Saturday, November 14, 2009

Preschool Fall Activities - Part 5

(This one was a miniture pumpkin we did.)
Ah, did you save those gourds and pumpkins? Good then let’s get started. We had a variety of these fun fall decorations this year. Unfortunately, for us the gourds didn’t last as long as they usually do. Gourds like pumpkins tend to eventually give way to a number of things such as funguses or mold. With many gourds especially the ornamental kind they tend to have an unusual drying process that rather has an unattractive look to them when their inside moisture is trying to escape. Anyway, we took a number of our gourds (and will do so when the time comes to our pumpkins) and decided to harvest the seeds and keep them for planting next year.

Activity 5 – To harvest the seeds is really quite easy and a great activity for a preschooler on up. We cleared a spot and set up several paper plates and a strainer. I took a knife and cut the gourds open and then handed them over to my 4 1/2 year old and let her take out the seeds with a spoon. (We kept the seeds separate as we wanted to avoid any mix-ups later.) She was carefully not to damage them when she went digging. Once she had the seeds out we tried to remove as much of the pulp or strings as she called them before we put them in the strainer. She then washed the seeds under a gentle flow of water.

We then spread them out on a paper towel to blot dry and then moved them to a regular plate to dry. (Leaving the seeds damp on a paper plate or towel will cause them to stick later and not dry properly.) The hard part for the young one was waiting for them to dry. After two days they were dry. She has since created an envelop with her “picture” of the gourd to store them and we’ll plant some in the spring. Because there were so many seeds the young one is creating more envelops with planting instructions and giving these out for Christmas gifts this year. There are a lot of teachable moments in this fairly quick and easy activity. Most of all though it was just plain fun.

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Friday, November 06, 2009

Preschool Fall Activities - Part 4

Now before we get started with this one - do not throw away those gourds and pumpkins just yet.

Okay, with that said let's move on. If you planted flowers this year and had some success, why not extend that over to next year. Our flowers actually did fairly well this year, I think mostly because we had pretty good weather and didn't require too much maintenance from me. Anyway, we did spend more than I had planned on acquiring the flowers though. Unknown to me when I planned the garden was that rabbits enjoyed feasting on marigolds. I had heard otherwise for years. I had thought by encircling the typical flowers we get with marigolds the rabbits would not munch and all would be safe and survive. Oh, how this is so not true. I cannot count how many times we would look out back and see one of our regular six rabbits of varying size enjoying our marigolds as if they were the cream of the crop. Then when I would go out front, sure enough I would be missing a number of them there as well. Of course they then went for the petunias and other flowers. Silly little rabbits.

So why go into all this, well the next activity has to do with harvesting marigold seeds. Yes, that's right.

Activity 4 - If you haven't had a hard freeze yet and still have these out then now is the time (if not sooner) to get out there and collect the dead heads. (See them circled in red in above picture.) As the blossom dies out there are seeds housed within the base of the flower. Have your preschooler or older one help snap off those dead heads and open up the base. Carefully take the seeds and spread them out to dry. You do not want any moisture in the seeds when you pack them up for next year. There are lots of internet and book resources that can teach you how to do this with most flowers. Marigolds are one of the easiest for little kids I think though. My little one is decorating the envelops and handing them out as gifts this year. She had a great time learning about the life cycle of the flower and can't wait to plant them in the spring. She is also learning some patience as well as things take time to grow just like her.

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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Preschool Fall Activities - Part 3

Okay, I know I should have started with these two activities at the very beginning. Call it Autumn brain or something like that. Anyway, we been having so much fun with activities, it is hard to keep track. We finally got ourselves some pumpkins late in the month. Until we had them we made our very own out of paper plates. Just think no gooey inners or decay and you can put them in places you normally couldn't decorate with a pumpkin.

Activity 3 - So, here is how we did it. We took those cheapy paper plates that you really should never serve food on. Turned them either direction it didn't matter. We colored it orange and drew our faces. (We use paper plates for lots of arts and crafts around. They make great lion masks as well and African style necklaces.) You can attach a craft stick to the other side if you want to make like a sign or punch holes in them to hang, etc. You get the idea. It really is all about lots of fun family time.

