Saturday, March 27, 2010

Producing Bunnies, Not a Baby Yet...

Dear Mr. Three seems to be taking his time and is still not here yet.  Fortunately, that means that I was able to be with my kiddos and husband Saturday for our church Easter breakfast (yes, we're a bit early) and to spend some quality time outdoors in the beautiful spring weather.  We played in the park and flew a kite.  We took an evening walk and fed the ducks.  I loved every minute of it.

After bedtime, I had some time to finish another little last minute project for the Easter baskets (shh... don't tell my boys...)

I saw this tutorial for these adorable felt bunny finger puppets at The Purl Bee and knew I had to make some.  They really were simple and quick.  If you have a bunch of felt and embroidery floss laying around, try this project out.  ( The only thing I changed was that I used pre-made pom poms for the tails, which I already had on hand and were simpler for me.)  You'll fall in love, too!

I can't wait to see my boys' faces when they see these bunnies peeking out of their baskets...

Participating in:

Friday, March 26, 2010

Out of the Mouths of Babes

When Mr. Two was asked what treat he would like after eating his dinner, he told us "a bagel."  We thought he meant a doughnut.  Then he repeated, "A cheese bagel!"  Sure enough, he wanted a cheese bagel for dessert.  Go figure.  Bagels for dessert.  Gotta love the individuality!

Mr. One wanted a mint brownie.  That's more in line with my thinking...

 Mr. One is fascinated with my rapidly expanding belly.  A while back, he made this little picture of me, exclaiming, "Look Mommy, this is you.  I made sure to give you a BIG tummy!"  (sorry it's tilted sideways...)

Another time he told me, "Mommy, your tummy is like the HUGE full moon!"  (Complete with big eyes and arms stretched out wide for extra emphasis.)

It's a good thing you're cute and young, Mr. One.  Somehow, I don't feel offended by these little observations, coming from your lips.

We'll have to talk about what not to say to emotional pregnant women when you're older...

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Chenille Chicks

Am I the only one above the age of six that finds those tiny chenille chicks that pop up in craft stores around Easter absolutely adorable?  I cannot help myself.  I think they have personality and they're so soft!  Well, my boys love them too and so I have come up with several activities to use these fuzzy little guys with.

Egg Carton Addition:
(for 2 players)

You will need:

empty egg carton
one dozen plastic eggs
two colors of chenille chicks
white board and marker or paper and pencil (optional)

How to play:

Before playing, place 1 to 4 yellow chicks into 6 plastic eggs.  Put the yellow chick filled eggs in one row of the carton.  Now place 1 to 4 pink chicks (or whatever other color you have) into the next 6 eggs and put them in the other row of the carton.

Decide which row each player will pick from.  Each person chooses one egg to crack open.  I have each person count their chicks aloud, then put them together and count.  Then we separate the chicks and say the addition problem together, moving them into one group after saying "equals" to help reinforce that addition is combining two smaller groups.

Optional:  Use a white board or paper to write out the addition problem for extra practice with older children.  My five year old is learning to print his numbers, so this was a natural way to practice this.  I wouldn't write out the number sentence with my two year old, however, as he would quickly lose interest.
Chick War:
 (for 2 players)

You will use the same carton of eggs you set up for chick addition for this game.  This time, you each break open an egg, count the chicks and decide who has the most.  You can play like you do with the card version of war and give the egg to the one with the most, or don't worry about keeping track.  My boys just enjoyed cracking open the egg and being surprised at how many chicks were inside their egg. 

You can extend this activity for older preschoolers by having them write the number of chicks on a white board and either circling the larger number or using the greater than, less than or equal signs.

Chick Patterning:

Pull out a pile of chicks and make patterns with your colors.

Hide and Peep:

Hide a predetermined number of chicks around a room in your house.  Give the children the same number of plastic eggs as there are chicks hidden and have them collect the hidden chicks.  Take turns hiding and seeking.

