As a mom (and teacher), I strive everyday to engage, nurture, and expand the mind of my little one.
Here you will find the books, music, and activities most useful to me in my endeavors.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Family Tree Craft Ideas

Mark your calendars. 
Bust out the crafting materials. 

Grandparent's Day is September 12th.

And nothing says, "I love you," to a grandparent quite like a handmade gift!

Since I also have to ship whatever we make, this little project should've been started yesterday!

My plan is to make Family Trees - one for Grammy and Grampy and another for Mimi.

I've scoured the world wide web and brought you my favorites!  Hope they provide some inspiration for a Grandparent's Day gift that is meaningful, educational, and really special :)

1. Paper Scrap Family Tree
2. Family Tree with Fiskar Scissors
3. Birdie Family Tree
4. Corrugated Cardboard Stand-Alone Family Tree

If you're looking for something with a little more kid involvement, something more hands-on, give these ideas a try:
1. Handprint Family Tree
2. Family Photo Tree

I'll leave you with a sweet grandparent quote:

"Nobody can do for little children what grandparents do. Grandparents sort of sprinkle stardust over the lives of little children." ~ Alex Haley

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Counting Around the House

The weather is delightfully gray and a little chilly here this morning ... the perfect excuse to stay indoors (after a walk to our neighborhood Starbucks) and do a little number activity!

We used our favorite foam numbers - but any numbers - playing cards, post-it notes, flash cards would work.

While NHV ate her snack, I hid the numbers 1-9 - some in obvious places and others that required a few hints from me.

Natalie hunted for the numbers. About halfway through, I asked her to put the numbers on the floor in order, so we could tell which numbers we still needed to find.

After finding all the numbers, we searched through her toy bins to find things we could count and match up to the corresponding number.

There are so many different ways you could play this "game" - stickers on index cards, pom-poms in an egg carton, beads on pipe cleaners, ...

Can't beat good counting practice ... it's FREE and FUN!  NHV wants to know if we can "pay dat num-ber game again after yunch?"  Sure, why not :)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Fairies in my Toes

While I was making breakfast and tending to the needs of my 8-month old, I heard my {preschooler} say, "Hey, mommy, yook!  Dere's FAIRIES in my toes."

Yeah, I was puzzled.  And busy.  Had no choice but to stop what I was doing and investigate.

Once I say what she was talking about, I had to run and grab the camera ...

If you hear the words, "There's [insert name of small object] in my [insert body part]." from your toddler's mouth, here are a few guidelines ...

Small toys between the toes ... so cute.
Small toys up the nose ... not such a great idea!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Backyard Counting Adventure

Here's a simple idea ... because, really, there's no point sharing a "complicated" idea to try with your toddler ... that would be kind of silly, huh?!

I grabbed my camera and took NHV out to the backyard. I told her the plan ... to count things we see outside and try to find one, two, three, four, and five.

To get the process started, I pointed to the lone ball sitting in the middle of the driveway (not a great place for a ball, btw) and asked, "How many balls do you see?" To which she looked at the ball and then at me with an expression that clearly said, "Is this a trick question?" Apparently that was too easy, but always good to start with a confidence-booster! I asked the same question again; to which Natalie replied, "There's just ONE ball, mommy."

"Right you are. Go stand near it and I'll take a picture."

Next we spotted two bikes hanging from the side of the house. We also talked about how many wheels each bike has and counted to four. Repeated that discussion for the pedals, and then talked about the seats ... there are only two of those, which Natalie found quite interesting.

Near the bikes, Natalie spotted three "garbage" cans ... and then also informed me that there are numbers on the side of the big blue recycling can. She even identified almost all of them correctly ... high five, baby girl!

As we stepped over the huge patch of clover in our yard, I couldn't help but point out that the clover has three leaves.

We found four steps on her little climbing wall and the ladder to her slide.

And, finally, just as Natalie was getting bored of this activity, we counted the number of flower pots without flowers planted in them ... FIVE!

Simple, fun practice counting like objects (and identifying numbers).

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Snack Idea

Imagine showing up at the next playdate with these adorable snacks in tow:

I can just about hear the "oooohs" and "aaaaahs" from the mamas as the kiddos excitedly grab their very own little portion-sized (and adorable) snack bag ... filled with cheese and fresh fruit.  I mean, really, who needs Teddy Grahams when you can put a nutritional snack in packaging this cute!