But, once we got the pumpkins we had a fun time painting them. We didn't go for the basic faces on many of them, but our bookworm girl painted hers in some very artistic creative styles. A tip though, those washable paints do not work well. We used acrylic and covered everything well. If you aren't into painting, try permanent markers in various colors. Again, those washable markers do not do well either. If you are working with older kids you could try dressing up the pumpkin. Hot glue guns are great for adding decorations. One year I did a simple dog and cat by using a marker for the faces and gluing on ears and cat whiskers. Have fun and enjoy the seasonal treats it has to offer. Oh, and there are a number of books out there with pumpkin decorating ideas. Visit your local library or bookstore for ideas that or the latest family magazines.

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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Preschool Fall Activities - Part 2

Well, this one is probably a little late to do in many areas, but can be done in some areas all year long.

Activity 2 - Leaf Rubbings! Yeah! One of those all time favorites of mine and many, many others I know. The trick to this activity is you need either still on the tree leaves or ones that have just fallen. We picked a variety earlier this past week, but by the next day and especially the day after the leaves were a bit too crunch to work with. Luckily, we still have some available in the neighborhood and parks to choose from.

Some like to put the leaves between two pieces of everyday usage white paper, while others like to tape them down (which I recommend for smaller participants) to keep from moving around too much. We have so many crayons with the paper peeled that there were lots of colors to choose from. We did find the triangle crayons not as good for rubbings as the basic big ole' fat washable ones. The skinny ones work well too, but these are not as easily washable, so beware of the surface being worked on.

One of the things we do with this activity is talk about the leaf life cycle and reasons behind the color changes. In some areas, like where my sister lives in California they don't lose their leaves, but rather go through at least two "blooming" seasons like her lemon and orange trees. Again, lots of age appropriate books at the library can be used to supplement the activity or not. Just doing the rubbings is fun enough and provides lots of great memories.

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Sunday, October 25, 2009

Preschool Fall Activities

Ah, Fall or Autumn as some would say has been upon us for a while now. However, it is never too late to do some fun fall activities. There are so many that we have tried these past few weeks I think I'll post them in a ultra mini series here. There are a number of books at the library that can give you ideas on fun activities for all ages, good luck though on finding any at this time. We have found even limited fiction books with a fall theme available.

(Seems libraries are seeing quite an increase in usage with disposable incomes being down these days. Unfortunately, our library system will take its first cut in decades in its collection budget this next year. They have cut the salaries, operating hours, and the staff so much there is literally nothing left to cut other than the collection now.)

But, back to fall activities. I named it preschool as that is the age I'm working with on these projects.

Activity 1 - My daughter calls these activities nature explorations and I agree. She loves doing little "science" experiments. A week ago she discovered a number of "nuts" and wanted to open them up. This is a great time to grab a tree book and/or animal book to use afterwards to extend the fun and bit of lesson. I'm still not sure what acorn type nut we had, but I did know what it wasn't, so we started there. We talked about how nuts can be cracked, what is inside, how it is edible for animals and at times for people. We compared them to spring tree seeds you find on maples and such versus walnut and oak trees have nuts as their seeds.

We discussed terms and of course she was free to completely dismantle the nut. We kept one whole to do comparison. The funny part was trying to crack the nut. It took so much strength that we all agreed squirrels must have extraordinary teeth and techniques to open these things. There are lots of books suitable for all ages about trees, leaves, animals, etc. at the library. Check it out and find a nut for a little fun.

Later, we did something similar with the crabapples found on various trees in these parts.

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Monday, August 24, 2009

Audiobooks - Winnie-the-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner

Not quite a year ago, my husband indulged me with an iPod. For the longest time I thought they seemed a bit silly, but then I discovered their uniqueness that was very handy. (Not crazy about their battery replacement life though or having to give the iTunes people my credit card just to download free music, which I still haven't and probably won't every do.) Lucky for me the podcasts are free and come in audio and video.

Anyway, this past spring/summer I had the unfortunate event of dealing with the ominous breast tumor surgery,etc.. Fortunately, it is all working itself out and healing is still progressing. My awesome four year old bookworm though had it tough from time to time with limited mommy time. However, we did discover she really likes audiobooks. The story goes like this.

It was just a spur of the moment idea that I had one day as I headed out once again for the umpteenth time to the doctor's office. I thought hum, the awesome girl likes to hear me read I wonder if she would listen to someone else through a headset? She loved the music station with headphones at preschool, maybe this can work. So, I perused the download section from the library and there it was. One of the awesome girl's favorite friends. Pooh and his buddies available for download to the iPod just like checking out the book itself. How cool. (We started with Winnie-the-Pooh then ventured over The House at Pooh Corner, which includes stories with Tigger.)

