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.

Friday, August 28, 2009

An Original Clean Up Song, Just For You

I got an email request from a good friend, known in blogland as Chitown Momma.

Do you know of a clean up song that is tolerable??? Not make me want to slit my wrists annoying...thanks!

I guessed she was referring to this little ditty ... a classic in its own right ...
Clean up, Clean up
Everybody, Everywhere
Clean up, Clean up
Everybody do your share

I replied ...
Hmmmm ... seems like we should put our creative genius together and write our own Clean up Song ... to the tune of a popular song we can tolerate. I'll get CPV's brain working on it, too ... he'll probably want to include the kazoo :)

And that's just what we did - hubby and I collaborated last night on a new Clean Up Song, Just for You (and Chitown Momma, of course).

We started with Clean Up sung to the tune of Michael Jackson's Beat It, but it just didn't come together.

I moved on to my hip-hop roots and gave It's Such a Mess in Here - to the tune of Nelly's It's Getting Hot in Here - a good long try ... but again, it just didn't click.

Still feeling a little hip-hop and a little old school, CPV threw out this version to the tune of Salt-n-Peppa's Let's Talk About Sex ...

Let's talk about this mess, Baby
Let's talk about you and me
Picking up all the books and the toys
That you can see
Let's talk a-bout this mess ...

While waiting in line at Mickey D's for a yummy 'nilla cone, the song You're the One That I Want from Grease was playing over the radio. Inspiration comes in strange places, and our new catchy, danceable Clean Up song was born ...

To the tune of "You're the One That I Want" (Grease)
You've got toys
They're multiplying
And Mommy's losing her mind
'Cuz the mess it keeps growing
It's so annoying

You better clean up
'Cuz you made this mess
And I really need your help
You better clean up
You better lend a hand
All these toys must go away

(so much left, so much left for us to do)

It's time to clean up
Please pick up all your toys
Oh, Oh, Ooh, ______________ (child's name)
It's time to clean up

Please pick up all your toys
Oh, Oh, Ooh, ______________ (child's name)

As you are doing your daily toy round-up, please feel free to sing this original Clean Up Song ... may it bring a little joy to a routine task!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

5-Minute Project: Hands and Numbers

This morning I decided that a few contractions aren't going to keep me from teaching and learning with my baby girl. I threw together a quick "art project" that involved tracing her hand prints and numbers 1-10.

My toddler loved the hand tracing part. I think it tickled a little and her giggle was just what I needed to hear. I traced in pencil first and then went over the lines with black crayon. As I was doing that, we counted her fingers aloud.

Initially, I was just going to count them again and write the numbers as we went. But somehow my flaky brain remembered that I have a stash of letter/number stickers in a nearby drawer - what luck! I picked them up at Michael's in that terribly addictive, impossible to resist dollar section. The ones I have are actually made by Crayola.

So while I grabbed the stickers, NHV grabbed the crayons and started adding her own creative flairs to our artwork. I especially love the "rainbow" she drew off to the side; clearly her work was inspired by this morning's episode of Curious George.

Materials: paper, pencil, crayons, number stickers

Teacher Thoughts: My toddler is currently counting aloud from 1-10, and number recognition (Naming the numbers when she sees them or identifying a number when I ask, "Where's the 2?") seems like the next logical step. This project combines both and gives a strong visual connection between the numbers said aloud, the stickers, and her own fingers.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Games to Play: Parts of the Body

As far as I am concerned, you get major bang for your learning buck when you incorporate games and movement ... these options should do the trick!

Body Race

Tell your toddler to race as fast as she can toward you. When she gets to you, say, "Touch my knee!" She has to touch the right body part to get a sticker, then run back to home base. Continue the race until she's correctly named all the body parts or she's so tired, she needs a rest.

Roll With It, Body!

Find a large cube and paste pictures of different body parts on it. Let the children take turns rolling the 'dice' and then chant ... When Benjamin rolls the dice, We touch our (Body Part) ...

