This is my place for writing down ideas for teaching kids. You'll find things I have tried, things I am thinking about trying, and reviews of educational products. My own kids are young so most of the information is for preschool age children. I hope you find it useful.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Homemade Gak

Okay, here is the gak recipe I promised. Seriously fun to make and the kids play with it forever. I got the recipe and the picture here. So if you are looking for more detailed directions look there. But here is basically how it's made.

Take one 8 oz container of Elmer's Glue-All. Dump it into a bowl. Refill the bottle with water and dump that into the bowl as well. Mix them together.
In a separate bowl or cup, mix 1/2 cup warm water with 1 tsp Borax. It doesn't have to mix completely, just kinda mix it around. Then gradually mix the borax solution into the glue solution. Your kids will want to have their hands in the bowl to help mix, and to feel the gak form. It happens immediately and is really fun to play with as it does. Roll the ball of gak around in the bowl and knead it a bit to let all the glue solution interact with the borax. That's it! Really easy and really fun!

Some notes:
1. I had never heard of Borax before about a month ago and now I am seeing recipes calling for it all over the place (I even used it to make my own laundry detergent recently). It is pretty easy to find in the laundry section of most stores. Short of that you might try Amazon. It's cheap too. I big box cost me about $2. 
2. This stuff generally cleans up pretty easily if you soak it with water, but Last time I made it I decided to dye it bright purple. That made it a bit more messy, so... color at your own risk. 
3. Thing1 and thing2 had a friend come over and play with them. She had the fun idea to stick dried beans in the gak. That gave it an interesting texture. Kind of fun.
4. You can store this in a Ziplock bag, but my experience has been that it gets dirty pretty fast so I've never been able to keep it for more than a few days. 

Now go have some fun with your kids. 

Monday, October 17, 2011

Dragon Fruit and other Exotic Foods

I like to make my kids try new foods. So when we're at the store and see something strange looking, it's hard to resist. We have tried several strange fruits, but I will say that the dragon fruit we ate this morning was probably the strangest. I didn't know that nature made things that were so bright pink. The picture really doesn't even do it justice. Strange. Thing one tasted it on principle because it was pink but she didn't like it. Thing two loved it. She ate all of hers and then anything that anyone else would share. I liked it pretty well, it was kind of like a combination between a pear and a mango... maybe.

Anyway, today's learning idea... Go to the store with your kids, find something strange looking that they want to try and buy it. It's a great way to expand their food horizons.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The letter B

So... I have gone over many of the letters with thing 1 and she remembers some of them, but some seem to be a little harder for her to recall. Repetition is important, right? Sooooo... I have been trying to do "letter days" with thing 1 and thing 2 to make the learning processes easier and more fun. Basically I just try to think of a whole bunch of things that start with whatever letter I want to teach about that day and we do/ learn about those things. We did the letter B the other day and boy was that fun! 

 B word numero uno was bubbles. This project started out with me trying to get them to dip a bunch of straws that had been banded together into the bubble solution and then blow bubbles that way. But "the things" had a much cooler idea.  do you ever blow bubbles in your milk with a straw. Yeah. try doing that with bubble solution! Can you say cool?! This kept both thing 1 and thing 2 busy for longer than anything else I have ever seen (except possibly homemade gak-- I'll share that one next time).It also made surprisingly little mess.  So yeah, B is for bubble.

 Next we did some coloring. I think I've mentioned before that thing 1 is an avid colorer. So I printed off some letter tracing pages and some worksheets with things beginning with B. Thing 1 loved it. Thing 2 was finished really fast so she moved on to the next B word (or phrase I suppose): "Building with Blocks"

Anyway, you get the idea. It was a fun morning for everyone. The TV stayed off and if it helped a bit with reading readiness, well then that's an added bonus.
Now go have some fun with your kids!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Tie Dye

We are seriously excited for easter this year. I have been thinking of all sorts of fun things to do with my girls next week and I will hopefully be posting about a few of them. So stay posted this week.

Have you ever seen silk dyed eggs. So cool. And they look so easy to do. I haven't tried it yet, but I'll let you know how it goes for us. This is probably not a super great project if your little ones are going to be grabbing everything, but I am going to try and let thing-one help me during thing-two's naptime. 

