Fall Crafts: Leaf Edition Part 2!

It’s really looking like autumn outside now, and there’s still so many things to do with all those colorful, beautiful leaves that your kiddos can’t stop collecting. ¬†I couldn’t stop at just one post about leaf crafts. Here’s 3 more fun, easy ideas!

Fall Leaf Candle  These are just gorgeous.  And so easy! You just need some modge podge, a mason jar, and, of course, leaves!

Fall Leaf Suncatchers– using one of my favorite things ever: contact paper!

Leaf “Ripple” Art– If your kiddos are a little older, or just really love art, this could be a great project. ¬†Check out the link to see all the variations of this project you can do!

Things To Do With All Those Apples…

It’s apple picking season! ¬†I got to work and my nanny family had a big bag of freshly picked apples sitting on the counter. I hate for things to go to waste, but there’s only so many apples we can eat, you know? So I looked around online to find some recipes that I thought would be delicious and not too complicated. ¬†Now I’m excited to try them out! ¬†Maybe you have a bunch of apples, too? ¬†If so, this post is for you! ¬†Enjoy!

Fruit Leather– Yum! ¬†It’ll keep for a while, and this stuff is great to pack in school lunches or grab as a quick snack. ¬†I might just do apples with a little cinnamon, or I might add some other fruits, like strawberries or blueberries to the mix.

Apple Chips– I LOVE apple chips!

…and for something RIGHT NOW, how about Apple Peanut Butter Sandwiches? They look sooooo yummy!

Let me know how your apple recipes turn out, and if you have any more tasty apple treats!

The North Star, by Peter H. Reynolds

When I take the kiddos on long car trips to places (more than 15 minutes or so), I like to play audio books that I get from the library. There are so many great ones! ¬†I’ve been reading Miss 4 early chapter books before her nap, but in the car, she loves picture books with CDs that have page turns, so that she can keep up with the illustrations and be involved. ¬†I’m always looking for new audio books that she’d enjoy. ¬†Today I found a great book! ¬†Apparently, it’s a classic from a well-known award winning author that I somehow had just not heard of- ¬†The North Star, by Peter H. Reynolds. ¬†If you know and love this book already, I can hear your voice saying, “Oh my gosh, Amy, I can’t believe you didn’t know that book!”. ¬†If you don’t know it, let me introduce you!

“The North Star” is a lovely picture book about a boy on a journey- metaphorically, his journey through life. Along the way, he discovers that everyone has their own journey (which everyone must choose for themselves), their own path, their own signs to lead them the way they should go. ¬†He finds that you have to travel at your own pace, and that you should slow down and appreciate things along the way. ¬†The message is wonderful, and told in a relaxing, poetic way. ¬†The illustrations are small and simple, but pretty ink and watercolor drawings that flow nicely with the storyline. ¬†The audio CD was lovely as well, with a tranquil narrator who voices characters wonderfully, and some pretty music as well!

Miss 4 listened to the CD four times total on our way to and from a class, which was 30 minutes away. ¬†The first time, she followed along with the pictures using the page turns. The other three times, she asked to just listen to the story without the page turns. She says that there are too many pages to turn! The book is 64 pages long, and sometimes there’s just a few words before you turn the page again, so I see what she means. That’s the first time she’s ever asked to listen to a book without following along with page turns. ¬†That’s the only negative I can think of, though.

This book¬†is recommended for children 3-7 years old, according to Amazon, but I think it’d make a lovely graduation gift, too. ¬†I’m looking forward to reading (and listening to) more books by Peter H. Reynolds! ¬†I already have the book and CD of “Ish” on reserve at the library for Miss 4 and I to enjoy on the way to her class next week.

Fall Crafts: Pumpkin Edition!

It’s officially autumn!!! ¬†Yay! ¬†This is my favorite time of the year for crafts! ¬†There are so many great opportunities! ¬†I already posted about Leaf Crafts, so today we’re going with a pumpkin theme! Let’s get to it!

Textured Pumpkin– this is a fun way for kids to explore textures and do rubbings! ¬†This tutorial says to draw a pumpkin for them, but if you’re not confident with your drawing skills, or simply want a more polished look, it’s easy to find free pumpkin templates online.

