Thursday, March 31, 2011

Fire Safety for Toddlers and Preschoolers

We left last weekend to spend some time at my in-laws with all of my husband's side of the family. There were 11 children under the age of eight, making 19 of us total in the house. On our first night together, the fire alarm went off at 3:30 am (I didn't even hear it go off--ah!). David's parents were the first to come out of their bedroom and see the smoke coming into the house from the door that led out to the garage. They started yelling "fire!" and banging on our bedroom doors. Within minutes, all of us were standing outside in the freezing cold, barefoot and coat-less, while the men ran inside to grab laptops and a few other valuables. We knew the fire must be in the garage, but by that point there was smoke pouring out of a small window above the house and we figured the entire thing would go down.

The fire department had been called immediately but my in-laws live up in the mountains, so we knew it might take a little while. We piled all of the children into my SUV and turned on the heat while we waited for our men. My husband had decided to crawl back into the kitchen and get a closer look at the source. When he saw that it was still contained by the metal door (that led out to the garage from the kitchen), he started pouring glasses of water onto the door. He called for his brother and dad and together they hooked up a hose in the utility closet and doused the door with water.

And it worked! Because the water turned to steam once it hit the burning door, it put out most of the fire that was concentrated just behind the door. When the fire department arrived, they told us that had our men not put the fire out when they did, the entire house would have been gone in MINUTES. The fire had destroyed one corner of the garage and was making it's way up into the rafters. It was all started by an electric cat bed. (Go figure.)

Firemen entering the garage.

My brother-in-law managed to save his wife and kids AND the favorite teddy.

We are all safe and the house is still standing, but I can guarantee that we will all check our smoke alarms the moment we get home. It's made me think more about activities to do with my kids to prepare them for emergencies such as a fire. Here are some ideas I found:

Good material/checklists:
(The following come from
1. A fire safety checklist to make sure your child is prepared.
2. A fire hazard checklist to help you and your kids prevent fires.
4. Here's what a fireman looks like. It would also be a great idea to check with your local fire department and see if you can come and meet a fire fighter, dressed in his gear. That would help your little ones not be afraid of them or hide from them if you did have a fire emergency.

1. Create your own escape plan. ( Practice, practice, practice.
2. Games and info with sparky the dog.
3. Create a relay game. Set up cones and have your kids race while crawling on their hands and knees, just like they would do if there was a fire in the house. Have a cell phone (that is off) at the end where they can pretend to call 911. See more on this idea here.
4. My sister-in-law said that they practiced their escape plan as a game and dressed Dad up as "the fire." If he showed up in the hallway, for example, they had to turn around and find another way out. *She did say that this scared some of the younger kids b/c he tried to be a scary fire, so make sure you prepare them for this game!
5. Three-way Tag involving fire, trees, and water. Click on link for more details.
5. Set a meeting place together and practice racing out to the meeting place. Maybe do this at the end of your fire safety activities and have a treat here so they remember it. My kids seem to always remember things associated with treats.


If any of you have more ideas, please do share! Always SO good to be prepared.
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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Toddler Activities: Activity Time with Preschool Lessons

Here's the basic layout of our Activity Time these days, now that I have a preschooler. My two-year old participates in these as well, although I do direct most lessons to my three year old's learning level. One day I'll manage to swing separate activities for both girls (maybe), but for now, this is it:

1. We talk about the day of the week, month, season, and what the weather is like outside. For the songs we sing, click here and here.


2. If there's an upcoming holiday or something special about that month, we discuss those. I've also been incorporating very simple lessons about time.

3. We talk about our letter of the week (for ex, the letter C). We're learning both upper-case and lower-case. I start by writing both letters on our dry-erase board, describing what it looks like and how you write it. Then I invite my toddler/preschooler to come up and trace my letter or write her own--both upper and lower case. Then we sing "The "C" says "kuh", the "C" says "kuh," every letter makes a sound, the "C" says "kuh." We also talk about the sign for this letter.

I fill a paper sack with "C" words and have the girls pull them out one at a time.

4. Then we read our books about the letter that we found at the library (or from our personal library).


4. We do a quick math lesson, usually with fruit. ("If I have three oranges and take away one, how many are left?")

5. Then we end with a craft, activity, or game that has to do with the letter or holiday or whatever else we're learning about! (This is my favorite part). In this example, we covered our letter C's with cotton balls. Then we ate cheese pizza for lunch.


My best advice (to my self included) is to not overwhelm yourself with ALL the information, preschool programs and websites and activities, etc that are out there.
Just have fun with your kids and keep it simple.

