Wednesday, July 29, 2015

More Frozen Fun

After our success with snow, I decided to try another ice activity.

I remember seeing this one pinterest when I was pregnant with my oldest son and thinking I'd try it someday.  Apparently that day is today! 

I filled a plastic shoe box half full of water and dropped some toys in.  I put it in the freezer and when it was solid, I added more toys and more water.  As an after thought I added a few drops of food coloring (bad idea, by the way).

When we were ready for the activity it was completely solid.

I asked my son if he wanted to free the little sea creatures and he took to the task with gusto.
 He pounded and sprayed for a decent amount of time before declaring it was 'too hard' and it was mommy's turn.

Mommy had another idea...
 Luckily, the fun didn't stop there.  We continued having fun sparing, tossing and picking up the toys and pieces of ice.

Compared to the snow, it was probably less of a hit, but still a fun way to talk about ice, melting, and physical changes in materials.  Also, not a bad way to stay cool on a hot summer day!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

An Introduction to my Co-Op Preschool Experience

My family is very lucky and a little unique in our family schedule and organization.  I work full time as  Civil Engineer and my husband works mostly evenings and has almost complete control of his schedule.  We set up our family schedule to allow both of us time to be home with our children.  While there are drawbacks to our setup, it was done intentionally, and it works for us right now.

When my son was about 18 months old, and his little brother was born, we began exploring the idea of a more organized group for him.  We had participated in library story times and a few classes, but we were looking for something a little bit more intentional.

At the time, I was trying to plan at least two 'activities' a day for my preschooler and I was amazed and frustrated by the amount of time and effor to put together an activity that he would enjoy, at best, for a few minutes.  It seemed like it would be way more efficient to plan activities for a group of kids instead.

Secondly, I wanted to expose my son to a regular group of kids to help him start developing interpersonal relationships with his peers.  My husband and I had long discussions about it and our summary was that we wanted to try to give him the activities and exposure that his peers in daycare/preschool were getting without giving up the advantages we think we get from being home with the kids

The idea of a co-op preschool appealed to me, as it seemed like a great way to achieve both of those goals.

A group of moms in our community got together, and our group was formed.

I've talked to friends who have babysitting/child care co-ops that they love and are very successful, but our group was aiming for something different.  Basically it was a parent led, in home parent and me preschool.  At one point I wrote a pretty awesome mission statement and tried to convince our group to adopt it, but it was lost in post natal sleep deprivation.  My best recreation:
To provide an in home, parent lead environment for preschoolers to learn, develop interpersonal relationships and foster exploration of the world around them.  
I think the most important element of a successful group is for the members to have a flexible idea about what they hope to achieve and work together to create something that works for everyone.  Academics?  Social interaction?, Art? A social network? Drop off?  There aren't wrong answers, but talking about goals and philosphies, can help make sure you find a group that suits your needs and avoids later frusrtration.

As I've stated before, our co-op was a fantastic experience for our son and our family and well worth the effort.  I also think it's a model that fills a need for lots of families I've talked to. Because we couldn't find a lot of resources specifically addressing what we were wanted to acheive, I'm hoping to summarize how we organized and planned our group.  I'm also planning to post templates of the forms and systems we used.  If there are others considering this type of a group, I'd love to help them get it going!

Friday, July 17, 2015

Whatever snow does in summer!

My kids played for snow for the first time today!  In Southern California.  Outside.  In July.

It's been hot lately and I was looking for a fun afternoon activity.  We bought a snow cone maker for a recent 1st birthday party, and I decided I would finally answer the question my oldest asks me several times a day "Do you want to build a snow man???" with a yes!

So I spent a good portion of nap grinding up ice cubes and stashing my snow in the freezer.

I wish I had taken the time to get my camera out instead of relying on my almost dead cell phone, but despite the lackluster photography, this activity was a HUGE hit!

With my oldest, we poked, scooped, stacked, squeezed, and manipulated the snow in every way we could think of.  We added bits to water and added water to the snow.  We talked about how much easier it was to play with as it got a little bit more watery and we talked about melting, liquids, and temperatures.

My youngest mostly just ate it.

But even that was a huge success!  One of the hardest things about having two toddlers is that my oldest always wants to do things that my youngest is going to try to eat.  For example, he love to play magic sand, which is one of the reasons I thought this would be such a great activity.  It's difficult to have two different activites going on, so anything that's good for a 1 year old and a 1 year old at the same time is a huge hit around here!

We did eventually build a snowman.  Actually we built lots of snowmen, a favorite part of the activity was 'smashing the little men.'

This activity might not be nearly as popular with kids that live in places that get actual snow, but it was great here!  And in light of the drought, we did put our bowl under the table and collected the melted snow to water our tree.

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Green Carpet, Yard Remodel Part 4

One Sunday, we hoped in our car and drove off.  We came home to an emerald carpet in our street!

Before we could install the turf, there were some necessary drain modifications and prep work.

First, topsoil had to come out and base had to go in.  So our driveway was a temporary stockpile for both.

I made some minor modifications to the old grass layoug (including a new treewell for my eventual lemon tree).  I also marked out where I wanted to add drainage.

Trenching for drainage.

Base installation and header board.

Grading and compacting

And finally, it was time to turn it green!
 Turf installation went remarkably quickly.  I took most of my pictures from inside because the kids really wanted to go out and I was trying to stay out of the way.

Hiding sems.

 Placing Infill.

Spreading infill.

By far turf was the quickest and most rewarding part of the project; in one day it went from dust and dirt to green 'grass.'  For the first time in weeks, we could use our yard again!!

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Art Display

We love art!  We frequently paint, write, draw, color, and adhere stickers during play time.