Grab your own cute chickadees and play a game or two together with these fun fuzzy friends.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Chickens Aren't the Only Ones...

Spring is in the air, and the Easter decorations are in full bloom around us.  We especially love all the colorful eggs.  My boys know that chickens and ducks hatch from eggs, but what else does?

Here's a fun way to teach children about oviparous animals (or animals that hatch from eggs).

First, start with a good book (or four...).

The Golden Egg Book by Margaret Wise Brown

This book is a sweet little story about a lonely bunny who finds an egg and wonders what is inside.  There is a great page where the bunny imagines other animals inside, such as an elephant, or a little boy.  Find out what does hatch from the egg and discover a new friendship in the process.

The Extraordinary Egg by Leo Lionni

Jessica the frog loves exploring.  One day she finds a wonderful round pebble.  Her friends inform her it is an egg, and so there must be a chicken inside.  What hatches is a very strange "chicken" indeed.  Besides the simple humor of the story, I love using it as a teaching tool for helping kids think about what different animals hatch from eggs, besides chickens.

Chickens Aren't the Only Ones by Ruth Heller

I love to follow up the first two stories with this non-fiction classic.  This is a beautifully illustrated book that explains all the different animals that hatch from eggs, from alligators to dinosaurs to insects.  It also shows the various types of eggs, from the typical chicken egg to the exotic mermaid's purse in the ocean.  My boys love pointing out all of the animals they know in the pages, and looking for their eggs.

Animals Born Alive and Well by Ruth Heller

I finish up with this companion book that talks about mammals.  More beautiful illustrations and simple explanations for children to understand what a mammal is.  It is fun to ask children to then classify themselves.  Are they mammals or not?

After our books, here's the simple classification activity that we did together.

I simply dumped out our container of plastic animals on the floor and gave the boys a basket of empty Easter eggs of various sizes and colors.  I then told them to fill the eggs with animals that hatch from eggs.  It was fun to see how many animals they remembered from the stories.  If they were unsure, we examined the animal to see if it had fur or hair.  Chances are, if it did, then it was a mammal. They even deducted that lobsters and crabs must hatch from eggs (they weren't in the book) because they didn't have fur or hair!

They loved filling the eggs with different creatures and were excited to show Daddy their unusual eggs when he got home from work.

*Book images from*

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Big Boy Bed

Mr. Three is (supposedly) coming any day now, and Mr. Two must be booted from the crib.

I know Mr. Two is over two years old.  And still in the crib.  And still in diapers.  But I can only fight one battle at a time.

I figure getting him to sleep in a bed is the bigger battle now.

A lovely and generous friend gave us their old bed frame, which is high enough to fit a trundle bed underneath.  We just needed the trundle.  (My parents lent us a mattress.  Thank you.)

Enter crafty husband to save the day.

He designed and put together this trundle bed frame on Saturday.  Mr. One loved going to Home Depot to get the supplies, and watching the progress. 

I loved watching my creative husband sketch away in his notebook, designing and measuring, then drilling and measuring some more.  Our home smelled like fresh cut lumber, in a good way, while he worked.

Mr. Two cried and hugged the crib railings.

At the end of the day, we had a perfect trundle bed, and it only cost about $60.00 in supplies.  Hooray for crafty husbands!

Now, if we could just convince Mr. Two how wonderful his new bed is...

We had no problems with Mr. One, he just hopped into his big boy bed the first night and slept like a log!  We've been trying the "Super Nanny" approach, just being consistent and sticking him back in bed every time he gets up, but my heart is aching as he cries for his crib for an hour...

Any tips/hints/words of support out there in blogland? Help!!!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Mischievous Leprechaun Strikes Again

Happy St. Patricks Day!  Our home was struck again by the Wee Folk on this greenest of days...

Shamrocks made a path from the boys' room to the kitchen.

Bowls were sprinkled with green sugar.

Some new St. Patrick's Day activities were on the table, ready to explore.

