Thursday, June 30, 2011

Make your own Consonant Acorn Game

This is so easy to make with a variety of animals and letters! We enjoy a squirrel and acorn game where the kids fill in the missing consonant (either b or p) in the appropriate word on each nut. The possibilities are endless... you could use penguins and fish, bears and honeypots, dogs and bones, etc. etc. Laminate them for longer use and store in a small manilla envelope. The kids simply pick which squirrel gets the nut by determining whether the word is missing a b or a p. (Example: _al = pal, ma_ = map; _all = ball, we_ = web)
We got ours from a teacher who wasn't using it anymore and it's a big hit over here. I plan to make more over the summer.

Our Lovely Lilies

The lilies in our flower gardens are so delightfully in bloom! Here is a fun craft you can do to make your own paper lilies as well. Long-Stemmed Lilies craft from Crayola.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Click Beetles won't bug you

The kids found an Eastern-Eyed Click Beetle in the backyard over the weekend and we've been "bugging" the subject quite a bit. Dad caught a second one, so now we have two living in a mason jar with flowers, grass and dirt. They are both named Seed.

We picked up one of my daughter's friends on the way to the library to get Eric Carle's "The Very Clumsy Click Beetle," and enjoyed a fun bug study for the day. (We also discovered Carle's "The Very Quiet Cricket" and "The Very Lonely Firefly" which are extremely charming as well.)

For lunch, I made Beetle Sandwiches for the kids. Using hot dog buns, I made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with pretzels for the legs and antenna and raisins on it's back for the "eye-spots".

We colored various beetle pages and while it was raining outside the kids ate popcorn and watched "A Bug's Life."

For a craft, we made Click-Beetles out of plastic spoons. Click-Beetles are named so due to the "click" sound they make when they flip themselves back over after laying on their back playing dead to predators. Using black construction paper, white-out, glitter glue, pipe twists and google eyes, we made the top of the beetles on the back of the spoon. When it is on it's back (spoon face up), the kids can tap the tip of the spoon to flip the bug back over. We used tiny google-eyes for the bug's real eyes and bigger ones for the eye-spots it has on it's back. I had all the materials on-hand and they had fun flipping them all over the table.

When we were done the kids created their own bugs and butterflies, drawing on meadow scene paper from Melissa & Doug's Complete the Picture pad, which I had bought a while back at Minds in Motion.

I also threw together a quick cd of fun bug songs for the girls to each have (and yes, I knew prior that the Christian song would be okay for this family, I wouldn't have included it otherwise).


1. The Christian Bug Song
3. I Wanna be a Beetle
4. So Many Bugs out there
5. The Insectabet
6. The Lady Bug Picnic
7. Icky Insects

It was a fun day. My kids recently got a toy microscope we picked up for $3 that has little bug-slides and uses a flashlight for the reflective mirror to see through it. It's a perfect introduction to the concept of microscopes and science study for this age.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Looking for a Life Jacket? Puddle Jumpers are AMAZING!

Attention all moms: I wish I had always known about Puddle Jumper life jackets! I would have never spent a dime on anything else for swim training, including those famous water-wing thingys. They are seriously the best life jackets on the market. A friend of mine recently introduced me to them when we took all the kids swimming and I'm convinced they are just the coolest option out there. Not only are they Coast-Guard approved as a PFD, but the kids have amazing mobility in them, they aren't awkwardly floating from the back, and it's giving them the confidence to truly practice their swimming skills! I am one happy mama! Don't spend your money on anything else! Here is the link, check them out! Puddle Jumper Life Jackets

Educational Snacking

CHEEZ-IT crackers have come out with a Scrabble-Junior make of their tasty baked snack. This combines two of our favorite things in this household: CHEEZ-Its, and the alphabet! Wow, we are having fun writing and spelling all sorts of fun stuff with cheesy, edible letters. Our spelling hour just got a whole lot tastier.

Fairy Fun with Friends

My friend Melissa had a charming idea to make a fairy house with her daughter. They covered a box with some leftover hot pink contact paper and various decorations and put it outside for the night. A real fairy came overnight and left "pixie dust" behind. The excitement was contagious as her daughter called mine and the two of them talked all about fairies. (Much reference to the movie, "Tinkerbell and the Great Fairy Rescue")
We went over to her house that day, hauling along extra crafts and a baby wipes box. The girls had a great time building fairy houses together, then watching the movie with a snack.
With plastic rose petal curtains, felt beds and pom-pom ball pillows, I'm sure the fairies that have been visiting each night have been hospitably comfortable. Furthermore, the look of pure joy expressed each morning as the girls discover the magical glitter pixie dust left behind is priceless!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Yum! Homegrown Organic Strawberries! :)

The strawberries from our garden this year are doing awesome and ripening by the bowlful every day. The kids love to snack on them and we all feel the added strawberry-specialness that we've grown them ourselves in our backyard organic garden. Yummy!!

