Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Last Minute Turkey Day Crafts!

We squeezed in a few more activities and projects to get ready for Thanksgiving, if you need something to do with the kids, try these simple activities that they are sure to love!

Cornucopia Center Piece:
Henrik must have learned about cornucopias at school, because when he came home, he asked if we could, "make one of those corny things where you put your food in it?" It took me a while to figure out what he was talking about, but I finally figured it out and he was thrilled with this quick and easy craft, seriously, like, five minutes or less!

First, I cut a paper grocery bag into thirds so we could each make one. Second, roll it into a large tube. Third, twist the end of the paper roll so it keeps its shape. Forth, add food! We had some laying around from Halloween!

 DIY Thanksgiving Coloring Pages:
If you are in dire need of a craft, make your own coloring pages! These were two simple pages I came up with to keep the boys from fighting over a toy! They actually loved coloring these and enjoyed talking about the different players in our Thanksgiving Day celebration.

Thankful Tree:
I've seen a few variations on this project through various sites, but I decided to make it more natural! Back when the leaves were changing colors, Hank grabbed a handful of beautiful yellow leaves, he gave them to me and we had them out on our table for decorations for Halloween and Fall, but I just hadn't cleaned them up yet. So, when I decided to make a Thankful Tree, I decided to take these leaves and put them to good use! Then, I went outside and found a few sticks and stuck them in a vase. After that, I gave Henrik a marker and myself a sharpie, and talked about things that we were thankful for. Henrik tried writing MOM and wrote an M, an O, and an M on three different leaves! I will try to keep those for ever! How sweet! Then I talked to him about other things he was thankful for and ended up writing out the rest for our family as our lists grew.  I think it turned out pretty well and has a very natural and organic feeling to it. It could be a perfect way to get kids out of the house and active while waiting for the turkey to finish! Everything you need is in your back yard! 

Turkey Hands! 
This one is way more messy and requires a lot more adult participation, however, the craft looks adorable when it is done and I can't think of too many kids that don't like making hand and foot prints! 

And, when we were done with all of these projects, we had an adorable homemade, kid involved centerpiece for our feast!

I hope you have a fantastic Thanksgiving! And don't forget to let me know if you used any of these crafts over the long weekend! 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Thanksgiving Crafts!

Need something to do with all of the little kids as your turkey is cooking? Try out some of these easy projects!

We took a break from our "Our World" lesson plan to get crafty for Thanksgiving! These are l projects that any kid, 1 and older can do in no time at all! And it's all with stuff you probably have around the house already!

Hand print/Finger print Turkey
A new twist on tracing your hand to make a turkey. I decided to trace their hand on construction paper, then glue it down to a piece of plain white paper so that the kids could make the tail feathers of the turkey stand out.

If my kids were older, they probably would have looked more festive, but because they are doing the project and not me, I try really hard to be hands off after tell them what they are doing for the craft. In this project I told them they were making feathers with dot paint markers and a stamp pad.

The only thing that I did on the turkey was make the face and feet, the rest they did on their own. It's simple and easy for them to do but gets them active. It was also really fun to teach them how to gobble once they were finished!

Mayflower/Clipper Craft:
I didn't want to make a million turkey crafts this year so I decided that I was going to focus on the history of Thanksgiving and turn craft time into a lesson.

We taught the kids about how people, now Americans, came over on large ships called Clippers to the land we live on today. Once they arrived, they met some of the first people who lived here, Native Americans. We told them the story of how the Native Americans helped the settlers gather food from the land to have a large feast just before winter. You may want to tell a different story, but this was the one we chose to tell our boys this year.

This was a project built for my boys, they don't really like drawing or coloring, but building a ship! RIGHT ON! Ahead of time, I cut out the shapes for the sails and cut the plates in half, but they did the rest. For the younger kids, you may want to thread the construction paper through the pipe cleaner. After they put the pieces together with tape, they decorated it and sailed it around the room.

Tee-Pee Art:
Living in Colorado we have had the opportunity to travel to some cave dwellings here in the mountains, but the Plains people didn't have mountains and cliffs, so, I taught the boys about tee-pees. We looked at some pictures of tee-pees and other housing, but I wanted to point out the different designs and decorations that the Native Americans used.

I also told them that they could use pictures to tell a story, but they were way more excited to play with the different beans and stickers I got out.

Paper Plate Turkey:
We went to a play date yesterday where we made paper plate turkeys! They turned out really cute!

