Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Schoolyard Nature Investigation: Fall September 2010

Use your senses to make observations about nature in your schoolyard. Collection of seeds and acorns for the Growing Native project may be included.

Grade: Kindergarten

Time: 45 minutes

• Use your senses in the schoolyard to explore and discover nature during fall.
• Investigate seeds and nuts.

The materials depend on the activities you choose for your nature walk.
• Feathers (2 feathers per student)
• Soil creature ID sheet
• Spoons or small trowels (for digging for soil creatures – optional)
• Camera
• Paper and crayons for leaf rubbings (optional)
• Variety of seeds, acorns, milkweed pods, bird nests, etc. that you may want to share with the students.
• Pictures of animals
• Paper bags if you are collecting seeds and acorns for Growing Native
• Scavenger Hunt worksheet, optional

• A few days before the walks, explore the schoolyard to find interesting natural features for the students to discover. Also, look for places to avoid, such as places with broken glass or poison ivy.

• Find good spots for students to use their senses and plan your walk accordingly. If you plan to lead winter and spring walks, you may want to take photos of exploration sites to remind students in subsequent walks what the area looked like in a different season.
• In the classroom or at an outdoor meeting spot, greet the students and welcome them on a schoolyard nature investigation.

• Explain your expectations for student behavior: naturalist is the line leader; stay behind the naturalist; stay together, no squishing, poking or stepping on invertebrates; no pulling leaves or flowers from plants.

• You may want to devise a signal for when you want the students to listen. “Stand like a tree” can be effective. Show students how to stand like a tree – legs together and stuck to the ground (like roots), backs straight (like trunks); arms at sides or out (like branches); no talking because trees do not talk. Practice a couple of times before heading out.

• Explain: We are going to use our senses (touch, smell, vision, and hearing) to make observations about plants and animals in our schoolyard.

• If you are doing a nature scavenger hunt, introduce the activity to the students.

• Pre and Post-Assessments. Ask students to name different natural things (living and non-living) that they expect to find in their schoolyard. Write down their answers. At the end of the walk, ask students to name the living and non-living natural things that they found in their schoolyard. Discuss why the list is different from what they thought at the beginning.
• Choose the activities that work for your particular schoolyard.

• Fall is a great time to look for seeds, nuts, leaves and small invertebrates. Look for maple, tulip and oak trees.

• Encourage students to name or learn the names of native wild animals that might be found in area yards or woods as you discuss what might eat or use the different natural resources.

Note the difference between living and non-living objects; ideas are:

• Compare a rock to a plant

• As you collect seeds ask if they are living – the baby plant inside is alive, but it sleeps until it gets the opportunity to grow into a plant.

• Talk about how fallen leaves were part of the living tree, but now they are not alive.
Tulip Tree Seeds: Pick up a tulip seed and ask students to focus on it. Things to tell them about the tulip tree:

• The tulip tree is the tallest type of tree in Maryland.

• American Indians used the bark to make roofs for their wigwams and canoes.

• Its flowers make nectar that lots of bees and hummingbirds like to eat.

• The seed is very tiny in the swollen part; the rest is a wing. Why would a seed have a wing? The wing helps it to float away in the wind so that it can find a place to grow a new tulip tree.

• What do you think would eat a tulip tree seed? Squirrels, mice, cardinals, finches

Have the students search the ground for tulip tree seeds. (To gently encourage students to find them on their own, you might want to say, “everyone is to find a seed all by themselves” in the beginning.) Make sure everyone finds at least one – some students may need encouragement or direction, but be sure to let them use their sense of sight to pick out a tulip seed. Once they all have one, show them how to throw it up in the air to watch it ‘helicopter’ down.

Maple Seeds: Maple seeds ripen in the spring, but are often still found on the ground underneath a maple tree. Search for seeds & throw the seeds like you did with the tulip tree seeds. Interesting facts & observations:

• American Indians would eat the seeds, leaves and bark of red maple when food was scarce.

• American Indians were the first to tap maple trees for their sweet sap.

• Look for signs of sapsucker activity on the trunk (lots of holes in a horizontal line.)

• Squirrels like to eat the seeds (these seeds are called ‘samaras’.)

• Look at the fall color of the leaves (color depends on the maple species.
Oak Trees
• Acorns: Challenge students to find acorns without any animal damage and to find acorns that are partly eaten. Talk about what might have taken a bite or made a small hole. If the school is participating in the Growing Native program, collect whole, unbroken acorns. Be sure to explain why you are collecting acorns.

• Oak Leaves: In the fall it is easy to find oak leaves on the ground with insect eggs and galls. Show examples to the students and challenge them to find similar leaves.

** Always have students leave anything they have picked up before moving on. It’s helpful to say let’s leave the leaves for the worms or seeds for the birds to encourage them to leave the item.

Pine (Evergreen) Trees
• Pine trees are great for a smelling station. Pull some pine needles off the tree or pick needles up from the ground and show students how to rub them in their hands. Then tell them to smell the needles. What do they smell like?

• Search for pine cones under a tree. Look for partly eaten ones – squirrels and chipmunks gnaw at the cones to get to the seeds.

• Try it: Beat a pine cone against a piece of white paper on the ground. Small insects might fall out.
• Pines, spruces and some hardwoods are often used by sapsuckers in the winter. Look for their easy-to-identify rows of horizontal holes on tree trunks.
Redbud Trees

• Redbud seed pods are fun to explore. Ask children to collect one from the ground. Demonstrate how to peel open the pod and find the seeds inside. Challenge children to find the seeds in their pod. Encourage independence. Dried pods on the ground often have tiny holes in them made by insects. Challenge students to find a pod with a hole – make observations and ask about how the hole got there.