Pumpkin Seed Craft– If your kiddo is old enough, this can turn into a multi-step craft by letting him/her paint all the seeds one day, and then do the glueing the next!

Yarn Pumpkin– ¬†If you don’t mind a little mess, this is a great dimensional craft!

¬†Paper Roll Pumpkins¬†¬†How fun are these? Give kids a template to glue to if you think they’ll have a hard time creating a shape.

I’ll do another pumpkin post sometime in the near future for jack-o-lantern crafts. ¬†I already have a few in mind!

Talking about Bullies

Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about bullies in school. ¬†Most kids have to deal with being picked on at school now and again. ¬†Unfortunately, that’s how it is. ¬†That doesn’t mean it’s ok, of course, and if things get bad, I think it’s ok to intervene by talking to the child’s teacher about the situation. ¬†But what can we do to help protect against bullying? How can we help a child cope with being picked on? ¬†Here are a few of my ideas.

1. ¬†It’s ok to stand up for yourself.¬†Teach a child from an early age, preferably starting at age 2 or 3, that it’s ok to say no to things that make you upset or uncomfortable. ¬†When another child is bothering you, you can stand up for yourself by saying (in a firm, but polite voice) things like, “No thank you!” or “Please stop!”. ¬†There’s a balance between being friendly and being a doormat, and that’s something you can start teaching pretty early on. ¬†I do a lot of roleplaying with this type of situation to help kids know the difference between when to try being nicer (if a child is asking really nicely if you’ll play, and you don’t want to, you use a nice, polite “no thanks”), and when to stand up for yourself.

2. ¬†¬†It’s not your fault. ¬†Explain to the child that when someone picks on you, it’s not because there’s something wrong with you. ¬†There’s actually something wrong with that bully. ¬†Maybe she’s sad, or mad, or having a hard time at home. ¬†Maybe he’s lonely and wants to be your friend but doesn’t know how. ¬†Maybe she was never taught that differences are beautiful. But it’s not your child’s fault.

3. ¬†Walk away… or don’t. ¬†There are different strategies for dealing with a bully. ¬†You can always walk away, but sometimes that kid will continue to follow you. ¬†You can talk to a teacher, but that might only make teasing worse because you “tattled”. ¬†Sometimes using the “buddy system” can work because a friend can help stick up for you. ¬† Personally, if the child seems strong enough (emotionally, not physically), I think it’s better to stand up to that bully. Not by taking revenge, but by doing the opposite. ¬†You could either tell that bully, “You can say whatever you like, but it doesn’t bother me” and then just stand there and not let it bother you. ¬†The bully will move on to someone he/she can get a reaction from. ¬†Or you could play the “happy” game- every time the bully tries to make you angry or sad, try to make him/her happy. ¬†The meaner that child gets, the more you compliment and show kindness. ¬†Remember that often bullies are unhappy people, and that’s why they’re mean. ¬†If they’re happy, they won’t want to be mean. ¬†And you never know when a bully can become a friend.

I like to let children try to work things out by themselves first, but if a bullying situation is escalating, or if your child has tried all of their strategies and are still having problems, it’s time to talk to your child’s (and/or the bully’s) teacher(s).

Writing Practice is Fun!

As you may know, I’m not a fan of pushing kids into learning things they aren’t interested in. ¬†I make suggestions, make things into games and fun activities, and encourage them to try things… but I don’t push. ¬†I think that trying to force kids to learn something when they aren’t interested is counterproductive. ¬†Not only will the child probably not retain the things you’re trying to teach, but their curiosity and love for learning will get squashed a bit, too. ¬†If I had to choose one value that I thought was the most important for a child to have, it would be a love of learning.

Like I said, I try to make learning a fun thing to do, and I’ve been working with Miss 4 on her letters, since she’ll be going to Kindergarten next year. She’s loving it! ¬†Yesterday, I suggested that we do some drawing and coloring together, but she excitedly suggested that we practice her letters instead! Of course I said yes to that!

