Though I don't blog about it much (if ever), I am a scrapbooker. I haven't actually scrapbooked per se for several months, but it is something I enjoy doing. Hopefully my boys will appreciate my efforts to document their childhood. They both enjoy looking at their completed albums (and urging me to catch up on those that are behind!!). On Thanksgiving I was inspired to pull together a little mini-scrapbook project. It actually is not very decorative, so I'm not sure it would count as a scrapbook in some people's minds. Still...........it captures a special afternoon spent with family so I think it counts! My inspiration for the project was an idea that was described in Amanda Blake Soule's book (there is a link to her book in my Amazon sidebar.....it's a good investment, in my opinion). In her book she writes about doing a "Gratitude Alphabet" with her children. They sit together and try to think of something they are thankful for that begins with each letter of the alphabet. I was immediately drawn to this idea.
So..........for our little book I took 28 tags I happened to have on hand (available at any office supply store) and with my 7yo son placed a letter of the alphabet on each of 26 tags using some letter stickers I had. One blank tag became the title page after I adhered letter stickers to it spelling out "Gratitude 2008". The other blank tag was our back cover on which I wrote the date of our Thanksgiving dinner. We took the loose tags over to my parents' house when we went there for Thanksgiving dinner. After the meal my oldest son passed out a pencil and 5 tags to himself and the 4 adults (my youngest son got "Z") with the directions that each person had to think of something they were thankful for that begins with the letter on their tag. They had to write their "thankful thing" as well as their name on the tag. After everyone was finished we tied all the tags together to make a "book" and my oldest son read the entire book out loud (of course I taped it on my digital camera!). I think this will be a tradition that we will repeat in future years. It will be fun to look back at our gratitude books and see everyone's handwriting as well as the things they listed being thankful for. Below are a few photos of our book.
NOTE: I think this is a project that could be done at any time of the year, not just on Thanksgiving. Obviously, there are many parts of the world who don't celebrate Thanksgiving. So.......what I'm trying to say is if you like this idea go ahead and do it no matter when it is. You will treasure the finished product, the time spent reflecting with family and friends, AND you'll be glad to say you've completed a project. It's very quick and easy with little prep work. GO FOR IT!!
Today is Thanksgiving here in the good ol' US of A. My little family of four will head over to my parents' house for a feast. It will just be the six of us so it should be restful and relaxing. My mom is cooking the turkey, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie, cranberries, green bean casserole, and I'm not sure what else. I will be bringing Dilly Spoon Rolls. I made these a few years ago using a recipe from a cooking magazine. They are really good and really easy. You stir them up and spoon them into a muffin tin. Much easier than forming individual rolls and much better than frozen dinner rolls. I googled to find a recipe and (hopefully) they will turn out as well as I remember. I am kind of notorious for trying out untested recipes on major holidays. It usually works out okay. I am also bringing a Corn Casserole that I've never made before. I got the recipe from Stacy Julian's blog (she is the founding editor of Simple Scrapbooks magazine) and it sounds easy and good. So we'll see. Scroll down in the link I've provided for the recipe.........you'll see it near the bottom of her post. AND............I'm making a sweet potato casserole that.........I've never made before. I got the recipe from Janice, who has been the babysitter of my children since they were infants AND she is a fantastic cook and swears by this recipe. I have typed it up for you here.
Sweet Potato Casserole
3 cups mashed sweet potatoes
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup half and half
1/4 cup butter, softened
2 tsp. vanilla
1/8 tsp. salt
Combine all ingredients in mixing bowl and beat until light and fluffy. Spread into an 11X7 baking dish. Sprinkle with topping (see recipe below) and bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 T. flour
1/4 cup butter, cold
1/2 cup chopped pecans
Combine first two ingredients. Cut in butter. Add pecans. Sprinkle on top of mashed sweet potato mixture and bake as described above.