Enhance your Outdoor Education with Camping Adventures

Aside from the coffee-drinking, pizza-stealing raccoon bandits, I'd say our latest camping vacation was a total success, complete with plenty of rustic adventure and outdoor education.
Our family loves tent camping and recently enjoyed a beautiful week-long vacation on the Muskegon River, it was amazing! Camping with kids is so much fun, here are some highlights:
Our lil' campers: the kids arriving with their adorable new back-pack sleeping bags I found at K-Mart, they come with flashlights and water bottles.

Nature Journals: I found these sketch-and-go pads at Meijer and had the kids use them only to draw the things they saw in nature. They worked great and had built in carry-handles for bringing around the campsite or as we went exploring.

As you'll read in my tent camping column linked above, we don't bring along video games and such while camping, we stick with things to enhance our experience in the big outdoors, such as magnifying glasses, binoculars, pails and fishing poles (both the kids and dad caught fish this year!) but we will bring along a few toys and card games, like Go-Fish, to pass the time.

Our friends came out to visit for a day to swim and enjoy campfire chili and toast smores. After all, what's camping without sticky marshmallow mess?

My friend's kids had never done sparklers before, and her son was convinced we were handing him a stick of TNT to hold. We were cracking up, the poor kid didn't know if it was going to explode at the end or not. He'll likely have nightmares for months to come.

My kids enjoyed exploring all the different animal tracks that would be in the sand around our site every morning, as we discovered who our various night-visitors had been. My husband and I weren't especially happy to discover the raccoons had made off with our can of coffee one night and left-over pizza from the cooler another! Do they need a hand nocturnally? Staying up all night partying with our caffeine and pepperoni?

One of the neatest aspects of this year's trip came as we were using our Reader's Digest "Far Out" nature explorer book. There is a great Rivers & Stream page in it which shares the type of wildlife you will find near rivers. Since our campsite was literally right on the Muskegon River, it was perfect. The same day we cracked it open to read, we were blessed to observe nearly all the animals it covered, including a Great Blue Heron gliding down and wading along the river with his long lanky legs, a Kingfisher swooping down and catching a fish out of the river in front of us, a small group of circling Osprey in the sky above, Bank Swallows and more. It was really cool. Heart-warming homeschool moment: "Everything we read about is just appearing, mom!" my four-year-old exclaimed. "It's like the book is coming to life!!"
That's what it's all about, isn't it?

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Anastasia: Beautiful movie based completely on...myth and legendary fiction

We just viewed the animated movie, "Anastasia" for the first time. Not that I was counting on it as a true history lesson, but I'm always up for bringing history to life for the kids, and an appreciation for the history of Russian Czars runs in my family, it seemed like a win-win. It's one thing to be completely historically inaccurate for the sake of fairytale/story-telling, but how can they claim it is "Based on a True Story"? Wow, that is a stretch!! I guess it does the job of drawing kids into the world of a lost Russian Princess, except she didn't really survive and yes, Rasputin beat the murder odds a tad, but this sure takes that to the extreme! With just a few changes (like not having her end up being the real Anastasia, and not having an undead Rasputin) would have made it more accurate, to say the least. If you're animating a classic, what's wrong with keeping the real history in the mix? I suppose it can lead us into a lesson of what a myth is... I would have enjoyed it so much more if she simply found out she wasn't the real princess but still lived happily ever after with the Dimitri guy at the end like they had it. When they had the grandmother reunite with her and acknowledge her is all bogus. Is it more based on the story of Anna Anderson? The woman who claimed to be Anastasia and died in the USA? That's all well and good, except the family never acknowledged her as the 'lost princess' and DNA after she died proved she wasn't.
I thought it was a Disney movie, but I guess it's Don Bluth. They should have, at the very least, included a booklet with the real story, so kids could learn from the film. Would that be totally out of line, 20th Century Fox? One reviewer on IMDB actually wrote, "suspend any disbelief - Just trust what the producers present you with and don't question it." ??? Yep, I guess if you go through life like that then everything is always 5 stars. Indeed, all the reviews I read said they knew it was historically inaccurate but loved it anyway, which is perfectly fine, but shouldn't the inaccuracies be in the small details, not the majority of the story-line/ending.
All and all, yes it's a cute, wonderful princess fairytale, but being so close to being based in truth (and claiming to be), one would hope they would have nodded more toward historical accuracy and even kept some of the alluded "mystery of Anna" that seems to draw the selling points in to the legend; leaving it open-ended, where they would never know if she had been the princess or not but "everyone is royalty in their own right" sort of ending would have been a better alternative.
On a saving note, I ran across a good website written from Anastasia's perspective with the facts, called My Name is Anastasia. It has a wonderful page about the myths surrounding her, including the strange movies--such as this one--which really have very little to do with the real Anastasia. So, if nothing else, as I said, the movie accomplishes sparking an interest into a historical figure through fairy-tale, but saying it's based on a true story, rather than legend, is entirely off-base.

R.I.P., Anastasia Romanov.