puffy paint (recipe to follow). We used Q-Tips to drip the paint onto the paper . Then, we just popped the paintings into the microwave, remembering to turn off the turntable, and cooked them for 30 to 45 seconds. The paint puffed up and dried, leaving us with beautiful, abstract, three-dimensional paintings, perfect for hanging on the playroom door. My kids spent a lot of time yesterday feeling the puffy paint and exclaiming over the bright colors and rough texture of the paintings. I had a lot of fun with this one too! ;)

Here's the recipe: Mix 4 tablespoons self rising flour with 4 tablespoons salt. Add water until a thin paste is formed. Separate the paste into sections (we used a muffin tin for this) and then add food coloring to make different colors of paint. I added a Q-Tip to each compartment so that the colors didn't get messed up when the switched colors. This recipe made more than enough paint for my two kids, and since I didn't know whether it would keep for a few days I ended up dumping the leftovers. Next time, I'm going to try to half the recipe and hopefully then I won't end up wasting so much paint. Also, we didn't have any self rising flour, so I took a chance and used regular flour. It did puff up, but not nearly as much as it would have with the self rising variety. It was still worth the time and effort though, so if you don't have the right kind of flour on hand, do try the regular flour!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Exploring Primary and Secondary Colors

I used this simple activity to teach my 3 year old about primary and secondary colors. My two year old came along for the ride, but didn't quite grasp the whole idea of mixing primary colors to create secondary colors.

Here's what I did: I took a paper plate and squirted out three colors--red, yellow, and blue (I also added white so that we could see how combining white with any other color makes a paler shade of the same color). Then I gave each of my children a piece of finger painting paper. I worked with my three year old to add circles of single colors and then add another color over top and mix to see what happened. He was absolutely delighted when red and blue made purple and yellow and red made orange, etc. We discovered it was just as easy to simply dip his finger in two colors and then mix them on the paper at the same time. He just loved this activity, and I loved that I could see the wheels in his head turning as he experimented with combining two colors to create a new one.

My two year old had a great time with the finger paints too. What I like about finger painting is that it's such a tactile experience for the kids. My two year old especially likes squeezing the paint between her fingers and rubbing it in globs on the paper. It doesn't matter if it doesn't look all that great in the end. This activity is all about the journey, and not the product. I hope your little ones enjoy this as much as mine did!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Another B Activity--Bracelets

In the past, we have used pony beads strung onto pipe cleaners to make bracelets. My kids just love making patterns with the pony beads and seeing just how long they can make their strings. I was perusing one of my favorite craft sites and found that she had done this activity with her daughters, but using cloth covered buttons instead. Since buttons have been on the brain lately, we decided to give it a try.

Here's what you do: You will need one pipe cleaner per bracelet and an assortment of cloth covered buttons (or any kind of button with the hole in the back). Have your child string the buttons on the pipe cleaner. Then just twist the ends together to form a ring and tuck the sharp part of the pipe cleaner in and away from their skin.

You can have them sort the buttons into categories during this activity, or have them make patterns with the buttons. For the really little ones, just have them identify colors or buttons that are the same. Or, just have a blast making really funky and cute jewelry!

Resource: http://www.flipflopsandapplesauce.blogspot.com/

B is for Button, Among Other Things!

For some reason I had a ton of "B" projects floating through my head last week. We were supposed to be working on "A", but ended up doing a bunch of "B" activities. Here's one of them: "B" Button Mosaics.

What you do: Draw the letter B on a piece of cardstock or heavy paper (with all the buttons you add, the paper needs to be heavy to support the weight of the buttons). Let your child spread glue all over the B, or if they are too little, spread the glue yourself. Your child can then place buttons all over the B. Our's turned out really cute! I decided to cut around the shape of the B and hang it on our playroom wall. Underneath I have been tacking up some of our other "B" projects from this week.
This is a really great activity for fine motor skills development. The kids also really enjoy inspecting the different shapes, sizes and textures of each button. They delighted in the teeny tiny buttons and the giant shiny ones. We noticed how some buttons have two holes and some have four. We dug through the pile of buttons to find like colors. We decided which buttons would fit in a tight space and which would not. There are so many little details that you can bring up with your child to discuss and ponder as they search for just the right button to glue on their precious "B"s. Didn't these just turn out adorable??