Sorry for no photos. I've actually been up to a lot that I'll be posting about soon. Something Christmasy and a couple more lapbooks. And lots of new activities for the classroom once I get in there this weekend. So.......stay tuned.........and until then, consider what you have to be thankful for. Following is my list:
I am thankful for............
my family (a husband who is a kind man and a loving father and two beautiful healthy sons)
my parents, who taught me to work hard, love God and give to others (THANKS, Mom and Dad!)
my mother-in-law, who is loving, laid-back, and fun to be around
my home which is cozy and comfortable, just how I like it
my job which I love so much that I blog about it nearly every day!!
my faith (I am so grateful to have faith in a loving God and to pass that faith on to my children)
my friends who like me even though I am a lame-o and don't call them often enough!
my material loves such as: Diet Pepsi, books, craft supplies, my computer!!, flannel pajama pants, hot tea on a cold day (Ginger Peach tea is the best tea EVAH!! I am asking Santa for 2 tins of it; one black tea and one green tea) , blankets to snuggle under, warm mittens, Camille Beckman glycerin hand therapy (best lotion ever!)
I am reflectively amused by the "material loves" list. It is definitely indicative of the kind of weather we've been having here in the Midwest recently. However, this week has been pretty warm for November. Seriously, though, if I had my family, friends and that (pretty short and not-too-materialistic) stash of material items I would be totally set. It was kind of fun making that list. I need to do it more often!
PS: If Santa is reading this list.......I would love some new flannel PJs in addition to the 2 tins of tea if that's not asking too much!
At parent-teacher conferences I had a few parents ask me for gift suggestions for the preschool age group. So I've written this post to answer that question as best I can. I tend to prefer to buy gifts for my children and for other children from online vendors. There are several reasons for this. First, the convenience.........I love to be able to "shop" in my PJs late at night and have the purchases delivered to my house. Second, the online shopping world is so vast that I am able to find unique items that I just can't find at my local big box toystore or department store. So today I'll share with you some of my favorites.
This Hammering Shapes set from Montessori Services is probably one of the most favorite activities on my shelves in the classroom. It appeals to both girls and boys. Montessori Services also has a Farm Yard Hammering set that I secretly covet for my classroom. It would be very popular, I'm sure.
Wedgits are another very popular item that is always out on my shelves. I would recommend purchasing the Design Cards to go with them. When you click through to the Amazon link I've provided you will see a link for the Design Cards. They don't come with the Starter Set. This material will appeal not only to your preschooler, but also to children (and adults) of all ages.
This Hex Bolt Board is also from Montessori Services. There are several different boards available to purchase from them.
This set of Matroyshka Dolls is also available from Montessori Services and would make a lovely heirloom-quality gift for any young child. Children this age love working with nesting dolls (boys and girls alike).
This Blue Number Counting Book (also from........Montessori Services....love that store!!) would be a perfect gift for your little ones who are just learning number concepts to 10. Each page has a beautiful flocked velvet numeral for little fingers to trace accompanied by a picture with flocked objects to count. Another perfect keepsake gift.
This Red Letter Alphabet Book from Montessori Services is similar to the number book. A flocked velvet letter on each page with accompanying pictures of things containing that letter's sound.
To promote creativity with little mess, I HIGHLY recommend getting a set of these Do-A-Dot paint markers. We have used them for many projects in the classroom and they are so fun and versatile. A must have for your budding artist.
Another must-have for your preschool artist (in my opinion) are these Crayon Rocks from Let's Explore. They come ready for giving in a little velvet drawstring bag. These are so perfect for helping very young children use a tripod grasp. And they are just plain fun to draw with.
Photo courtesy of Magic Cabin
Another great art supply investment are these Lyra Chubby Colored Pencils. These are an absolute dream to work with. I hand-colored some work for the classroom a few weeks ago and used the ones I have at home. I had never used them before and did not realize (until then) that there could be such a difference in colored pencils. It's kind of like buying generic peanut butter instead of JIF. It's just not the same. Well.......I am here to tell you that these pencils are a great investment. They will last a LONG time, are sized perfectly for little hands, and are so smooth and creamy. A great gift idea.
Photo courtesy of Magic Cabin
This Wooden Stencils Kit would be a super gift paired with the colored pencils. Stencils are wonderful for developing beginning writing skills and your preschooler is sure to love having them available to use for drawing and card-making.