Here’s my typical teaching process when I’m working with kids writing letters:

1. ¬†Make sure to have some primary-lined paper. ¬†You can buy this at the store, or print them out. I’ll give you a link to a great free printable site at the end of this entry. ¬†You could even get out your ruler or straight-edged item and make your own, if you like! ¬†Sometimes making the paper fun can make a big difference! ¬†Find/make paper that has a picture of your kiddo’s favorite animal on it, or make your own paper with their favorite colors (or rainbow colors!). ¬†This is a super easy way to start the process out in an exciting, fun way! Make sure the lines are big enough! ¬†Start out with bigger lines, then make them smaller as the child gets better fine motor skills.

2. ¬†Let the child choose a letter. ¬†If your kiddo doesn’t know many letters, give suggestions! Perhaps the first letter of their name? ¬†Or the first letter of a favorite toy, animal, or movie? Keep in mind that letters with straight lines are easier in the beginning. Be sure to talk about what sound the letter makes, but don’t overdo it. ¬†Even just saying it in passing, “Ok, let’s draw an ‘M’. ¬†M says ‘mmmm'”, can make a difference. But follow the child’s lead. He may just want to get to the fun part, which is the writing part!

3. ¬†Use a highlighter or light-colored marker to write the letter a few times very neatly on the lined paper. ¬†Always encourage the child to watch you writing the letters, and talk through what you’re doing as you do it (“Straight line up, curved line down, etc). Let your kiddo trace over your lines with a pencil. I always use a pencil for writing practice, because that’s what will be used in school, and it’s good for kids to get used to the feel of a pencil. ¬†Praise every attempt, and point out lines that are straighter, or letters that are even a little bit nicer than the last. ¬†Remember to praise hard work, not skill level. ¬†“I can tell you worked really hard on that one!” ¬†“Wow- all this practice is helping you get better and better!” ¬†NOT “You are such a great writer!” Do this for as long as your kiddo enjoys it!

4. ¬†If/when it’s time for a new challenge, the next step is to play “connect the dots”. ¬†On the lined paper, put dots where each line will start or stop. ¬†Be sure to focus on the order that these lines are made in, but don’t stress if it’s not done correctly in the beginning. ¬†Remember that the most important part of this is making sure your kiddo wants to play this “writing game” again! ¬†If you’re practicing the letter “T”, there’ll be 4 dots, two for the vertical line and two for the horizontal line on top. ¬†If your kiddo knows his numbers, you could play this with numbers next to the dots. ¬†Just make sure she knows when to pick the pencil up! ¬†Remember to praise every attempt!

5. ¬†Eventually (probably not on the first day of practicing), your kiddo will be able to try writing letters without the dots. ¬†This will be a lot more challenging, but make sure he feels good about doing something all by himself! ¬†And you can go back and forth between highlighter, dots, and all-by-yourself as much as you want. ¬†I like to take the kid’s lead and ask what they want to do, tracing, dots, or nothing. ¬†End your practice whenever it’s becoming a little less fun. ¬†It may be 2 minutes in or 20, but learning only really takes place when there’s interest, so put it away whenever your kiddo is done.

Here’s a great place to find fun lined paper to practice with! ¬†Let your child pick his favorite! Printable Stationary with Primary Lines

This is Miss 4’s favorite lined paper sheet. It’s in the “animals” category in the above link. ūüôā

Fall Crafts: Leaf Edition!

I know it’s still technically summer and all, but doesn’t it feel like fall? Kids are in school, football season has begun, and the temperatures are slowly but surely dropping. A little. Ok, so it’s still going to get up to 84 degrees today. ¬†What can I say? I like to plan ahead, and I’m sure I’m not alone! I’ve started thinking about which fall crafts I’d like to do.

With both of my charges in school (Miss 4 is home at lunch, Mr. 7 in the afternoon), there’s not a ton of time for crafts. But I will make time! ¬†I know my kiddos like to pick up pretty fall leaves on the way to the bus stop, so this post will answer that age old question: What do I do with the autumn leaf collection???

1) ¬†Doodle on them!¬†These are decorated using metallic sharpies. Aren’t they cool? I like how some leaves have the natural veins highlighted, others are decorated with pretty designs… they’re all different and beautiful!

