Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Happy Winter Solstice!

As much I dislike cold weather, I love to celebrate the winter solstice.  Why?  Starting tomorrow the days are getting longer and it's only a short 6 months until my favorite holiday, the summer solstice, is here again.  Today to commemorate the summer solstice, Beck and I did some fun winter activities.

We watched this time-lapse video of the shortest day in Fairbanks, Alaska 
(I wrote more about the solstice on my other blog Wandering Still).


Beck did a fun Snowman color-the-shapes worksheet

and then we cut out this adorable snowman paperdoll.
templates
I didn't think about it before school today, but I'm going to mount these on cardboard (recycled cereal box, probably) and attach small velcro pieces so that they're a little more usable.  Very cute!

And finally we made these cute snowman Christmas tree ornaments out of popsicle sticks and random scraps we had laying around the house.
Beck insisted on keeping one as a puppet and it gave me great ideas to make a whole puppet family.
We'll get to that someday...

In the meantime, how are you spending your shortest day of the year?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Computers and Creativity

Beck has serious cabin fever so I gave him the camera and sent him outside today to take pictures of his favorite things in nature.  That last part got a little lost on him, but his eyes lit up when I handed the camera to him.  

My husband and I have decided not to let our kids play on the computer until they start school.  It stuns me how integral computers have become in classrooms and how quickly children pick up the skills they need.  I don't think it's going to set them back if they aren't sitting in front of the screen instead of up around and playing.  Today, however, I decided it might be fun for Beck to actually see his pictures turn into something.

Using Picnik.com, Beck created these collage beauties.  He learned new skills like double-clicking and dragging and was captivated.  I'm sure it's only a matter of time before our roles switch and he becomes my computer tutor...

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Week Before Christmas

I love all the pre-k packs available online and this week we're taking a break from regular workbooks to do the Christmas pack from Living Life Intentionally.   Go check it out!

Christmas Pack

I have a Teaching Your Children Joy activity lined up, but right now I'm watching Beck pretend he's a doctor and his stuffed lizards are in the hospital with broken tails and are being brave to get their "pokes."  I think I'll just leave him be...
The machine that puts a cast on Baby Iguana's broken neck
Fixing Lizard's broken tail
A tough recovery for Turtle

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Appreciating Nature in Music

Today's Teaching Your Children Joy activity is to listen to classical music and identify nature sounds in what you hear.  A few days ago I checked out a bunch of Christmas CD's from the library and in the middle of the stack I found a Peter and the Wolf cd.  That worked perfectly today!  The cd also had Prokofiev's Carnival of the Animals, which got to be a little long, but has 12 additional animal tracks.

If you don't have access to the cd (or the original record we all remember listening to Peter and the Wolf on), I've found a fantastic version of it online.  I'd forgotten all about it, but my kids love to creep around the room acting out the characters while they're listening.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Playing in the Sand

I took Beck and Peyton to the dinosaur museum today.  We were there for 4 hours and Beck still was certain there were bones he didn't get to see.  We crawled through caves, walked through a universe of stars, listened to  prehistoric birds and got a little dirty.  It was a great way to spend the day!

Building a triceratops
Washing the dinosaurs
Beck's dinosaur habitat
 One of this week's Teaching Your Children Joy activities is to get dirty playing in the sand.  I really wasn't looking forward to bringing the sandbox indoors, so this worked out perfectly!  Between the water and sand basin from above, and the fossil sandpits below, my boys used their imaginations to the extreme.  Beck made up a whole make-believe play where he got to be the paleontologist.

Brushing (or throwing) sand away from fossils
How cute are these boys playing together?
Paleontologist Beck working studiously

Friday, December 9, 2011

A Gift For the Birds

"Spend time feeding and watching the birds"
-Teaching Your Children Joy

We haven't seen a lot of birds around our house lately.   Because of that, we started today's lesson by talking about the reasons why (the trees don't have any leaves or seeds, the worms are too far underground, etc).  We decided to make birdfeeders as a Christmas gift for the birds.  FINALLY, a nature activity that makes sense to be doing in December!

Holiday Bird Feeders
Here's what you'll need:
Christmas (or other) Cookie Cutters
Stale Bread (either let it set out a few days or, if you forget like I did, throw it in the toaster)
Peanut Butter & knife for spreading
Birdseed (That huge bag is only $3.00 at Walmart)
String and a Straw

To make your birdfeeders:
Spread peanut butter on your bread and accept right now that this is going to get messy.

Push your cookie cutter into the bread (It might take mom strength to get all the way through).

Use your knife to push the bread out of the cookie cutter.  Let the kids eat the outsides.
Then put your bread peanut butter side down in the bird seed.

Spread peanut butter on the other side of your bread. Then flip that side over into the seeds as well.

Use the straw to poke a hole through the top of your feeder and push a length of string through.

Tie a knot, set the feeder aside, and start all over again.