I stole this idea-- and these pictures-- from so if you want a full tutorial look there. I'll post my oen tips and observations here after I have actually tried it. The concept seems pretty simple though. Just get some silk fabric (like from an old tie-- you can get them from the thrift store), wrap it tightly around the eggs, and boil it to death.

The pattern actually comes off of the silk onto the egg!
How cool is that?! there is actually more to it. So, like I said, head over to best bites and check out their tutorial. It's a great site. So you should probably check it out anyway.  

Now go have some fun with your kids!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Simple art for Little Peoples

When you were a kid did you ever use those art books that teach you how to draw stuff based on simple shapes? I remember one that was all about drawing ocean animals that I just loved. Art is one of my favorite  hobbies and thing-one absolutely adores. Art keeps her occupied longer than anything else-- except perhaps playing princesses. She always wants me to help her draw things. So I have come up with a few really simple techniques for drawing some or her favorite objects. If they can draw a lines and scribbles they can put those things together to make a recognizable picture.


This was the first object that thing-one learned to draw. Just a circle and a line. I had to work with her a bit on how to make a circle. But once she learned how it made her so excited. Seriously. What toddler doesn't love balloons? This is a great basic object too because circles are so important to draw so many things. 


 These could work as trees too if flowers are too girlie for your needs. But thing-one loves flowers so for us this was a must. line with a scribble on top. what could be easier? Today She was also using this design to make the feet of the horse we were drawing together. Just turn it upside-down! My daughter is a genius-- probably almost as smart as yours. Can you believe it?!


I'm probably too proud of this one. but Thing one always wants to draw rainbows so this was important. I start it for her right now... I'm sure she'll get there on her own soon. Just draw one rainbow-shaped line. Then she can draw in other colors by following the line you made. I wasn't sure this would work for me honestly. I have tried getting her to do those workbook pages where they trace along dotted lines, but she just didn't like them. She loves this though. I guess she just needed a motive-- Rainbows! 

Now go have some fun with your kids.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Bake up some marmalade muffins

This is delicious!
The kids wanted a snack. It has been a while since we went to the store. So we had to bake something together. What fun! This was a pretty simple recipe. And though it isn't specifically kid friendly, it was short enough that it didn't take much to let them help.
Recipe :
2 oranges                                 
½ lb butter, softened                         
2 eggs
2 cups flour                               
1 cup buttermilk
1 tsp baking soda                      
1 cup packed brown sugar
Zest the oranges.  Cream the butter and sugar together.  Mix the eggs in until well blended.  Add the flour.  In a small bowl combine the baking soda and buttermilk.  Add the buttermilk mixture to the other batter and mix until just blended.  Add the orange zest and mix.  Grease any size muffin tin that you want and fill 2/3 full.  Bake for 12-17 minutes at 375ยบ until light brown.
Just a few notes:
1.  I creamed the butter and sugar, and zested the oranges before I called my kids to help me... a couple of days before actually... I think that was good since there wasn't much for them to do during that part.
2.  I didn't have any buttermilk I just mixed 1Tbs vinegar per cup of milk. It works great!
3. I used half wheat flour half all purpose. It tasted great.
4. I got this recipe from abundant harvest which is a super great produce service that we get most of our fruit and vegetables from now.

Now go have some fun with your kids.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Snails? Snails!

Okay so you may think I am crazy, but we recently got some little, baby snails and they are so cute! 
And so easy to keep too! A lady at my husband's work has a little snail habitat on her desk at the office. They recently hatched out some little baby snails and she shared with us.
 Talk about a fun and easy science project! These are just simple garden variety snails. 

You need a small container with a lid to keep them in (We got a little plexiglass container from petco).

You will also need some soil or mulch-- also easy to find at the pet store. 

Then add whatever decorations you want. We picked up some cheap aquarium decorations, but a big rock would work just as well.

For upkeep you just need to drop in some lettuce or other leafy green every day. The lady we got these snails from also keeps the cage slightly moist and puts little calcium blocks in there to help them build strong shells (you could break up a cuddlebone for this I would think). We've gotten mixed answers about whether that is really necessary. Another friend says that his mom (a kindergarten teacher) did this a lot and just dropped in lettuce and left them alone. So do whatever you think. We are giving them calcium, but I have't been spraying them. They seem happy enough.

