I pulled out the Bug manipulatives and props for some Spring learning. Before using any new manipulative with children (especially preschoolers), it is important to let them have some time to explore and use them in a free play setting. Let them have fun discovering, then use them in more structured learning later. It is fascinating to see that they will sort, pattern, count, and label things all on their own.
I found some fun bug catcher sets at the Dollar Tree a few weeks ago. They have a little magnifying glass on the top, a pair of tweezers and a mini net. I added them to the pile of bugs to explore. Mr. One and Two started off just throwing the bugs at one another, scaring each other, with lots of screaming, laughing and crying. At that point, the bugs got a time out.
A few days later, I got them out again for Mr. Two and the little three year old I babysit part-time. They got out the pots and pans and had a grand time sorting, counting, naming and playing with the bugs.
Bug soup, anyone?
In the next few days, I hope to do some more structured learning with our little buggy friends.
If you are interested in where I found my bug collection, many of them came from Oriental Trading Company (here and here), and others were found during visits to dollar stores, Target dollar spot, etc. Oriental trading also has a fun assortment of foam bug shapes, beads, tongs, magnifying glasses, and more that would be great to add to your collection.
Yesterday was the first official day of spring. It was overcast and wet all day. Kind of ironic, since we live in the perpetually sunny state of Arizona. Today the sun is out, and I'm feeling the need to add some more color to our days. I've enjoyed the rain, now it's time for some rainbows.
We colored the pasta this morning with vinegar and food coloring. Mr. Two loved stirring the food coloring into the vinegar and watching it change, then squishing up the noodle filled bag to color them. This was a fun mini lesson on color mixing for him.
This evening, we turned our rainbow noodles into dinner. I used a slightly different recipe for the sauce. This is from my sister in law Carla. We jokingly have referred to it as "Auntie Carla's Yucky Macaroni and Cheese" because Mr. One didn't especially like it the first time we tried it. Rest assured, it is not yucky in the least, and the rest of us think it is delicious.
Auntie Carla's Not-Yucky Macaroni and Cheese
Cook 2 1/2 cups noodles. Add a dash of salt to water and boil 8 to 10 minutes (or just a minute or two shy of the directions on the box).
Shred desired amount of cheese (I used about 5 oz of cheddar jack cheese).
Melt 2 Tablespoons margarine (I used butter) on medium high heat.
Add 2 Tablespoons flour and mix.
Add 2 cups milk and whisk until smooth and thick.
Turn off heat and add
1 teaspoon salt
1 big shake of Worchestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard (I skipped this)
dash of pepper
Mix noodles in sauce, pour into casserole dish and top with cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 30 minutes (until cheese is melted and starting to bubble).
When shopping with three little boys, do not forget to have little boys who are potty trained go to the bathroom before heading to the grocery store.
If you get to the third store of the afternoon and your almost-one-year-old falls asleep, just go home and call it a day. Otherwise, you will be holding all twenty-some pounds of sleeping child while trying to push/drag a cart and corral two awake and active children.
If, in that third store, you get about halfway through your shopping and hear your three-year-old ask, "Mommy, does the grocery store have potties?", you are in for a whole new adventure. Run to the nearest restroom and pray that you make it in time.
If you are fortunate enough to make it in time to the restroom, don't assume that your six-year-old son makes a dependable chaperon for a three-year-old in the bathroom as you wait outside the door with a sleeping baby and a cart half-full of groceries.
When two different grocery store employees enter the bathroom after your two children and then exit smiling, don't think it's because they think your children are adorable helping one another in the bathroom. They are laughing at you, because you have no idea what they are really doing in the bathroom.
Be grateful the second employee stays by the door to kindly give you a play by play of what is going on at the sink. When you ask if they are washing their hands (because you do hear water running), and you get a question back, "What exactly is your definition of washing?" be assured that they are not indeed washing their hands. Mercifully, this employee might kindly point out that the bathroom is indeed empty except for your two boys, so you can go inside and assess the situation. Thank this helpful person.
Try not to laugh or hide in mortification when you see your six-year-old hiding behind the fake tree in the bathroom laughing his head off (Who puts a fake tree in the bathroom anyway?) and the three-year-old happily playing in the sink. Just squirt some soap on those chubby little hands and scrub and get out of there as fast as you can with a still sleeping child in your arms.
Now, all you can do is finish your grocery shopping and pretend that none of this ever happened.
Mr. One turned six last week. (Six!!) On Monday afternoon, we had a little friends party for him. We are on Spring Break this week, so we waited to have his party until school was out. He wanted a ninja Lego party (his favorite gifts this year were Ninjago Lego sets). We compromised and had a pirate party (because there are cool pirate Legos too, you know).
Here's the front of the invite:
I originally wanted to use parchment-like brown paper and to burn the edges like a treasure map. Time not being on my side, I opted for a simpler approach: stickers and parchment-like gray paper.