Milk was mysteriously colored green.

The Trix contained an extra trick of their own:  all of the non-green pieces mysteriously disappeared...

Pancakes turned green.

We had the traditional corned beef and cabbage for Sunday dinner, so we went for a different kind of green dinner.

We had these green enchiladas for dinner, and Mint Brownies for dessert.  Yum! We tried a new brownie recipe.  It was good, but I still think this one is the best. 

We listened to our favorite Irish band, U2.

It was a lucky day!

Here's a little list of the activities for the kids and where I found them, if applicable:

Sensory Tub
I filled a plastic shoe box with dried split peas, added a few spoons and cups and a scoop, then hid some gold coins in the peas.  The boys loved searching for the leprechaun gold.  I plan on using some of the peas to make some of these for next year.  (Didn't get to that project soon enough...)

Shamrock Game
I found this game at Making Learning Fun.  We used Skittles (because they are the rainbow candy) to cover up the card.  I wasn't feeling up to picking out only the green ones.

Leprechaun's Favorite Color
This little book was on Making Learning Fun as well.  I love the little "trick" ending!  We used gold paint to make the coins on the last page.

Shamrock Sort
We used the shamrocks that made our path to sort and put in size order.

Hope your day was full of fun and lots of good luck!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Cars Party

A few months ago, while getting input from Mr. One about what kind of birthday party he would like, I had "over the top" ideas and plans.  With a baby due in two weeks and a tight budget, over the top quickly became "simple and easy."  Mr. One's top theme picks were superheroes or cars.  We went with cars after I found the perfect simple and inexpensive activites involving cars.

Here's the invite.  I had my husband print a large 5 on printer paper, and used that for a template to cut out the 5's on black construction paper.  I sewed them onto the card with white thread, then stamped a car on white cardstock, cut it out and glued it to the bottom of the five.  I used a red scrapbooking pen for the words at the bottom, then printed the information and glued it inside the card.  So simple, and best of all, free, using what I already had on hand.  Just in case you're wondering what the card says, the words on the front say, "Ready, Set, Drive..."  and on the inside it says , "(Mr. One) is turning five!"  with the additional party information.

I had him pick five friends to invite, and all but one made it.   We partied mostly on the front porch (the weather right now is just beautiful), and kept the party at 1 1/2 hours long.  Remember I said "simple and easy"?

Here's our activities:

First off, we painted these adorable kit cars.  I found them at Michaels for only 75 cents.  Everything was in the kit:  the wood, glue, paint, a paintbrush, and instructions, even a bit of sandpaper (though you don't need it as the pieces were already well sanded).  Mike and I spent Thursday evening assembling and gluing the cars together after the boys fell asleep (a good excuse to visit and spend some alone time together).  Because we had already put them together, all the kids had to do was paint.  (I did very clearly print on the invite to wear clothes that could get paint on them, or to bring an old t-shirt to wear over their party clothes.)  I also made sure to put out some "girly" paint out for our few girls that wanted a pink car.  They had a blast painting away.  Mr. Two was especially loving the mess!  This was a fun activity and also doubled as a take-home gift for the guests.

We washed up and set up Mr. One's race track and let the kids race Hot Wheels for a bit.  They didn't care who won, they just liked watching the cars race to see which ones were faster.

We then sang "Happy Birthday" and ate doughnuts. (They were chocolate frosted to look like tires, and I even thought to use white icing to write tire names around them like a real tire, but third trimester fatigue set in...)  We also found some delicious looking strawberries at the store, so we piled them on the platter as well.

Mr. One opened his gifts and politely and enthusiastically thanked each guest. 

We played "Red Light, Green Light"* in the driveway and Cars Bingo (one of the gifts from a guest, it fit perfectly with our theme so we opened it right up).

We sent each guest home with their car and cleaned paint brush and leftover paints and a goody bag.  I put things the Birthday boy loves inside the bags: a Cars pencil, some of his favorite candies and a bag of Famous Amos chocolate chip cookies.