Musical Body Parts

Here is a fun version of musical chairs that is great for movement and learning body parts. Make sure each child has a defined "spot" (carpet square, scarf spread out; I used placemats). These spots should be randomly placed around the room. The more room you have the better! Each child begins by standing on a spot and moves as you direct when the music begins. You might say, "crawl" and everybody crawls around the room. When the music stops each child will begin to return to their spot. As they reach their spot you will yell out a body part, for example, "elbow", and the children will touch their elbow to their spot. Begin the music again with a new movement and a new body part to stop with. A little chaotic but very fun :)

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Books: Parts of the Body

I did a lot of hunting around for good, age-appropriate books about Parts of the Body. The first three books I was able to check out from the library this week, and I would recommend all three of them. The others I found on Amazon, and I will consider order them because the content and illustrations seems to fit what I am looking for. (The notes on each book are from Amazon Product Descriptions because I am short on time for this post - sorry about that.)

Baby Einstein: Baby da Vinci, My Body

Simple rhyme and engaging illustrations help babies and toddlers learn about their bodies. From head to toe, young children will enjoy following Baby daVinci as he identifies the parts of his body and what each one does.

Here Are My Hands by Bill Martin Jr.

A surprising celebration of physiological parts and their uses that includes: "Here are my hands for catching and throwing. Here are my feet for stopping and going. . . . Here is my elbow, my arm, and my chin. And here is my skin that bundles me in." Rand's pictures spill off the page as different children enact the very funny, very pure chant. It's repeatable, rereadable and particularly adept at showing some of the various activities associated with the assorted limbs. Simply told, these short phrases say more with less.

Eyes, Nose, Fingers, and Toes: A First Book All About You by Judy Hindley

There are millions of ways to use a body. Take legs and feet, for example. "Legs are for leaping and jumping and dancing. Legs are for kicking and skipping and hopping. Feet are for STOMPING and suddenly--STOPPING!" This playful celebration of legs and bellies and noses and necks is for those new to these parts, but grownups can always use a reminder of what the old bod can still do. A parade of multi-ethnic toddlers delights in winking eyes, stretching backs, and hugging arms. Brita Granstrom's crayon and watercolor characters romp on backgrounds that look like the kids themselves drew them, complete with flowers and shining suns.

Some Parts are Not for Sharing by Julie K. Federico

Travel with a pair of friendly fish as they learn about what parts of our bodies we share with others. Children will learn what the boundaries of appropriate touching are in a very non-threatening way. School Counselor Julie Federico begins the imperative conversation of personal boundaries in Some Parts are not for Sharing. Children will enjoy learning about their bodies as they get some important information from a pair of fish. Parents will marvel at the simple straightforward language and use of sea creatures that create this message all children must hear.

My First Body Board Book by DK Publishing

In Dorling Kindersley's tested and true style, babies learn to identify parts of the body including the nose, elbow, toes, back, ear, and hair. They also learn what these wonderful body parts can do: sit, play, crawl, make a face, and dance. The five senses are covered ("feel some soft sand"), as well as counting 1 to 5 and 10. Many cute babies and toddlers model their new skills in DK's crisp, fun photos set against a white background.

Learn-a-Word: Bodies by Nicola Tuxworth

Bodies are fascinating to babies and toddlers as they gradually learn what each part is called, how it works and what it can help them do.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Website: Parts of the Body

Just throwing out a quick post before running to Costco ... oh, how I love going to Costco with a toddler in tow!

I searched high and low for interactive websites for toddlers that reinforce or provide practice with Parts of the Body. I didn't find a lot of options, but the one site I did find, I really like. While my toddler is no where near ready to mouse around a website, this is an activity we did together - she pointed and I moused.

Features I love:

  • Starfall is a website that makes learning to read fun - how can you beat that?
  • The visual image of the girl/boy is very clear and cute.
  • The auditory feedback is really great. Natalie enjoyed the tune so much she danced right along.
  • As a teacher, I really appreciate the visual cubes meant for each word/letter.
  • I like having the opportunity to share a computer-based activity with my toddler :)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Teachable Moments: Body Parts

Teaching your toddler about the parts of the body probably started before he could even walk - with words like nose, eyes, hair, ears, and tummy. With each passing month, you've added more parts to learn, and depending on age, perhaps your toddler has progressed from pointing to naming those parts. During Parts of the Body Week, take a few minutes to assess your child's body part knowledge, and then try some of these activities to reinforce and progress his learning.


