Monday, January 31, 2011

Toddler Activities for Valentine's Day: L-O-V-E

I have SO many ideas for Valentine's Day activities to do with your kids! I wanted to start with some fun ways to "explain" Valentine's Day to your toddler/preschooler. Here's some ideas:

1. Talk to your little one about the definition of "love." You can talk to them about how they feel when Mom and Dad or their grandparents play with them and say "I love you." Ask them how they feel about a brother or sister (hopefully those are POSITIVE feelings) or special friend or pet. Then explain how we celebrate those relationships/friendships on Valentine's Day and make cards and gifts for those special people.

2. Have them learn how to say "Happy Valentine's Day" and "I love you" in sign language. Here's a clip from Signing Time that I love:

3. Learn some simple Valentine's Day songs. I found this one from Cullen's Abc's. My girl's loved them:

There are more songs here.

4. Make a countdown to V-day. Have your toddler write down ideas of how they can show their love to others on paper hearts and hang them on a ribbon with clothespins (just like we did for the Christmas countdown). They sell mini clothespins at JoAnne's.

Much more to come...
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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Toddler and Preschooler Activities for a Rainy Day: Gone Fishin'

I apologize. Even though I don't think that you all are chomping at the bit for a new post on my blog, I do have a standard I've set for myself as far as posting goes, and I've let it slip this past week. We took a last minute family trip to Coronado, which has been WONDERFUL, but I have a ton of activities to share with you. So I'm staying up extra late to post about one of my favorite winter activities: fishing!

Blue fabric or a sheet
wooden dowels
clothes pins
hot glue
construction paper

As we all know, winter can DRAG ON, so this activity is one that will entertain as well as teach--fishing in the winter time! You can mold it to your child's needs. I focused on numbers for my preschooler and colors for my toddler.

Step One:
Cover a small table (I used our piano bench) with your blue fabric (mine was a shower curtain) for the "water." Make sure there's room behind the table for you to sit since you'll be clipping the fish onto their fishing rods "under water."


Step Two:
Cut out the number of fish you want from your construction paper. I added eyes and numbers.

Step Three:
Cut a piece of yarn and glue one end onto the dowel. Tie the other end onto the clothes pin (our clothes pins were decorated from a previous activity).
I put a small line of hot glue at the end of the dowel and then wrapped the yard around it a few times.


Step Four:
At the other end of my living room, I taped colored squares that matched the colors of the fish. My goal was to have my toddler match the fish to the corresponding square, thus helping her learn her colors. Then I asked my preschooler to identify the number on the fish's belly and write it herself on the tail. You could also do letters, shapes, spelling words, etc.
My preschooler wanted to help clip the fish to the pole while my toddler (and her one surviving pigtail) was content being the fisherwoman. Barbie and the princess crown were just decoration.
Here is my toddler matching the white fish to the white square.
And my preschooler writing the number four on the tail.
She still uses her number rhymes to remember her numbers.



Once we caught all of our "fish," my girls continued fishing for small toys from out of their homemade "pond." This activity is the gift that keeps on giving and I hope it will help you get through these wintery days (I say this as I'm basking in 75 degree weather out here in California).

Please do check back with me for Valentine's Day activities. Don't forget to check your local JoAnne's for all their deals right now on pink and red EVERYTHING. Pick up 1/4 of a yard of red fleece while you're there for my next post!
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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The woes of winter

I will admit that my stay-at-home mommyhood has seen better days than this past week. Last night I was sneaking a few precious bites of Rocky Road ice cream with my slotted serving spoon because I haven't done my dishes in...a long time. I am sitting at my dining room table at 1:12 p.m. with breakfast dishes still on the table and feeling pretty good about that. At least last night's dinner dishes made it onto the kitchen counter. My lovely newborn's diaper leaked onto my pajama pants this morning forcing me to bathe her AND my three year old who wet her bed last night, leaving just enough time for my own pee-stained pant leg to dry. I'm still wearing those same pajama pants, so sue me.

In addition to my dirty pj pants, I am fashioning an unruly hairstyle, an unwashed face, and my ski jacket because it's COLD outside and our old house (which I love) just doesn't heat up as well as our budget would like it to. Which leads to the point of this post: winter can be tough on parenthood.

I think what pushed this winter over that precarious edge was the fact that we had a baby. In the winter, when viruses are multiplying and spreading with every sneeze and handshake. I'm already a bit particular and edgy when it comes to cleanliness, but give me a newborn to take care of and I'm irreparably freaked out. Despite my best efforts, all of us but the baby and my husband caught a nasty cold virus over the holidays and are just now recovering. But now that we're healthy, I'm hesitant to go anywhere! What if whooping cough germs are sitting on that library table? What if that runny nose at playgroup is really something contagious? So we're quarantined. And it's starting to affect us a little...negatively.

Now that we've eliminated our usual "routine" of getting outside at least once a day or so, I feel like I'm working overtime. I feel as if I'm becoming an employee within my own household instead of a beloved member of the pack. Everyone must be entertained, dressed, fed, loved and kissed, pulled off of one another, disciplined with patience, listened to, read to, fed again and again, and given something mentally stimulating to do to make up for an unruly amount of TV time. All of this action makes it harder to keep up with my other household chores like laundry and dishes and getting down at floor level to wipe up the orange juice that was spilled...a while ago. All of it has started to give me a permanent pain in my neck.