• Redbud seeds are bean-like pods. They were a good source of fiber and protein for Native Americans and colonists. The pods were boiled and eaten just like green beans.

• Deer, squirrels and cardinals like to eat the seeds. The seeds have to pass through the gut of an animal before they can germinate.
Other Nuts and Seeds

• Stake out all nut and seed-bearing trees beforehand. Your schoolyard might have black walnut, Chinese chestnut, hickory and other trees that would be interesting to observe and discuss with students.

• Two sources for finding additional information about trees: and
Milkweed (or Dogbane)

• Your school may have milkweed plants. Milkweed pods are very interesting. If the pods are dry, open one up and show how each seed has a parachute. They easily fly away in the wind.

• Have students hold out a hand. Give each student a few seeds with parachutes. Then let them throw the seeds up into the air and watch them fly away.

• Spreading milkweed seeds is a stewardship activity because this plant is very important to many butterflies, especially monarchs.


• If your schoolyard has an area with leaves from a variety of trees on the ground, have students do several sorting activities. Examples:

• Find at least 5 different leaves – differing in either color or shape.

• In an area with many mixed leaves on the ground, pick a type of leaf such as a tulip tree leaf and ask each student to find one. They have to use their sense of sight to find the right shape. Make sure everyone finds one on their own. If they get it wrong, give them the opportunity to try again.

• Find three leaves of the same kind that are all different sizes.

• Find three leaves that are different shapes and different colors at the same time.

• Look for insect galls on oak leaves.

• Look for caterpillar damage on leaves.


• Ask students to look for 3 different colored flowers and to point them out to the naturalist or teacher.
• Smell the flowers if possible.
• Observe any pollinators. This would be a good opportunity to point out that bees are interested in the flowers not people. If there are a lot of butterflies or bees, talk about what they are looking for and why.

• If your school has a good garden area with loose soil or an area with a lot of leaf litter you can look for invertebrates. Students can use small trowels or spoons.

• Show how to gently move away leaves and soil to look for small animals. Remind students that they shouldn’t poke or hurt animals. You can choose to have a “no picking up” rule.

• Direct students to find invertebrates independently – encourage this by directing students to not yell out what they find (keep it a secret, but you can show the teachers); and/or they have to find three things before they tell anyone. Encourage them to not bunch up together for searching, but to spread apart.

• Spend a few minutes looking for millipedes, ants, slugs, centipedes, spiders, etc. You may want to bring a couple of creature boxes with you. Remind students to put the leaf litter and soil back the way they found it.

• Have students feel interesting leaves, for example, thick and waxy leaves (evergreen leaves, conifer needles), soft and furry leaves, or soft petals. (Watch for poison ivy!)

• American Holly or other trees & shrubs with thorns or spiked leaves are always interesting. One way to introduce students to thorns or sharp leaf edges is to ask, did you know that some plants have weapons? Ask students why a plant might have a weapon. What animal is it protecting itself from? Often deer. Kindergarteners often will name zoo animals; help them understand which animals would be in their schoolyard - deer, rabbits, squirrels, etc.

• The leaves of some plants are rough on top and velvet-like below (e.g., red mulberry). Look for trees with these types of leaves for students to feel.


• When possible point out the sounds of birds. Ask students to listen for birds calling and singing.

• Listen to the World Around You. Have students sit/stand and listen to the sounds of nature by closing their eyes, and counting on their fingers the different sounds they hear. Compare natural and unnatural sounds.

1. Tell everyone to stand in a comfortable position.

2. Once they are comfortable, their feet must remain still.

3. Ask everyone to make two fists and hold up their hands so they are visible to the leader.

4. No talking at all, please.

5. Explain that every time a noise is heard, they are to count silently, using their fingers.

6. Once they have counted to ten, they must silently wait for the rest of the group to finish.

7. Final rule: The game is played with eyes closed.

8. Go over the steps one more time, leaving the final rule about closed eyes for last. (Make sure everyone is comfortable with this).

9. Start the game with “Ready, set, listen.”

• An alternative listening exercise is to show students how to listen with deer ears. Tell them to hold up their palms facing you with their fingers together. Then, put your hands behind your ears and push your ears forward a bit. This makes your ears bigger like those of a deer or rabbit. Students should close their eyes and listen quietly until you tell them to stop (wait at least 45 seconds.)

1. FEATHER PLAY. Have students quickly get in a circle (tell them to see how fast they can get in a circle – it always inspires them to be fast – especially if you tell them that the class before was really fast.) Tell students that everybody is going to get a feather; they need to be gentle with them. After everyone has one:

a. Tell students that birds spend a lot of their day cleaning their feathers so that they can fly. We’re going to pretend to be birds cleaning our feathers. First, we need to mess them up to look like we’ve been busy all day looking for food and getting away from predators. Mess up the feather by pushing down on the barbs from the top.

b. Clean the feather: birds use their beaks to straighten up and clean their feathers. Make a beak with your thumb and pointer fingers – make sure everyone shows you their beaks. Then demonstrate how to put the barbs back together by sliding your “beak” up the feather starting at the bottom.