  1. Reference your own body parts as well as your toddlers. It's important to make the connection that we all have the same body parts ... with a few exceptions, obviously ;)
  2. Point to body parts on the characters in a book, pictures in magazines, stuffed animals and baby dolls.
  3. Talk about body parts while dressing your toddler - the shirt goes over your head, put your arms through the sleeves, both legs go in your pants, shoes are for your hands. It's also great to make mistakes to see if your toddler can correct you. For example, try putting pants on his head. Of course, my daughter would just call it a hat and prance around happily :)
  4. Bath time is another really obvious and effective time to help your toddler learn his body parts. Of course, it's up to you whether or not you want to include "private" body parts and what you'll call those parts. I wrote about this predicament here and here.

1. Body Part Riddles: A fun way to promote listening skills, problem-solving, and vocabulary! Simply ask your toddler ...

Which body parts do we use ...
  • to crawl? Show me.
  • to hop? Show me.
  • to sing? Let me hear.
  • to eat? Show me.
  • to hug? Give me one!
  • to hold a crayon?
  • to listen?

Your toddler may even be able to take a turn and make up his/her own riddle!

2. Mirror Touches: Call out different parts of the body. You touch that part of your toddler while he touches that part of you. Let your child take a turn calling out the next body part.

VISUAL ACTIVITIES (aka on paper)

1. Life-size Body Drawing: Left-over wrapping paper works great for this one. Just roll it out and have your toddler lay down on the paper while you trace around her body to make an outline. Work together to color the outline and name body parts as you go, "Look, I colored your hand blue. Can you color your other hand green?" This also works great with stickers, "Put this sticker where your belly button would be." As a nod toward literacy, you could also label the various parts; your toddler with hear the word, say the word, see the word - all in one activity!

2. Mini-Me: You can do the life-size body drawing on a totally different scale. Just use a piece of paper to cut out the outline of a body, like a step-up from a stick figure :) Something like this:

Which activity(ies) do you think you'll try during Parts of the Body Week? Please come back and let me know of your successes and/or silly stories :)

Monday, August 17, 2009

Songs: Parts of the Body

Learning the parts of the body starts at a pretty early age. I remember marveling when NHV could point to her cute little nose or lift her shirt to find her belly button. I read somewhere that a two-year old may be able to point to about ten different body parts and perhaps name many of them.

Through the toddler years, it is important to continue to build upon that knowledge. Learning the Parts of the Body increases vocabulary as well as self-awareness. "As an infant moves into toddlerhood, he works on figuring out who he is in relation to the outside world, and his body is his point of reference."

With all that said, let's get to the SONGS!

So there are the basics:
  • Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes - personally, I can't do another rendition of this song. I am so over it. But it is effective.
  • If You're Happy and You Know It - definitely an old standard with tons of possibility. Go (way) beyond "Clap your hands" and "Stomp your feet" - you can customize this song in an endless number of ways: tap your knees, rub your tummy, touch your head, honk your nose, wiggle your fingers. And if you really want to shake things up, use an appropriate adjective other than "happy." For example, if you're hungry and you know it, rub your tummy ... you get the idea :)
On the other end of the spectrum, here are some funky options from Sesame Street:
We have a few "old-school" Sesame Street DVDs; they were gifts from my SIL. One of them is called What Makes Music, and a scene includes a bunch of kids dancing around and singing, "The Body Dance." I was able to track it down on YouTube, but the quality is awful. Unfortunately, I can't find just an audio version. But I will tell you that Natalie loves this song. She dances all around and can even sing some of the lyrics. Finding this video on YouTube led me to another, so I included it, too. You are forewarned, they are a little funky fresh - very Fresh Prince back in the day!

(Because of the poor quality, I didn't embed the videos; you'll need to click the links and head over to YouTube.)

And finally, somewhere in the middle, these are songs that are sung and used in preschools. I did a lot of searching online, and these were the only two that I could really see myself using with my toddler.
  • Song 1: Everybody Knows
  • Everybody knows I love my toes
    Everybody knows I love my toes
    I love my nails
    , my knees
    My neck and my nose
    But everybody knows I love my toes!
  • Everybody knows I love my eyes
    Everybody knows I love my thighs
    I love my legs
    , my lips
    My neck and my nose
    But everybody knows I love my toes!
  • Everybody knows I love my feet
    Everybody knows I love my seat
    I love my skin
    , my chin
    My knees and my nose
    But everybody knows I love my toes!
  • Everybody knows I love my toes
    Everybody knows I love my toes
    I love my nails, my knees
    My neck and my nose
    But everybody knows I love my toes!

