Sunday, August 30, 2015

Books for Human Body Lessons

We've been doing a human body theme in our homeschool preschool right now and I wanted to make a list of some of our favorite human body books if others are looking for good ones to add to their homeschool libraries. 

On the first day of the theme I put all these books out on display.

These books are so great for my daughter to learn about her body with. 

We read about baby brains at our outside classroom area and brought a baby doll with us for the fun of course. My daughter loves everything to do with babies so this was a particularly interesting lesson for her.

On the day we were going to be reading the Respiratory System book I wrote a morning message about how we have bronchioles in our lungs, I was so proud of how my daughter copied down her new big science vocabulary word. 

I hope you can have some similar great experiences with these books!

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Cashew Butter Cookies

I love love love being in the kitchen with my little girl and baking with her is always a treat! In this post I'm going to share with you how we make Cashew Butter Cookies. I found a recipe I loved for them and I'll share it here, but I specified a few of the ingredients we use when we make them and gave steps for how you can make them with a child. 

This time we made Cashew Butter Cookies, they're very similar to peanut butter cookies but way yummier! These make a great dessert for any time and especially if you're going to be around someone who has a peanut allergy or if you or your kids do. These cookies will be gobbled up in no time no matter who you're serving them too, and I feel good about the healthy ingredients in them.

Cashew Butter Cookies Recipe:

- 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour (Trader Joe's Unbleached All Purpose Flour is my personal favorite)
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup Earth Balance Original Natural Buttery Spread, room temperature
- 1 cup of raw sugar (We like Sugar In The Raw)
- 1/2 cup creamy salted cashew butter (Trader Joe's brand  for us)
- 1 egg
- 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

First preheat the oven to 350.

Step 1: Teach your little one how to measure out the dry ingredients and level them off. Then let them put the flour in a medium sized bowl and use a fork to remove any clumps.

Step 2: Have them add the baking powder, baking soda, and salt to the bowl with the flour and use the fork to mix them all together.

Step 3: Get out a bigger mixing bowl together and put the butter and sugar into it together. When we use the buttery spread I don't worry too much about it being room temperature since it's already pretty soft, but getting the amount you need out before doing the first two steps can be a good idea.

Step 4: Get out the mixer and cream the sugar and the butter together. When we do this I let my daughter hold on to the mixer and then I take my hand and place it on top of hers and control most of the movements, but this way she is learning how it's done and is still a part of the process.

Step 5: Now, add in the cashew butter, egg and vanilla extract. You're going to beat it in with the mixer until it is smooth. Again, I'd do this the way I mentioned in step 4.

Step 6: This next part can get a little tricky with kids if they're wanting to dump all the dry ingredients right into the mix, but you can explain how you're going to gradually add the dry ingredients to the large bowl and use the mixer on low speed to blend it into the cashew butter mixture you've made.

Step 7: Now you and your child can get your hands dirty and make little balls for the cookies, about 1 inch in size and put them on a baking sheet that has parchment paper on it. Explain to your child how you leave a little bit of space between the cookies so they don't bake together.

Step 8: This is my daughter's favorite part (in the picture above), once all the cookies are on the baking sheet get a fork a little bit wet and do a demonstration of rocking it back and forth on the cookie in a criss-cross fashion to make a pattern on it, then let them do all the rest of the cookies. They will definitely feel like they're putting their special touch on them.

Step 9: Bake for 11-13 minutes, until the edges are looking a little bit golden brown.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Reading To A Dog

The other day we agreed to the responsibility of watching a family members dog for them for a little while. I thought this was great in itself because my daughter is always eager to take on responsibilities and I love teaching her to be a responsible person. One of my greatest hopes for her is that she grows up to be an accountable person and I'll do my best to make that happen. She got really excited and told me about an episode of Strawberry Shortcake's Berry Bitty Adventures she watched where she learned how to watch a dog. 

While we were watching the dog I remembered how the library had a program where kids could come read to dogs but the kids had to be ages 5 and up and my daughter was bummed that she couldn't participate, so I made sure she got her chance! We got out a book called 10 Tiny Puppies to read to the dog. I think they both enjoyed it!
This is a great activity to encourage kids to read because they will want to do something nice for their own pet or, if they're animal lovers like my daughter is, someone else's pet too. Many kids will find this to be a fun change up from how they might normally practice their emerging reading skills.