It was simple and easy and the kids had so much fun.  I am learning that sometimes simple and easy is actually better than over the top.  Kids don't need to be impressed.  They just want to have fun, and they enjoy being together and eating a good treat.  My husband and I were more relaxed and could enjoy the party as well without crazy preparation and fancy activities.  Happy Birthday, Mr. One!  I hope you enjoyed your party!

*Another fun activity that went by the wayside with the pregnancy fatigue was to decorate paper plate steering wheels to use for "Red Light, Green Light."  I wanted to share it here, just for future reference.  All you do is cut out three sections of the paper plate center to make it look like a steering wheel, then decorate it with crayons, stickers, whatever suits your fancy.  My boys have made these before and loved them.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Highway Letters

Here's my handmade gift for Mr. One's birthday.  He had often complains that I never make quiet books for him, so here's my big boy version of a quiet book.  (Although I forsee this being a not-so-quiet book with the car racing noises that must go on while using it...)

I found the template and idea here at Making Learning Fun.  If you're interested in this project, make sure to see the Dr. Jean link about how to extend the use of these cards.

Basically, you print out the letters on black cardstock, cut and glue them onto another piece of cardstock.  (They also have a version you can print on white paper, but that used too much ink for my liking.)  I laminated them for durability and hole punched them on the top, and bound the book with two 1 1/2" binder rings.  That way you can still pull the letters out of order and make words to practice if you don't want to keep it in book form.  I changed it just slightly by using white out correcting tape to mark the road lines to make them stand out better.  (The yellow ink road lines don't really show up on the black construction paper.)

He is going to love "driving" along the letters and I'm secretly hoping to get some good letter formation practice out of him!

If you have a car lover in your house, go and make a set for your home, too!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Mr. One is Five!

Earlier this week, Mr. One celebrated his fifth birthday.  This is a new stage for our family to have a child old enough to really understand birthdays and the excitement and anticipation that comes with them.  I think we have been on the countdown for at least a month now.

Here's a little synopsis of the birthday fun for the week.

On Sunday, we had our traditional Carpenter family birthday dinner.  On the Sunday closest to the actual birthday, the birthday boy or girl gets to choose their dinner and dessert.  The honoree also gets the special birthday plate to eat off of and the "birthday bear" to rest on the plate.  Mr. One chose macaroni and cheese, green grapes and chocolate cake with chocolate frosting.  While the kiddos enjoyed their mac and cheese, the adults had lasagna (I know, we cheated a bit).  Unfortunately, there were not good green grapes at the grocery store, but we did make sure to have some super chocolatey cake with chocolate frosting and sprinkles.  He's a boy after my own chocolate-loving heart.

A day early, we let him open his gifts from his grandparents (our family in town had obligations on his actual birthday evening, so they came over the night before and his birthday package had come early in the mail from his California grandparents).  He was excited for the new games, movies and a "rock star" shirt. Both sets of grandparents are so great at picking out things that are just right.

On his actual birthday, he woke up to birthday greetings on the wall above his bed.  (Mike, Mr. Two and I had fun making them after he had gone to sleep the night before).  It was a school day, so he brought juice boxes to preschool and his classmate, who shares the same birthday, brought cookies to share with the class.

After school, we headed to Krispy Kreme for a free dozen glazed doughnuts.  The boys loved going in and watching the doughnuts being made.  Mr. One jubilantly told the cashier it was his birthday and that he was five.  He then was handed the giant box of doughnuts and a paper hat, graciously said thank you and walked out of the store with an ear to ear grin.

After a little pre-lunch doughnut and milk, we braved the pouring rain and met Mike for lunch at Sonic. We rarely eat out, so this was a special treat.  We ate together in the car and visited before Mike had to head off to work again.  We played games in the afternoon as Mr. Two napped. 