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Popsicle Water Color Painting

Are your kids as messy as mine are when it comes to watercolor painting? Mine always seem to forget to rinse the brush after each color change and the watercolors get all mixed together, forming only one color--brown. To solve this problem, I decided to try the following idea. It worked out great, and my kids had a blast doing it too.

First, I filled an ice cube tray with water, then added food coloring to the different slots (be sure not to overfill so that the colors stay separated). I dropped a Popsicle craft stick into each section to use as a handle. I then tossed the tray in the freezer. The next day, we popped the cubes out of the ice tray, ran each cube under cold water for a moment to wet the surface, and had a fabulous time using these Popsicles as watercolors.

The craft stick handles were easy for my littles ones to grasp, and because each color was on a separate stick, there was no need to remember to rinse between color changes. My kids also loved that they got to paint with ice cubes, which were so icy cold between their fingers. When they were done, I refilled the ice cube tray with water and re-froze what was left of the colored ice on the stick in the new water for another time.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Coffee Filter Butterflies

If you think 2 and 3 year olds are too little for a science lesson, I am about to prove you wrong! You can use the following project to talk about the varying degrees of solubility of different materials.

Here's what you do: First, I mixed food coloring and water in the different compartments of an ice cube tray. Then, I laid several coffee filters on wax paper. The kids used a pipette (or eye dropper) to drip the colored water onto the coffee filters. They were fascinated with the way the colors bled an blended on the filter. We noted how the colored water just beaded up on the wax paper. To finish, I folded the dried filters into butterfly wings and added a pipe cleaner to hold the wings together and to form the body.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Little Bitty Mousie--An Alphabet Book

I love, love, love this book! We just happened across it at our local library and both the kids and I fell in love with it's charming illustrations and rhythmic story. Little Bitty Mousie is about a curious little mouse who goes exploring inside a house late at night. The author takes the reader on an "itty bitty" adventure with this cute little mouse, climbing dirty dishes, smelling a vase of roses, mistaking an old orange peel for some cheese and more. Each place the mouse visits represents a different letter of the alphabet. It's a creative twist on the more traditional alphabet book. I hope you and your little ones have a chance to enjoy this book as much as my family has enjoyed it!

Tweezing and Sorting Game

My kids absolutely loved this game. Here's what you do: Gather together several small objects that your children can sort. We used puff balls, Cheerios, cloth buttons, jelly beans and kidney beans. Mix all the objects in a container. Have your children sort the objects into different categories. The challenge is that they may not use their fingers to pick up the objects; they must tweeze each object using some tweezers (we just used the tweezers from our pretend medical kit, but eyebrow tweezers would work too). We used a muffin tin for sorting, but if you don't have a muffin tin, use a piece of paper divided up into sections, or just use several different Tupperware containers.

My three year old really got into this activity. First he sorted by object, putting all the jelly beans in one container, all the buttons in one, and so on. Then, because he was really into the jelly beans, he decided to sort the jelly beans by color. He did find the tweezing difficult, and ended up using his fingers for most of the activity, but still gave the tweezers a go for a little while. When he was ready to put everything away, I had him experiment with which objects were easier to tweeze and which were more difficult. We discovered that the rough objects (like the cloth buttons and the Cherrios) were easy to pick up and the smooth objects like the beans were more difficult. This led into a discussion on texture.

My two year old really couldn't do the tweezers, though I did encourage her to try. However, she absolutely loved sorting! She sorted all her objects three times before getting bored! I noticed as well that she put the jelly beans and kidney beans in the same compartment, meaning she was sorting them in the general category of "beans", while my 3 year old was able to distinguish two more specific categories of "jelly beans" and "kidney beans".

This activity is so great for so many reasons. Not only is it fun for your kids, but it provides some wonderful opportunities to fine tune their pre-math skills. Spend time talking and experimenting with different ways to sort the objects and take the opportunity to talk about texture and shape, letting the children explore the different objects with the fingers. The tweezing aspect gives them a chance to work on those fine motor skills which will be so helpful once they start writing and drawing.
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