  • Song 2: Parts that Bend
    Sung to: "B-I-N-G-O"
  • My arms have parts that bend and move
    Every time I use them.
    Shoulder, elbow, wrist and hand.
    Shoulder, elbow, wrist and hand.
    Shoulder, elbow, wrist and hand.
    And this is how I move them!
  • My legs have parts that bend and move
    Every time I use them.
    Knee, ankle, heel and foot
    Knee, ankle, heel and foot
    Knee, ankle, heel and foot
    And this is how I move them!
  • My trunk has parts that bend and move
    Every time I use them.
    Neck, back, waist and hips
    Neck, back, waist and hips
    Neck, back, waist and hips
    And this is how I move them!
  • I'm made of parts that bend and move
    Every time I use them.
    Shoulder, elbow, wrist and hand..
    Knee, ankle, heel and foot.
    Neck, back, waist and hips
    And this is how I move them!


Okay, your turn to share. What songs do you sing with your toddler to help teach and reinforce the Parts of the Body?

Sunday, August 16, 2009


I am just reposting this as a reminder that we are halfway through the month of August! Comment-Palooza continues and there's still a fun prize to be won ...
July was a record-breaking month. We had record-breaking temperatures here in the NW. And I wrote 52 posts (between two blogs) in one month; btw: that's a personal record, I don't claim to hold the blog-world record or anything crazy like that!

Anyway, now that July is behind us and we're cruisin' right on into August, I've got a little contest (aka palooza 'cause I love that word) for you ... woo hoo!

It's simple ...
It's driven by my need for comments ...
It's motivation for you and for me ...
It'll be fun, I promise!

  • Just leave me a comment (starting August 2 at 4:00 pm PST) - on any post, old or new - and you'll be entered into a random drawing (@ to win ... a prize (in the form of a gift card)!
  • Each comment earns you an entry. The more times you comment, the more chances you have to win ... and ChitownMomma is sure to be tough competition :)
  • Add yourself as a Follower to earn an additional 3 entries. To the 13 of you who are already Following, you've got your 3 entries :)
  • Add me to your blogroll - and tell me about it - to earn another 3 entries.
  • Tell your friends - at least 3 of them - about my blogs via email (include me: dverhoff (at) to earn another 3 entries.

Come on, Show Me the Comments!
Let's make August a Comment-making, Record-breaking Month!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Lunch in a Muffin Tin

I really and truly tried to come up with a more delightful, perhaps even alliterative, title, but ... that's what it is ... Lunch in a Muffin Tin. And sometimes, not often, I just tell it like it is :)

Anyhoo ... this is an idea I came across on Fun Finds for Moms, a website you really should check out. At the time, my little one was not ready for this type of dining experience. The next thing you know, I forgot about it, something recently jogged my memory and now I am giving it a try ... mainly because I am at my wit's end with my toddler's finicky approach to eating.

Here's where I've been with the whole "lunch thing" lately. I verbally offer about a dozen different options at lunch time, and she often replies, "No," to pretty much every one of them. I get frustrated, throw a handful of options on her plate, and walk away. Essentially, Lunch in a Muffin Tin is the same idea - minus the frustration and with a much more pleasing presentation, a combination I am hoping will take us out of our lunch funk!

I actually bought a six-muffin tin - 12 seemed a little overwhelming to me - and filled it with:

  1. cucumber
  2. goldfish crackers
  3. avocado
  4. raisins
  5. hummus
  6. cubes of colby jack cheese

My toddler's first reaction was excitement over the "new" plate she was getting to use. And, in the end, I do think she ate more - and definitely greater variety - of foods than she does at an ordinary lunch. She also spent some time rearranging and mixing up the foods in the various cups, which was fine with me - not the point but fine. If I had two kiddos for lunch, I would probably go with 12 cups because you could always double-up on a favorite. Also, I am hoping to work fruit into the mix, and with more cups, perhaps NHV would be less likely to notice.

Overall, I would say this is worth a try.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Bringing Down the Moon

author: Jonathan Emmett
illustrator: Vanessa Cabban

The first words of this delightful story, "Hot diggety!" Clearly, I am not one to refuse an expression exuding that type of enthusiasm. Just typing "hot diggety" makes me smile :)

This is the story of Mole who notices the beauty of the moon and sets out to "have it" for himself. While this may seem like a bit of a selfish endeavor, I get the impression that his motives are pure. And I know that his problem solving skills provide a great lesson in persistence. He tries jumping up, poking it with a stick, throwing something to knock it down, and climbing a tree to reach it. All of which, obviously fails, but a the mom of a toddler, I appreciate that he tries and comes up with clever things to try. There's a good message in that.