The boys dressed in their pirate best and met at the park close by our home. Unfortunately, the park I had decided to have the party at was completely full (I was not about to spend $50.00 to reserve a ramada at a public park!). Luckily, there was another park close by, so we relocated.
When everyone arrived, each boy got an eye patch, gold earring and bandana to wear. Those brave souls who wished for some pirate-like facial hair or scars had them drawn on with a black eyeliner pencil.
They also got a Loot bag to put their party favors in. I didn't bother making these cutesy (just a brown paper sack with "Loot" written with a sharpie), because everyone knows, pirates don't do cutesy. Or eat vegetables. Or color-coordinate.
On to the activities!
We bombed approaching ships.
(By flicking ping pong "bombs" with a spoon "catapult" at some paper boats.)
They earned pirate booty in the form of a ring pop "treasure."
They decorated their own treasure chests (found at Michaels) with jewels and skull and crossbones (stickers).
Of course we needed to fill the boxes with some real treasure. They dug in the volleyball court sand pit for treasure (plastic gold coins and colored florist stones). The boys were told there was enough treasure for them each to find twelve coins and twelve jewels. They dug for a long time, searching and counting. It was so fun to watch!
We sang Happy Birthday (with no cha-cha-cha's, thank you...), ate cupcake pirate ships, drank lots of cold water and opened presents.
I used a Funfetti cake mix so that there would be little flecks of color in the cupcakes, like "buried treasure".
To end the party, we let them loose with balloon swords for the rest of the party. They LOVED the swords! I didn't love tying almost 20 balloon swords, as they would occasionally pop, but I'll take sore fingers for a little happiness.
A big thank you to Handsome Husband for help in the ideas department for games and party planning (we wish you could have been there!). Thanks to my brother who was in town with his family and new camera. We wouldn't have had any pictures without him at the party. He also turned out to be an excellent pirate treasure hider. Thank you to my sister-in-law who was willing to chase ping pong balls and help keep the party running smoothly Thanks to my mom who supplied many last minute odds and ends and party help and held Mr. Three to keep him happy. It was a fun day.
Now I need to publish and finish "swabbing the deck" in my long-neglected home.
Many of you may know that we have an especially mischievous leprechaun that loves to visit our home for St. Patrick's Day. This year, he was at it again.
It seems that this particular leprechaun has taken a few furniture arrangement classes (maybe he needs to study a bit harder...). He decided to try his hand at rearranging our home. Now all the dining room furniture is in the living room and the living room furniture is in the dining room. Now we can all cozy up to watch a little of our favorite shows on the computer, and eat in the same room with our library and TV. Mr. One suggested we leave things the way they are for a few days.
He also magically turned our milk green and left a mess of Lucky Charms and M&M's on the kitchen table.
We had shamrocks littering the floor and couch. Luckily, he was nice enough to leave a fun new game out on the table as well.
Roll a Rainbow was a game I found here (love her blog, so much eye candy and fun ideas). It was so simple and my boys loved playing. The rainbow is made from office dot stickers on a half sheet of white cardstock. I only had red, yellow, green and blue dots, so I colored some yellow dots with an orange marker to make the orange dots.
The basic instructions are to roll two dice and add the correct M&M to the rainbow that correlates with the chart. So, if you roll a 3 and a 5, you have 8 dots, so you place a yellow M&M on the chart. The boys loved this game. (Even if they do look less enthused in these pictures...)
Since the chart is hard to see, here is what it says:
Roll a Rainbow!
We had a picnic lunch at the park with some friends, then took a nap/watched a movie in the afternoon.
We had a green dinner at my parents' house, with Zuppa Toscana (kale is green...), breadsticks (dyed green) lime jello, and pistachio pudding (you know, the one with cool whip, pistachio pudding mix, pineapple and mini marshmallows... I'm salivating just thinking about it.).
For dessert, my brother made crepes. Not Irish. Or green. Just delicious.
We made play dough cookies yesterday. Here's the recipe. They were simple to make and fun to shape and eat.
We used our regular old liquid food coloring (because I was not about to go to the grocery store just for some gel paste food coloring). The color may not have turned out as vibrant, but they're pretty just the same.
When popping a bag of microwave popcorn, do not, I repeat, do not, push the four minute timer (which is about two minutes too much) and then commence talking on the phone. You will forget that there is a ticking time bomb of exploding corn in your microwave.
Then, when you realize your serious neglect of said popcorn, stop the microwave immediately.
This next step is crucial. Do. Not. Open the bag out of simple morbid curiosity. It is not worth the little peek at the smoldering blackened kernels. It will only lead to crazy smoking and stinking up of your home that will linger for days.