Jitter Glitter Card (for kids first day of school)

Lots of kids are going back to school this time of year, my nephew just did last week. I was wanting to send him something in the mail to let him know we were thinking of him and hoped he had a great first day. I'm sure lots of aunts and uncles or grandparents would love to do the same and are looking for similar things. I ended up finding a Jitter Glitter poem on Pinterest (I'm not sure what the original source was/who wrote it, there's lots of them on Pinterest) but I wrote almost all of the poem down on a card. The last bit was about the teacher seeing them on the first day too, so I left that out since I'm not his teacher. I liked writing it on a card myself instead of just printing it out because it feels more personal that way.

The night before school is exciting and fun
with so many things that just have to be done.

Your clothes are all ready your backpack is too.
And your classroom is waiting with fun things to do.

There are so many questions that go through your mind,
All types of thoughts, some of every kind.

The day before school we all get the jitters down deep,
Making it really hard for us to fall fast asleep.

So here is some jitter glitter, it's really quite cool,
It's something to help you be ready for school.

Just sprinkle this glitter under your pillow in the night,
Before school starts, when you lay down your head.

The glitter will help you to sleep through the night, 
Letting you wake up feeling fresh and bright!

Then I put some glitter in a tiny ziploc type of bag that you get for an extra button on a coat and signed it after taking a picture. Stuck the bag inside the card, put the card in the envelope, addressed it and mailed it!

Fruity Peach Smoothie

Every summer we get a big bushel of peaches and we love to eat them as they are, but it's also fun to make things with them! I decided to make my daughter a Fruity Peach Smoothie yesterday morning. I call it "fruity" because there's lots of other fruity ingredients in this smoothie! Doesn't it look tasty? 
Fruity Peach Smoothie Recipe:

- 1 peach, sliced with the pit removed of course. If your peach is particularly large you might want to save a bit of it and use it as garnish or just eat it right up while you make the smoothie!
- 1/2 cup of organic strawberries, hulled and halved
- 1 4oz container of mango yogurt, I meant to use peach but they come together from Trader Joe's and I didn't notice until afterwards I had grabbed the mango flavor, but it was definitely a good choice too. You could use vanilla, peach, banana, strawberry, etc. Whatever you'd like.
- 1/4 cup or 1/2 cup of Trader Joe's Organic Orange Strawberry Banana Juice (amount varies depending on how thick you want your smoothie to be, less liquid for thicker, more if you don't want it as thick). 
- A squeeze of organic amber agave nectar. I didn't measure it out, but I'd say it was about 1 and 1/2 TSP.

Put all the ingredients into a blender and blend them up to make the smoothie, pour in glass and garnish with peaches. strawberries, or bananas if you'd like. I just stuck a strawberry on the side.

Morning Message in Preschool

In the beginning of our preschool day I have added a morning message. I write a simple sentence on our big dry erase board and then my daughter reads it and copies it down. This has also been the start of us discussing end punctuation and her learning that, as well as the obvious honing her writing skills. Here's one we did the other day.

So I wrote "Yoda is cute" and then we read it and I told her I was going to put a period as my end punctuation and explained why, I also showed her what it would look like and what it would mean if I did a question mark or exclamation point. So then she copied it and decided to put an exclamation point at the end.

Here's a few other simple sentences we've done to give you ideas:
"I love you!"
"The fish swim."
"Baby likes to swing."

etc etc.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Friendship Day Aprons (a play date craft for kids)

Friendship day is on August 2nd every year, and as you can these aprons are from 2013, but we made them on friendship day that year and I had them posted on my old blog but hadn't gotten around to putting them on this one yet, so here they are. I realize friendship day has already passed this year, but these aprons are practical and a great craft to make with toddler/preschooler or older kids and their friends together at a play date! My daughter still wears hers when she helps in the kitchen.

You can purchase little cloth aprons like these at a craft store, as well as the iron ons, and fabric paint. You might also want to purchase a fabric marker to write the names/year or whatever you'd like on there but we just used a Sharpie.

