Need a fun project NOW? Printables!

Printables!  For some reason, they are a little controversial in the nanny world.  Some people love them for their ease and variety, others feel like they keep kids from using their imagination.  I stand somewhere in the middle.  I do love printables, but I don’t think they should be used too much. There’s a time and place for everything, right? The ideal time to do a printable is when you had a project lined up, but your kiddo finished too quick and now there’s 15-20 minutes to spare before lunch or an outing or whatever. Or they got bored with their game/activity/project faster than you thought they would.  Or they got sick (surprise! It happens!) and now you need to cancel original plans and quickly come up with something will be fun and take up time without being too active.  Basically, I like them as back-up plans. I keep a pinterest board full of them so that in an emergency, I can find one easily and quickly.

I also like some printables more than others.  I look for what I call “combos”- sheets that combine some creativity, some skill-building (like cutting, pasting, coloring, etc), and may even have some play value after the project’s finished.  Here are some of my favorites!

Build Your Own Castle! Color it, cut it out, then paste the pieces together to make your castle anyway you want!  Paste the pieces onto thick paper to make this into a background for some fun fantasy play! The sheet is pretty far down on the website, so keep scrolling…

Bunting Template– There’s so many things you can do with this simple template!  Kids can draw, color, put stickers, glue on pictures from magazines, etc.  This would be great for a birthday party craft- everyone makes one, then they can be strung together and put up in the birthday kiddo’s room after!  This template’s on the same page as the castle sheet.

Cute Paper Dolls–  I think paper dolls are so much fun.  They have great replay value! And there are lots available to print out online, so if you don’t like this one, do a quick google search!  I love the simplicity of this one.

Silly Glasses–  Another very basic template that can be decorated in so many ways, and then it can be worn!  These are fun for anyday, but would be another great one for birthday parties, for silly family photos, and for holidays (I’m thinking 4th of July and New Year’s Eve!).

There’s lots more on my Printable Pinterest board!  Check them out the next time you need an emergency activity!

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!

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. 🙂

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. 🙂  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. 🙂


I’m kind of in love with contact paper.

Do you know about contact paper? You can find it in craft supply stores, and sometimes at Target or other similar stores, too. It’s a nice, thick vinyl (clear) that’s sticky on one side.  It comes in rolls, with quite a bit on the roll for about $10.  And there are soooo many great things you can do with it.

1. Tissue paper sun catchers: Cut a big piece, peel off the paper, and put the sticky side up on a table.  Let your little one place small pieces of tissue paper all over the place!  When there’s a satisfying amount of tissue paper, cut another piece of contact paper, peel the paper off, and stick it to the sticky side of the first sheet.  Then cut your sun catcher into whatever shape you like, and use a hole punch at the top to make a hole that yarn can go into to hang it up.  Bonus:  Make a sun catcher with other stuff too, like leaves and grasses, for example.

2.  Scratch off Tickets:  I tried making these with a pinterest post that I kept seeing, where you put paint on top of white crayon.  It didn’t work.  This contact paper version did, though!  Be sure to add dish soap to your paint, too!  You can personalize these in a number of ways and make great gifts for all sorts of occasions.

3.  Nature bracelet:  When you’re going on a nature walk, make these fun bracelets, sticky side up, so that your kiddos and collect flower, leaves, and whatever else they enjoy.  If they want to keep it, use a hole punch on each end of the bracelet, and tie it on with yarn.

4.  Create a Sticky Wall:  Tape some contact paper, sticky side out, to a foam board, easel, or other hard surface.  You can let your kiddos stick all sorts of things to this, and they’ll come off easy enough too.  You could try little plastic animals, plastic beads, words or letters on cardstock, alphabet magnets, and so much more!

5.  Easy bookmarks: Cut out some card stock in a rectangle, decorate it with stickers, markers, crayons, etc. Cover both sides with contact paper and cut it out (with contact paper sticking out a little further than the card stock), and you have a great, easy gift that won’t just sit around!

6.  Make your own stickers:  If you’re comfortable with your little ones using permanent markers, let them make their own stickers!  Using an assortment of colors, have them draw pictures on the contact paper (before you peel of the paper on the sticky side.  Then cut the stickers out and have them place them on paper!  Fun!

There’s so many more great projects you can do with contact paper, so maybe I’ll make another list some time!