2. FLY LIKE BIRDS. In advance, scope out a good area for playing “fly like birds.” Give students two feathers each. Remind them to hold on tight and to be gentle with the feathers. How to play:

Tell students we are going to transform into 3 different birds. Here are some options:
Crow. Show that crows like to flap a lot and make the ‘caw-caw’ sound.

Hummingbird. Hummingbirds beat their wings faster than any other bird so flap as fast as you can. Their wings make a humming noise because they move so fast, so hum as you fly.

Peregrine falcon. (Leave this one for last if it is one of your examples.) Peregrines are predators. Sometimes they live in cities on the top of tall buildings. They like to hunt pigeons. They are the fastest flying bird. When they spot a pigeon, they leap from the building and bring their wings in to their sides (demo a dive or a “stoop.”) This allows them to fly really fast (up to 200 mph!) as they are diving towards an unsuspecting pigeon. Tell students: you all are going to be peregrines, and who do you think will be the pigeons? Me and the teacher (if willing.) Fly away and let the students chase and catch you.

Vulture. Vultures are really big birds that they might see flying high up in the sky. They barely flap their wings; instead they soar like an airplane. Do you know what they eat? Dead animals. Lets all soar like a vulture.

Eagle. Eagles are really big birds that they might see flying high in the sky. They barely flap their wings when they are up high; instead they soar like an airplane.

At the end, collect all of the feathers.

Birds fluff up their feathers to hold in heat – it works just like a fluffy winter coat. Birds that live in cold areas in the winter, such as cardinals, have to eat enough food every day to keep alive.

• To keep themselves warm they constantly shiver – have the kids shiver – talk about how this makes their muscles work. What happens when you are using your muscles such as when you run around? You warm up. So when birds constantly shiver they warm up. BUT, they have to eat enough each day to have the energy to shiver all night.

• Some birds huddle in bird boxes or tree holes at night, such as chickadees. You can ask the kids to huddle together and see how that is warmer (always start with a reminder that there is no pushing in this activity – they don’t even have to touch – just ask them to stand close together.)

On the walk look for places where animals might seek shelter to hide or be out of the wind and rain such as:
• Holes in trees
• Behind bark (lots of insects hide in the grooves of bark)
• Holes at the base of a tree might lead to a chipmunk home
• Underneath leaves (insects before it gets too cold)


• Talk about what squirrels do with acorns. They hide the acorns to find and eat later in the winter. Tell them that squirrels don’t necessarily remember where they hid them. Have everyone take one or two acorns and “hide them” somewhere nearby (give boundaries.) Have students look for their acorn hiding places after doing another activity.

• Make a squirrel’s nest. If you have a schoolyard with a lot of fallen leaves, talk about how squirrels collect leaves to make a warm nest for the winter. Let’s quickly make a huge nest that we all can be in. Quickly have students pick up leaves and make a large enough nest for the whole group. Then have everyone sit in the nest. Afterward, look for your hidden acorns.
NATURE SCAVENGER HUNT (The worksheet is at the end.)

• You can either look for items on the nature scavenger hunt worksheet throughout the walk or just in one particular area (such as an area of leaf litter or a grove of trees.)
• Be sure that all students are looking for the items. If possible, make sure each child finds the object (all collect an acorn or pine cone, for example.)

• Whether and which birds you observe is a matter of luck and chance. Be alert for opportunities to see birds in a tree or flying overhead. Unless a bird is very visible or audible, ignore it. Generally, kindergarteners will have trouble finding a little brown bird in a bush or one that is quickly flying away. If there are feeders, remind students to “walk like a fox” (move slowly, without making a sound) when approaching the feeders.

• As you are crossing a field or returning to the building, you can play this game to keep kids’ attention. Explain that the naturalist is a fox and she/he is looking for noisy mice to catch. Students walk behind the fox. When the fox stops and turns around the mice must freeze and not make any noise or the fox may catch them for lunch.

• Moving from one area to the next or returning to the building after the walk are perfect times to introduce this activity. Explain to students how a deer or fox must walk very quietly to either avoid predators or find prey (fox has to sneak up on mice, etc.). If they are noisy, they can lose lunch or be in danger. Show how animals walk with their knees bent and on their toes. Be careful not to step on twigs or crunchy leaves because that will make noise. Challenge them to walk so quietly that the person in front of them cannot hear the person behind. They can use their hands to form deer/fox ears.
Nature Walk Scavenger Hunt 

Things to see:
__ A tree that has lost all its leaves
__ A tree with only a few leaves on it
__ An evergreen tree
__ Buds on trees (deciduous trees form a winter bud to protect the developing leaf)
__ Seeds with wings
__ A bird
__ Acorns without tops
__ A pinecone
__ Fungi or moss on a tree
__ A plant with berries
__ Something with thorns
__ An insect
__ A bird or squirrel nest
__ Holes in a tree made by an animal
__ Things to hear: (stop and have students close eyes and listen for different sounds)
__ The wind (Can you tell which direction the wind is blowing?)
__ A bird chirping or calling
__ Things to feel: Things to Smell:
__ Something smooth Evergreen tree needles
__ Something rough Aromatic stems or leaves

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Autumn Leaves - Handprints

I LOVE Autumn!  There is a definite lack of the typical signs of fall in Vegas.  We happily drive to Mt. Charleston to see the leaves change color but I wanted to do as many crafts at home to help the kids realize the season actually did change.  As of yesterday it actually began to feel like fall, the Vegas skies weren't the usual gorgeous blue and I didn't constantly check the doors to make sure we weren't wasting our a/c.

