Friday, March 22, 2013

Our Letter A activities

Caedyn has begun expressing an interest in wanting to read.  Now, at two and a half, he's (WAY) too young.  But, letting my son experience reading through crafts and games?  OH yeah!  Besides, I've been waiting all my life to have a kiddo of my own who is old enough to do fun things with.  So, here's some of the fun we have recently been having with the letter A.

So, this was great--he had so much fun!  My boy's a little perfectionist.  I put the glue (Tacky Glue worked great!) down on the construction paper and he carefully laid down his cheerios.  I will also do this with macaroni and maybe uncooked beans or lentils.  It's great for kids to work with manipulatives when they're this age because holding a pen just right is pretty tough.

Okay, super easy.  You've probably seen this old standby already, but here's our version and I thought I'd break it down.

Green Construction paper:  
1.  A big green A  (freehanded, people-- no one's checking out your ability to make a perfect A, I promise you).
2.  A little u, but you don't cut out the inside of the u.  This is the piece for the alligator's eyeball to rest in.

White construction paper:
1.  A little circle (eyeball, and Caedyn filled in the dark circle by himself--also good practice of shapes).
2.  White rectangle, folded and cut zig-zags out--gives you two teeth pieces.

Marker:  I wrote the "A is for Alligator" and Caedyn drew the tongue.

Another old standby.  Not my idea, but works for the idea, you know?
Red construction paper
1.  Little a, cut out.

White construction paper
1.  Just cut a circle that will fit behind your a.

Green construction paper
1.  Leaf shape (rounded diamond shape?)

I drew the seeds in and wrote the "Aa is for apple".

Okay, the picture at right is another idea picked off of Pinterest.  Someone had suggested using popsicle sticks and putting velcro on them so that your kids could create letters that way.

I like this one because of course they are re-usable for all the letters to come.  
 This one was one we came up with on the fly but it became a BIG hit.  Caedyn wanted to do another craft so I tried to think of something else with the sound of A as in apple.

Ha!  Axe, of course.  We first made it with cardboard and tinfoil and string.  But Caedyn promptly began cutting down imaginary trees, and he cut down so many of them that we had to reinforce his axe with duct tape and popsicle sticks.
 Here it is reinforced at the right.  But, boy oh boy, he caught on that A is for Axe, even if we did have to cover that part up.

When Daniel came home, I got the whole story, as in why the axe really connected with Caedyn.  Turns out, that Daniel plays a version of the Oregon Trail on his phone with Caedyn.  The one part Caedyn gets to do is the chopping down of trees.  Ha!  Gotta love it when things come together for kiddos like that.  :)

I wrote the "A" in dotted lines with a pencil so he could trace over it.  Doing it really big like this (writing one A on a huge piece of paper) was good exercise.  It gave him a chance to see that he could write an A, too.

I got these pictures out of an alphabet book I bought from Dollar Tree.  He cut them out (yay for scissor practice!) and glued them on. 

He is too young yet to be comfortable with too much of pen or pencil practice but writing a letter really big is rewarding for him (he sees he CAN do it) and great for hand eye coordination. 

I also wanted to show off this other neat find from Dollar Tree:  These are stick on letters that can peel off and be stuck back on again.  So much nicer than the magnetic ones.  And one buck for the whole alphabet!

Now, I'll go into detail on this one.  This is "A is for ant". 
These are ants (just in case you weren't sure), and we made them out of a pair of old socks, two pipe cleaners and stuffed them with plastic garbage bags.  I saw an idea similar to this on Pinterest, but it was a caterpillar.  I just adjusted it a little.

Here, Caedyn stuffs his sock with a garbage bag.  No need to use expensive pillow stuffing on something like this, right?  Tie off sections with your pipe cleaners.
Bend the ends of the pipe cleaners for feet and legs.  We chatted a little about how ants have three parts.

I cut two little holes in the top of the "head" section of the ant.
Then I pushed another piece of pipe cleaner through the holes and bended it so he now has antennae.
Then we added googly eyes and a puffy paint smile.  Of course, when your kiddo is just two and a half he needs a lot of help with this project but that didn't stop Caedyn from being terribly proud of his ant when it was all done.  Yay!  A is for "Ant"!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

A Snow Covered Pine Cone Wreath

This is my winter wreath.

 I made it myself using stuff I had around the property and house (except for the birds, which were a buck for two at Dollar Tree and the base of the wreath which was an old grapevine wreath I picked up from the Salvation Army for fifty cents). 