You can tell from all the previous suggestions that I love Montessori Services. I also really love the variety of items available from Amy at Let's Explore. In fact, my two little artists are getting art totes for Christmas. I purchased them from Amy this summer (but it looks like she doesn't have them any more). I am planning to fill them with lots of artsy goodies including new markers, glue sticks, tape, mini-staplers, and maybe some Stockmar Modelling Beeswax . My nieces (who attended Waldorf schools) used this modelling wax both at school and at home to create such neat things. So..........I think that's on Santa's list for us this year. We'll see.
Photo courtesy of A Toy Garden
Also for the little guys on MY gift list, I am really thinking about investing in some more instruments for our collection. We have a few egg shakers and a drum, but not much else in the way of instruments. I am really loving the set pictured above from A Toy Garden. I am thinking about purchasing some instruments (probably the ones pictured here) and putting them in a vintage suitcase I have along with some other ones we have and maybe some ethnic costumes from Creative Diversity. Then my boys could jam in style.
Photo courtesy of Amazon
Here is a great CD that we own and that I love with a variety of ethnic music on it. I am particularly fond of the song "Bongo Bong" (don't read anything into that, OK??). In fact, I am thinking that it is time to invest in a larger drum (for me as much as the kids) such as this one from Montessori Services so I can more effectively jam to this particular tune.
Photo courtesy of Amazon
Every household with young children should have a good set of wooden blocks. I personally own the set pictured here. At this time it is at school and the children play with it EVERY day. It is a really great set. You can also buy it in natural finish, I think.
Animal figures go great with a set of blocks (or without!). Over the years we have invested in a variety of animal figures for the boys and they have been played with endlessly. As you can see from the photo I keep them in a canvas bin for easy access. A great source for purchasing high-quality figures such as those made in Germany by Schleich is Ouray Toys. They sell many great things on their website, and you can pretty much find any animal figure you are looking for no matter how uncommon it may be. It is really easy to navigate their site to find the specific animal you want and they can all be purchased individually. I have ordered from them several times and their customer service is excellent.
Photo courtesy of For Small Hands
Bead stringing is another very popular activity in my classroom and is chosen regularly by boys and girls. Pictured above is the Animal Necklace Threading set from For Small Hands. This company is a sister company of Montessori Services.
Photo courtesy of Montessori Services
I have had my eye on this activity ever since I first saw it in the Montessori Services catalog. You use a plastic pen to punch the laces into the holes to create a design. Then the lace can be removed to do the whole thing all over again. It is called Filo Design with Laces. I am totally wanting it for my classroom. I actually saw it at Target this past week but didn't buy it. I'm trying not to buy everything I want for the classroom since I am not made of money (haha). However, I think it would be a really great and unique gift.
Photo courtesy of For Small Hands
I have also had my eye on this marble run for a while. It is not something I could afford to just go out and purchase for my classroom, but I am VERY sure it would be a great investment if I did have the funds for it. This would be a great gift that could be passed down from generation to generation. I love the open-endedness of it and the great spatial thinking that it requires. It is called Quadrilla and is available in many configurations. The Basic Set is pictured here.
Photo courtesy of Magic Cabin
Something else I LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE is this Butterfly Lacing Set from Magic Cabin. I have never seen anything like this and I just love it. (Can you tell how much I love it???) There are a bunch of wooden butterfly wing pieces that can be sewn onto the flower and butterfly body. How totally cool is that?? And what an amazing gift this would be. Truly outstanding. Love it!!
Photo courtesy of Magic Cabin
I also really LOVE (sorry.........I need a thesaurus, obviously) this set of Nesting Rainbows. It is just so happy looking and visually appealing. And, once again, would be a beautiful heirloom-quality gift to give a special little person.
Photo courtesy of Magic Cabin
This set of six Big Punch Balls from Magic Cabin would make great stocking stuffers. I can kind of vaguely remember having one of these as a child. They are really fun. My youngest guy in particular is a balloon fanatic and would go ape over these. I may just have to head over to Magic Cabin and order a set after I write this post!