Don't get me wrong, I LOVE being home with my kids. I just don't like having to spend so much time with them. Sitting beside my computer right now are four books I ordered as soon as the holidays were over:

The Power of Positive Parenting
Positive Discipline
Raising Self-Reliant Children in a Self-Indulgent World
Serenity: Simple steps for Recovering Peace of Mind, Real Happiness, and Great Relationships

Can anyone see a theme here? As I mentioned, a brutal virus knocked out half the family that had gathered in Denver for Christmas. While I was quarantined in the back bedroom with the baby (and a face mask, since I too was sick), I had all the time in the world to think, worry, and read. I perused my sister-in-law's books and picked up "Christlike Parenting" by Dr. Glenn Latham. It was a fantastic book that caused me to perk up my ears and listen more closely to the way my husband and I were disciplining our three year old. Of course there was room for improvement and I started making a mental list of things I wanted to do better. Number one on the list: stop yelling. It makes everyone feel like crap, so why do it? Thus the frantic Amazon order ensued and I am now in possession of over 1000 pages of parenting wisdom.

Now I just have to read and implement them. I'll tell you how far I've come: if I don't yell at my kids for a week, I get to splurge and buy myself a little something. I've put a little box in each day on my calendar with a "PP" for positive parenting next to it. So far, I've made it a total of four days. That was last week. Sunday, Monday and Tuesday of this week were losers. Today is better. I was reminded by a good friend yesterday that we shouldn't expect a perfect 100% on our goals right away. Shoot for %80 good behavior and then when you achieve that, go for 82%. I thought that was excellent advice and so applicable to parenthood.

We all can use some help and improvement (especially during these long winter stretches). But don't shoot for giving up all your imperfections at once. You'll wind up in pee-pee pajama pants and a stack of parenting manuals, eating oatmeal cookies for lunch because you've spent all your time and energy on trying to be the perfect mom! (Not that I know any of that from experience.)

I promise this isn't a plug for my blog, but I couldn't survive any of this without "activity time" with my kids. I can't--well I won't--tell you how many times I've started our activity with a scowl and very unenthusiastic attitude, but I'm always glad we did it. Then I know that even if I fail miserably at everything else that day, at least I played with my kids. That sustains me through the bad days.

So please, stay healthy, stay warm, check out some of the winter activities I've posted, and do help yourself to an oatmeal cookie. Despite what they say about sugar, it really does make you happy.

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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Preschooler Activities: Knit Wits


I was searching for something to do with my girls yesterday and found this idea on familyfun.go called "Knit Wits." Luckily I had the materials--which are pretty basic--and we put one together in about 30 minutes (that's including a few distractions from my two year old and one major rice spill, which was my fault).

one spare knit glove
needle & thread
small rubber ball
mini pom-pom

If you don't have a small rubber ball, you can use a ping-pong ball or a lost silver ball ornament, like I used!

She thought my thimble looked like a small trash can and filled it with our mini pom-poms.

Step One: Tuck in the ring finger of the glove and sew it closed.

I had no idea my three year old could thread a needle. She made it look so easy...


Step Two: Fill the glove up to the bottom of the cuff with rice and tie it off with yarn or a small rubber band.
Step Three: Place your ball (or ornament) into the cuff and sew the top shut.
(I promise my kids did not sew these themselves, as it appears. I'm just good at making it LOOK like they did. ha.)
Step Four: Make a wig by creating a "think hank" (never heard of that term before). You wrap the yarn around your hand about 50 times, tie off one end and cut the other end open.
(If I had prepared in advance for this, I would have found some bright red yarn to match my glove, but all I had was this light blue...)
Step Five: Sew on your wig and other embellishments. I used buttons for eyes and the mini pom-pom for a nose. My 3 year old wanted to add a butterfly button "broach."
Except for the funky gimp arm on the left, I think these little knit wits are pretty cute!

(If any of you make one of these, please DO send me a picture at
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Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Christmas Activities for Preschoolers: Snow Globes

I found this idea in a Martha Stewart magazine and it was worth the effort to go find the materials. It's a great wintertime activity because of the snow falling outside, but you could adapt this idea to any holiday, depending on the figurine you use on the inside. Here's how:

Glass jar
silicone glue
plastic or ceramic figurines
distilled water
glycerin (check the pharmacy section of your grocery)

Sand the inside of the lid to roughen the surface to the glue with adhere to it. Glue a figurine to the inside of the lid and let the glue dry (p.s. the silicone glue is key here; I tried to cheat and use hot glue and our figurines didn't stay on for long).

Fill the jar almost to the top with distilled water, a pinch of glitter and a few drops of glycerin. Place a ring of silicone glue around the mouth of the jar and screw the lid on tightly. Ta Da!

A little home-made snow globe.

Well, with the new baby and a fresh new virus floating around our family, we will be INSIDE for a while...stay tuned for some more fun inside winter activities.
And please do send me your genius ideas.
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