Since the awesome girl had shown previous interest in mommy's little apparatus, I asked her if she would like to try it. Oh, the excited response. (Probably thinking something different to to keep her from getting bored or restless). Little did I know how she would be hooked. We arrived at the doctor's office and I set the iPod up. Made sure the volume was appropriate for little ears and set part one in motion. -- It was approximately a 55 minute part with three individual pooh stories read by the same guy who did the narration of the older shows. These two audiobooks are divided into 4 parts with 3 to 4 separate stories within each part, which makes it easy to listen too. --

As the doctor and I were reviewing the most recent issue, the awesome girl sat quietly in the corner listening and being very still. Mind you she has always been exceptionally good at doctor visits, veterinarian visits, dentist...well you get the picture. How I was blessed with this very active child being so still when it is really needed only God knows that. Anyway, after the visit was all over with I let her know it was time to turn it off. Oh, the look and attitude that came with it. Finally, I convinced her we do not go into parking lots listening to anything on an iPod and that she could start it up in the car.

We have since downloaded a few more books from the library and made a list of those she would like to try. We found a number of early chapter books like The Magic Tree House series and the Mercy Watson series all available and appropriate for her age. I can't say that all four year olds are up to audiobooks, but I'm sure there are a number of six and ups that would really get into it. Our library provides downloads in a number of formats and not just to iPod (that actually was just provided in the past few months). We are even trying some from the library's regular collection on her CD player. If you haven't already, think about giving audiobooks a try. The key though is who the narrator/reader is and how they read the story.

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Monday, July 13, 2009

Chapter Books - The Tiara Club 4: Princess Alice and the Magical Mirror

We are definitely into the "first chapter" books nowadays. It is fun watching my 4 yr old bookworm enjoy listening to me read these more drawn out stories and understand the plot. What is even more fun is that she remembers a series premise and gets right into the next book so quickly. We are trying a variety of these "first chapter" books and have come across The Tiara Club series by Vivian French . This series is prefect for those girls that are into anything princess or just plain girly. The cover and then title is what first caught my wee bookworms eye. The series takes place in a boarding school type setting where young princesses go to learn the ins and outs of being a princess.

In this 4th book we find it centers around Princess Alice. She and her roommates need to still pass the "descending the staircase as if floating on air" test. Although Alice has practiced she has yet to master it. While getting ready for the test, she accidentally gets some of her friends in trouble. So, she goes to help make things right and misses her test. Knowing that without the points from passing the test she won't be able to go to the Garden Party, it is even harder knowing that she'll miss getting a chance to look into the Magical Mirror.

One of the fun things about this particular book is the underlining moral sense and the honesty that Princess Alice displays even though it would cost her something dearly. Great lead into some discussions about making good choices even when it is really hard. Never to early to plant little seeds I think. Even though this is a series, these books need not be read in order to enjoy.

It is hard to find this series at our library as these and many of the other "first chapter" books tend to be checked out. Plus, the summer reading program is in full swing here. The covers I have noticed do tend to be different between the UK publications versus the US. I personally like the UK's better. There is also a fun website that is connected with these books. Each book has a secret code word that you can plug in and get some fun activity pages. We did the coloring page and used the stickers that came with the book to fill it in. Read and fill your inner princess needs.

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Sunday, June 14, 2009

Chapter Books - Rainbow Magic Fairies

Oh my, where to begin with this series of many series. My wee four year old bookworm was first introduced to the Rainbow Magic fairies at her fourth birthday party. One of her little preschool classmates gave her five of the seven Rainbow Magic Weather Fairies for a gift. Little did I know then how big of a hit they would be. I have been a bit out of touch with the latest and greatest in the book releases, especially series. Our wee bookworm got so interested that we had to immediately go and find the last two of the weather series, plus we needed to find out how it ended.

As with many kids series, like my beloved original Nancy Drew being one of them, there is generally a set formula that is used to write these. No doubt author Daisy Meadows is using a method as well, especially being able to crank them out so quickly. From what I have seen there seems to be no end in the type of fairies the series will address. We of course started with the weather fairies, which follows the series introduction of "the" Rainbow Fairies. These being the color fairies. Then we moved on to the Petal Fairies for flowers. There are also fairies for dances, parties, jewels, pets, fun days, sports, and the all encompassing special fairies.

