Sunday, April 29, 2012

Bring the Outdoors in: Grass Clipping

Now that we are well into the season of spring many of you out there are seeding your lawns and watching them grow.  With plenty of grass seed on hand, you have the opportunity to create a fun sensory/fine motor growth opportunity for your children.  All you'll need is some top soil, grass seed, a dish pan and some children's scissors.

Let's begin: Have your children help you fill your dish pan with a few inches of dirt and sprinkle a liberal amount of seed on top of the dirt.  Let your little ones help water the seed and dirt.

Then place your pan in a nice sunny space.

Now will be the time for patience and learning.  Encourage your child to help you water the seeds over the next couple weeks as they sprout and grow.  As the grass begins sprouting, bring the pan down and let your children have a feel.  Ask prompting questions such as: "How does it feel?" and "Is the grass long or short?"

In approximately 2-3 weeks, you will have lovely lush grass in a pan which will possibly prompt your husband to ask, "When you're done with this, can I transplant it to the dead spot in our lawn?"  Until then, it's time to get out the scissors and invite your child to snip away.

Young toddlers will need help learning how to hold the scissors and snip the grass.  You can show them how to use both hands and open and close the scissors.  As always, this activity should be done under close adult supervision, even children's scissors can hurt.  While your child trims the grass, you can ask prompting questions such as, "What do the scissors do?" and "What is happening to the grass?"  Also allow children the opportunity to simply feel the grass with their hands.  My little ones even tried sticking their toes in the tub!

Older children may enjoy a variation on this activity.  Using an old nylon, sprinkle some grass seed into the toe, pour some dirt on top of the seed and tie off the nylon.  You can then draw a face onto the nylon with a permanent marker and water it regularly.  You will soon have a little nylon person with grass for hair.  Your child will enjoy giving him a haircut!

This fun activity meets several early learning standards as noted by the National Association for the Education of Young Children

-Use their senses to learn about objects in the environment. discover that they can make things happen and solve simple problems.

Physical Development:
-Infants and toddlers/twos have multiple opportunities to develop fine-motor skills by acting on their environments using their hands and fingers in a variety of age-appropriate ways.
-Children are provided varied opportunities and materials that support fine-motor development.

Enjoy this fun learning activity with you children and maybe even grow a small patch of grass for a lawn in need.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Yay for Local Libraries

Having a library card when you have young children often seems like an obvious choice.  Lots of children's activities and access to all the books your kids could ever want.  I have made a recent discovery that made having my library card even better!

I found that most libraries have passes to local museums, zoos and aquariums that you have access to simply by signing up for a library card.  These passes often offer free/discounted admission to area attractions for a family of 4.

Today our family of 4 made use of this:
A pass for free admission for 5 to the Forest Park Zoo!

Our children had an amazing time and all we had to pay for was some animal food.  Feeding the animals was Isabel's and Sean's favorite thing about the visit.

They had the chance to see all sorts of different animals: rabbits, camels, peacocks, donkeys, cougars, monkeys and leopards.  What a wonderful learning experience.

So, if you have young children and haven't yet gotten a library card for your local library, get to it.  Beyond the joy of the books, you will gain free access to so many local attractions for your family to enjoy together.

Once again: Yay for local libraries!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

To Crochet or Not to Crochet? That is the Question

I have recently become inspired by my fellow etsykids team members, who make such adorable crocheted items for babies, to try my hand at hookin, as the cool kids call it :)  I have also found inspiration from my mother-in-law who made my children the most adorable crocheted blankets.  So inspiration in hand, off I went to the store for a teach yourself to crochet book, hooks and yarn.

Once I settled in and got started, I must admit this is where my lack of spatial reasoning skills came into play.  Despite my best effort to understand the pictorial directions, I struggled to get past the first row of chain (ch) stitches. 

This is what I ended up with when I just tried to wing it!  My ever so supportive husband said, "Oh honey what a lovely infinity symbol you've made".  Not quite the potholder I was attempting.

After visiting several crocheting websites as well as referring to my handy book, I finally figured out the single crochet (sc) stitch.  Now armed with two stitches, I was able to get down to business.  I looked up a simple pattern for a scarf and off I went.  About half way through the third row of 223 sc stitches I was certain I was going to give myself carpal tunnel syndrome, but I pressed on.  It became my new obsession.  I have decided that we crafters are almost always looking for the next project for ourselves to get lost in.  I am always eager to try something new.

Working steadily each night, I completed my colorful yet slightly wobbly scarf in 3 days.  I still haven't quite got that elegant speed of a proficient crochet master.  Nor have I perfected my gauge leading to the wobbliness of my scarf I assume.

