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Thursday, September 20, 2012


Today I brought out the basket and laid out the activity bags and let Ladybug choose what she would play with. (Sorry, I was too busy playing with her to take many pictures!)

First, out came the Play-Doh. We rolled and squished, pressed out cookie-cutter shapes, and learned what happened when we mixed colors. She named the colors, the animal shapes, and made animal sounds. She likes to narrate what she's doing as she does it, so her conversation went like this:
"Squish, squish, squish. A giraffe! A brown giraffe. Squish the giraffe!"

Next came Dominoes. She wasn't much interested in matching the dots to one another, the way you do when you're playing the game. No, today was all about towers! She counted as she stacked dominoes as high as they would go and shrieked with glee when they fell over. Her tallest tower reached thirteen dominoes. We were using an upturned laundry basket as a table. When she tired of towers, she started lining up dominoes in the lip of the basket, counting as she went. Then she tipped the basket over to watch the dominoes spill all over the floor. Then we counted them again as we picked them up and put them away.

Then she pulled out the Button String bag. The first time she tried this activity, she got very frustrated and was unable to master the art of fitting a button through a button hole. This time around, she got the idea within seconds and quickly grew bored with the project by her third successfully buttoned square, but part of that may also have been that it was close to naptime by that point.

Sorry the pictures are a little blurry. It's hard to capture a toddler in motion!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

First Day of School

Ok, so I was planning to wait a bit longer to get started, actually; like until after the job I know I will no longer have is actually over. But, my preschooler had her own plan and raided my room this morning to grab her activity bags.
Today she chose: Pom-Pom Stuff it In and...
Egg Carton Sort
First, she played with Egg Carton Sort while Junebug played with the pom-poms.
First, of course, all the eggs had to be pulled out and opened. (Sorry for the wonky "shorts" in this picture. We're still potty-training and it wasn't until about halfway through I could convince Ladybug to put her pants back on.)
Then all the animals had to be shoved in one egg together.
Then the eggs were closed up and color-matched to their cups.
And then re-opened and scattered.
Meanwhile, Junebug was having a blast with the pom-poms.
Ladybug decided to experiment with matching the animals to the color cups.
And then piled eggs on top of the animals just to see if it all would fit.
Then she was ready for a turn with the pom-poms, so it was clean up time for the eggs.
And now she could play with the pom-poms!
I'm actually surprised she liked this one. I added it to her stack of bags thinking it would probably be the one I would haul out to occupy Junebug while Ladybug and I worked on something else, but she really enjoys this one and asked to do it over again several times.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Preschool Beginnings