My friend just got brown paper plates and some turkey heads from a local craft shop. You could use feathers, leaves, or even paper to make your tail feathers! 

Our World, Part II: North America

Because I decided to break up our lesson into continents, and we just finished "Our 50 States Week", I figured we would start with North America first. It just made more sense to start with what they knew the most.

Veterans Day- United States:

To start this lesson, we went to our local Veterans Day parade, this lesson fell perfectly over the long weekend, so we had a lot of time to talk about service, the military and what it means to have a holiday to honor all of these people.

I think the boys thought that the parade was a lot of fun, but to them, they see people in uniform daily, so actually grasping the idea of honoring what these people do on a daily basis was hard to understand. I don't think it was until they saw the World War II Veterans that Henrik started to figure out that the military was larger than his street where all the daddies come home around 5 PM. Later that night, Henrik asked why people had given his dad cards at the parade. It was then we talked to them about service and how soldiers and airmen help protect all of the people in the world.

Later, we made yellow ribbons to honor and remember those soldiers who were not with their families. We talked about how sometimes soldiers and airman have to go away to keep us safe, fly planes, or even fight in a war. Henrik got a little worried about that, he didn't want his dad to "fight bad guys" but we told him that Daddy would always do whatever he had to to keep him and his brother safe. That made Henrik more comfortable. We will see what actually happens when Eric does get deployed. We also talked about how these ribbons usually go on trees and are just a visual reminder that there are people who are not with their family and that some people die when they are at war and these ribbons just make us pay attention to how important their life is. 

I also had the boys make poppies. I showed them pictures of poppy fields and pictures of poppies in cemeteries. I told the boys about Remembrance Day and how a poppy is a symbol. Henrik chimed in that he knew what symbols were, like on road signs! They thought that this was a fun project to do and I got some pretty abstract art in the process!

Canada- North America:

Each day at 5:00 PM, because we live on an Air Force Base, the National Anthem plays. Our boys quickly drop what they are doing and stand still (for a few minutes) and either salute or put their hands on their hearts. We were teaching them about how each country has a song that they play to celebrate their country, and that Canada had one too! Eric sang it for them as we watched and listened to the song. They were pretty impressed that Eric knew all the words!

After that, we had the boys make Canadian flags. We showed them the American flags that they had made earlier and explained that every country had a flag too! They actually thought it was pretty cool that all countries had similarities!

I actually like how these turned out, but Eric thinks that the bloody hand print was a bad idea. I liked it because it was a way for us to become the art, and still kind of have it look like a maple leaf. Oh well. 

The next day we went outside and started talking about Canada's First People. I showed them pictures of different tribes, where they lived and how they lived. We focused on the Inuksuk rock sculptures made by the Inuit People. In this lesson, we talked about how these statues, symbols and/or memorials were incredibly difficult to build, especially without construction vehicles! We also talked about some of their lifestyles, their traditions and their customs, how this group of people lived all over North America, and some still live in Alaska, so we included our Native Americans in this section too. Then we built our own sculptures! 

This was an awesome project! The boys probably did this longer than any other project we've done. They practiced building towers, finding flat and smooth rocks, they knocked them over and rebuilt, and really just had fun collecting all of these rocks! We still have statues standing on our porch!

To complete our Canada lesson, we of course had to have a hockey game! This was the perfect way to end our lesson, and was a great way for our whole family to get active and involved in learning. We did a brief history of hockey, and talked about some of the hockey greats, and why they even play hockey in Canada and other parts of the world.

Our boys had so much fun and loved being the Falcons (Air Force Academy hockey players like their Dad).

Mexico- North America:

For Mexico, we had a lot of fun too! The boys were surprised when I spoke to them in Spanish most of the day, and while they didn't really understand what I was saying, it was fun for them to experience a different language. Henrik, particularly thought it was really cool that people spoke different "words" in different parts of the world. He actually was pretty good at repeating it too! It was fun to play hopscotch using Spanish numbers, watching Diego (I know), and playing at the grocery store as they learned new worlds for the groceries we normally buy. Another fun site is at Nick Jr. World Wide. We don't usually watch Nick Jr., But they do a pretty good job at celebrating different parts of the world in a relatable way for kids.

We also read a lot of books, I have some that are in Spanish and I picked up some more from the Library too, but our favorite was Zoo Day ¡Ole! by Phyllis Gershator! If you haven't read it yet, it's a great book for learning how to count to 10 in Spanish as the children in the story and their Abuela travel to the zoo.