I had my 18 month old do this handprint, it took a couple tries but she finally lost interest in squishing her fingers on the tiles slick surface.  Thankfully I have a box of baby wipes next to me to quickly wipe off the "mistakes" and re-apply the paint to her hands.  Yes, we did take a shower afterwards since she puts her hands in her hair immediately.

We used the washable Crayola tempura paint; Green, Yellow, Orange, and Red.  I painted her hand with the lighter colors first then dabbed on the darker colors.  I wanted the leaf to look as if it was laying down or falling so I had the tile diagonal when I placed her hand down.  As usual I painted my fingers a bit so when I took her hand I didn't take any of her paint off - oddly enough, if my hand isn't painted a little as well I seem to be concerned with getting some on me.  This is weird since I'm covered in paint or glue most of my day anyway but if you ever find yourself hesitating due to not wanting to get paint on yourself - PUT it on yourself and you'll be able to grasp your child's hand and move her fingers however you wish!

After her handprint dried I used the back end of the paint brush to paint on some leave veins.  I let that dry then outlined the hand print in a leaf shape with gold glitter glue.  This is at our Dollar Store almost year round so I use it often!

After its all finished I sprayed it with an enamel to seal it.

Monday, October 4, 2010

California Pizza Kitchen Fieldtrip

California Pizza Kitchen Fieldtrip
We LOVE this fieldtrip!  As the fieldtrip leader talks about how pizza's are made the kids start off by making their very own pizza's...and snacking on the toppings.  Then its off to the kitchen!  As the kids get a full tour of the walk in fridges, cooking area, and prep areas their pizza creations are cooking.  Once its over the pizza's are ready, they get to drink lemon aid as they dine on their creations.  After all that, the get dessert! 

It's now a weekly tradition to make our pizza's.  Next we'll work on making our own dough.  It's been great in earning our Discovery Scouts cooking badge!  The girls received their very own measuring cups and spoons from our best twin friends and future prom dates if I can convince them not to leave Vegas!  It's helped them both with numbers and even the beginnings of fractions.

Get into the kitchen with your kids!  Yes, its a mess, but that's what dust busters are for!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Halloween Ghost Foot Prints

I can't believe it's almost here!  Are you ready?  I haven't even bought the costumes yet or even decided what all the kids are going to be...breathe.  Well, at least I've started with getting the kids in the mood of Halloween with these fun family foot print ghosts. 

Halloween Family Foot Print Ghosts
This is a great playgroup activity.  We get our preschoolers together every year for these.  Its easy to have the kids sit in a chair as you paint their feet white then have them step down onto the paper.  This is best not done on carpet.  Keeping in mind your little one will want to put their foot down soon after you'll want to have a wet cloth near by to take the paint off.  You can use wet wipes but you'll go thru an entire box with just 5 kids trying to get thru the toes.  *We use the Crayola washable paints, 10 ct. 2 oz. Bottles - Assorted Color Washable Kid's Paint

I outlined these with glitter glue and went over the white with glo in the dark paints - it looks so cool at night!  I bought the googlie eyes at the dollar store, not the adhesive backed ones - it wasn't hard to put glue on the back.  We used the Dollar Store glitter paper for this one too.  It looks just as cute to draw on the eyes and mouth.

I'm a hand print/ foot print nut so I laminate all our projects...Scotch(TM) Thermal Laminator 15.5 in x 6.75 in x 3.75 in 2 roller system (TL901) for $39.89 its worth every penny!  I haven't had a single issue and honestly its been awesome!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Gerber Generation Celebration! House Party

If you've never herd of House Party, this is the one to get in on! This is a FREE service retailers use to get their product out and tested. Simply sign up and you'll get notified when a House Party is open. The one below is for Gerbers. Once selected for the party, House Party sends you a big box of goodies to share with your attendees - FREEBIES!!!!

So get your party hat on, enjoy the freebies with all your friends, and I hope you get awarded one!!!

Gerber Generation Celebration! House Party

Handprint Spidar with footprint ghost

I wish I could have gotten the ghost and the spidar on the same page but my baby just wasn't going to let that happen.  So, you go with it.  My little one was 17 months when we did this and she did great!  I was amazed that she didn't paint her face with her painted black hands. 
To make the spidar you need to keep in mind the placement - the palms will go together to make the fingers into legs.  I've seen this outlined in silver glitter glue but since I paired it with the ghost I left it as is.  Have fun with it!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Another Fall handprint craft...

I know I've said it already, but I LOVE Autumn!!!  I had all the kids contribute to this one.  We were up in UT visiting family when the kids actually got to see some leaves turning.  The girls were excited to gather leaves...I carefully inspected them for bugs yet still managed to take some home.  We did leaf rubbings as well, I forgot to take picts of those.  We'll go hiking soon again so we'll be doing that one again for sure!

Hand Print Tree:
Handprint Tree for Fall
Another Super Easy handprint craft.  I painted in the trunk of the tree the gave each kiddo one color to paint their hands.  Oddly my 18month old knows exactly what to do, she's been doing hand prints since she was 10 weeks old!  I let them go for it and they had a blast. 

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Autumn is HERE!

Hand Print Tree for Autumn
It's time to do a handprint craft!  My kids love to get the squishy paints between their fingers and what better way to celebrate the new season?  Vegas doesn't have too many signs of seasons so we do our best to bring them in home.  We started with this craft then took a walk in our green belt.  No surprise that we didn't find a single sign of Autumn as we walk along in our tank tops and flip flops wondering when the temp will go below 105 degrees.

