Dec 28, 2010

Feed Horses - Counting Activity

I decided today that starting next week I am going to use Confessions of a Homeschooler's Letter of the Week curriculum for John John. I figured that it would give me a good basis for activities each week and then I can add in activities when I am feeling creative and have the time. I have really been slacking with him and feel pretty bad about it, so now that the holidays are over (and hopefully our house is back together after putting down wood floors!) I can get back in gear.

So, for A is for Apple, I made up a game to practice counting. John goes to Nana's every Monday and they go feed donkeys and horses apples. John LOVES it and when we say anything about going to Nana's, he immediately says 'Feed donkeys, feed horses. Cut apples.' So I thought I would make him a game where he feeds a horse apples.

My thoughts of how this will work:
1. Tape the picture of the horse (images are below!) to the front of an empty cereal box. Cut a slit for the mouth.

2. Print and cut out the apples.

3. John will draw a number from a pile (can write the numbers 1-10 on small sheets of paper, can print them out, or can even just call out a number if you are in a pinch!) He will have to 'feed' the horse that many apples.

If you try this before I do next week, let me know how it goes and if you have suggestions for changes!

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Dec 24, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Hope everyone has a wonderful Christmas and a Happy New Year! See you after the hectic holidays are over! :)

Dec 7, 2010

Dinosaur Tot School #1

This week is John's dinosaur themed birthday party so we did a couple activities this week for tot school that were dino themed. I was going to do one big post, but that is too time consuming so I am going to share some of our favorite activities on individual posts. Here is our first one!!

Dinosaur Shape Sorting...with a Christmas twist!
I found this printable for dinosaur shapes so I printed just the first page with the dinosaurs. Then I cut them out, laminated them, and put each one on a 'present'. Then I put a bunch of plastic shapes in a stocking. John pulled out a shape from the stocking and then sorted it into the correct present.

Where did all these plastic shapes come from, you may ask? We have five shape sorter toys at our house. FIVE!! I cleaned out John's toys this past weekend to make room for Santa's new toys, but I couldn't bear to part with such great manipulatives and each sorter had a different set of shapes. I am kind of a hoarder...

John worked on this activity for about 20 or 30 minutes, which is a long time for him! He is on the verge of being obsessed with dinosaurs so he loved saying the names of each dinosaur as he put in the shapes. We also counted each type of shape as he put them in and out of the stocking.

And tonight when he went to bed, he gathered up each box and kissed each dinosaur goodnight...and took one to bed with him. How cute is he!?

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Dec 3, 2010

Cozy Flannel Blanket - Tutorial!

This blanket is my most FAVORITE item I have made so far! I made it for John's for his second birthday and I hope he loves using it!

My best friend and college roommate had this fabulous flannel comfy blanket that her mom made her. She had told me how it is made and I kept it in the back of my mind as a possible project...and that was almost 10 years ago! She told me that her mom makes one for one family member each Christmas and everyone holds their breath hoping they were the 'chosen one' that year. I can totally understand why because these blankets are awesome! If you can sew a straight line, then you can handle this project. If you love doing something tedious, then you will really love this project! :)

Want to make one as a special gift? Here's how...

1. Cut 4 pieces of flannel to the size blanket you want. Mine was relatively small because it is for a toddler. I used two airplane print pieces and two blue pieces. This is only because that is what I had laying around. But you do want at least one piece to be a print that you find pretty because you will see that full piece when the blanket is complete.

2. Lay the piece you want as the top face down on the floor. Then layer the next pieces on top. Lastly, put the 4th piece face up. Then pin all four layers together in several places around the blanket to keep the layers together as you sew. I have never quilted before, but I think you could use safety pins for this part. I just used plain old straight pins!

3. Starting in one corner, sew a diagonal line from corner to corner, going through the center of your blanket. You are sewing all four layers together! (sorry- didn't get a full picture of the blanket, but you can imagine the line below going from corner to corner!)

4. Continue sewing diagonal lines one inch apart. This is where the tedious part comes in. You will feel like you are sewing straight lines for a million years. But really it is more like 45 - 60 minutes...because if you are like me you will run out of bobbin thread three times, run out of the thread on the spool three times, and break a needle sewing over a pin! FUN! ...and by the way...I totally estimated every inch, but if you are particular about measuring, you could mark every inch. I was also lucky that my material had lots of diagonal lines so I just picked a line to sewing along.