I think half the fun of this whole project was that the pine cones and sticks came off our 1 plus acre.  Did you know that you can prepare pine cones yourself?  After picking them, lay them out on wax paper on a cookie sheet and bake them.  The pitch melts into a pretty gloss that is no longer sticky and the heat also bakes out any tiny bugs or anything living inside them.  I need to check online to see what recommended times are but it might vary depending on your pine cones' sizes and types.

I baked these at 375 for about 20 minutes.  That worked.

I affixed the pine cones onto this old grapevine wreath.  As I mentioned, I bought mine at the Salvation Army for super cheap.  If you want a brand new one, you can always purchase one at Michaels, Hobby Lobby or a craft store like that.  They vary in price according to size.  I really recommend thrift stores for a wreath base for this project, because no one is ever going to see what you used.  A styrofoam one would work, too.

I used hot glue to glue them on--it took surprisingly more pine cones than I expected, because I felt it was important to cover as much as I could of the old wreath base.  And as you can see, I glued them all going in the same direction: clockwise.

Next, I went and foraged for sticks.

Seriously, I went out and found these sticks on our property.  I don't know what kind they are because we haven't lived here all year yet.  But probably, almost any kind of stick would work.  Mine were a little more fragile than I'd prefer.  

I added them in near the back of the wreath, all added clockwise.
The birds I picked up from Dollar Tree, two for a buck.

I hung this as it was for a while.  But I kept thinking I wanted to add some snow to it, somehow.  I just didn't know what to use.  I wanted it to look legit.  The only thing I could find to add snow to pine cones was just white paint.  I wanted a better texture than white paint.

I decided to just try mixing some salt with this glossy acrylic white paint I happened to have on hand.

I mixed about a half a cup of salt with about half the bottle of paint.  I'd recommend starting with less when you do it because the salt keeps soaking up the paint and you have to keep adding paint to your mixture to make it spreadable.

BUT the point is this worked, and it worked really well.  I'm totally going to use these two again when I need legit looking snow that will harden and still look cool.  In fact...I have at least one other pine cone project I'm planning on using it on coming up shortly. 

I used a popsicle stick to apply my snow.  It actually worked really well.  I just slid it along the pine cones and could shape the snow with it as well.

Now this is the tedious part.  You really want to take your time with this and make sure you cover all the pine cones.  I covered the sticks, too, and I am so glad I did.

 As you do this, try to be aware of how normal snow would fall.  You know, there should be more piled up where the birds would sit and on the very top of the wreath.  Be aware that this is a messy job.  I actually hung the wreath over the inside of my kitchen door and 
dropped some paper underneath so my "snow" could fall on it.  I should have thought ahead and worn a craft shirt or something, because at the end of this job, I was sprinkled with little flecks of snow salt.           

I decided that I wasn't crazy about the look of  my birds, so I pulled out their eyes (these were just little pins), painted their heads red, and and added slick black puffy paint (pictured) to make little black eyes.  I also used this to color their beaks black.  I liked this better.  If you were starting out and had the option to purchase cardinals, that's probably a good option.  I think the splash of red on these guys really makes them pop on the snow covered wreath.
Once again, here's the finished product.  Yay!  A wintery pine cone wreath--  I love it!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

If You Can't Beat the Snow...Celebrate it. :)

This is our version of a cool Pinterest post I saw.  Here's the original link:

At age 2, Caedyn isn't quite ready for the counting version.  So, we decided to just adapt it to make a snowman.  Caedyn has actually been asking to make a snowman.  He has memories of warmer snow.  Yes, there is such a thing as warmer snow.  I'm talking snow in California or snow in Colorado, even.  This snow here in northern Illinois is soooo cold that it will hardly stick together to make a snowball, let alone a snowman.

So, we went for an egg carton snowman, like the above.  And here is our version!

Materials we used were:

1 packet googly eyes.....50 cents
1 piece black felt.......39 cents
1 piece orange felt......39 cents
Black puffy paint (slick version)...$1.29
The above were all purchased from JoAnne Fabrics.
2 sticks.....forraged
and of course, the egg carton...recycled

After creating his, Caedyn decided it was so much fun to put things on the egg carton, it must be even more fun to take things off, so his snowman is missing the stick arms.  I got the picture taken before he removed Mr. Snowman's 1st google eyeball.

Ah's the fun that counts. 