We bought some glitter paper at the Dollar Store that I've been saving for holidays.  Since Autumn is my favorite season we broke out the glitter paper!  This one is super easy.  Paint your little ones hand and some of the forearm brown.  Then the fun part, let your kiddo dip their fingers into one color at a time to decorate the tree!  We made 3 of them...this is the only one that doesn't have fall leaves all over the page.  They had so much fun doing it I just couldn't break in.  Besides, Autumn leaves fall....they were just thinking ahead of the lesson!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Group Hiking Trip - Mt. Charleston

I am so sorry!  I can't figure out how to rotate these photos!  In my folders they are rotated, but for some reason I can't get them to import the way they are saved? 

One of our group members was a super girl scout back in the day and oh my, she is such an asset!  We drove up to Mt. Charleston to take in some nature.  Not that Las Vegas lacks in nature, I'm kiddding - it does, but Mt. Charleston is only 40 minutes away and give my homesickness for Washington a break.  We joined our super outdoorsey friends for an easy hike.  The lil' ladies did great.  They would run ahead a bit but were easy enough to call back.  I forget the a rock I can climb up is taller then my kids.  Often I was holding the hands of my girls as I carried my 25lb toddler on my back in my favorite Kelty backpack (oh how I love my backpack!) but they rarely fell down or complained. 

Discovery Scouts Hike to earn Outdoor Living Badge
Our kids were given little nature lessons as we walked, such as stopping at this tree for a sniff.  I gave all the kids baby jars to collect neat things to take back to the camp site...Moms ended up carrying the jars natrually and reminded the girls to keep their eyes open for neat nature things to discuss later.

 I couldn't believe how pretty this hike was so I had the lil' ladies sit for a photo.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Discovery Scouts Program

We finally found a scouting program for kids 3-5 years old!!!!  My girls are 18mo and twin 4 year olds so we can be apart of this for several years.  I signed up to be a troop leader and quickly shared the info with my preschool homeschooling group.  We decided to get together and make t-shirts for the members while we waited for the badges to arrive. 

We used flat fabric paint...make sure all the kiddos are wearing clothes you don't mind trowing out afterwards as this stuff obviously wont wash out!  It didn't occur to me to do this as well...I'll really miss that tank top now that I have fabric paint miscellaneously placed about.  At least now mom has a art/painting top like the girls do!  As you can see with the 2 middle hand pints that its important to have the shirt flat to avoid any creases.  This paint dries fast so you'll want to have a little dish on hand to re-apply.

 We put the groups kids hand prints on the back of our shirts and my kids put their handprints on the fronts.  I made them into flowers and used glitter fabric paints to make their handprints special.  Since we had to wait for the paint to dry we decided as a group to write our kids names by each handprint with a sharpie at a latter date.  I can't believe the blue handprint is that of my 18month old daughter - she's going to out grow the twins so quickly!
I even made one for myself!  In Vegas you can happily wear a tank top 3 seasons out of 4.  My front is blank.

Its a super easy program.  As a homeschooler I have an issue with conformity, but still like to see it so I can change it to suite my family.  The Discovery Scouts just provides the outline of projects (like ideas) and supply you with the badges.  Its totally up to the parents as to when their kiddo earns the badge.  I carried that idea over to my homeschooling group.

We are starting with the Outdoor Living badge.  We'll begin with hiking, then work our way into our Jr. Ranger Program.  Most National Parks offer this.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Free Family Film Festival

Rave Motion Pictures Free Family Films Festival
 Nothing is better then FREE movies AT the theater!  Every summer some our movie theater chains put on a Free Family Movie Festival where twice a week there are free movie showings.  Since its geared towards families you are prepared to have little ones running thru the aisle, walking between strollers, and hearing the adorable comments you wouldn't stand for at a regular movie. 

We work on our manners during such outings in case I ever get the nerve to take my goof troop to the real movies, where kidless patrons pay money to attend.  I have to admit that each showing we went to was pretty laid back.  Most parents are just as nervous as I am of our little ones disrupting others so it went really well.  Since I have a baby with me we only went to a few this year, she wont sit for more then 15 minutes since she learned to walk.

Can't wait to do it again next year!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Saving Money with workbooks

Anyone who has one homeschooler much less two knows how important it is to save money.  I think the workbooks can be cute and good for the just kills me to use one page and recycle it.  I bought a laminator to help this issue so the kids could reuse it with dry erase markers.  At one of my preschooling homeschoolers group events a mom brought up the idea of using sheet protectors instead.  Could it be that easy?  Yes.

 I bought a big Preschoolers Workbook at Walmart for about $10 but Amazon has it too:

I have to admit, I had to bribe Princess B to write so I could take this picture.  She likes to write in private...on my walls, the patio, my car, the toilet seat (???) so I only have dry erase or washable pens in my house. 
 I am so excited one of the twins is a lefty!  It has everything to do with me being a lefty, I think our baby is going that direction as well.  At least I'm aware of issues she'll run into with scissors and dry erase markers.

They really look forward to doing these "mazes", since they can do them over and over I don't mind giving these to them as often as they ask for them. 
We don't do workbooks everyday, or even weekly.  I let the kids ask for them, I like to learn thru play so if they think this is fun, then we'll do it.  Once the get bored they did in their heels and we move onto something else...its not hard to find something else they'd enjoy!