If you look really carefully, you can see where I sewed my lines in this picture...

5. After you sewed straight lines for an eternity, it is time to cut! Lay the blanket on the floor with the top piece face down. CAREFULLY cut the upper three layers in between all the lines of stitching. DO NOT CUT the 4th layer on the bottom which is your top piece! See picture below to see what I am talking about. You will do lots of cutting at this step so hopefully you have some nice sharp scissors!

6. At this point your blanket will look like it has some wavy ruffly stuff on one side. Kinda cute, but don't worry, it will look awesome when we wash it! So, now you just have to sew on your trim. I used plain bias tape which isn't super soft, but I didn't want to make my own out of flannel. If you are super awesome, you can use extra flannel to make your bias tape or you can buy satin blanket trim. Your choice!

7. The sewing is finally done! Now you need to throw it in a wash so all those cut strips can fold up and ravel slightly. When it comes out of the dryer, admire your handy work and be proud of yourself!



I forgot to do this, but I had thought of appliqueing John's name on the blanket before I started sewing the layers together. It would have been cute, but too late now! :)

Like I said, I LOVE how this turned out! I used some cheapo flannel and it is still really soft and comfortable. Just imagine how awesome it would be with some fancier flannel! I am going to be so jealous of John when he uses this...I might just have to make one for myself one day.

I think he liked it!...

If you make one, I would love to see pictures!

SIDENOTE: I was reading a fabulous blog, MADE, on Wednesday and wouldn't you know, she made the SAME EXACT BLANKET! What are the odds that I make a blanket after wanting to make it for TEN YEARS and Dana puts mine to shame two days before my post goes up?! (which, sidenote #2, don't you just love scheduling posts!!) I mean, her photos are to die for as well as everything she makes. Maybe I can just feel good that at least I could do the same project she did even if they turned out slightly different? So, if you want to see how hers turned out, feel free, but don't judge mine against hers! John loved the blanket and that is all that matters!
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Dec 2, 2010

Happy Birthday John John!!

Happy 2nd Birthday to my precious John John! I love him so much and he has been such a joy in my life for the past two years. I am excited for all the big celebrations coming up- we have a full weekend of fun planned with our little family and then next weekend we have two birthday parties for him! FUN!!! Be sure to check back next week to see all the dinosaur party stuff I have been working on...

Dec 1, 2010

Dinosaur Party!!!

My precious baby John is turning TWO tomorrow! So I am in the midst of planning his dinosaur party. He is on the verge of being totally obsessed with dinoaurs (and if I have to watch Dino Dan one more time, I might scream!) so he will have his very own Prehistoric Adventure party! Here is a little sneak peek at what I have been working on. I am so excited for his party but am also thankful it isn't until next weekend!!!

Do you need custom designed party invites? Let me know and I can work with you to create something FABULOUS!

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Nov 30, 2010

Birthday Activities - Tot School

So I know I haven't been posting much for tot school and that is because I kind of have been slacking in that area. Oops! It doesn't help when I read other people's blogs and they do all these awesome things every day and it makes me feel like I am doing a crappy job with John. But then I have to realize I am doing the best I can and I am not trying to homeschool the little kiddo! I am just trying to do activities with him so he has some fun things to do while trying to teach him some basics before going to pre-school. So I decided I am not going to stress out about it and I am going to try to focus on just doing two days a week of tot school stuff rather than 4 days a week. I think that might be more manageable for me right now!

Now, let's get back to the actual purpose of this post! John's birthday is this week. My little baby is turning two! Holy canoli- where did the time go??? So here are a couple things I threw together for this week's tot school. Feel free to save a copy and use how you want!

Uses for Cake Numbers:
1. Put the numbers in order.
2. Match the numbers with our set of magnetic numbers.
3. Count out birthday candles and match to the correct cake card.

Cake Sizes- Cut out and have child put in order from biggest to smallest.

Balloon Matching Activity
1. Cut out each balloon and string. (Laminte if possible!)
2. Hang the balloons on the wall.
3. Have child tape the string to the matching balloon.
4. Once matches are complete, child can find an object(s) around the house that matches the color of the balloon.

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Nov 29, 2010

Thrifty Holiday Card!