Your next move should not be to yell and shove the smoking bag into the closed garage. Even though it will save your house from some of the burned scent, your garage will smell like a burning corn field for at least a week. And that, my friends, is not pretty.
A few odds and ends from the last weekend in February.
Saturday, we headed over to the Matsuri Festival (a Japanese cultural festival) in downtown Phoenix. I have never seen so many strangely dressed people in one place. Lots of cat-people and anime characters. There was even a trio of adults in full Pokemon costumes (my little brother would have loved that). I enjoyed the people watching until I realized, maybe those same fishnet, cat tailed, neon wig wearing people were thinking about how odd I was dressed. Hmm...
Hawaiian shaved ice (yes, that really didn't have anything to do with Japan, but it was good)
watching people play on giant drums
a samurai sword exhibition (those things are sharp)
watching a candy artist turn blobs of hot sugar and corn syrup into a dragon
smelling the awesome Japanese food
After the festival, we got food at Sonic (the Chicago dog there is awesome, by the way) and McD's for the little boys (they had Hot Wheels in the happy meals).
After putting the kiddos to bed and putting on pj's, we got a phone call just after 8pm. It was the stake executive secretary calling to ask us to come in and visit with the stake president. To make the story short, Mike was called to be the new first councilor in our bishopric. That was a complete shock to us. We were just worried that they wanted us to speak in stake conference! He will do a wonderful job and we have already had so many people offer to help with our young children during church since Mike will now be sitting on the stand. It's going to be a challenge and take a lot of time and energy, but I can already feel our family being blessed by this calling.
Well, that's our weekend wrap-up, a little late. Better late than never. I sure wish I would've brought my camera to the festival...
Here are a few new things I've found on the web to use for some fun St. Patty's themed learning. Hope you enjoy!
Shamrock color matching file folder game. This one looked so simple, but it was more challenging for my three year old than I thought! Find it here.
Another file folder game. This one is for your kiddos who are starting to sound out words. I'm printing this one for Mr. One (a great kindergarten game). Find it here.
This is at the top of my to do list this week: split pea shamrocks. The boys will love tossing these into our kitchen pots. I'm thinking of some other games to use them with. Will keep you posted if I get that far... Go here for the tutorial.
A few fun math games, better suited for the K-2 set, but I may adapt some for younger kiddos. Find how-to's here.
I really want to do this simple color mixing experiment. With water and not milk. Now I just need to grab some clear plastic cups. Here's the how-to for this activity.
Here's some ideas that I have posted in the past that you may enjoy. Go here and here.
Now, go do something fun with the kiddos in your life. I may be posting less for the next week or so. I have a birthday party to plan and a brother getting married! Good times, but busy times..
There is a reason why I dislike leaving messages on answering machines. Here is case in point number one:
Mr. One threw up last night. Mr. One needs to stay home today even if he appears healthy and is presenting me with evidence of my cruelty because I won't let him eat chocolatey, sugar-filled cereal for breakfast.
When your child is sick and staying home, this necessitates a phone call to the school office to excuse the absence.
Enter the answering machine.
machine: "This is ABC Elementary. If you are calling about your student's absence, please leave your name, your student's name, spelling the last name, your child's teacher, date and reason for the absence at the beep."
me: I think I need a pencil to write all of this down, what did she say again?
machine: (a milisecond after) Beep!
me: (trying to hide the panic in my voice) Um, hi, this is (stating my name) calling for (Mr. One, O-N-E). Pause. I don't really know what the date is. Pause. But he's sick, so he won't be in today. Click. Groan.
Did I just say that? Great, and I forgot to say who his teacher is.
If the school doesn't call back to have me substitute again I guess I will know why.
Maybe I should call back and redeem myself. Here's how the second take might go.
machine: blah, blah, blah leave a message...Beep.
me: Hello, this is ____ calling for (Mr. One, O-N-E) in Mrs. ___'s class. He will be absent today, Thursday March 3rd because he threw up last night. Just kidding about not knowing what day it is. Even though he is running around and seems well enough to boss his brother around and argue about current breakfast choices, I will not be sending him in. I don't want to be the mom that has to slink back to the front office at 10:17 am to pick up the child who seemed just fine in the morning when dropping him off who just threw up all over the letters M and N on the alphabet rug.
Maybe I'll just wait until they call me back if they need more information.
After picking up Mr. One from school, we went over to a friend's house to play and decorate Thing One and Thing Two cupcakes. Ours didn't turn out as cute as the original idea, but they still tasted yummy!
We ate a dinner of green eggs and ham (on an English muffin with cheese), and read the book.
Mr. One did not like green eggs and ham.
Mr. Two would not eat them in a box.
Or with a fox.
They do not like them Sam-I-am.
Mr. Three will try them.
And he will put them here and there...
To end the evening, Mr. One threw up. (I'll spare you the visual.)