Hang your feeders and watch for the birds to come enjoy their Christmas feast! 

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Seasons (Especially the one I'd like to forget)

Is anyone out there in the same boat as I am...the boat where your children are OBSESSED with toys and presents and can bring any conversation back around to what they want for Christmas?  I'm seriously going to rip my hair out!

For today's Teaching Your Children Joy activity we focused on the seasons by making a collage.  I started by dividing a paper into 4 sections and having Beck practice his letters by writing out the names of the seasons.

Then we looked through our magazines for pictures that would remind of us each season.  Unfortunately our house is fairly barren of magazines.  Our choices were Time and Money Magazine plus one Family Fun.  I noticed Beck wasn't cutting anything and then realized he was only looking for toys "because they make me feel happy." Somehow we finally got enough pictures cut to fill our collage.

After gluing them on I had an idea to add a picture of Beck in each of the seasons as well.  We printed those out and I kind of half-threatened him to glue them on or I'd take away his Smith's MarketPlace Toy ad.  He did it begrudgingly and went straight back to his Santa's delivery dreaming.  I left the whole mess there and just walked away...
SPRING with rainbows, butterflies, budding trees, and Beck playing in the garden
SUMMER with watermelon, fresh tomatoes, leaves on the trees, and Beck at the splash pad
FALL with wind, the orange leaves, and Beck playing in the fallen leaves.
Apparently, he also sneaked a checkerboard on there
WINTER with a snowman, coats, gingerbread houses and Beck on his first day of skiing
Praying for strength to make it through this holiday "season"!

Monday, December 5, 2011

More Bugs

Today's Teaching Your Children Joy activity is to spend time with your kids being still and watching bugs.  Last time I checked, the temperature outside was 25 degrees.  Instead of freezing off our digits, we decided to take another look at last summer's praying mantis adventure.  (Didn't see it the first time? Watch the video)

Beck also played with his felt cut-out bugs and pretended they were eating each other.  He was being very specific that they only ate what the real-life bugs would eat.
For our craft today we painted Christmas ornaments.  I love that Peyton wants to do EVERYTHING that Beck is doing...

Friday, December 2, 2011

Counting the Days to Christmas

Beck is 1000% too interested in toys and presents this year so I've been looking for a really good way to focus his mind on what's more important at the holiday times.  There are sooooo many great ideas floating around right now, but this is the one that finally clicked for me...
confessionsofaslackermom.com
Each day Sarah at Confessions of a Slacker Mom is putting together a song, a scripture, and an activity to share as a family and help get everybody's mind back on the center of Christmas, Jesus Christ.  

Please don't be scared off by the Mormon title.  The activities will be fun and uplifting for everyone.  Last night we sang "Away In A Manger" and read verses in the book of Luke.  Tonight the song is "O Come All Ye Faithful" with a reading in Malachi and a coloring page.  

If you've been looking for something to help add special meaning to your family's Christmas celebrating, hop over and look at "The 24 Days of Mormon Christmas."  (And while you're there, check out Sarah's Walk Beside Me preschool curriculum)

What is your family doing to focus on Christ this Christmas?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Ants Go Marching

We had friends over today and they brought an easy Christmas craft.
 Each kid got to choose a jingle bell and then cut strands of ribbon.  They slid the ribbon through the top of the bell and tied one of the ribbons into a loop so they can hang the bells on the Christmas tree.  Great hand-eye coordination activity for Beck and his friend and the little kids loved shaking the jingle bells to make them ring!
 

On a completely different note, we got to learn about ant farms for today's Teaching Your Children Joy activity.  Being winter here, ants are hard to come by, but I found these two great links to live ant farm webcams.

The first is more small-child or squeamish-mom friendly, but if you have boys (or bug-loving girls) I'll bet they love the second one.  Check them out...
Click here for: Steve's Ant Farm
Updated on Camscape: 2 hours ago
Lots of great ant information and ant farms for sale

Ant
 London's Natural History Museum AntCam
(This one has trouble loading with Google Chrome but works great with Internet Explorer)

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

How's the Weather?

It's freezing at our house today and the weather report calls for 100mph winds coming over the mountains before morning.  We decided to forego today's Teaching Your Children Joy activity and play games instead.  Maybe if it's nice where you live, you can get out and do some exploring for us!

Take a nature walk.  
Ask your kids what they can see and hear.
Point out "nature" and "non-nature" items.

What did you see?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Round Two with the Senses

Remember this chart?
Click the chart photo for a reminder
We re-visited it today...just flipped it over and traced the lines...this time charting how we use our senses in nature.
 
Of the items in nature Beck chose (trees, mountains, dirt, deer, rain, & tarantulas) we decided that the only one you can taste is rain.  I decided to keep my mouth closed and not put any ideas in his head that you could probably eat dirt or give him a lesson on where meat comes from...

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