As I am sure you have heard by now, Vistaprint has some great items for FREE (just pay shipping). I have ordered a couple things from them before (remember my 100 free Happy Birthday postcards? haha!) and have been pretty happy with the results. So, I decided to take a chance and order my Christmas cards from there today!

First I designed my own card on photoshop elements:

Then I uploaded it as a postcard on Vistaprint. Seeing as how I will get 100 of these bad boys, I can send them out to tons of friends and family! As I was ordering I also realized I could put a design on the back of the post card. So I was able to type my return address on it (saving my return address labels that I got for free last week!) AND I could type up a little message that would be printed saying happy holidays, happy new year, etc. So, now all I have to do is address them and put on a stamp (reduced postage for postcards is an extra bonus!) and throw them in the mail. stuffing and licking envelopes either! I had to pay an extra $2.50 to upload my own image and pay shipping. I decided to pay for a faster shipping because I didn't want to be nervous I wouldn't get them before Christmas.

While I was there I also got a rubber address stamp, a mug, and more return address labels all for FREE. Well, I had to pay shipping of course so for all of those wonderful goodies and my cards, I paid less than 20 bucks. Not bad!

And just in case you were wondering, Vistaprint didn't pay me didly squat for this post! But if they wanted to give me some more free stuff, I won't complain! :)

Do you want custom designed cards? Let me know and hopefully I can create something for you!

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Nov 22, 2010

Ruffle Peace Jacket

I have had a plain blue hoodie jacket that I got from Target for $2 sitting in my craft closet for about a year. I just never knew what to do with it. Until last weekend that is! Here is what I came up with...

And before I explain how I did this, I made a ruffle on my sewing machine for the first time. I. am. addicted. to. ruffles. All I do now is look around the house and try to think of what I can add ruffles to! haha! And seeing as how I am the only girl in the house, there is not much that can be ruffle-ized. booo...

So, here are the very unofficial steps to make this jacket. I totally made this up as I went along and I probably would do it slightly different next time.

Supplies: jacket, scrap material, thread, sewing machine, sewing supplies

1. I first cut my scrap material into long strips that were 2 inches wide. Why two inches? It just felt right!

2. Once cutting the strips I realized my 'just felt right' size was too large. Plus I didn't like all those raw edges hanging out ready to fray at a moment's notice. So I folded each strip wrong sides together and sewed down the open edges. I sewed with dark thread thinking it would add to the 'edgie-ness' of the jacket but I probably would have used a thread that blended better next time around.

3. I then sewed my strips into one long strip. Not sure I like how that long strip looked when I sewed the short strips together. I probably should have sewed the strips together before sewing them in half!

4. Now comes the ruffling part. WOOHOO! Setting my machine to the longest stitch length possible and making the tension super tight, I sewed down the middle of the long strip of material. This just ruffled the strip right up like magic! It was so fun! Seriously- if you make a ruffle and that doesn't cause you to want to just ruffle everything in sight, you might be abnormal. Or maybe I am abnormal?

**This picture doesn't quite show how ruffled this is. You will have to trust me that it was ruffled!**

5. Using your ruffley goodness, pin into a peace sign on your jacket. This was just took a little adjusting as I went and I used about a million pins so that way it didn't shift when I went to sew it later. I put the folded edge of the material towards the outside so that way the frayed edge-y part of the material was on the inside of the peace sign.

6. I then sewed the peace sign right down the middle line where I had previous sewn to make the ruffles. Don't forget to reset the stitch length and tension your machine!

7. Since this jacket was obviously for a girl, it needed a little something for the front. So, of course I thought 'MORE RUFFLES!'. So I made another ruffle strip and sewed it around the edges of the front, including around the hood. I am not totally in love with how the front came out, but I think it is because I don't like the color pattern I chose. I should have used more colors like I did on the peace sign.

And there you have it! A ruffle peace jacket just as sweet as can be!

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Nov 19, 2010

Teaching with Board Games

Way back when I started teaching, I tried making a board game for students to play while reviewing for a test. It was REALLY tacky since it was four sheets of paper I taped together and I had hand drawn the game board. Very ugly. Embarassingly ugly. Then I realized I could just use real board games and modify them!

The best ones I found (well, my mom found at garage sales!) were Chutes and Ladders and Candyland. I had a whole shelf of them in my classroom and even my 18 year old students liked playing with them!