Diary Tour - FIELD TRIP!!!!

 As a homeschooler I am constantly asked, "How do you socialize your kids?"  behind the question is that second question, "How will they be normal"...maybe not, but I feel like its next.  I politely smile and just remember that our social calendar is so booked with playdates, field trips, scouting adventures with our troop, and learning dates that I barely have enough gas money to get to the dollar store.  I used to set aside our mornings for some version of structured learning.  Considering all my appointments for the kids are before noon I've had to move our "structured" learning to after 2pm.  Which is fine, baby sister is taking a nap, I can truly focus.

One of the highlights of homeschooling, we get the BEST field trips!  Schools book them up pretty fast, but being that I'm at home I can make arrangements very quickly and I know my group is flexible.  The downside?  We often get mixed in with school groups.  Not to sound like I've mounted a high horse, but the kids are pretty unruly in the school groups (hey, even I can remember that far back: the pure excitement of being out without mom, knowing there's one adult per 15-20 kids...its natural) and I'm a little less then excited with some of the new vocabulary words my daughters learn while grouped with them.  The pure joy on their faces when they've seen my horrified face as they test drive these new phrase to their playgroup friends is, well...uncomfortable.  Not just because I'm the main organizer of these groups, but geez, do they have to say it so loud?! 

I did find the "Holy Guacamolie" super cute and although I'm sure I was supposed to be shocked but the pile drive and head lock moves they attempted on each other after this Anderson Dairy Tour was camera worthy.  They're twins, I think their supposed to wrestle each other???  Mind do!

In my homeschooling group we thought it would be fun to take the kids to the Anderson Dairy Tour.  I was amazed at how well all our kids did sitting in a big group of kids, watching the dairy show, walking with the group, and waiting for ice cream.  Now when we go to UT to visit family the kids yell out at every cow, "Milk, Cheese, Yogurt"  I do mean EVERY COW.  I love it, it reminds me to talk about life cycles, different cows, farming, how to process cheese, etc...  When in UT we actually get to hike near cows that are let out to graze, they have the big horns (the boys) and are actually territorial.  This city girl was reduced to squealing as they approached us AND as to my horror a dragon fly landed On Me (so much prettier from a distance) and kept buzzing.  My girls weren't sure what to scream at so they just laughed at me, thank goodness.

To my surprise the girls were intrigued by the factory workers and the assembly belt - they stood at this window as the group progressed onto the next step.  I could hear the leader so I knew what to tell the girls as they moved onto the next step.  It pays to have friends pick up where I slack off, my girlfriend of 4 BOYS (there's a set of twins in there as well) watched my baby as I hung back with my girls.  I have the best preschool homeschooling group!
The girls and group had so much fun we'll be doing this one on a regular basis!  Thank you Anderson Dairy!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Proud Mommy

My girls have been writing their names, but this is the most clear so far:

Brooke was so excited she asked me to take a photo!  We showed daddy, took a pict and sent it to the grandparents, and made some phone calls.  A very proud day for both of us.  Her sister decided to go on spelling strike for a week then wrote the most perfect G I've even seen, happily decorated her i with a heart topper and made her a with a super long tail.  She asked for no pictures or phone calls...I emailed her grandparents instead.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Fathers Day Foot Print with Poem Craft - Easy for Toddlers and Babies!

I wanted to find a fun Fathers Day craft I could do with my playgroup of kids 5 years old and under.  This one is super easy to make and a keepsake your husband will want to frame.

Supplies Needed:
  • 8 1/2 x 11 colored paper - card stock if possible not necessary  *This will be your background to the foot prints, green was chosen for this mom
  • A traced foot print from the father that you will cut out
  • Print out of your favorite Fathers Day Poem
  • 8 1/2 x 11 colored paper to use as background for the poem
  • Sticky back foam embellishments
  • Washable tempura paint
Paint your child's foot with the washable tempura paint and carefully let your child step down directly onto the fathers foot print.  Allow to dry before cutting out the traced foot.  If your nervous about the perfect foot print then follow the directions below for more then one child.

*If you have more then one child then cut out the fathers foot print first and glue onto the background paper.  Then have your kids put their foot prints onto it so their print won't get cut off during the trimming of the fathers foot print.  I love colors so each of my 3 kids will have a different color foot print.

While the foot print is drying cut out your poem and glue to its own background paper - we used pinking shears with fun edges to make it look for fun. Mundial P1852B CushionSoft Special Edition 8-1/2-Inch and 5-1/2-Inch Ambidextrous Scissors, 2-Piece Set, Pink

Once everything is dry, begin placing them on your background sheet. 

Embellish as needed! *Our Dollar Tree has tons of fun foam stickers but Amazon has some too:

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Fathers Day Hand Print Craft on Tiles!

This one we'll be doing yearly so dad can see how they've grown over the years!

We bought our white tiles at Lowes, we love Lowes!  It's amazing how many craft projects for our playgroup start at Lowes.

White Tile
Washable Tempura Paint
Permanent Glass Marker

This is super easy to do:
Wipe your tile clean before starting
Paint your kiddo's hands and make a print on each tile per child
Place the tile with fingers pointing down and write: Hands Down Best Dad
Write your childs name and the year on it as well, if you'd prefer you can write it on the back - just try to stay consistant each year.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Mothers Day gift idea

I like to give the grandparents keepsakes for Mothers/Fathers Day from the kids.  I personally LOVE them, so this year I treated myself and made one for me as well.  I wanted to make something they could actually use and may be even be a positive effect on the environment.  We slowly switching over to canvas bags when we go grocery shopping so I thought this would be great to give as a gift.

