Arts and crafts day.


Today was arts and crafts day. We had a wonderful friend over, so we spent the day doing arts and crafts.

One of the benefits of arts and crafts is that kids practice their motor skills. Placing beads on a string, drawing, cutting, and stickers all help kids practice fine motor skills and hand/eye coordination. When kids draw and use materials to make pictures, their creativity grows.

We did 3 projects today: Beaded candy canes, Pom Pom ornaments, and sticker trees.

Candy cane ornaments

We used pipe cleaners and pony beads. I put one bead on, then folded the pipe cleaner end over (about an inch). Then I covered the doubled over pipe cleaner with beads. Then the kids went to work putting beads on the rest. They chose and threaded their own beads. My two year old helped me put her beads on, but she chose each bead. Then we folded the top inch over and threaded it back through the beads. The kids made them into candy came shapes.

Pom Pom

Our Pom Pom ornaments involved putting glue onto pre cut foam shapes. The kids had a blast putting the Pom poems in glue and then into the foam.

Sticker trees

I had a ton of leftover stickers from last year. So I pulled them all out. The kids put them all over their trees.

This was great fun to do and watch. As an added bonus, I have a bunch of new Christmas decorations in my house.


Our cooking day.

Today was an off day for us.  It felt strange, and we totally failed at doing everything on my list. Why? Who knows. I figure everyone has to have one of those days sometime right?

Making cake pops as our family activity. It worked on everyone’s patience and cooking skills.

So what did we do? We did our physical activity – we went to the indoor playground near us, gardened, and took a walk. We did our math practice – although I did feel like hitting my head against the wall repeatedly. We practiced writing words – I used our Kumon book because I didn’t feel like struggling through with a full lesson. We did our music practice (scales only), worked on our German vocabulary, and spent time reading.

What didn’t we do: our lesson. I had a great lesson all planned out on Ancient Egypt and daily life. I had all the handouts ready to go, the coloring pages….everything was ready. But then my children didn’t cooperate. It was one thing after another after another until at about 7:30 am I decided our lesson wasn’t going to happen.

I figured we might need a family activity instead – so we baked. We made cake pops. Cake pops seem to be all the rage right now. Having done them I’m not sure I understand. It is a little bite of cake with some frosting mixed in and candy coated with sprinkles. I prefer a big slice of cake with lots of frosting and no sprinkles thanks. The frosting is really the important part. But I thought the kids would hav fun.

Too bad there are a gazillion steps to making cake pops: You make the cake and let it cool, mix in the frosting with cake crumbs, make balls, stick in the sticks – after candy coating them a little first, let everything harden, dip in the candy coating and sprinkle and let them harden, then let them get to room temperature so they aren’t too hard when you bite in. It taught everyone a little bit about patience and how good things come if we wait.  The waiting was, at times, less than pleasant as my 23 month old daughter sat in front of the frige yelling “cake pop” and throwing a fit while they were hardening. But we all survived and had a great treat.

The recipe only called for 3 eggs, but we ended up using 5 because I let Nicholas crack them and 2 of them went all over. The kids had great fun cleaning that up. The dishes got done and dries, the kids go their sugar high, and I spend 3 hours of my day baking with the kids.

It was a lot of fun for an activity, just not what I had planned.

Our rock dig.

He’s using the magnifying glass to see if he’s found any rocks yet.

We have been doing a lot of study of rocks on and off. So I decided to splurge on one of those rock dig kits. I used the Smithsonian one (There’s a link to it below).

Smithsonian Rock and Gem Dig

We first reviewed our types of rocks, minerals, and ore. I used the Rock and Mineral (DK Eyewitness DVD) as our textbook. It has great pictures and explanations. It also came with a CD/DVD that has all the art from the book on it. We spent some time reading the book, and reviewing the different types of rocks.

Then we practiced writing some of our rock words: crystal, ore, mineral, rock, and dig. It gave him a variety of letters, and really helped him keep focused on the lesson.

I also cut the word “geologist” out and cut out each letter separately. I had Nicholas put the letters together to make the word “geologist.” Then we talked about what a geologist is, and what you would do to be a geologist.

Finally, I pulled out our rock dig. So far, it has been over an hour and we are still working on the dig. He’s having a blast doing the hammering. Less important to him is finding some of the rocks. More important seems to be getting the big block of stone to crack and making a big mess. But being able to use the hammer and chisel, just like a real geologist would, is a big thing for him. He’s been saying, “I’m a geologist on a rock hunt,” while hammering.

Pounding away with the hammer and chisel works on his hand-eye coordination and motor skills.

I’ve been labeled the “geologist’s helper,” who is in charge of brushing away the dust.

We have found a few rocks. Every time we find one, we have to run it through water to clean it, then dry it. We have our book open to the page that shows which rocks are which and classify it as a metamorphic rock, igneous rock, or sedimentary rock. Then we pull out the guide from the Smithsonian box and find out exactly what type of rock it is. The Smithsonian guide includes pictures and characteristics of each rock.

I ask questions like, “Is this rock hard or soft?” and “What colors is the rock?” Then we match everything up with the chart from the box and find out what type – exactly – it is.

This is a blast. I’m loving spending the time with Nicholas. He’s developing his knowledge of what rocks are which, whether they are minerals, crystals, ore, or just rocks. He’s also developing his motor skills with the pounding away. His curiosity is growing about rocks as he goes through finding each one, wondering which one is coming next.

Plus, we are doing this together. It is fabulous.

First fractions.

Fractions can be a hard concept to grasp. The idea of half or third is abstract. So to help the young ones learn, make fractions a practical experience.

We took a banana, strawberry, one-cup measuring cup, and pretzels out in the backyard.