What I did first was use a permanent maker to number each space on the board. Chutes and Ladders are already numbered 1-100 so that was done for me. Awesome! I think Candyland had a random number of spaces so I numbered up to 100 and then started over again from 1.

I then made a packet of problems. Since I used this for reviews, it was relatively easy to get 100 problems put together. If I was to do this activity for a single lesson, it might be more difficult to gather that many problems or questions! (One modification is to not number so high on the boards. Maybe only number to 30.)

The students were grouped into three or four and the rules were simple:
1. The student would roll die/draw car/spin spinner/etc and whatever space he landed on, the ENTIRE group had to work that problem from their packet.
2.If the group agreed the person was correct in their answer, he got to stay on that space.
3.If he got the answer wrong, the group would find his mistake and fix it and the person would have to go back to previous place on the board.
4. Winner would get some sort of prize.

When the students played the game, they usually had fun and were engaged in the activity. I liked that the game itself helped them have little 'brain breaks' instead of working on a worksheet for a solid 30 minutes. I LOVE cooperative learning in a classroom so I like that everyone was working the whole time and they were finding and correcting mistakes before moving on to the next question.

I told the students up front that if they played the game and worked well as a group, they might work 15-20 problems out of the 100 before there was a winner or we ran out of time. However, if they chose not to work as a group, misbehaved, etc, the game would be put away and they would work out every problem in the packet. I can't think of one group who ever had to work out all 100 problems in the 8 years I used this activity! :)

This idea can easily be modified for young children or even homeschoolers who only have one or two students working together. Of course, this is where mom comes in to play with the kiddo! :) The boards can be numbered less than 100 to make up less questions. John is too young to play board games now, but when he is older, I could easily play this game a variety of packets we could use:

1. have a list of words for him to read aloud
2. have a list of simple math problems (addition, subtraction)
3. have a list of list of shapes or colors he has to say
4. pick out what doesn't belong in a group of items
5. have a list of states/cities/countries he has to pick out on a map (ummm...I can't even do that though!)
6. have a list of patterns for him to complete

Already have a worksheet ready for today's lesson? Well, just use that instead of making up a new packet! You may have to number your spaces accordingly, but that is easier than making up 100 questions! :)

Can you think of more ways to use board games to teach your child or students?

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Nov 18, 2010

Paper Bag Scrapbook

Did you guys see me at Crafty Cierra ? If not, I showed how to make these easy and cute paper bag scrapbooks!

I made these little mini paper bag scrapbooks a couple years ago when I was a cheer coach at my school. I made one for each of my cheerleaders for Christmas. These are super easy to make, but making 15 of them at one time was a daunting task and I wouldn't recommend it! :) {and check out the one my sisters made for me when I turned 30. They secretly had my family and friends write me letters and put them in the book!} The book that is pictured above is one I made was for my mom's birthday that was last month. She of course loved it and it was a great way to make a personal present without spending a ton of money.

Let's get started!! Woohoo!

Supplies you will need:

1. paper bags (can be any size although the bigger bags will give you more space for making each page)
2. pictures
3. scrapbook supplies (paper, glue, embellishments, etc)
4. ribbon
5. binder rings (optional)
6. hole puncher

1. Cut the jagged ends of the paper bags (if your bags have a jagged edge!). This is an optional step for those people who really want their books super neat. I only did this for one bag to show a picture but didn't do it for the rest- didn't seem all the necessary with the bags I had!

2. Fold the bags in half.

3. Along the folded edge of one bag, punch 2 or 3 holes for binding the bags together. Then use this bag as a template to mark where to punch the holes on your other bags.

4. Using your scrapbook supplies, decorate each page and add pictures.

5. Using card stock, you can also make little cards that slide into the open flaps of the paper bags. Attach ribbon to the side of the card so you can slide it in and out of the bag.

6. To make the edges look nice, I glued any random flaps together and then inked the edges.

7. Once all pages are done use your binder rings to bind them together. Then add ribbons to the rings to make it extra cutesy! If you don't have binder rings, you can just use the ribbon to bind the pages together. (notice I only used two binder rings even though I made three holes. I should have thought that one through a little more. oops!)

Done and done! I love easy little gifts that are so personal to the recipient. These are perfect for Christmas, so get those pictures ordered so you can start putting yours together! :)

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