Munchkins and Moms

Friday, January 23, 2015

Excavating Hearts Construction Play

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My boys are really into tractors. Hearts? Not so much. But it's nearing Valentine's Day and I have all these sweet little plastic hearts that I wanted to use in themed learning and play activities (we just finished using them in our Valentines Fine Motor Tray). My original idea was to make a type of Zen Garden with hearts and little rakes and brushes...but who was I kidding? A Zen Garden?!? For my active and mischievous boys? Ya, right! So instead I whipped up some Cloud Dough (along with our secret ingredient that adds color and scent), and decided to just offer them a simple treasure hunting tray (in which they were supposed to dig up the heart "treasures"). 
Preparing the Cloud Dough took just a few minutes to make. I added some digging tools (scoops and the yellow tong tool from this fine motor set) and put the whole thing out to play. This is what the tray looked like before my boys got to it...
Simple, yet inviting at the same time. There was even a little white container for placing the treasure hearts into once found. Well, my oldest took one look at this and, before even touching the materials, decided it was missing one of these...
A tractor. More specifically, a backhoe tractor.

See his sweet little pursed lips in that picture? That's him making tractor noises and giving foreman-like directions about how to remove the hearts from the "dirt" (dirt that so happens to smell like chocolate marshmallow thanks to our secret ingredient!).
Did I plan for this to turn into a dig site? Most definitely not. But who was I to stop him from his small world play? I intended for him to get some more fine motor practice in with the scoops I provided...but he had his own special scoop he wanted to use (that is, the excavator scoop). So he still got the fine motor practice I was aiming for, just with a different tool :-)

We even did a little counting and heart matching! I was pretty happy with how this activity was playing out :-) But be warned- it was MESSY. Big brother knows how to contain his mess pretty well, but once little brother was in the picture there was "dirt" everywhere!

Good thing sweeping is easy enough, but lesson learned: Cloud Dough stays outside next time!
We share lots more activities like this on Facebook and Pinterest, make sure to follow us for all the latest activities!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Valentines Fine Motor Tray

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This Valentine Fine Motor Tray was so simple to put together, and it was also a great way for my munchkin to practice fine motor control. If you're around the blog often, you'll notice we do a lot of fine motor practice, and that's because it's important for life skills like buttoning, zipping, writing, cooking (think peeling, cutting, chopping, etc.), and so much more. Offering a themed tray like this helps keep the practice new and exciting for my son :-) 

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Invitation to Create with Wagon Wheel Pasta

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I was out of regular spaghetti noodles the other night, but I had lots of wagon wheel pasta on hand. As it cooked, I looked at the shapes and thought they were really interesting- not only did they look like little wagon wheels, but they also looked like miniature gears! Of course that meant I couldn't cook all the pasta, some would have to be set aside for an interesting Invitation To Create with my boys later :-)

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Investigating Levers with Preschoolers

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Before I had my boys I was a 4th/5th grade teacher and one of my favorite units to teach was Simple Machines. There were so many incredible hands-on learning opportunities with this unit that I just couldn't fit it all in. One project I always made time for though was our annual marshmallow catapult competition. So. Much. Fun. The kids had two weeks to design catapults based on what we were learning in our Simple machines unit. On the due date we held a marshmallow launching competition where every student had to show me the working parts of their catapult (a catapult is a type of simple machine known as a lever), then we launched! It was a time filled with measuring, estimating, engineering, and FUN! I looked forward to it every year...
As a now dedicated homeschooling mom, I originally thought I wouldn't be getting to do that project for several more years and it made me kind of sad. But I couldn't accept that I had to wait until 4th grade to teach about levers and simple machines! I wondered to why couldn't preschoolers learn about them as well? Of course they aren't going to get the full vocabulary lesson of where the fulcrum is located, what the load is, and where effort is applied, but there is still SO MUCH they can learn from PLAYING with simple machines like levers! Thus started our PRESCHOOL INVESTIGATION OF LEVERS.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Preschool Cutting Tray from Recyclables

With the Super Bowl coming near, there will be lots of Hormel appetizer trays making the rounds in American homes. We had this one left over from New Years Day and I could not bring myself to throw the tray out. It sat (empty and cleaned) on my counter for a couple weeks. My husband kept asking me what I would do with it, and if I didn't make a move soon it would end up in the trash! After re-reading that, it sounds like I may be a bit of a hoarder...but I promise you I'm not! I'm just thrifty and like to save useful containers ;-)
After sitting for so long junk mail started to pile on top of the container and an idea was born: turn the container into a junk mail catch-all and offer it as a cutting tray for my oldest! After he thoroughly enjoyed our Christmas cutting tray, I knew this would be just as exciting for him. And it only seemed appropriate to upcycle the container for the recyclable junk mail!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Paper Towel Art

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We have been participating in The Nurture Store's #simpleplay photo prompt on Instagram (Check us out on Instagram while you're there!). I love that it gives me, as a parent, a creative play prompt to provide for my boys. And following along with the other participants is just as fun!
One of the most recent prompts was playing with ice. All sorts of ideas came to mind, like our blueberry excavation we did waaaayy back when Cannon seemed like just a little tot, playing with colored ice in the water table, our Snowman Ice melt activity, or painting with ice cubes. That last idea got me thinking of different ways painting with ice could be done. Maybe adding food coloring to cubes and painting with it one paper...but I didn't have time to make a whole set of ice cubes. I decided to just use the regular water ice cubes and "paint" with those in a unique way :-)

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Cat Print Valentine Cards

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We've been on a bit of a card-making kick lately (Toddler Thank You Cards and Handprint Birthday Cards), and we're adding another to the list: Toddler Art Valentine Cards. I know we have more than a month until the holiday, but when inspiration strikes, I don't like to keep it waiting ;-)