Along the way, Mole meets several friends - all of whom gently discourage him by saying, "You'll never do that; it's not as close as it looks." I appreciate that his friends are honest with this persistent little Mole. They don't tell him that he's being ridiculous; they just tell him the truth - bringing down the moon isn't possible because it's too far away (not to mention a few other scientific reasons related to physics and gravity and what-not - look at me trying to sound all Bill Nye!). This reason - the moon's distance - is valid and honest and repeated throughout.

Ultimately, Mole has a close encounter with what he believes to be the moon but is actually a reflection of the moon in a puddle. He is quite upset, but his friends all come to the rescue. The animals all agree that the moon is beautiful, but "it's not as close as it looks."

I also adore that each scene pays homage to onomatopoeia and alliteration, my two most favorite forms of figurative language. The author uses words like thumpety thump, swishety swish, and plinkety plink. When I read those words, my toddler can't help but smile - there's such an appeal!

Another aspect that drew me to this book are the illustrations. I love the work of Vanessa Cabban. No one draws animals in a more pleasing way. My toddler and I first fell in love with her gorgeous pictures in a book called Down in the Woods at Sleepytime, and I actually searched for other books she has illustrated. I found Bringing Down the Moon and Heaven is Having You. That's right, we have three of Vanessa Cabban books in our collection now.

The story is simple, sweet, and full of opportunities for discussion.
  • Talking about the moon and its place in night sky. NHV has been obsessed with the moon for a full 9 months now. When/if the clouds clear here in the NW, she is delighted to see it in the sky.
  • Making connections between the moon and and sun and stars - all sources of light. Is the moon bright?
  • Comparing the size of the moon to the stars in the sky around it. Notice how much bigger the moon looks than that star?
  • Recognizing that the moon is far away. Do you think you could touch the moon? Have your toddler reach to see. Try this from several different spots.
  • Trying to solve the problem. What could we try? Getting on daddy's shoulders? Walking toward it?

Do you own this book? Do you think this Is it a book your toddler would enjoy?

Most importantly, how might this book become teachable for you?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Handmade Coloring Books

Looking for a truly wonderful, unique, non-commerical, beautifully hand-drawn coloring book?

You didn't even know you could wish for something like that, did you?

Well, you can.

And ... you can support a truly fabulous mom while enjoying one of her gorgeous books!

Handmade Coloring Books by Flipflops & Applesauce

I am so in love with these books. In my opinion, Chrissie is quite a talented artist; of course, I can barely sketch a stick figure, so I don't know if my opinion carries much weight :) I do know that her designs are clean and simple and very child-friendly.

Currently her books include: ABC uppercase and lowercase letters, Nursery Rhymes, Numbers 1-20 and Shapes. The tech-nerd in me thinks the idea of a digital file is brilliant! Place your order and you'll receive the coloring book as an attachment via email. The file is yours for personal use. How cool is that?

Which book are you going to order? How to you plan to use it? Let me know!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Toy Organization

Guest Blogger: Mommy of the Rocky Mountain Baby
First you should know that I adore this guest blogger (almost as much as yesterday's). I've known her since high school, lived with her during college, and visit her at least once each year. She is a fantastic, overly dedicated teacher and the mommy to a seriously handsome little man named Emmett.
Today's topic isn't necessarily a "teachable moment" but perhaps you'll learn a thing or two about organization, specifically about storing the bazillion toys your toddler "needs."
Toy storage - this is a daily struggle for me. As MommyBrain can attest, I like to keep a tidy house (at least on the surface), but I have had to loosen up on this since having a baby/toddler. While I don't have any brilliant or creative storage ideas, I have included a few pix of what I do to keep my house at least, somewhat, up to par! :)