Thing-one and thing-two are also happy. We have had a fun time checking up on our little pets every day. We talk about what they are doing (usually hiding under the lettuce) and why they would be doing that ("Maybe it's comfy?" says thing-one. "Maybe they are trying to hide from birds?" says Mommy. "I see it!" says thing-two. 

I am excited to watch them grow too. their shells were totally transparent when we got them, but now they have darkened up a lot and are getting bigger. Is it nerdy that I am excited about this? Probably.

Go have some fun with your kids.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Cookie Decorating

I like decorating cookies with thing-one and thing-two. We have done it a few times now and it has always been a good experience-- albeit a messy one. But making messes is good for kids. It means they are able to be carefree and creative without having to worry about getting a little dirty. Making sugar cookies is a fun and easily cleaned way to let them express themselves.

Here is my sugar cookie recipe-- I don't remember where we got it from, but it works fine so if you don't have one... Here you go.

1/2 cup butter
1cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp vanilla

Blend together cream and sugar until creamy. Blend in egg. Add dry ingredients and vanilla.

Roll out on lightly floured surface and cut to desired shapes

Bake at 400F for 8-10 minutes on un-greased cookie sheet. (I generally cook it slightly less time than this. Watch them)

You can let your little cookie monsters help pour in the ingredients, stir, and help you cut out the shapes and then help decorate them. What they can do depends on their age and coordination, as well as how much mess you are willing to deal with. Just remember this is not about making something beautiful, or even appetizing. It's all about letting them help you and be creative.

I usually just buy my frosting from the store and then use a couple of drops of food coloring to make it fun for whatever holiday we're coming up on. If your kids can spread the frosting on that's great. If they can't you can always let them stick little candies on afterwards. Try green frosting and red candies on a Christmas tree shape, or orange on a circle and then a variety of candies to make jack-o-lantern faces. 

For St. Patrick's day we did green cookies with sprinkles. Thing-one piled the frosting about 2 inches high and had almost the same amount of sprinkles before she declared her cookie ready to be eaten. Thing-two was in a hurry to take bites out of all the cookies she could. I showed her how to spread the frosting and helped her to try it out along with shaking on some sprinkles. It was fun for all of us.

Also, I have never done this, but it would be a fun way to teach colors and shapes. just a thought. I'll have to try it out sometime.

Now go have some fun with your kids.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Good Books for Little Ones

It's good to read with your kids. It helps build reading readiness, vocabulary, and a lifelong love of reading (at least that's the plan). I have always tried instill a love of books in my little ones, but when thing-one was smaller I really struggled to find books that she would sit through. With that in mind I thought I would stick up some of the books that my kids  have liked best. The "All About Me" flap book  has been their favorite. We read it so many times that we had to buy another one because the flaps wore out. We might have to buy another one again soon because thing-two loves it just as much as thing-one did. It is a simple sturdy book. The kids love it and it is not annoying to read (big plus). It is also not very expensive. I'll put a few of my other favorites in here too.


Now  go have some fun with your kids!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Dissecting Seeds

It's time for another botany lesson! Have you ever opened up a bean to see what is inside?
There really is a tiny plant in there just waiting to grow. I think that is pretty cool. You can see the plant in any large seed: beans, almonds, sunflower seeds. Just pop them open and take a look (if a particular seed you are interested in won't open up try soaking it in water for a little while first). This is fascinating to little kids. And a good, quick way to fit in a science lesson anytime. Thing-one was so fascinated that she is always bringing me seeds to open up now! I have been surprised at how easy it is to find little plant embryos all around us.

Note: if you want to make it easier to see the plant, try putting a couple drops of food coloring onto it for added contrast. I got that tip from this site, which I haven't checked out too much yet, but seems to have some good ideas.

Now go have fun with your kids!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Potted Gardens!