So Ladybug and I are about to start preschool this month. Nothing too strenuous, actually it's mostly just slightly more focused play time. I fell in love with the idea of the Activity Bag after seeing several other blogs about it, so I decided to give it a try. The result: Ladybug's Activity Curriculum!
Here they are! Aren't they beautiful? Oh, a closer look? Of course!
1. Number Puzzle: A grid with numbers 1-10 marked out two ways: the actual number written in the corner of each box, and the corresponding number of stickers filling the main part of the box. Then, include enough small items like beads or buttons to be able to place one on each of the stickers. This reinforces the sight of the number with the actual number of items it corresponds to.
2. Pom-Pom Stuff: A tupperware bowl with a small hole cut into the lid, just big enough to stuff the pom-poms into. And lots of pom-poms. This is a coordination building game, and also a great distractor for Junebug while Ladybug and I are busy doing other things.
3. Play-Doh: pretty self-explanatory; small tubs of play-doh in various colors, several small cookie cutters, a plastic knife, and a rolling pin. This is also great for motor control, as well as being sensory play.
4. Dominoes: that's it. A bag of dominoes. There are several things you can do with this: match the dots up to each other in a train, set them up like traditional dominoes to knock down, build towers with them, count the dots, shake the bag and listen to them rattle!
5. Sewing: (sorry about the picture being sideways, I can't seem to fix it.) A plastic canvas shape, and a length of yarn. You can also include a plastic yarn needle, but I just taped down the end of the yarn to make a "needle" out of it.
6. Counting Cups: 5 small plastic cups (like Dixie cups) with the numbers 1-5 written on the sides, and enough small items to count into each of the cups. I also put the corresponding number of stickers next to the numbers written on the cups. This is basically the same thing as the Number Puzzle bag, but it allows her to practice the same skill without feeling like she's playing the same game.
7. Mini-Book: a small notebook, a handful of crayons (or colored pencils), a couple sheets of stickers. This one is to allow her to express her creativity.
8. Felt Shapes: I have three different sets of felt shape games in here: Funny Faces, Pizza Parlor, and Cupcake Creator. It's a felt base shape (a pink oval for the face, tan circle for the pizza, and tan cupcake silhouette for the cupcake bag), and then smaller felt pieces to decorate with. The felt "sticks" to itself.
9. Tic-Tac-Toe: this is actually a small wooden tic-tac-toe game I found in the clearance cart at Wal-Mart. Playing the game itself encourages logic and strategy, and since the pieces are in different colors and the board itself has colored outlines around the places where the pieces fit, it can be used to reinforce color matching.
10. Stamps: several rubber and foam stamps, ink pads, and blank paper. Again, let creativity reign!
11. Yarn Art: this is a piece of fine sandpaper and several pieces of yarn in different lengths and colors. The yarn will stick to the sandpaper, allowing the creation of all kinds of pictures.
12. Shape Puzzle: a paper grid with simple shape outlines printed on it, and matching shapes made from craft foam. This encourages logic and shape recognition.
13. Tangled Web: a posterboard circle with a small hole in the middle and notches cut all around the outer edge. Slip a piece of yarn through the hole in the middle and tie that end of the yarn around a pony bead so it won't come back through the hole. Then leave the yarn long enough to wrap around the notches in the circle. This is another motor skills exercise, as well as a way you can get your kids to make some pretty neat artwork!
14. Button String: a piece of ribbon (about 1.5 ft) tied at one end to a large button. Take several felt squares and cut a slit in the middle just big enough for the button to go through. You can also slide one of the squares all the way to the end of the ribbon and hot-glue it there so that the other squares don't just slide off. This helps teach buttoning, which is a necessary skill, and develops fine motor skills.
15. Laundry Day: a length of yarn or twine with loops tied on either end, a handful of tiny clothespins, and clothing shapes cut from felt. To play, stretch the yarn between two chairs by throwing the loops over the chair backs, or between two toys, or whatever else you can find to hold it up. Then, use the clothespins to hang the clothes! This develops those pincer grasp muscles, encourages pretend play, and if you use colored clothespins can be a color matching game with the clothes, or if you write numbers on the clothes can be practice in lining things up sequentially... there a lot of things you can use this for.
16. Bead Patterns: A coffee stirring straw with a specific pattern of beads on it. Use a dab of hot-glue at either end to keep the pattern intact. This is the guide. Then another coffee stirrer and enough beads to reproduce the pattern. I also hot-glued a clear bead to the end to reduce frustrating when stringing the beads on. This is a good math-readiness game; it exercises the same mental "muscles" she'll use later to add things and learn algebra.
17. Magnify: This one is all about exploration. I found this really cute little magnifying glass on the clearance rack at Wal-Mart and knew I had to find a way to incorporate it. I also put little things in the bag I though would be fun to explore, like colorful buttons, shells of different shapes and colors, glass beads with patterns inside the glass, and little glue-on "gemstones" from the craft closet. These are just things to get her started; hopefully she will then go on to explore all around her.
18. Stick Puzzles: I have five different puzzles in here. Here is the tutorial I used to make them. I used pretty simple clip art images that came in my Microsoft Word program, and printed them so they filled up about a quarter of  a piece of printer paper. She uses Mod Podge in her tutorial; I made my own by mixing equal parts white glue and water.

19. (No photo as it is still an incomplete bag) Color Cups: Like the Number Cups bag, this is 5 Dixie cups that each represent a certain color. I used brightly colored stickers to make a ring around each cup, and I will also glue a coordinating colored piece of pasta to the bottom of the cup. Then the rest of the bag will contain several handfuls of colored pasta to match the cups. She'll be practicing sorting as she matches the colors to the cups.

20. (No photo as it is still an incomplete bag) Egg Carton Sort: Half of a cardboard egg carton (six cups), 6 differently colored plastic Easter eggs, 6 small animals that fit inside the Easter eggs, stickers. Paint the inside of the egg carton so that each cup is a different color and corresponds to the Easter eggs. Put stickers on the Easter eggs that match the small animal toys. If you start with the whole thing all put together; animals inside their eggs and eggs inside their cups, then it's an exploration game as she opens the eggs and finds the prizes inside, and sees the bright colors inside the carton. Then putting it all back together is a combination logic puzzle, color match game, and shape match (the animals) game.