First of all, EJB's main play area is our living room too, which is unfortunate since it's the first thing people see when they walk in the house. So, I bought two foot ottomans that double as storage units--one for his blocks and one for cars. They were only $25 at Target. They are suede. And they look nice. I have had several people not even notice they had toys in them until EJB made them move their feet to get inside. This is storage that doubles as entertainment; my toddler also likes to climb inside them when they're empty. They also have leather and canvas covered ones now in several colors/patterns. You can also find nicer, larger leather storage ottomans but they cost more and I'm cheap.
In EJB's bedroom, I have one of the cubicle storage units with cloth bins. Works well and looks fine, especially for his room.
In the TV room, I have a big, clunky toy box that I got off of Craigslist--doesn't look fancy, by any means, but it holds a LOT of toys.
My favorite investment - I have a book display for his books that I LOVE. I did pay a little more for this (maybe $120?) but it is worth every penny. EJB can reach all of his books on his own and can put them back when he's done reading! Priceless. I forget the name of the website I ordered it from, but the brand is Guidecraft and they make a lot of other storage units like you would see in a classroom.
Finally, if you notice next to his toybox, he has a wagon, one of those cheapy Mega Blocks ones from Wal-mart or Target. This is his pick-up truck, that he uses to pick up all his toys at the end of the day. He pulls it around and throws everything in it. Somedays he does better than others... :)
So, that's my two cents, for what it's worth! Can't wait to hear everyone else's ideas.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Music for the not-so-musically-inclined

Guest Blogger: Daddy of the Toddler ... we'll call him KazooDad, just for fun

Let's face it, some of us "got it" while others of us just don't. My wife and I fall into the latter category when it comes to music ... or at least our ability to create music. We'll listen to music all day long, but neither one of us can read a note or play an instrument. That's a fact that isn't going to change. But we do have a young daughter who demands "fresh" music on a daily basis. While my extraordinary whistling talents usually satisfy her appetite, I've recently discovered the magic of the kazoo.

Allow me to interject and say that dear hubby had been deprived of a kazoo all his life, which I find hard to believe ... until this past Father's Day, when I purchased a shiny, red one just for him. I had promised guitar lessons the year before, but that didn't pan out.

So before you run out to pay for those guitar lessons - that you know aren't going to pay off - let's run through the Advantages of the Kazoo:

  • Quite possibly the easiest instrument to play; if you can hum, you can play the kazoo
  • No tuning required; even if it is out of tune, you won't know it and your toddler won't mind
  • Fits in a pocket for those spontaneous jam sessions
  • If you don't like to sing, this is the perfect excuse
  • Best dollar you ever spent; seriously, I got ours in the dollar section at Michael's

Here are a few fun kazoo options for you and your toddler:
  • Get your wife (friends, neighbors) involved and have a classic sing-a-long. A good time is sure to be had by all.
  • A personal favorite, and a game my toddler is learning quickly, Guess the Song. The other night, NHV even managed to name a few my wife couldn't figure out! From a teacher's point-of-view, this is an awesome auditory learning activity!
  • Thinking ahead to future celebrations, the kazoo would be a great accompaniment for "Happy Birthday."
  • For all you drool-loving musicians, let your toddler play. You may want to save this for the last song of the evening as your kazoo will probably need to dry out.

What are you waiting for? Go out and get a kazoo already.

And we'd love to hear about your kazoo tales.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Homemade Play Dough Recipe

My toddler is currently all about the Play Doh. My highly sensitive pregnancy sniffer, not so much. Everyday she asks me to "pay pay doh," and everyday I tell her that daddy will be oh-so-happy to play Play Doh when he gets home. Because, let me be clear, I cannot stand the smell of that stuff ... at least, not right now. However, I am starting to feel a little guilty about constantly saying no to Natalie's request. I am even starting to feel kind of bad about pawning off the Play Doh responsibilities to my sweet husband. In a guilt-stricken moment, I came up with the idea of making homemade play dough. I remember doing this as a kid, and the smell was decidedly different than the name brand stuff. So I thought I'd give it a try; thankfully, finding a recipe was easy.

While this recipe involves cooking, it is important to note that this is filed under FUN, not FOOD :)

What You'll Need:

  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 tsps. cream of tartar
  • 1 Tbsp. cooking oil
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 1 cup water with food coloring*
What To Do:
Mix all ingredients in a saucepan. Cook for about 3 minutes, stirring constantly until a firm ball is formed. Knead a few minutes. Store in an airtight container. This needs no refrigeration and will last a long time. It is not edible!

*I also read or heard - somewhere - that you can add Kool-aid to this concoction to give your homemade play dough color and fragrance. I didn't try this because I am drinking my Kool-Aid these days - one of my current pregnancy cravings - and didn't want to "waste" any on the play dough.