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Activity Time/Preschool Schedule: How to Plan Time with your Kids

Last fall I enrolled my three year old in a preschool class at an arts academy that included piano and sign language in its curriculum. I was excited for her to get the "classroom experience" and learn from someone other than myself. After a few weeks, I felt disappointed about a few things:

1. After several requests, I was denied a copy of the songs they were teaching in her class (copyright). She was learning some songs I didn't know, so it was impossible to practice them at home.
2. Since I didn't know what my daughter was learning in each class, except for the letter and book of the week, I couldn't reinforce those lessons at home.
3. I didn't know any of the kids in her class or their parents.
4. I just felt plain jealous that someone else was watching my daughter learn new things for the first time. I have to hand her over to a teacher at some point--I'm pretty sure that homeschooling is not for me--but I want to keep her as long as I can. I knew I could handle preschool at home, so I pulled her out and we've incorporated some preschool lessons into our activity time.

I wanted to share my schedule with you because I think it's always helpful to see what other moms are doing. I'd love to hear about your routine as well. Here goes:

Monday: We visit our local children's museum called the Treehouse where they have "Toddler Time" which includes stories and crafts. This replaces activity time at home.

Tuesday: We attend our local library's "Discovery Time." We check out books for the week and play on the computer.

Wednesday: Activity Time/Preschool at home. For more info on this click here.

Thursday: We participate in a local preschool co-op with other mom's in the neighborhood, where five of us rotate teaching. In the fall I'll be joining/creating a Joy School group.

Friday: Activity Time/Preschool at home (review).

That's it. I love doing the co-op preschool because my kids get the social interaction they would at a public preschool, but with kids we know and play with anyway. I also know what the mom's are teaching so I can reinforce those lessons at home. I want to do Joy School in the fall for a more organized curriculum and music.

I think the key is finding what works for you and your kids. I felt so overwhelmed last fall as I considered my options for preschool. Then I realized that we enjoy our activity time at home together and I can prepare her for kindergarten competently. So far, it's working.

Any thoughts on this?
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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Toddler Activities for St. Patrick's Day: Last minute St. Patty's

I feel like I have these posts for every holiday...last minute activities! That's how we do here in the Phipps household. So here they are:
The Origin of St. Patrick's Day
(Tweak it as you will, of course)
St. Patrick's Day is a holiday where we celebrate a man named St. Patrick from a country called Ireland. He was a good man and wanted to teach other people in Ireland about his beliefs. He used a shamrock, or a green clover, to teach others about the trinity (God, Jesus, and the Holy Ghost). He died on March 17th, 461 A.D. which is why we celebrate St. Patrick's Day by wearing green, decorating with shamrocks, and looking for little Irish leprechauns searching for their pots of gold!

Shamrock Memory
We've been playing a lot of "memory" in our house lately and I thought I'd add a fun St. Patty's day twist to it.

1. Cut out twenty shamrocks, using this tutorial, and write the numbers 1-10 on the backs, twice. Two number 1's, 2's, 3's, etc. We put green smiley face stickers on the opposite side.
Our CUTE little neighbor came over just in time to play with us.
Mix them up and lay them out in rows.
As we're playing, I try to stop after someone's turn and repeat what we just saw, "Remember, this one's a four, and this one is a six. Remember where they are!"

Crafty Rainbows
I saw this next idea on No Time for Flashcards and thought we'd give it a try.

1. Gather all your scraps from your activity time closet: construction paper strips/leftovers, random beads, buttons, pom-poms, stickers. We even had a handful of balloons in there.
2. Place all of your scraps into one large bowl and have your preschooler sort them by color into smaller bowls. (This should keep them busy for a while.)

3. Once they've sorted, you can use white poster board or a flattened paper bag for your rainbow. I let my daughter draw her own rainbow, telling her the order of the colors (remember ROYGBIV?). Then we placed a line of glue on each color for her to paste her scraps.



Unfortunately, I don't have a finished product yet. We're still finishing our rainbow.

Tomorrow we're having a St. Patrick's Day party with some friends and I'll be cooking up some of this:

(I thought these would be fun to have on their plates)
Martha Stewart

and of course...
Martha Stewart
(Mine won't look quite this good)
P.S. Did you read this article about the origin of corned beef and cabbage?

and for dessert...
Family Fun
Yum. I'm actually not a jello fan, but my girls are REALLY excited for this.

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Monday, March 14, 2011

Toddler Activities: Homemade playdough

I'm sure most of you have tried this by now, but I've only made homemade playdough once before and it came out too sticky. I found this recipe and had great success. It was around 4:30/5pm and my kids were transforming into bored, starving, moody little monkeys; I needed a quick activity they could do on their own while I made dinner. I whipped it up in just minutes, plopped it onto their table with a bucket of cookie cutters and enjoyed a good 45 minutes of PEACE. Beautiful.