We did two fun projects when we learned about Mexico, first, we made Skull Art as we learned more about the Aztecs. The idea of first peoples was easier this time around, and the boys had a great time decorating "bones". I tried to explain that the reason we were making skulls was because it honors life and death and those who have passed, but it was a little hard to grasp. Henrik did understand the idea of a shrine and having a spot where we remember people we love, I thought that was a good enough start.

Henrik even decided to make me! I showed them a lot of pictures of skull art before they were allowed to get started, and they were impressed with all of the colors that were used. So we tried to make "rainbow skulls" :)

Later we made God's Eye art. I tried to explain the importance, but ended up focusing more on the weaving process that a lot of Mexico's people participate in. This was actually really fun for them! To do this project, I just glued two Popsicle sticks together and gave the boys pipe cleaners. They could "weave" over and over and make different patterns. It's also mess free!

That night we had a Mexican Fiesta where we made tacos together and danced to traditional music. It was a great way to celebrate with our boys, and whenever they can get hands on with us in the kitchen, they get really excited! Celebrating with a fiesta on our last night of North America was something that hopefully they will remember.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Our World, Part I: Where We Live

After our 50 States weeks we moved right into Discovering Our World. I wanted to give the boys a good understanding of the world, well, as best you can to a 3 and 1 year old. The world is a big place and there are SO many different aspects of it, how could I teach it to my boys? Heck, they have trouble with Tomorrow and Yesterday! Well, after a lot of thought, I decided to break it up into continents where we'd learn about different cultures, art, practices, foods, and whatever else we could find for that continent or part of the world.

To get them comfortable with how giant the world is, and all that it encompasses, I bought a shower curtain of the world. I figured it was large enough that they could see it better than just a poster sized map.

We spent a lot of time doing Map Play where we would talk about the different shapes of the continents, the idea of Pangea and how the world looked like a giant puzzle that all fits together. We talked about different geographic regions, bodies of water, mountain ranges, where it was cold and where it was warm, etc. I pointed out all of the continents and as we looked at this more and more, they got familiar enough with it where they could point out some continents and oceans. I also took stuff from shows they'd seen from Little Einsteins and showed them how or where those activities, icons and locations were actually from REAL places! As we expanded our learning, I got our Animal Almanacs, and National Geographic for Kids and let them explore through pictures. I would point out where these things were and how we were similar or different.

Later, once they had a better understanding of what the world was, I had them do a project where they could figure out how they fit in the world.

I've seen similar projects to this one on Pinterest and other teaching sites, but for our purposes, I chose to write it by hand. I drew each boy, our house, our city, our state, our country, our continent and Earth. They were to color them and then string them up with yarn so we had a nice mobile we could display as we learned about the different parts of the world. I was really proud of Henrik when he could identify North America and the United States from my drawings, and I was even more proud that he colored in the lines! For a kid who hates to color, he did a fantastic job! 

Once it was complete, we would study it and even compare it to our shower curtain and try to figure out how different parts of North America were different from one another. 

There are so many different things to teach, but when you are dealing with small children, you have to figure out what relates to them. With my kids, we could focus on shapes of countries and continents, we could talk about colder near the top and bottom and warm in the middle, and we could talk about animals that lived in different places. We could count oceans, continents and countries... it just depends on the age of the child and where they are at in their understanding of something that is so much larger than they are. For the next few weeks we will be learning about different continents, languages, cultures, geography and more, but don't be afraid to have it take a while, recaps and going over old material is the best way to make sure your child will actually remember it. 

Easy DIY Halloween Costumes!

For the last three years I've made some (I think) pretty impressive costumes for a girl who doesn't own a sewing machine! I think it's because my mom made a lot of ours as kids and I just think there is something special about keeping the homemade tradition alive. I don't do it for a lot of other things, but for Halloween, it's special that I can create a whole world for my boys in just a few visits to a craft store and a few nap times and evenings.

In 2011,  I was pregnant with Theo so I wanted a cute costume, and Hank had a pretty intense love for construction vehicles, in fact, they were doing construction in our neighborhood so when he found out he could be a construction worker and Eric could be a bulldozer, he was thrilled! (My belly said, "bump") This costume was so simple! We had just moved in so I wanted to save a few boxes so we could create a bulldozer. I used foam circles for the wheels, but covered them in classroom board boarders to get the texture. I used bungee cord to hold the bulldozer to Eric and poster board for the scoop and sign. I used a wrapping paper tube to hold my sign and puffy paint to paint my shirt. I made a quick order on Amazon for the hard hats and vests for Eric and Hank, and BOOM! Construction crew!