The books are written in a seven part series with of course seven fairies. The lead characters are tween age girls Rachel and Kirsty who meet in the first series and become best of friends. The stories goes sort of like Jack Frost causes some type of grief for a set of fairies in Fairyland and some how their magic item/being/or event has been sent to or affected in the human world where the girls are able to help sort it out. Of course, this all the while trying to avoid Jack Frost goblins who are pretty much bungling fools who are not too evil for the most part just make bad choices and hang out with a mean leader. The series can be read out of sequence, but it helps to go in order for some readers.

They are not scholarly books or scary, but are a bit of fantasy magical fun. One of my favorite times with my wee bookworm is curling up together on the sofa and reading away for the about 30 minutes it takes to read one of these out loud to her. She totally gets the story line and remembers the key elements that make the stories their own. Plus, a key liking for her is throughout the book on almost every page small illustrations can be found. A choice series pick for kids 4 to 8 and that enjoy a bit more complex story line than found in the typical early readers and picture books. Probably more of a girls series. Most of these books can be found either online or the larger bookstores. They are hard to get at several of our library branches as they are checked out most of the time.

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Thursday, June 11, 2009

Picture Book - AlphaOops!

AlphaOops!: The Day Z Went First by Alethea Kontis and illustrated by Bob Kolar

Although published in 2006, this is a delightful and humorous take on how the letter "Z" is tired of being last. He takes it upon himself to rearrange the alphabet. The letters then begin a bit of chaos in taking turns. All this fun yet filled with lots of new words, which themselves will bring out more laughter. The illustrator has provided on the bottom of each page the correct alphabet position in outline format. The kids can then see how the order the letters are following do not match up with the traditional flow. This is great for kids that know the alphabet and great for shared reading, especially when the reader adds the attitude and emotions the letters are expressing. Probably good for ages 4 to about 8 or so. Also, a great gift for the alphabet enthusiast out there of any age.

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Good Grief!

These are the days my mama told me about...or something like that. It has been a long journey of chaos with my hard drive. Way back in the first of January I discovered the first of several hardcore viruses on my computer. Let's just say that the good thing that came from that is how much more knowledgeable I am now in computer software and hardware. I already had a small bit, but now I border on geekness. I even ended up proving the Geek squad wrong and fixed some of the damage they didn't think was possible. Of course, I'm wondering if they purposely led me down the path of little faith to sell me new things. My old, but trusty hopefully once again computer has been "well" for a few month.

However, it has been other fun things and chaotic life with a preschooler and activities that have kept me from posting. Can't say that this is much of a priority like it use to be. Although home improvements, which took up most of the spring would have to be the lowest of lows, but demanded my attention. We are still reading books by the truck load. This has been accomplished both in the from of buying and visiting the library. I still have my bookish habit of buying, but still love to visit the library with the wee one. She loves to choose books for herself and has her own little card and book bag in which she enjoys with this process.

I will be sharing a number of books that she is really into, especially these new chapter books that are so predictable, but lots of fun for her. So, hopefully I will talk with you more often now. Also, I'm not sure the term wee one still applies to her any more as she turned four back in February. Guess I will come up with something soon enough for my little bookworm. Ta Ta for now.


Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry, Merry Christmas to All

Yes, I did disappear for quite some time and chose this day before one of the biggest non blogging days to attempt a reappearance. I could go into many details for the absence, but lets just sum it all up in had wrist/hand surgery that took several months to recover from, can type now, handwriting looks worse then ever, various family illnesses, enjoying busy family life, wee one started preschool, we're doing lots of fun activities and projects, and now may attempt to keep this site up to date again.

So, let’s just start slow with a mention of a great group of books that we discovered these past few months and hope to enjoy more of. They are by the author Crystal Bowman and illustrated by Claudine Gèvry. We first found the book A Star for Jesus (2006). It tells the story of a special star that was put in the sky long ago to mark the birth of Jesus. Simple easy rhyming text that is engaging and has an easy to remember message that kids can keep in their hearts for years to come. This is indicative of the other books that we picked up by the same author such as J Is for Jesus: The Sweetest Story Ever Told, Christmas Angels and My Christmas Gift.

Bowman and Gèvry have a number of other books with different themes that are in a similar style. The ones we found are large/oversized die cut shaped board books. They would be great for first time Christmas books for babies, and preschoolers would love them too, at least ours does. I do think even some early elementary age kids would enjoy them as part of a story time, but would find them on their own a bit too simple.

Well, enjoy your holidays whether it be Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanzaa or just the New Year.

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