I bought ours at Walmart, 3 bags for $6 which I'm sure aren't environmentally friendly made.  Amazon has some great ecobags:
They also have a pack of 5 100% cotton bags for $19.96 100% Cotton Canvas Grocery/Multipurpose Tote Bag 5 Pack, Shoulder Length Handles  which is great if your doing this with a playgroup like we did!  Since we were making 3 bags for just us, the Walmart 3 pack worked out fine.

Fabric MarkersWe used regular fabric paint and fabric paint pens for this craft -  You can buy puffy paint if you'd like more dimension for almost the same cost.

The supplies you see here are: Wipes to get the paint of ASAP - it dried very quickly onto your hands so wash off quickly!  Fabric markers, Fabric paints, Paint brushes, T-shirt, and Canvas Bag

 I painted the kids hands with the fabric paint and arranged them like a garden on the bag.
I did the same with the t-shirt.  I lined the bags and t-shirts up in a sort of assembly line and kept refreshing the paint on their hands after each mark.

I was surprised my 1year old did as well as she did with putting down her hands 4 times!  It may have helped that she was working on a Ritz cracker but I still think she did great.  These were super easy to make and I've already used my mother's day gift twice!

Painting with Ice Popsicles to learn about colors

I've tried to make the kids homemade ice pops with the inexpensive holders to give them something healthier then imitation flavor and chemical dyes.  So far I haven't gotten the best results.  I'm hoping when it warms up this year I can try again and actually be successful!  But what to do with them now?

The girls are really enjoying learning the Spanish words for colors and are asking me how colors are made.  I took our food coloring and put 3 drops each in the Popsicle tray.  I filled them with water and froze them for about 2 hours. 

I cut our butcher paper down to fit into a brownie pan to keep the food dye off my table.  Both girls were given red, blue, yellow, and green Popsicles.  BeBe tried to eat hers immediately while GG watched and laughed at her.  After I cleaned up BeBe we began to make our art!

The next day they were asking to do it again!  So feeling brave I just put the paper down onto our table and let them go for it. 

Just as I thought, it went straight through to the table!  Simple Green got most of it up really well so it wasn't such a tragedy after all. 

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Ladybug Planter

Spring has sprung here in Vegas and I'm ready to try to prove again that I wont kill every plant I've ever touched.  This year the girls are old enough to garden on their own so the plants have a much better chance of survival.  I packed up the twins and CeCe and headed off to our home away from home, Lowes

As we walked up and down the isles we searched for things we would want to grow and planters to plant them in.  We bought some cilantro, basil, and rosemary.  As for the planter, I couldn't find exactly what I was looking for.  As I stood debating the shape of the planter to buy, GG sat down to get the sand she had brought with her out of her shoes.  Then it dawned on me, dump the sand box I can't stand and fill it with dirt!

Although the sandbox has a lid I would find the baby crawling into it to eat the tasty sand.  The girls had been tracking it in our house for over a year and I was over the need to have a sand box.  It was time to convert it to something more useful.

I dumped the sand out and found a colony of little bugs, ew.  Apparently it had been time to convert it for quiet some time!  My husband drilled some holes in the bottom to help with drainage.  Seeing their sandbox empty was an invitation to play!

 CeCe had so much fun hang'n out in the empty lady bug that we really considered leaving it that way!
 The girls loved that the cover could fit with them in it!

After the holes had been drilled we covered the bottom with rocks a bit larger then gravel then filled with soil.

The girls planted the cilantro, rosemary, and basil all by themselves. I'm excited to show them that we can pick the herbs and use them directly in our cooking.

All the girls chipped in to water the newly planted seeds.  I gave the twins water bottles in hopes they wouldn't drown the seedlings....they screwed off the tops and poured it in anyways!  I didn't even know they knew how to screw things off yet.  The small amount in the bottles was perfect for watering.

The best part of the garden being in the ladybug is Little Miss CeCe has forgotten she can lift up the lid which means now when she's outside we have no fear of her eating the dirt and pulling up the herbs.  I'm now addicted to find different things to use a planter.  If you have any great ideas please send them to me.  I'll happily link to your post!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Earth Day Grass Caterpillars

Celebrate Earth Day
and the Letter C
Grass Caterpillar Hairy Caterpillars Letter C craft

I found these adorable caterpillars all over the Internet while searching for crafts my playgroup could do for Earth Day. It looks easy enough for a bunch of 2-4 year olds to accomplish mostly on their own! So I gathered up my troop of princesses and headed off to Lowes to pick up some grass seed, potting soil, and some cute shovels for the kids. After much searching I found a small bag of grass seed, and several other seeds I wanted to try out with the kids as well.

Our playdate began with the moms prepping our breakfast counter. We poured soil into 2 containers figuring more then one kiddo would want to participate in the craft at one time. In a large bowl we mixed the grass seed with the soil then cut up our pantyhose. I never knew how much fun it would be to destroy my pantyhose! 

We set up the kids with a bowl of soil and grass seed mix, handed them shovels, and opened the pantyhose for them to pour it all in. It was a mess, but fun none the less!

FamilyFun Magazine says to use ponytail holders and we tried that on one of the caterpillars. That worked well as long as you use the thin holders, the thick ones were too hard to wrap around the worm. But it did work well. Another mom brought regular rubber bands, hers turned out great as well. 