We love plants at our house. Thing-one seems to have a natural green thumb and thing-two loves to eat our fresh vegetables. I love watching my kids grabbing lettuce and spinach from out garden and cramming it into their mouths. Victory! Talk about a great way to teach and reinforce good nutrition. We have conversations about how healthy those vegetables are and so yummy too

A vegetable garden is also a great science lesson. In fact we have been focusing a lot on Botany lately because thing 1 and thing 2 have become so fascinated by it all. A garden is a great way to teach that! They learn all about the different parts of the plant-- planting seeds, harvesting (which part of the plant are we eating?), watching it grow (the pea plant grows differently and looks differently from the broccoli plant), and even when they accidentally uproot a plant while trying to pick off something yummy. They also learn about the things a plant needs to grow. You can slip in a very simple  lesson on photosynthesis here- the plant uses the sunshine to make energy so that it can grow. Just like food helps you to grow. 

The best part is, you don't even have to have a yard. or even know that much about gardening to make this a project with your kids. Our "garden" consists of a few pots on the back patio of our apartment. So far we have successfully grown spinach, lettuce, and broccoli. Our pea plant is growing well, but we'll see if it ever produces anything. 

The one thing I have found from personal experience is that vegetables don't grow well without sun. So if you don't have a sunny spot you might want to try a different type of plant. Maybe a pot of flowers. There are several types of flowers that are edible so you could look into that too.

Go have some fun with your kids!


Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Chalk! I love it!

Art is great for kids, and I love letting my little monsters get all artistic, but I hate cleaning up after them.  I wish I had realized earlier how great chalk is!  Do you know how much easier it is to clean up chalk than crayons or paint? Why didn't anybody tell me these things earlier?! Plus chalk is so versatile! Take your sidewalk chalk outside on a sunny day and color on the ground, or start up a game of hopscotch (Great for physical ed.), or tic-tac-toe. On cloudy days stay in and color on your chalk board. So much fun and you go through alot less paper. And cleanup is a breeze. Just a little bit of H2O and it all goes away. Seriously. This is my latest and greatest discovery.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Animal Homes

I have been thinking alot about what to do with this blog, and I have decided to turn it into a place to write down my ideas and lesson plans for teaching my kids. I plan to put in successful projects, not so successful projects (along with notes for improvement), product reviews, and ideas. That way I have a place to store ideas, and you have a place to find them. Comments and suggestions are always welcome.

Today's project is all about animal homes and I must admit that it was mostly thing 1's idea. I was watching her play on the playground and noticed that she kept bringing little sticks and leaves to her spot under the slide. So I went over to see what she was working on:

she was building a nest

This project really has almost endless possibilities.

First we talked about soft vs. hard and worked a little bit on vocabulary. The sticks were hard, and poky. Rough.  What can we find that is soft, smooth etc.? Those things will make it more comfortable for the baby birds. 

You could take this farther into a lesson on shapes: What shape are eggs? can you find anything that is round like an egg so that we can put them in our nest? (we used some acorn seeds)

Building a nest led naturally into curiosity about  other kinds of animal homes, and could we find a real birds nest? So we went exploring and it turned into a great biology lesson.  You don't have to go anyplace fancy for this lesson. You wouldn't believe all of the animal homes we found in just our little apartment complex. 

The first home we found was some type of little burrow:

Ask questions about whatever animal homes you find. This is a great way to practice critical thinking. What kind of animal might live here? Is it a big animal or a little animal? Can we see any tracks? Why would an animal build this kind of home? What would it be like to live in this home? And if you're up for it you can always try to build the homes you see. My kids wanted to dig their own burrow. So I let them try. It was great because even little toddling thing 2 could participate!

They learned that it is quite a bit harder than it looks. Hands really hard to dig with. So they tried sticks. A little better, but still hard. We didn't spend very long on out burrow making attempt. This led to a short lesson on animal anatomy. How does that animal dig holes? It must have strong paws! Animals are different than people. Do you think a bird could dig a hole like this? How about a fish? Why? How?

Just continue your walk. Follow your child's lead. They'll pay much better attention if you're talking about what interests them. Thing 1 was excited when we saw the swimming pool. Fish live in the water, mom! Well there aren't really fish in the swimming pool, but whatever. :)

The point is, just be creative and let them get excited about things. We turned over rocks to find bugs, looked at spiderwebs in dark corners, we even found some snails and talked about how they carry their homes on their backs. Like I said, this one has endless possibilities, we even ended up talking about how in some countries they eat snails. Eww! Mommy that's so yucky!  Cultural diversity?? Maybe not.

Now go have some fun!