That evening, we made pizza, "just cheese" as per his request.  Mr. One opened presents, loving each one like it was a priceless treasure.  He especially loved his new Hot Wheels Corvette and Leak Less trailer.  (He's still on a big cars kick.)  Mr. Two "helped" unwrap the gifts.  We sang "Happy Birthday" and he blew out the candles (again) on the last of the chocolate cake, then ate a piece for dessert.  Yum!

This weekend, we will have a small party with some of his friends.  He is so excited!  ("When are my guests coming?")  Time for some house cleaning and prep-work for Mike and I...

Oh, to be five and be truly grateful for anything new and out of the ordinary.  Happy Birthday, sweet little boy!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Bookshelf: Down on the Farm Edition

We are studying farms and farm animals currently, so here is a book list of some of my favorites.

Click Clack Moo, Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin
We love this book, the first in several (my boys especially love the sequel, Giggle, Giggle, Quack).  Farmer Brown's cows have begun typing, and demanding comforts for the barn.  When Farmer Brown denies their request, they go on strike, taking some of the other animals with them in their quest for electric blankets.  Find out the surprising resolution to their problems.

Farm Flu by Teresa Bateman
Mom is out and the animals at the farm are coming down with the flu.  The little boy knows just what his mom would do, if it were he who had the flu.  He busies himself tucking the cow into bed, setting the chickens up with some hot barley soup, etc.   Soon, there are more animals in the house recovering than out in the barn, something must be done.  Rhyming text and silly pictures make this a fun read.

The Cow That Went Oink by Bernard Most
This is such a wonderful teaching book, with so many phonics lessons in the pages.  (I won't get all technical in this post, just trust me...)  The cow that oinks is being laughed at by the other farm animals, and is sad.  Then he meets a pig who moos.  Pig is being laughed at as well.  Together they come up with a solution to their problems, teaching each other to moo and oink, with a fun twist ending.

Cock-a-Doodle-Doo! Barnyard Hullabaloo by Giles Andreae
I love these books (I have an ocean one and a zoo one as well)!  The poems for each animal are charming and fun to read.  Turn this story into a game by reading the poem (omitting the animal's name) without showing the pictures, and letting your child guess what animal the poem is about.

You don't have to live near a farm when you can travel to the barnyard in a great book or two.  Happy reading!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Fill the Barn

We are working on a farm unit currently, mainly because Mr. Two is just enamored with animals, especially ducks and chicks and cows.  I am also loving the springy weather, and the farm seemed a natural springy choice.

Here are a few fun activities we worked on using the same little play mat.

I found the barn image here, then made a small table in Word with 30 rectangles to paste into the barn.  I copied the mats on cardstock, colored the barns and laminated them for durability.

I found the tiny farm animals at the Target Dollar Spot a few years back and am so glad I snatched them up.  I let my boys play with the animals, for some open-ended play time, for several days before attempting to use them in a more controlled activity.

First activity:  Dice Roll Fill the Barn

You will need:

30 small animal counters
barn mat
one die

To play:

Roll the die and count out the same number of animals onto the barn mat.  Roll again and add the next amount onto the mat.  Continue until you have filled the barn.

This is great one-to-one correspondence and counting practice for preschoolers.

Extend the activity:

Ask children to count the animals all together when you have filled the barn.

Ask children which animal they had the most of or the least of.  Ask them to explain how they came up with their answer.  Did they simply count and compare?  Did they estimate?  Did they sort their animals first and compare after?

Second Activity:  Fill the Barn Graph

You will need:

a handful of small animal counters
barn mat

How to play:

Sort the handful of animals.  Place on the barn mat to make a bar graph.  Compare the different animals and talk about the findings of the graph together.

Some questions to ask:

Which group had the most?  least?  any that were the same?

How can you tell?

Why is your graph different from _______'s graph?  What is different?  Is anything the same?

If you grabbed another handful of animals and graphed the new handful, would your graph look different or the same?  Why?

How can you tell which animal was the most/least without counting?

Have fun filling your barn!