I refused to part with any of my pony tail holders and honestly didn't want the girls to think they could use their small ones for anything other then their hair. So I wrapped the pipe cleaners tightly around the worm making segments then used what was left over as legs. These pictures also show the placement of the tie off and I personally prefer making it the nose as seen in the first photo!

Earth Day Grass Caterpillars
Caterpillar with rubber bands and legs pushed into the side:
Grass Catapillar
Caterpillar with pipe cleaners wrapped around then used as legs:
Hairy Grass Caterpillar

*Tip - You may want to wait on putting the eyes on. We didn't, as you can see and were worried they'd come off during the soaking. So far neither of mine have lost their eyes but that may just be luck!

After the legs are done its time to work on the antenna. There are a couple ways to affix the pipe cleaner to the caterpillar. You can cut the pipe cleaner in half and push it through the pantyhose 0r you can cut 2 slits in the hose and feed the pipe cleaner through. Bend in the middle and curl the tops.

Now its time to soak! Soak for 10 minutes.
After your caterpillar is done soaking its time to put it in the sun. Since the girls garden is barren in the middle I thought it'd be a nice home for ours till we can plant the seeds we bought at Lowes.
Hairy Grass Caterpillar in Ladybug Sandbox Garden

Once your caterpillar has dried out a bit, you can affix the googlie eyes on without much worry. Water your caterpillar every other day. Have your kiddos go out with you to observe how the grass is growing, the texture, color, and length. I measure out the water for each girl and let them water their own, otherwise they'd be mud by now!

*Additional note: Once the grass begins to grow the eyes you glued on will disappear. The FamilyFun site says to use a bobby pin and glue the eyes on that way. I tried that but had an impossible time keeping the bobby pins upright. I also didn't find the need for a yogurt container or pom poms.


Thursday, April 15, 2010

Mothers Day Hand print Foot print Flowers

Hand and Foot Print Flowers for Spring!
Finished Project

Mothers Day is on its way and the girls have been excited about growing their gardens.  We have been working on colours this week as well so I thought this would be a fun craft the girls would enjoy and the grandmothers would love! 

We did the above prints on paper to see if we liked them enough to really make them as gifts, they had me hang them in our playroom they like them so much.  Tomorrow we'll be doing this print onto canvas bags to give as gifts.  It also ties in with our playgroups Green Team theme of giving eco friendly gifts.  We'll make one for this mommy as well so I can show off my kids prints at the grocery store too!

These are super easy to do, I was even able to get both of my 3 year olds hands and feet onto the SAME piece of paper! Granted it was a large piece of construction paper, but they fit none the less. I had to settle for a new piece of paper to get my 11month olds flowers done but that eased my fears of her turning her flowers into a finger painting project which would "ruin" the twins prints.
8-Oz. Color Splash! Washable Tempera Paint (Pack of 12) Using Washable Tempura Paints make this project an easy one to clean up after.

Washable Tempura Paints
Paint brushes
Wipes or a wet hand towel
Paper to apply prints onto
Step 1: Choose your colors for the flowers, my girls actually chose different colors! I thought we'd have our usual purple and pink but they surprised me and I think they turned out great! Place your hand and foot prints as shown. I use regular baby wipes to clean off the paint but a wash rag would be far more economical.

Step 2: Draw in your stems. I used a regular foam paint brush. I buy mine at Michaels but have seen them at Target and Walmart. Make sure to wash these out ASAP, even just soaking them will make them last longer. They may be cheap to buy but having to run to the store just to buy paint brushes is rarely in my plans for the day!

11month old's project

Step 3: Paint on leaves and add the name and date to either a stem or on an empty part of the paper.

Since we are doing colours this week we discussed the Spanish words for each colour as well as the ASL sign for them as well:

Yellow - amarillo
ASL The sign for "yellow" is made by forming the letter "y" with your right hand.  Shake your hand from the wrist, and move it to the right. 

Green - verde
The sign for "green" is made by forming the letter "g" with your right hand.  Shake your hand from the wrist, and move it to the right. 

Blue - azul
The sign for "blue" is made by forming the letter "b" with your right hand.  Twist/shake your hand from the elbow (the wrist doesn't bend on this sign).  

Purple - morado
Shake a "P" twice. Use a movement that pivots from the elbow. 

Red - rojo
The sign for "red" is made by stroking your lips one time with the tip of your index finger. 

Flowers - morado
Touch a "squished O-hand" to your cheek on one side of your nose and then the other. 
Mom - mamá
Make the sign for "Mother" by placing the thumb of your right hand against your chin. Your hand should be open. 
Grandma - la abuela
The sign for "grandmother" is made by touching your chin with the thumb of your dominant hand, as when signing "mother." The dominant hand should be open. Move your hand forward in two small arches.

Note: Many people just move the hand forward without the arches.

Family - la familia
FAMILY: The hands trace the shape of a circle. As if representing a family sitting around a dinner table.

Love - el amor
The sign for "love" is made by crossing both hands over your heart. (Middle of your chest.) Your hands may be closed or open, but the palm side should face toward you.

Remember to sign the colours as your talking to your kids as you point them out on scavenger hunts, walks, field trips, or while playing.  The more you use the Spanish words and/or signs, the quicker they'll catch on and remember them!  My twins are 3 now and are trying to teach their little sisters signs all day long, its so fun to see them teaching.

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