Very quickly I've run out of places to display projects, at least in a manner that I could enjoy. (Long term selection and storage is an entirely different story!)  Our refrigerator is not magnetic, so our playroom cabinets and art easel have housed most of our favorite pieces.

I like the clips better than the cabinets, which required tape and often the very difficult task of tape removal.  I've been playing around with several ideas for art display: a large cork board (don't love the idea of that many tacks floating around our play room), a large magnetic board (the size I wanted would likely be too heavy to be easy to safely hang), frames (beautiful, too hard to change and a bit too formal for what I wanted, not to mention dealing with the irregular sizes of preschool art).

Finally, at a girlfriends house, I found the perfect idea.  She had purchased a display for Christmas Cards and eventually re-purposed it for art.  I decided I could make one for myself that fit my space perfectly!

It seemed like it would be super easy, and for the most part it was!  Best of all, the supplies cost almost nothing.

Two 3/4" x 3' wooden sticks

Step 1: Measure for holes.  I decided to put my strings at 5", I left 3" on each side for mounting. 

Step 2: Drill Holes.  The only tricky part here was making the holes the right size.  I didn't want them too big, but I did need to be able to shove the twine through.  I tried several different bits and settled on 9/64".  I also drilled a hole in the opposite direction on both end for mounting.  After drilling, I sanded the holes and the entire rods to make them a little smoother and take off any rough edges.

Step 3: Paint or Stain Wood: I tried several different stains, but I wasn't happy with the results.  In the end, I slapped a quick coat of white paint on.  I was hoping for a slightly more rustic look, but the paint came out fine.

Step 4: Thread the Twine: I really wanted this to be a one day project, but I had to wait for my paint to dry, so the next day I threaded the twine.  Even with the bigger holes, it was still a little tricky.  I ended up using a small drill bit to help push it through.

I tied small bows and knotted them on one side and then fed the twine through the other side.   Because I wasn't sure how big I wanted it, I left the other side untied.

Step 5: Hanging: I originally wanted to use a french cleat to hang them, but in the end decided to just nail them.  I taped them up first so I could decide how far apart to place the poles.

I didn't tie the other side until after I had attached the poles.  I knotted them, but left a little slack in case I decide to tighten the twine.

Then it was time to display our art!

If you don't want to get as much sag, I think you could tie them before hanging, although you'd have to be very careful to mark your strings or you could hang them closer together.

Overall, I'm very happy with the project and I think it will be a great place to hang our arts, cards, and pictures!


Thursday, July 2, 2015

Baby, you're a firework!

In honor of the 4th of July, I decided it was time to do some firework crafts!

We love colors and mixing colors lately, and I saw a couple of seemingly easy project on last week's "Toddler Fun Friday's" so I spent nap time getting a few activities ready for the little guys.

First, mixing oil, food coloring and water to make fireworks!

No instructrions really, it's pretty much that simple.

Okay, I admit it, this was way more popular with mommy than the kids.  You can't win them all! 

The night sky fireworks art project, however, was a huge hit!  And I make it an up-cycle project!

The original project suggested coloring a piece of cardstock with crayons, which I did for my trial (I don't do many projects with my kids without at least a small scale test first!!).  Next, paint the entire sheet with black (to reperesnt the night sky, another color would be fine).  I used black mixed with a little blue and white just to be complicated creative.  Finally, using something pointing, scrap through the paint to reveal the colors below.

My problem was that my little artist was way more interested in painting than coloring, let alone coloring the entire sheet solid, which resulted in a lot of coloring for mommy!  

The other slight problem I had was that the tools were scraping off some of the crayon wax (and hence the color).  I looked over and saw a pile of junk mail and had a great idea!

Before and After

Forget coloring!  Way better to use glossy sheets of junk mail!  Bright colors in random patterns and no scribbling for mommy!

We used toothe picks, a straw (his idea) and a cell phone stylus that came with my cell phone case (does anyone use those anymore??)

Overall easy and fun 4th of July projects!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Co-op Preschool Hosting 7 of 8: The Fire Station!

(In case you were keeping track, yes, I skipped Week 6 until I find some missing pictures!)

Week 7: Field Trip!

We originally had a different field trip planned for this unit.  There is a really cute local park that has a sidewalk painted with traffic lines, complete with stop and other traffic signs.  However, a friend's husband is a firefighter, and when she offered to help coordinate a trip to see the fire station, there was no way we could pass it up!

We had discussed doing a fire station trip earlier, during our community helpers section.  But, the thought of taking 8 two year olds to a fire station was a little overwhelming.  We decided it was a little too much to ask of the firefighters which such little kids.

Fortunately, my friend also has a toddler and an infant and her husband was familiar with little people.  I was still a little nervous.

There is something irresistible about firefighters, especially to children.  The loud trucks, the fire house, the idea of helping people, and the hoses all appeal to toddlers.  My son still insists that everyone wants to be a fireman when they grow up!

The firefighters took us on a short tour of their station and talked a little bit about how the station operated (mostly to the mom's the kids were more interested in sitting in the recliners and getting back outside to the trucks!)

They did a fantastic program where they put had a firefighter put on his suit while the kids watched to help them understand it was the same nice man inside of the big uniform.  The more sensitive kids were still a bit nervous, especially of the breathing apparatus, but most of the kids even touched the suit!

The fireman gave us hats and we each had a turn sitting in the truck

I have to say, it was one of my favorite field trips of the year and exactly the type of activity I had hoped we could do with our co op group.  The firefighters were fantastic, the kids had a great time and we learned (or at least were exposed to the idea that) the potentially unsettling sight of a firefighter is just someone who wants to help us.

Thank you so much to the firefighters at Station 9 for having us!