In 2012, Eric and I were watching How To Train Your Dragon and Henrik walked out his room during bedtime and instantly fell in love with Toothless and Hiccup. It was a no brainer, that our little Thornado would make the perfect dragon,  Eric was Stoic, I was Astrid and Henrik was Hiccup. Plus, with Swedish names like ours, how could we not honor our Viking Heritage. This costume took a lot more work than the construction crew, but it was pretty easy after I realized they were vikings and the sewing could be done by hand. I pretty much got some fake fur from the fabric store and used it (and leather cord) to make the vests and shawls. I made Eric a shift dress and an apron that looked like it was made out of chain meal, and I picked up a leather skirt and added fake leather to it with metal beads sewn on. Eric's dad had the Viking hat and arm armour, so I just had to make a beard out of yarn and elastic! For Theo's Toothless costume, I found a sweatsuit, chopped up an old pair of black tights for the tail and stuffed it with plastic bags. I used felt for the tail that Hiccup made for Toothelss. For the wings, I used fleece, double sided-iron on adhesive, and a metal coat hanger. I added some felt eyes and fleece ears. And, Hiccup was easy, I just got leggings, a green shirt we already had, and some fake fur as a coat. I also covered his beloved tractor rain boots in the fake fur with double sided tape and done! We were vikings!

This year I was trying so hard to come up with a costume that wasn't a character that my boys had seen from a TV show or heard about on the playground, but this year, during Shark week, I got a brilliant idea, and underwater theme! Henrik and Theodor LOVE playing sharks and submarines and play with plastic ocean animals in the bath daily, so when I came up with this costume, I knew it would be perfect! I was an octopus, Eric was a sting ray, Theo was a shark, Hank was a scuba diver and of course, we had to turn our wagon into a submarine! 


Before I did anything, I ordered sweatshirts from Target, they were $5 each. Then, I went to the fabric store and purchased felt. They had some felt that had adhesive already on it so I bought a pack of that too. For the octopus costume, I simply cut it up so that I had 6 additional arms and sewed them together. I used the adhesive felt to make the suction cups and used cupcake holders and cotton balls to make the eyes stick out of the hood. The shark was pretty simple too. I used regular felt to sew on a tummy and adhesive felt for the teeth and eyes! Hank the Scuba diver was the easiest! I just got him a black sweatshirt and sweatpants, diving goggles and made air tanks out of 2L bottles of pop, spray paint, yellow ribbon and elastic so he could wear it like a backpack. Eric's sting ray took a long time because I had to sew the "wings" on to it from the under arm of the hoodie to the side of the hoodie, but once that was done (white on one side, black on the back), I just added a felt tail and the markings of the sting ray in the adhesive felt to the belly! The submarine was done with cardboard and paint, pretty easy and we propped it up on the wagon with the wooden paint mixers you get for free at the hardware store. 


I realize that these are beyond late, but maybe you'll want to do some of these next year! Henrik informed me for weeks that as the sun set, Halloween was getting closer and we didn't have any decorations out! I quickly had to change that, so we did a few projects and decorated our kitchen so we could really get in the spirit without breaking the bank and using what we already had!

Because we already studied the body and did a segment on bones, I decided to re-use our skeletons as an easy wall ornament. I picked up some spider garland and some tissue paper ornaments and we did the rest! 

My boys LOVE getting painted so of course we had to do ghost feet! Plus, it's a cute way to remember how "little" they were, though these size 7 and 9 feet aren't so tiny any more. 

To make it a little more fun, I had the boys put googly eyes on their ghosts, it just makes them pop a little more. One of the things I like most about these ghosts is that they don't have the same size eyes. This was THEIR project and they got to make it however they wanted, and that's important to me. In just about every craft or project we do. There are sometimes when I want them to follow specific instructions to complete a task, but for the majority of the time, I want their art to be their art. 

Hand-Eye Coordination Pumpkins:

Before we did this project, I talked to the boys about what a Jack-o-lantern was and they insisted I was incorrect on the term Jack-o-lantern, so we have pumpkins, with faces. I explained to them that we would carve our pumpkins, gut them and cut faces into them so that we could put them on our porch on Halloween Night. I told them that this was going to be similar in that we were making pumpkin faces, but they had to cut it with paper! 