Teacher Thought: Use the play dough to practice those sorting skills - size and color. Make several "snakes" and ask, "Which is the longest? The shortest?" Do the same with balls of dough or shapes you "cut" with cookie cutters. (You can also count the dough shapes you make.)

Bit of Randomness: And while I was in the Play Doh frame-of-mind, I visited the website and found their Fresh Ideas link to be a rather refreshing ... and odor-free experience :) Each image even includes step-by-step directions and photos of each step - now that's serious Play Dohing!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Shiver Me Letters, A Pirate ABC

Author: June Sobel
Illustrator: Henry Cole

Who can resist a good pirate story? If you're talented enough (like my husband) to read it in a pirate accent, all the better! And I am a complete sucker of a clever ABC book, so pretty much this book "had me at hello" if you know what I'm saying!

The story is about a captain and his crew searching for booty (hee, hee), in this case the letters of the alphabet other than R ... you see, the captain already has "R" 'cause that's what a pirate says, "aaaargh" ... get it? Here's an excerpt from the first pages: "R," roared the captain. "R's not enough. We need other letters to help make us tough."

Each letter is found in some pirate-themed way, and the illustrations are humorous and colorful. This book goes way beyond A is for Apple, and the letters become part of the story rather than being the story. The characters are funny in the way that only a pirate's mates can be. I love the fact that the scenery hides the letters, which makes this book great for the 2 and up crowd ... we spend time on each page finding the letters.

There isn't any deep message in this book - if that's what you're looking for, I am guessing that you don't do much of your reading to a toddler. And, hey, if I am going to read a book like a bazillion times, which mommies often do, I might as well read a book that is this much fun and so very clever!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Today's Toddler Lunch

My toddler continues to be what I consider a "finicky" eater. She is also not a "big" eater; meaning she doesn't consume tons of the foods she does like. And fruit really is not an option. I can't even put it on her plate; it's one of the few times she "throws a fit." It's a struggle, I tell ya!

So, I thought I would start posting about the meals I am "preparing" for her. Keep in mind, I use the word "prepare" lightly, very lightly because I am not much of a cook.

Today, my NHV had ...

a serving of carrots with humus (ate about half)
half of a small avocado
a serving of meaty pasta leftover from last night's dinner
a cup of whole milk

What did your little dumplings have for lunch today?

The homepage asks ... Why do we need Healthy Toys?

Ummmm, WHY do we need Healthy Toys? Let's start with the fact that our children deserve healthy toys! Oh, wait, I think they are actually referring to their website; not healthy toys in general ...

This is their answer ... includes test results for more than 2,200 toys and children’s products. This site is a first step in providing consumers with the information they need to make better choices when purchasing toys and other children’s products.

Couldn't agree more; consumers need to make better choices ... because the government provides absolutely no regulation of toy manufacturing! Preposterous, I tell ya! Where did companies get the idea that parents prefer cheap over safe? When did become okay to expose children - from birth - to awful chemicals?

Hold up. Wait a minute. This is not a soapbox post. Let me get back to this awesome website because, really, parents of babies, toddlers, and kids of all ages need this website!

An overview of the delightful features of
  • The site is wonderfully organized, easy to use, and super informative. I learn something new (and sometimes startling) everytime I visit.

  • You can search for a specific toy or browse by brand and/or type. There's also a listing of the Best and Worst Toys.

  • When you look at a toy's rating, you are given an Overall Rating (Low, Medium, or High) as well as the levels of these chemicals: Lead, Bromine, Cadmium, Chlorine, Arsenic, and Mercury. If you're really into that sort of thing, you can even access "complete chemical results" for more numbers and chemicals. And I highly recommend taking a few minutes to read the Chemicals of Concern tab.

  • You can even created Your Toy List which allows you to track toys that your own or make a shopping list of safe toys. What a great feature, and one that keeps me from frantically taking notes while I visit the site.

  • If your toy isn't in the database, but you'd like to get it tested, you can cast your vote from an existing list of toys or nominate your toy.
Just as an example, I searched for a common toy and one that we have in our house, the Little People Animal Sounds Farm. Surprisingly, it has an overall rating of Medium because the levels of Chlorine run high in the animals - you know, the first thing in our child's mouth when playing with this toy? And there are low levels of Lead and Bromine on part of the barn itself. You can do the same thing - and get immediate results like these - with any of the toys in your house right now. Give it a try!