2 cups flour
2 cups warm water
1 cup salt
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon cream of tartar (optional for increased elasticity)
food coloring

Mix all ingredients together and cook over low heat. They will begin to look like mashed potatoes and pull away from the sides. Remove it from heat and let it sit until cool enough to handle.
*If it's too sticky, just cook longer.

And for kicks, I added some green food coloring to mine for St. Patrick's Day. If you're doing one color, I would add the coloring at the very beginning with the other ingredients for best results.


This would be a fun activity to teach colors to toddlers. You could separate the dough into sections and add different colors to each section. Then have your toddler pick a color, like blue, and talk about it's name and other blue objects. Talk about blueberries, blue jays, a whale and then help your toddler make that object with the dough.
You could do the same with shapes and have them create triangles, circles, squares, and stars with their dough.

Or just have them play on their own with cookie cutters, like I did.

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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Toddler Activities for St. Patrick's Day: Rainbows and Cupcakes

I'm always a little leery about baking with my just never know what your kitchen will look like when you're done or how much flour and eggs your kids will consume. But when I found this recipe from Family Fun, I decided to be brave and attempt to make these babies...from scratch. I actually never planned on making them from scratch, but when I was finally ready to roll up my sleeves I realized that I didn't have any cake mix. It was a BIG undertaking but if you have an entire afternoon to kill, I highly recommend this activity. There's something about having your kids help you measure the flour and crack the eggs that feels so "motherly." We made a mess and had a good time.
I used the yellow cake recipe in my Better Homes and Gardens Cook Book.


3/4 c butter, softened
3 eggs
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 cups milk
*Click here for baking instructions.
I had to take some shots of my cute girls in their lil' aprons. I remember buying the white one (now paint-stained) when I was pregnant with my first daughter. I couldn't imagine having a little one big enough to fit into it. How time flies.
Hazel says, "I am smiling mom, see?"
Yes, I let my three year old use the beater on her own and she rocked it.
After a little taste test, we got out the food coloring!
We divided our batter into six bowls and mixed the colors, following the guide here.
We spooned the six layers into our cupcake pan and popped them into the oven. I filled our larger pan while my three year old filled the smaller one. Even though her layers weren't perfect, it didn't matter because they still made a rainbow! (My two year old lost interest after she consumed way too much batter...)


And here they are...


Any fun St. Patrick's Day traditions out there?
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Thursday, March 3, 2011

Toddler Activities for St. Patrick's Day: Glad you're here, March

5 Fun facts about March:


1. It is Women's History month. (That would be a fun activity: a simplified "guess who" game?)

2. St. Patricks Day is on the 17th
Martha Stewart
3. March 20th is the beginning of Spring.

4. The name "March" comes from the Roman word "Martius" and it was originally the first month of the Roman calendar. It's named after Mars, the god of war. (It became the 3rd month in 1752, if you wanted to know.)
Wisdom of Astrology

5. The flower most associated with March is the narcissus (wild daffodil).

Ecclectic Revisited

And I love this poem...

William Wordsworth
I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed--and gazed--but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.
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How to Help your Preschooler Understand Time

With winter dragging on a bit, here's a fun activity to help your kids understand the length of TIME. Whenever one of us has to run an errand, my three year old asks how long we'll be gone. Whatever the answer is--one hour or twenty minutes--her response is, "That's too long!"
Time is such a difficult thing for little ones to wrap their heads around.
So this activity is a good one. It's an hourglass you can make at home.
(Original idea from Family Fun.)

two plastic bottles
clear tape
button (with same diameter as bottles)

1: Remove any plastic cover from the bottles so you can see through them easily. Make sure they're clean and dry (forgot the "dry" part with one of mine...)

2: Pour the sand into one of the bottles. *The amount of sand you use, of course, determines how long your hourglass will last. 1/2 cup lasts about ten minutes.


3: Place the button in between the two bottles and secure with several layers of clear tape.

4: Flip it over and measure the time with your timer.


This might help with taking turns with a special toy, waiting for dinner time, or actually getting your kids to help you clean up the front room for ten minutes! Make it a game. (I might use it in the restroom with my oldest. Thirty minute time limit...)

p.s. Disclaimer: My sand wasn't fine enough...our hourglass turned out to be more like 2 hours! Make sure you buy the right kind. I believe Walmart has "fine" colored sand that would work. I found mine at Joann's and it would work, but only with larger button holes.

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