Henrik has been using scissors at school, and has actually gotten pretty good, Theo desperately wants to be like his brother and tries very hard to use them but he wasn't as successful, I ended up helping him based off of the single cuts he made. 

After we cut, I gave them glue and had them paint their pumpkin with rubber cement (not my favorite choice, but I ran out of glue!). They then got to decide what kind of face they wanted to make! This was the best part! I love how Henrik wanted to make three eyes, a nose and a mouth, and Theodor wanted to make all eyes and a mouth. I love seeing their creativity! 

This is a project that I let Henrik do only, because we used a permanent marker, but any child could have colored these cups. The objective here is to take your white cups and make ghost faces on them, any kind. Henrik and I laughed as we made angry eyes, scared eyes and happy eyes on our ghost cups. 

But the best part of this project was when Henrik took over and decided that he was going to write BOO on the cups. He did it all himself, and copied a picture frame that had that text on it (all by himself!) We had the intention of hanging these ghosts like garland over our decoration table, but Henrik decided that he liked them so much that he wanted them off the string so he could play with them.


The boys and I each did this project, but we did it at different times, it was nice to have one-on-one time with each boy for an activity for a change. For these mummy decorations, I first drew the outline of a mummy with a pen. Then I ripped up pieces of masking tape and gave them to Henrik to place along the mummy outline until the whole thing was covered.

Once it was covered, we went over to the hot glue gun and Henrik got to pick out how many eyes he wanted his mummy to have. I used the glue gun as he quickly placed the eyes on the paper and in a matter of seconds, we had a spooky masterpiece! 


As we were placing our decorations up, I asked Henrik if we were missing anything, and he yelled SPIDERS! So I had to come up with a way to make spiders with what we had laying around. Low and behold, I came up with the perfect solution! CUPCAKE paper! I took the cupcake foils and poked pipe cleaners through. The boys got to pick their colors, of course. After the legs went in, I let the boys decorate the cupcake holder while I warmed up the hot glue gun. While we waited, we discussed arachnids and how cool they were, especially since they have more than two eyes! This made Henrik pretty excited, and he picked out several eyes for his, Theodor on the other hand, wanted just one. 

These were quick and easy, under 15 minutes from start to finish, and they are adorable additions to our table!

Target always has fun stuff in their dollar bins, and just before Halloween, the boys' got a package! Inside were a few fun and easy projects for them to do to get in the holiday spirit.

These masks (Target usually has them for every holiday and season) are easy and fun to decorate with markers, and these water only painting projects are perfect for kids in the 1-2 age range! 


The last thing we did before Halloween was make cards and cookies for our neighbors. I always try to teach my kids to be kind and generous, and I want them to know that something so simple can make some one's day. 

I just drew a few Halloween figures on some paper, handed them crayons and Halloween stickers and had them color them in! After that, we baked some cookies and went on our way to give a nice little Halloween treat! 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Creating Hypothesis

Recently my boys have taken their already large love of Dinos to a new level. We've been visiting Dinosaur Museums, watching Dinosaur Train, and playing with our figurines pretty much non stop. One of the things I LOVE about Dinosaur Train is that they talk about making a hypothesis, using what you know to figure out something you don't, and how to use deductive reasoning, and, yeah, I'm a big fan of Mr. Conductor too. 

One day my boys were playing outside, digging in the yard with our neighbors and Henrik and his friend ran over as fast as they could. "WE FOUND A BONE!" At first my neighbor and I were grossed out and completely shocked that they would have found a bone, but at a closer glance we realized that it was just a broken piece of PVC piping. We didn't tell the boys. Instead, we just asked what they thought it was and why. The neighbor boy suggested that it was a Dinosaur bone and Henrik was confused, "I don't think it's a dinosaur bone, it's too small. I mean, how did a big dinosaur get in that small hole we digged." 

As we explained that bones could be smaller and it could be part of a larger animal, they decided to dig for more. After they were unsuccessful for a good 20 more minutes, Henrik came back with a paper, pen and magnifying glass and from the pictures, you can see why I was so thrilled! He did this all on his own!!


Every day we have been working on asking questions when we have demands for "HELP" or "MY PANTS ARE DOING WHAT THEY'RE SUPPOSED TO!" We calmly encourage them to stop, take a breath and then we ask why they think they can't do something or why their objective isn't reaching their expected outcome. And, from this, we can see that it's clearly worked!