Exciting news that just reached my inbox ... is expanding their scope and launching on September 1, 2009. "This new site will include toys, car seats, and even purses alongside new and used cars and - our newest category - pet products!" is a tool designed to give parents a bit of control over the health and safety of our children. What a wonderful resource!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Teachable Moments: Sorting

I stumbled upon this article, and it got me thinking about the SORTING I do with my toddler. When I "get thinking," I usually make a list, and since I had this pretty list all typed up, I thought I'd share it with you ... it's not rocket-science, it's just what we do ...
  • In the play kitchen - fruits / veggies
  • In the kitchen - mix of cereals or pastas, plastic lids by shape / size
  • From the "cuddling" bin - fur / no fur, size, color
  • Cups, Blocks, Pegs, Rings - color, size
  • Deck of Cards (not all 52) - red / black, Diamonds / Hearts / Spades / Clubs, numbers
  • UNO Cards - colors, numbers
  • Photographs - old / young, boy / girl, family members, friends
  • Crayons - colors, length
  • Laundry - socks, shirts / pants
  • Outside - sticks / pine cones / leaves

Of course, there are also toys on the market known as shape sorters; the ones that I am thinking of are geared toward fitting a shape in the same shape/sized-opening. We have two different versions at my house. This a great way to introduce basic shapes, increase fine motor skills, and work on matching. However, I think the toddler brain - at some point - is ready for sorting by attribute as well.

I also love to use what I have around the house to make learning happen. The other day, I pulled out my cupcake tin and some foam shapes (left-over from a Mother's Day PD craft). I put one of each color foam flower in each opening and started handing flowers to my toddler. I just asked her, "Could you put this flower with one the same color?" It was great fun, and I see serious sorting potential with the cupcake tin.

All of this has me thinking about "open-ended" sorting. Typically, I choose objects because I know how they could (logically) be sorted, but I don't often/ever give my toddler the chance to come up with her own sort. Perhaps I should put aside my inner control freak and give this a try soon ... just to see more possibilities for SORTING.

What SORTING Tips do you have to share? Feel free to comment and let me/us know :)

Monday, August 3, 2009

Recess Monkey

What kind of name is Recess Monkey? I know, I know. I thought the same thing. But after hearing their music, I just don't really care. Their funky logo sealed the deal for me. And then Natalie and I watched them perform live ... hooked, totally and completely hooked ... pass me a freakin' banana already!

How c-u-t-e is this?

This Seattle-based band of three guys is sure to have you dancing and laughing and singing along. As elementary school teachers, it's beyond clear that these talented songwriters have some idea of what kids like. Their musical style has been compared to the Beatles and their lyrics are hilarious! Each song tells a story. Each song is something kids and parents can relate to.

With five albums to their credit, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a song you don’t like! Their latest CD is called Fieldtrip and features songs like Marshmallow Farm, Sack Lunch, and Knocktopus. You can listen to a bunch of their tunes here, and while you're there browse their website - it's entertaining.

If you live in the NW, it's worth noting that these three guys perform at a lot of local venues - from libraries to Bumbleshoot. They have an energy and enthusiasm and stage presence that will make you love their music even more.

This photo pretty much tells it all ...

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Playdate Idea: Mixed CD Swap

This playdate (as with most) is as much for the mommies and it is for the little ones. After a particular drive home from the grocery store listening to the same children's music CD for the bazillionth time, I decided to host a Mixed CD Swap Playdate:

Here's the description I posted on my Moms' Group Meetup site:

Sick and tired of your kid's music CDs? Will you claw your eyes out if you have to hear that particular version of "Wheels on the Bus" one! More! TIME!!


Burn a mix of your kid's favorite tunes onto a CD, and include a list of titles/artists/album titles that you used. We'll swap them with each other during a playdate at my place!

That way, you're guaranteed to come home with fresh new music, and your little ones are guaranteed to have a great time playing with friends! Just bring one CD to "swap" for another - I don't think we really want/need 6 CDs of kid's music, do we?!

I ended up with two awesome CDs - a total of about 40 new songs - and was introduced to some musicians that have become favorites for me and NHV.

Disclaimer: Just to be clear, and because my husband questioned it, I am not entirely sure about the legalities of sharing music this way.