I picked Minnie and Mickey hugging because both of the kids liked those characters and they're a boy and a girl hugging which represented my girl and the little boy we made them with! I ironed those on ahead of time and then when the kids were having their play date we painted their hands with the fabric paint and then did their hand prints on the aprons.

I wanted both sets of hands on my daughters so I did hers on the top under the iron on, then I wrote "Friendship Day 2013" then had my friend do her sons hand prints under that and then I wrote their names underneath at the bottom.

My friend wanted her sons apron differently, she wrote up above the iron on and then put one of each of their hand prints next to each others with their names underneath.

I think both of the aprons turned out totally cute and this is a great craft for kids and their friends!

Hair Brushing Tot Tray

Here's a really quick and easy to set up practical life tot tray for toddlers. Just put some dolls with long hair on a tot tray along with a hairbrush and let your little one set to work. They will get to work on the practical life skill of hair brushing while having fun with their dolls. 

Our Favorite Chapter Book Series

My daughter is three and a half years old and has loved being read to since she was in the womb! We'e always done a lot of reading together and now we're on to chapter books. We're in the middle of quite a few different series right now, she picks whatever she wants from the juvenile fiction section and we try it out and I pick some I think would be good too. So far our favorites are:

1. Rainbow Magic by Daisy Meadows. These books have a bunch of series to them, such as the Earth Fairies, Fashion Fairies, Ocean Fairies, etc. etc. There's tons of different types of fairies and the girls in the books have to help the fairies get their missing objects back from the human world usually. They're quick and exciting reads, only about 60-70 pages.

2. Magic Tree House by Mary Pope Osborne. My daughter is always eager to hear the next Magic Tree House book, we're currently on book #14. I think all kids would love these books, they are very appealing to both boys and girls and definitely hold interest. There's also lots of factual information in the books so other learning is taking place while you're reading them as well.

3. The Baby Sitters Club by Ann M. Martin. People are used to 10 year old kids reading these books, but there's no inappropriate content in them as they are in the juvenile fiction section. The fact that this series is another one of my daughters top favorites makes me very proud. Books like these help expand her vocabulary and reading comprehension.

4. The Bailey School Kids by Debbie Dadey. These are such cute books, and they are pretty quick reads. My daughter likes spooky stories and these are perfect for that, with titles like "Ghosts Don't Eat Potato Chips" and "Vampires Don't Wear Polka Dots"

5. Mermaid Tales by Debbie Dadey. Debbie Dadey is a fabulous author! She wrote The Bailey School Kids books above too. These Mermaid Tales books are so cute and what little girl doesn't love to hear about mermaids and imagine life under the sea. I even love these books, it might be my favorite series that we're reading.

6. Never Girls by Kiki Thorpe. Disney always seems to captivate kids. My daughter really liked the children's books about Tinkerbell and all her fairy friends in Pixie Hollow and finding the Never Girls books was awesome because it gives her a chance to hear about them more in depth and with regular girls in the mix too. Fairies are one of her favorite things and I think that's probably true for a lot of kids her age.

7. Nancy Clancy by Jane O'Connor. We've already read all of these and are eagerly awaiting the next one! Fancy Nancy is probably my daughter's favorite children's book series, there's tons of the books, including first readers that she's learning to read with herself. The chapter books are fun and like always Nancy shares her fancy words and my daughters vocabulary expands. Some of the books are about solving mysteries which is a fun concept for my daughters age and I think we'll also start reading the Nancy Drew books soon.

8. Magic School Bus by Jennifer Johnston. These are great because they are very educational and fun with all the different personalities of the school children, and their teacher. It's also fun to imagine a school bus shrinking and being able to experience all these things first hand.

9. Minnie & Daisy Best Friends Forever. Another Disney favorite! I love chapter books featuring kids favorite characters that they already know and love. Makes the introduction to chapter books easier if that's needed. These books also have good messages about friendship and character.

10. Agatha Girl of Mystery by Sir Steve Stevenson. Like I said earlier, mystery solving books can be fun for kids this age and inspire some pretend play.

11. Disney Fairies by Lisa Papademetriou. Even more detailed fairy stories, love that the magic of Never Land continues on in so many different book series.

12. Capital Mysteries by Ron Roy. These books are so fun, they have the mystery aspect and include political things which is a pretty different theme for children's books. There aren't a lot of books like this and I think they are wonderfully written and very enthralling. You're kids will definitely want to continue the book and solve the mystery.