Monday, March 11, 2013

Living Serendipitously with God -what fun!

So, I am discovering that I have a unique way of viewing the world.  At least, I haven't yet found anyone else who has mentioned that the perspective I am going to share.  Likely, there are others and I just haven't run into them yet.  It has to do with living expectantly, I think.  Keeping my eyes open for the "serendipities", I guess you could say. 

See, I am fully convinced that God cares intimately for what's going on in my life.  Some people seem to think that you shouldn't "bother" God about certain things.  I personally believe that my God is intensely interested in my every day occurrences and wants to be included in them.  Not just the "religious stuff", but the little things.

For instance, in my last post, I show off the very fun truck bookshelf that my husband and I put together for our son's bedroom.  Now, a few days before, I had been inwardly talking this over with God, after checking out Pinterest's inspiring bookshelf ideas.  I chatted with Him, something along this line:  "Look at these, these are so cool.  I betcha I could do something like this.  I'll keep an eye open the next time I pop into Goodwill, and God, do you think you could get us a neat truck or car and maybe a basket or wooden crate that would work just as well as a spice rack?"

I guess maybe some think that the Almighty shouldn't be troubled with inconsequential items such as this, but in my life, I have seen that God likes me to include Him in these daily things.  It makes Him very present throughout the day, for one thing.  I chatted with Him internally when I visited Goodwill, I thanked Him delightedly when He saved me the "treasures" of the wooden crate and truck, and marvel at His added touches (the truck had buttons that could be pushed and it made lights and sounds). 

Now, I realize this flies in the face of those folks who seem to feel that our prayers should be kept to  important things, such as...human slave trafficking or the state of our nation's economy.  Well, I pray about those things, too.  They sure are too big for me to comprehend and the Bible does say to "cast our cares onto Him".  What else can you do with problems that are so big, so full of pain or despair?  Heck, I sure can't figure them out!  But I believe God can.  I just think that God happens to be big enough and personal enough to want to tackle the big and small.  I think He likes to be included in my day. 

It's really a neat way to live, including God on all the inconsequential things and believing He is just as interested as I am in the fact that He just helped me find a rare sale on roast beef (as another example).  And I enjoy training my children in this method.

The other day, Caedyn, who is two and a half, wanted something like a gumball or something.  We were at the Goodwill again.  And I limit his sugar intake, so the answer had been "no" on this particular day.  But, I told him, "Maybe we can find something here that is special for Caedyn--something special that God picks out for you--what do you say?"  Well, sure, he liked that idea.  So, right there in the store, we prayed together, "God, do you think you could find something here for Caedyn that is very special?  Something he would really like?  You know best what that would be; I just ask you would help us to find it."

I moved the cart towards the toy aisle, telling Caedyn, "Now let's see if we can find the something special that God has for you."  We were both looking, but he found it.  And it was special, indeed.

Caedyn suddenly pointed down at a shelf with cars and began to say excitedly, "There's my truck!  There's my Mater!"

I have mentioned before, Pixar's Cars is a favorite in our house.  Well, sitting on that shelf in pristine condition was a little Mater, a twin to another he owns, except it had the red white and blue colors to another version of the character.  But my boy knew it was his.  This, of course, was the toy that God had already found for him.  He knew it, and at the price of 50 cents, I sure knew it too!

There are some days, when we might ask God for something and the answer is not so readily obvious, or simply "no".  But that might be because He has a better plan cooking.

For instance, I wanted to purchase a Cars bed for my son, but they are too pricey for us.  I had been looking at craigslist, but even the used offerings were high.  Still, I was thinking about taking the dive anyway, when I believe God directed me a different route.  I put "Lightning McQueen" in the search bar and something popped up in the barter section.  A cars bed for trade--what did I have?  What followed, was the best craigslist trade ever for both parties.  They needed a nice pack and play (which I had been planning on getting rid of and soon as I could utilize Caedyn's current toddler bed for my daughter).  What prevented me from giving Caedyn's toddler bed to Mystery?  Well, I hadn't found him a Cars bed yet.  They got the pack and play.  I got the Cars bed.  Mystery got Caedyn's toddler bed.  Woo hoo!  Way to go, God!

Anyway, it's a fun way to live.  It's what we do:  we pull God into the personal, whether He goes with us on a shopping adventure to the grocery store or we share with Him when we stub a toe or our feelings are hurt.  Because these things matter to Him.  And He's big enough to care about it ALL.