There's an official "recipe" here, but I think you can figure it out from the photo.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Summer Activities Challenge: Letter / Number BINGO

My toddler is soon to be a preschooler ... I am so not sure how I feel about that!  But I do know that I am trying to maintain a certain level of structured learning time during these summer months.  That effort has lead me to the 2010 Summer Activities Challenge hosted by  The challenge is to complete 10 activities before August 29th.  There are thousands (not exaggerating) of activities to choose from, and every age level - from preschool to high school - is covered!  The preschool level includes activities in ten different categories.  There is so much to do here, it's just silly ... and I mean that in a very good way! In addition to being a great resource for activity ideas, the challenge also boasts the chance to win prizes.  Now that's fun!  And motivating!

Natalie and I completed our first challenge.  We did something simple and fun.  We played BINGO, a version focusing on letter and number recognition.  The activity explanation is here, and it even includes ready-to-print templates of the bingo cards.

We used mini marshmallows to cover the letters/numbers, which made it more fun ... or should I say, delicious :)  Each time she identified a letter/number, she got to eat a marshmallow and then put one on the card.  All that picking up of mini marshmallows made for good fine motor practice.  Overall, the game held her attention.  But I made it harder by giving her one Letter card and one Number card at the same time.  This required her first to figure out which card to look at and then find the correct square.

The templates for the caller cards contain ALL letters/numbers, but the Bingo cards themselves do not, so I called a lot of letters/numbers she didn't have.  I guess it was good practice searching and then realizing she didn't "have" that one.  But, boy, was she disappointed to miss out on a marshmallow!

The game of BINGO can be easily modified to just about any and all learning content.

The next activity on our list ... Weave a Colorful Yarn Mosaic!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

You Should Know: Juice Boxes

1. A Juice Box has Wings ... but it can't fly!
Every time I hand NHV a juice box, it comes with a stern warning.  "Here you go, sweetie.  Here's your juice box.  DON'T SQUEEZE IT."  I mean, really, you would think I was issuing some sort of safety warning, not just making an effort to keep her shirt from getting juiced!  It's gotten to the point that Natalie issues the warning herself.  In this super dramatic voice with her eye brows raised, she turns my plea into a question, "No 'queeze dat duice box, right, mommy?"

Geez, she's been drinking from a juice box since last summer, so we've had a full year's worth of "don't squeeze it" warnings ... and subsequent, yet accidental, squeezes.  And, let me tell you, NHV gets distraught when her shirt gets we-et. (She puts an extra syllable in this word and adds a little Southern twang, and I think it's adorable!).

I read about this somewhere - just recently, but I cannot for the life of me remember when or where ...

Before you hand over the juice box, pull up on the two triangles on each side.  I call these the "wings."  Tell your child to grab the box by the wings

And, to be honest, I thought it was too simple of a concept to be a) effective or b) useful to anyone besides me.  Well, I was wrong on both counts.  It works.  It really and truly works, and Natalie loves the idea of  her juice box having wings.  At a recent playdate, I heard a mom mention the "squeezing the juice box" predicament, and so I shared my new idea ... thinking all the other moms would already know about it, but it was "news" to all five of the moms there!  Imagine how cool helpful I felt :)

2. Apparently Juice Boxes also have Lead ... and that's not good!
When I put a juice box in Natalie's hand, I think about the sugar content - just before I remind her to hold the wings.  I wonder whether or not that is the most nutritional choice.  I worry that she'll fill up on those "empty" calories and not eat her meal as well.  But it never - and I do mean, never - crossed my mind that I should be concerned about lead content.  Lead in old chipping paint?  Sure.  Lead in some plastic toys?  Yes, I've heard of that and have a great source for knowing which toys are rated safest for lead content (click here to find out more). 

But now, testing shows that in more than 85% of sampled bottled juice, juice boxes, and packaged fruit the lead content is higher than federal allowable limits for our youngest population.

There's an article at a great site called Inhabitots.
And the complete list of tested products - pass or fail - is here.

It seems I've solved one problem only to stumble upon a much bigger one!