So, as for the question to crochet or not to crochet?  The jury is still out for me.  I enjoyed the feeling of creating something out of nothing; a reward I always get from crafting.  Much more practice will be required for me to make anything more complex than a long rectangle with some fringe on the ends.  My hat goes off to all you skilled crocheters out there it sure isn't easy and almost sent me screaming in fear back to my sewing machine.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Upcycle Monthly: Featuring Courtney from Tizzy Dee

Welcome Courtney of Tizzy Dee on Etsy.  She is also a fellow Etsykids Team member.  Courtney is the first crafter to be featured in this Upcycle Monthly series.  I will be featuring a new upcycling crafter the first Saturday of every month.  Take a moment to get  to know Courtney and learn a little more about the wonderful upcycling process of bringing new life to old items!  Don't forget to check out Courtney's etsy shop and facebook page listed at the close of this feature.
Tell us a bit about yourself:
I'm a stay-at-home-mom to a beautiful 5-year-old girl and awaiting the arrival of our second daughter sometime this summer. Our 5-year-old joined us from Ethiopia in 2008 and we will be meeting daughter #2 for the first time (also in Ethiopia) in just a couple weeks!
I started crocheting in 2009 after my sister bought me a "teach yourself to crochet" set. I've been hooked (pun intended) ever since. I also really enjoy experimenting with different crafts and love upcycling/recycling/re-purposing.

What was your inspiration for using upcycled materials for your craft or art?
I love the idea of taking something from around the house and making it into something new. I started with a bunch of my daughter's clothes that she had outgrown and that were stained beyond repair. I cut them up and made my first rag rug. Once spring hits, I love moving away from yarn and into fabrics that I've found at thrift stores and rummage sales.

What is your favorite upcycled medium or material?
T-shirts and pillow cases. I can always seem to find the most interesting pillow cases.
I also re-purpose plastic bags, though they are not super easy to work with.

What is your current favorite upcycled item you have created?
Currently, I love my new upcycled t-shirt necklaces. So colorful, casual and fun!

What are some challenges you have encountered using upcycled materials?
I am scared of my sewing machine, so I have to find projects that don't require sewing, which can be challenging.

Any tips for those looking into the use of upcycled materials.
Look around your house first - you'd be surprised with what you can find!

Places to find and follow Courtney - Tizzy Dee

Thank you so much for reducing waste all while creating amazing one of a kind upcycled items.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

What to do with an old shoe box

Have you ever found yourself with a pile of old shoe boxes in your closet and you're not sure what to do with them.  If you have little ones in your house, here are a few possible fun ideas.

Quick and easy, give your child a few golf balls or other round items to transfer from a basket or bowl into the shoe box.  Round items will work best since they will enjoy capturing the items and stopping them from rolling away.  They will also enjoy placing the lid on top of the shoe box and carrying the balls around the house.

Prompting question: How do the golf balls feel?  Are the balls inside the box or outside the box?

Creating a mystery touch and feel box will also provide your little one with hours of fun.  All you will need to do is cut a large enough hole in one end of the shoe box for your child to fit his or her hand through.  Once you have done this, you can place a variety of items inside the shoe box: golf ball, stuffed animal, acorns, use your imagination.  The possibilities are endless.

For those particularly curious children, you may need to tape/glue/staple a flap of fabric inside the box behind the hole to prevent peeking.

 Isabel demonstrating said peeking behavior


This activity has many possibilities for differentiated learning.  For young toddlers, it will stand alone as a sensory experience.

For older preschool age children, this can become a guessing game.  Place a mystery item in the box and have them try and guess what it is.  Older children would also enjoy decorating the mystery box using markers, paint or stickers.

Prompting questions: What do you feel?  Is it hard or soft, smooth or bumpy?  What do you think is inside the box?

For those of you with many shoe boxes hanging around, you could create a sensory walking trail for your children!  I used cotton balls, dried beans and Easter basket grass for this application, but any items that would provide an interesting sensory experience would work well.  I quickly discovered using food items with toddlers was not a great idea as they immediately wanted to eat the dried beans.  Fabric scraps or yarn would also be good options.

Invite your child to step into the boxes with bare feet and take a little stroll from box to box.  They will enjoy the experience of feeling the many different textures against their toes.

Some children may feel weary about standing inside the boxes.  They may simply wish to explore from the outside

Prompting questions: As your child walks through the trail, you can ask: How does it feel?  Is rough or smooth, soft or hard?  Asking these types of questions will encourage your children to describe what they feel and also make comparisons among objects.

Make some room in your closets and let the fun begin!