13. Nancy Drew and the Clue Crew by Carolyn Keene. These are great as a precursor to the Nancy Drew books. Might hold the attention of young kids a little better.

14. Magic Ponies by Sub Bentley. We just finished the first book in this series last evening and it was a truly magical book! So much great imagery in these books to make kids see the magic. Who
wouldn't want to get lost in the fantasy of becoming friends with a magic pony? There are also Magic Puppy, and Magic Bunny series by the same author, which I look forward to reading as well.

15. Lego Friends chapter books are quick reads with glossy pages that kids will be enjoy whether they watch the show or not.

16. Gecko & Sticky by Wendelin Van Draanen is a great series, full of adventures and they are quite funny. I think most kids would get a kick out of a little boy finding out he has a talking gecko for a pet.

17. The New Adventures of Mary Kate and Ashley. These girls and books used to be very popular! Although these books are a little older they are still intriguing reads with fun adventures.

18. The Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling. Of course these books are super famous, award winning, and there's a bunch of movies as well! They are just awesome. They might not be good for some kids who might scare easier than others. We are almost through the first book and my daughter has been enjoying it quite a bit. These books are also the kind parents will probably be more engaged in themselves. As Harry gets older I think the books will get darker and we may put the series on hold for a while if I feel my daughter isn't ready for them, but for now we're loving the Harry Potter series!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Nature Study Rock Drawing

As part of our preschool schedule we have Nature Study. My daughter has a science journal that we also use for our nature study since that is a part of science. In this journal she draws and records her experiments and nature findings. Yesterday we went out and gathered some rocks that she then inspected with her magnifying glass, and drew in her science journal.

I let her pick the rocks and use the magnifying glass all on her own, but we would talk about the different colors of the rocks, and how some would have "spots" on them and thought about what they could be. This is a very simple introduction to rocks activity in the beginning of a rock themed nature study/science unit I plan on beginning.

I will always cherish her drawings from preschool. These are her renditions of the rocks she found and looked at.

I hadn't yet when I took this picture, but if you do the same type of thing with your child be sure to add the date and maybe a quick summary of what you guys were doing so you always remember. Any quotes from your kids would also be great, and for older kids they can write their own description of the rocks.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

15+ Household Items to use in Place of Board Game Pieces

While we haven't lost any of our game pieces, I know a lot of people do and then end up throwing the entire game away or just never play it. We ended up using Barbie shoes as our pieces the other day and it inspired me to make a list of things that could be used in place of game pieces.

1. Barbie shoes
2. Barbie or other pretend food (we used our cakes from Strawberry Shortcake's baking set another time)
3. Little People if the game spaces are big enough (or other characters from toy sets, Octonauts, Sofia's family, etc)
4. Coins, this can also be good for discussing the differences between the coins when each member of the family has a different one
5. Polly Pocket clothes
6. Pieces of candy
7. Legos
8. Pieces from other games
9. Bits of broken crayon
10. Different colored paper clips
11. Calico Critters babies
12. Dyed uncooked pasta in different colors
13. Water bottle caps in different colors or with symbols drawn on them
14. Little pieces of paper with stickers stuck to them
15. Old marker caps
16. Beads
17. Different colored plastic straws cut down to size

for a list of my favorite board games for preschoolers, refer to this previous post.

Homemade Vegan Smore Ice Cream

I love homemade ice cream! Knowing exactly what is in the ice cream makes me feel much better about eating it, even this one that is a special treat! And a bonus is you can make many homemade ice creams vegan. 

Homemade Vegan Smore Ice Cream Recipe:

- 1 frozen banana
- 1/4 tsp of vanilla extract
- mini vegan chocolate chips
- mini marshmallows
- honey graham cracker crumbs

I have the Ice Cream Bullet, but this could still be made with a blender, it wouldn't be quite the same but I've seen many recipes for homemade ice cream using a blender.

If you have the Ice Cream Bullet you put the vanilla extract in and turn it on for a few seconds to coat the machine, and then you do the banana per the instructions for the Ice Cream Bullet. I like to break the banana up into pieces and add in some graham cracker crumbs and marshmallows in between. Afterwards I add in some more marshmallows, the chocolate chips, and graham cracker crumbs.