Baby Friendly Sensory Squish Bag

Today Ladybug and I put together a sensory squish bag for Junebug to play with while Ladybug and I work on her preschool activities. Not that she didn't have enough toys already; but I thought this might add something a little special and excite her senses. Here's what you need:
Some kind of translucent goo. I used Johnson's baby wash and shampoo, mainly because I had about a dozen of them lying around, but also because it has a nice scent that you can still smell through the plastic of the bag, and the more you squish it the bubblier it gets. You can also use hair gel, shampoo, or any other kind of clear-ish gooey liquid. If it's completely clear, feel free to add food coloring for extra fun. You also need a ziploc bag, some packing tape (or duct tape), some small toys and other items (nothing sharp or poky that will tear the bag), and of course, GLITTER.
First thing, tape the sides and bottom of the bag. The seams are the weakest point on the bag, so reinforcing them this way will make it that much less likely that you'll get a mess all over your floor. Of course, there's only so much safeguarding that can be done when little ones are involved!
Next, dump a generous amount of your goo into the bag. I wound up with about 3 inches of shampoo in the bottom of the bag, and it could certainly have used a bit more.
Then, add your toys and glitter. I like LOTS of glitter.
Finally, tape the top shut. I did a double layer of tape all the way around just to be sure.
That's it! A sensory experience.
Junebug loved it, and even Ladybug thought it felt interesting squishing under her bare feet. And if it DOES break open, it's soap!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Kindle Cover

I made this a long while ago, and thought I'd lost all the pictures. But as I was cleaning out my old files... Lo and behold! A whole folder named "Kindle Cover." Who knew?
Anyway, here is my trial-and-error, make-it-up-as-you-go attempt at making a kindle cover for my favorite e-reader. I kind of like how it turned out (aside from the color scheme, which was what I had to choose from in my scrap bag) and thought you might too.

What you'll need:
Fabric of your choice (about a yard)
Thread and other sewing supplies
Craft foam (six sheets)
Quilt batting
Thin elastic

First, measure the width and height of your device. For the sake of simplicity, I'll say the width is 6 inches. Take that number and multiply it by two (twelve inches), then add 3 inches (15 inches total). Take your height measurement, we'll say 8 inches, and add 1.5 inches (9.5 inches total). Cut your fabric into two rectangles using those totals: 9.5 inches tall and 15 inches wide by my example.
Cut a piece of quilt batting 1.5 inches wide and the same height as your rectangle of fabric. Lay one of your rectangles right-side-down and place your batting strip in the exact middle of the fabric. Pin it in place and sew it to the fabric.
(Sorry for not having a photo here; as I was originally making this I had batting covering the entire piece of fabric and it didn't work like I wanted it to and I wound up tearing it out later.)
Now sandwich your fabric rectangles right sides together. The batting strip should be on the outside of your sandwich at this point. Sew along three edges, leaving the top side open like a giant pocket.
Turn the whole thing right side out. Now, take your craft foam and lay your e-reader on top of it. Use a pencil to trace around the e-reader. Cut six of these from the craft foam. Take three of the craft foam pieces and lay them on top of each other. My foam was sticky-back so I pulled the paper backing and used the adhesive sides to hold the three pieces together in a stack. If you don't have sticky-back foam you can use glue to hold them together. This isn't a necessary step, but it does make things easier later. Now, slide your two stacks of foam into the fabric pocket you've made, and scoot each as close to either side as they go. Use a couple pins to hold them there.
Now, sew alongside the pins, as close as you can get to the foam without actually sewing THROUGH the foam (which would most likely break your needle). You should be sewing right along the same lines you made when you attached the quilt batting way back in step two.
Now turn under the edges of the top that you left open, and stitch it closed.
It should now look pretty much like this.
Next, lay it open and lay your e-reader on the side you would like it to be held in. I put mine on the right-hand side. Measure in from each corner about two inches and draw a dot on the fabric at that spot. This is where you're going to sew down the ends of your elastic.
Take your elastic and place the end on one of your dots and stitch it down. You will probably have to hand-stitch at this point. Once the end is secured, lay the elastic smoothly down to meet the next dot and stitch it down. Don't pull it tight, just lay it smooth. Once you've attached it at the next dot, cut off the free end and start at the next set of dots. Keep it up until you have 4 diagonal stripes of elastic attached to your cover.
Now you can slip your e-reader into the elastic corners to hold it in place. The cover is pretty much finished as is, but you can add a snap closure or a handle if you choose. I did both. The thick foam on the front and back should protect your e-reader from sudden shocks and from being scratched by things. (Like the keys, pens, and who knows what else is floating around in your purse.) The batting in the spine adds just enough thickness to make the whole thing more comfortable to hold if you fold it all the way open.
That little fabric flower is a detail I added to cover up the snap.