2. ¬†Make rubbings! ¬†This post talks about making rubbing plates by laminating different leaves, which is brilliant. ¬†There’s nothing as sad as a beautiful leaf getting torn to pieces while you try to do a rubbing. ¬†Who’s with me? If you don’t have a laminator, you can either use contact paper (which I LOVE), or bring some leaves to your local office printing type store and have them laminated there.

3. ¬†Turn them into pretty wreaths!¬†This tutorial makes it super easy by using a paper plate with the middle cut out. ¬†I’m a little concerned about using school glue for this. ¬†Leaves are pretty dimensional, so it could be tricky to get enough glue to stick. ¬†If you’re comfortable, you might think about using a low heat glue gun (you do the glue gun, they stick the leaves). Bonus- no drying time! If your kiddos are collecting TONS of leaves, how about letting them each make a wreath to put on their bedroom door?

That’ll get you started, but there are tons of other things you can do with lovely autumn leaves! ¬†What are your favorite leaf crafts?

Why I LOVE Skylanders!

Preface: Kids and videogames. It’s a controversial topic. ¬†Growing up, my parents didn’t allow us to have a video game systems. In some ways, that was good idea, in other¬†ways, I felt like I missed out. ¬†My personal philosophy when it comes to any type of technology (TV, computer, video games) is simple- limit, monitor, discuss. ¬†The 7yo I work with is allowed to play computer or ipad for 30 minutes after school (unless there’s a behavioral problem that causes him to lose this time). I don’t watch his every move, but I keep track of the things he plays and I like to ask him questions and keep myself involved in what he’s doing and enjoying. ¬†This allows me to make sure that he’s playing appropriate things and not accidentally stumbling into an inappropriate website.


So Skylanders! ¬†Mr. 7 is currently in love with these things. ¬†He had to teach me about them. ¬†His family doesn’t have a video game system, but he plays the game with his grandparents or at a friend’s house.

FYI, in case you don’t know about this game:¬†Skylanders are fictional, fantasy characters that can be humanoid, animal-based, alien-ish… there’s a little of everything. ¬†The characters live in Skyland, which consists of lots of islands and things that float in the sky. ¬†Each character has a very different personality and different abilities. ¬†What’s really different and fun is that you collect plastic toy character figurines, and these are necessary for playing the game. ¬†When you want to use a character, you place it on the “portal of power” and that character appears in the game. There are several different games, and many, many characters to choose from. ¬†The game is rated 8+, but you should screen it for yourself and decide whether or not the game is appropriate for your child. ¬†There’s plenty of cartoon-y violence, as you smash bad guys left and right, but it’s not gratuitous, scary, bloody. ¬†It’s obviously playful and happening in a fantasy setting. ¬†Like Mario smashing the goombas.

Here’s what I like about the game: ¬†it’s more than just smashing and bashing. ¬†There’s a lot of problem solving, and the side quests include some interesting little puzzles and a strategy game called “skystones”. ¬†The world is colorful and fun, and the game encourages you to decide for yourself which character will work the best in each different situation.

But it’s more than that. ¬†The toys themselves are fun to play with, even when you’re not using them in the game. ¬†They’re well constructed, and Mr. 7 loves to have “Skylander parties” with friends, where they all get their characters together to have a “party” with each other.” ¬†There’s cards for each characters, which list all their statistics, encouraging kids to compare and contrast. ¬†And there’s even Skylander chapter books! ¬†There’s tons of ways that kids can play in the Skylanders world even when their time in the game is limited.

I came up with a fun discussion topic for Mr. 7 and I, after learning more about Skylanders. ¬†I asked him, if your cat was a Skylander, what would her name be? Her abilities? Her catch phrase? You can do this with friends, family members and favorite stuff animals, too. ¬†His cat, btw, would be named Miss Bitty Kitty. ¬†She’d have a poisonous bite, laser beams that come out of her tail when she wags it, and a purr that causes an earthquake. ¬†We’re still working on her catchphrase, but “My meow is WOW” is in the running. We’ve made a picture of her character, too. ūüôā ¬†It’s been quite a project, and so much fun!

And yes, I do play the game at home now. ¬†Mr. 7 is quite impressed by my progress. ūüôā