We split the strawberry in half. I had Nicholas take the knife and cut the strawberry in half. Then we added two halves to get a whole. I then gave him the pretzels and asked him to break them in half. He managed just fine 🙂

We did the same thing with thirds but used the banana because it was bigger. Then we split the pretzels into thirds.

When we finished we ate the fruit and pretzels as a snack.

Then we learned what fractions look like while written. I gave Nicholas the hose and had him fill up the measuring cup I the 1/2 mark. He asked what it looked like and I said it was 1/2. Then he filled it up. I asked how much more he needed to make a full cup and he answered correctly. We repeated this with thirds. When he got stuck, we pulled out the pretzels and demonstrate again before trying the measuring cup again.

We had a blast outside and learned our fractions and how to use a measuring cup.

Park play day.


I’m a big fan of making play count. Sometimes we are outside all day during the summer and it is hard to do book learning. So instead we turn to a different type of lessons and skills.

Motor skills are important. For the young set, parks are a great place to develop gross motor skills. For older kids, parks are places to learn to play together, to use their imagination, and grow.

For me and mine, we also learn German at the park. My husband is fabulous and teaches me what I need to know the night before. I learned the commands for: go play, have fun, run more. I learned the words for different types of park equipment and things we might do at the park.

Then I made the park a German zone. I spoke only German to the kids and let them speak only German. It was a fun hour that we couldn’t do in rainy weather.




Here we are, making butterflies with stickers and paints.

Today’s lesson is about butterflies.

First we had to read The Very Hungry Caterpillar. We like that book so much that we did it twice. Then we made puppets.

We really like pipe cleaners. They are versatile, cheap, and can be reused sometimes. They are a great toy for the diaper bag. We did our puppets out of pipe cleaners. Our caterpillars were green and yellow ones twisted together. The butterflies were orange and black. The we used the puppets to act out The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

We took a break after that and went on a butterfly and caterpillar hunt. We took our magnifying glasses and walked around he neighborhood. It was a fun walk. We didn’t find anything.

After our walk we came home and practiced writing the words “caterpillar” and “schmetterling”. Schmetterling is butterfly in German.

Then we decorated some butterflies I cut out of construction paper. We used stickers and dot paints. The stickers were a little smaller than usual to force Abby to develop better motor skills. She has to work on motor skills when she peels the stickers off and puts them onto the paper.

The stickers were suns, rainbows, frogs, apples an the like. We reviewed the German words for each picture on the sticker. We also practice the English spelling for each word.

So that was our butterfly lesson for the day.



Nicholas is holding one of our pipe cleaner puppets from our puppet show.

Water balloon fun.


The great thing about learning is that it comes in many forms.

Today’s lesson came outside. It has been great weather do we went outside and filled up water balloons.

The filling of the balloons is a great time to talk about tension of the balloon and how things stretch to a snapping point. Even better is when the inept parent – me – breaks several balloons to show the point. Eventually we filled a whole bucket. I figured 30 was enough for the afternoon (I was wrong. They lasted about 10 minutes).

We then talked about force and velocity. Velocity is how fast something travels. Force is the effort we put into throwing the balloon. We then practiced throwing them at various targets I had drawn on our fence. While we were throwing Made sure to point out when we made bigger splashes or louder sounds and how those throws differed.

Then we paused while I filled up more balloons.

Next came our fun. Who can stomp on the balloon? Have you tried stomping on a water balloon lately? The small ones filled with lots of water just wiggle and roll away if you are too gentle. So it took an application of force and a lot of hand-foot coordination, but we stomped a bunch.

Then we had fun throwing them at each others’ feet. It was a fun hour outside. Both my kids had a blast with water balloons. Less fun – according to them – was picking up all the broken balloons. But when you mess it up you clean it up.


Engineering experiments


Tinker toys are one of the best inventions ever. They help kids with their motor skills and lets them explore creativity, engineering, and various building principles.

Guided play doesn’t always have to be strictly guided; free play doesn’t alway mean free. Sometimes it is a matter of guiding by choosing toys and letting them free play with certain toys instead of simply giving the children free rein.

Our free play today involved tinker toys. And my budding engineer built his version of a fire engine.

Engineering experiments


Tinker toys are one of the best inventions ever. They help kids with their motor skills and lets them explore creativity, engineering, and various building principles.

Guided play doesn’t always have to be strictly guided; free play doesn’t alway mean free. Sometimes it is a matter of guiding by choosing toys and letting them free play with certain toys instead of simply giving the children free rein.

Our free play today involved tinker toys. And my budding engineer built his version of a fire engine.

Bead work.


One of the great things about children is that they don’t always realize they are learning when they are learning. It is part of what is fun about teaching them – making lessons seem like play and not lessons.

We have a box of big wooden beads and shoe laces that sits in our closet and comes out sometimes. When I first got it I was using it to help my oldest learn the names of 3 dimensional shapes and practice motor skills by stringing the blocks onto the strings. Then we started working with them and patterns on the strings. We would always tie the ends of the string together to make necklaces.

Now they serve another purpose. I’m using them to teach our youngest her colors and develop motor skills. Nicholas still does the bead work too – but now we do the colors in German with him and count in German. So we have expanded the use of the beads.

Perhaps the best thing about the bead work is that the kids don’t even realize they are learning and working while they are playing.

I asked Nicholas to name, in German, the colors as he was putting the beads on and he did fairly well. Sometimes green and yellow got mixed up, but who can blame him (in German they both start with g). Abby was in charge of making sure to collect all the blue beads. Then she helped me put them on the string. And just like always, we wore the necklaces afterwards. Nicholas even took his to his preschool group for show and tell.

It is great fun teaching the kids.



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