If you only have a blender blend the vanilla and frozen banana pieces together and then add the toppings afterwards.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Vampire Jello Sensory Play

I know it's a little early for some people, but we're already getting in the Halloween spirit a bit around here! We did a messy sensory play using cherry jello the other day and when trying to think of a theme for it we thought of red and blood, and then our minds went straight to vampires! 

To make it I first cut some bats from black craft foam, they're definitely less than perfect but they served their purpose just fine.
I made the jello according to the package directions for the quick method, and before putting it in the fridge to set I stuck in the craft foam bats and the plastic vampire fangs. As you can see once the jello had set most of the bats ended up being on the top instead of within the jello like our magnetic letters and numbers have been in the past, so it wasn't much of a search for the bats or anything like that.

We just love getting into jello, it's so messy and cold and fun and great to take outside when it's hot out to cool off with. I recommend putting down a plastic table cloth from Dollar Tree that you can just throw away afterwards or shake off. That's what I've done in the past, but this time I just used a towel and wished I had used the table cloth again!

The idea of vampires might be scary for some kids, but ever since my daughters second Halloween we've had Halloween parties and she helps pick out the decorations and she isn't afraid of any of the stuff and that's because we make it fun instead of scary. You can see in this picture the delight in her face as she dug into the bloody vampire jello play we made! I think it's definitely good to do stuff like this with kids from the time they are toddlers so they won't be afraid.

Bug Wash Water Play

We love water play, especially as a way to cool off on hot summer days! The other night I set up this water play for my daughter and she had a lot of fun with it. It's such a simple way to have fun and when it's done outside you don't even have to worry about cleaning up the water.

I gave her a big plastic bowl of water with soap in it so it was bubbly for washing, a littler plastic bowl with just water for rinsing, and a towel for drying. She helped me set all her big bugs out in a row. I love how realistic these bugs look, we found a pack of them at Joanne Fabric's when she was having her bug themed second birthday party.

 She got right to washing, rinsing and drying her bugs.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Beauty & The Beast Rose Inspired Craft

This past weekend we took our daughter to go see Beauty & The Beast the musical at an outdoor amphitheater. It inspired me to make a craft based on it! I did a search on Pinterest for Beauty and the Beast crafts and I wasn't too impressed by the options so we came up with our own. 

I thought about how the rose is an important part of the Beauty and the Beast story and then I remembered buying artificial rose petals at Dollar Tree in February for some Valentine's sensory play. I thought they'd be perfect to make her own process art rose. This art project wasn't about the product of making some perfect rose but more about the process, which is important for kids to explore.

 I had my computer there with a picture of the rose from Beauty and the Beast for inspiration so she could look at it. This craft also gave her an opportunity to work on her gluing skills.

She told me she was putting them on in a "pattern" and she alternated colors as so (pink, red, pink, red, etc.)

 Here's her finished product after a day of drying time. As you can see even though the glue is dried you can still see it's effects in some places. It's beautiful either way, but maybe using a glue stick in the future would be better for this instead of liquid glue.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Octonauts Playdough

We love the show Octonauts! It's always teaching about animals under the sea and my daughter wants to take care of wild animals as her career when she grows up, so this appeals to her interests! The Easter Bunny brought her a pack of the figures from the show and today we made Octonauts Playdough! You can find the figures at Toys R Us too.

First I made a simple blue playdough with my favorite playdough recipe:

- 1 cup of flour
- 1 cup of water
- 1/4 cup salt
- 1 TBSP vegetable oil
- 1 TBSP lemon juice
- several drops of blue food coloring

You just put all the ingredients in a pot and stir them together with a wooden spoon, then put on the stove on medium heat and stir with the wooden spoon continuously until a ball forms. Transfer to a bowl, wash the pot out while it cools, then knead the dough in your hands until it is no longer sticky. Store it in a ziploc bag or airtight container when you're not using it.

After it was made I put it out onto my daughters table, added some of her Octonaut figures, some clear gems and some Animal Planet sharks. This provides opportunities for pretend play and acting out little scenarios which is exactly what you want to get out of all these toys.

I also set out some fish playdough stamps and some other playdough tools in case she wanted to just do some playdough play after a while too.