Well, I'm going to end this post now. It's taken me several hours to write (in bits and pieces of course.......I never have several uninterrupted hours to write!!) with all the links. I'm pretty happy with the list I've compiled. You may notice that nothing on this list requires batteries. There is nothing in my classroom that uses batteries either (except our CD player). I am not necessarily against electronic toys. There are certainly great ones out there and my own children have many variations of them (mostly purchased for them by other people). However, I have observed that young children in particular tend to play with those types of toys a few times and then they don't go back to them. The initial attraction is gone after you've tried all the buttons. The toys listed here are classic and timeless. They are open-ended and invite exploration and discovery. They are toys that children will likely return to again and again. In my humble opinion, they are a good investment of your gift-giving dollars. I would love to hear from all of you about your favorite toys to give young children. I'm sure there are many, many more than those I've highlighted here. So.......drop me a line and a link. Maybe I'll try to do a follow-up post that includes your suggestions. In the meantime.........happy gifting!
This year our family contributed 2 boxes to Operation Christmas Child. This is a program sponsored by Samaritan's Purse. Basically what you have to do is take an empty shoebox and fill it with gift items for needy children. The boxes are shipped all over the world and distributed to children who have nothing. I am embarrassed to admit this but I actually purchased everything and filled two boxes LAST YEAR and then didn't get my act together to get the boxes to the distribution center in time. However, I saved them all year and the boys and I wrapped them tonight. I am really happy that we participated in this important mission work. I very much want to instill giving hearts in my boys and this was a great way to reinforce that way of thinking. My oldest son really understood the significance of what we were doing. My little one (he's 3 1/2) was initially in tears when he saw a little football in one of the boxes. He could not understand why he couldn't keep it. Thanks to the amazing technology of the internet, I was able to bring him upstairs to the computer where we watched several short videos on the Samaritan's Purse website. I told him I would show him the little boys that would get his box. We talked about how he has many, many balls to play with as well as other toys and some little boys don't have any. We also talked about how very happy a little boy somewhere in the world would be to get his gift. After that he eagerly ran downstairs to put the ball into the box and was excited to help pack the other items. (We also prayed for the children who will receive the boxes when I put my little boy to bed.)
I was very moved by watching the videos of the children opening their packages. In fact tears were streaming down my face. We are so unbelievably blessed and it is so important to constantly be aware of that. My oldest son (he is 7 and can read) was also very touched. He could read the text that was included in the videos and he kept telling his little brother that "It's more than giving a gift. It's giving Jesus. It's giving the children love." I thought that was so cool.
Here is a photo that shows what we packed into one of the boxes. I purchased everything at our local dollar store. There are 2 toothbrushes (I need to add toothpaste), a magna-doodle, several new pairs of socks, a new washcloth, a notebook, a few books, a box of crayons, a coloring book, a hand puppet, a card game, a football and a little toy bus.
Here are our wrapped boxes. You have to use a box with a removable lid so the contents can be inspected. You can even use a plastic shoe box with a lid instead of cardboard. You also print out a label (available on the website) that designates whether your gift is intended for a boy or girl and what age category it is meant for. Since we have 2 boys we chose to send to 2 boys.
Here is a close-up of the label taped to the box. You also must include $7 per box to cover shipping costs. The collection for the US ends this Saturday, November 22. So it's not too late to give. All the details you need are on the website.
I am thinking of setting a goal to double our contribution every year so we would give 4 boxes next year, then 8, then 16, etc. Maybe that's too lofty of a goal. Still........the boys and I (and DH) could think about it all year and buy things along the way. It would be fun too to send boxes to girls as well. As the boys get older they could even come up with ways to earn the money needed for shipping.
I was just sitting down to write a post for tomorrow when I noticed that the post just prior to this one was my 200th! Wow! It's been lots of fun writing the blog so far. I am very grateful for all the positive and supportive feedback I've gotten. This week is a crazy-busy one with THREE Fall parties in my classroom throughout the week (Thank goodness the parents totally plan these!), a fundraiser for my MOPS group that I'm helping with and 28 parent-teacher conferences to prepare for and give on Friday. (Not to mention I have to finish sewing a Halloween costume for my oldest son, carve pumpkins, paint myself a shirt so I have one for the parties AND take the boys trick-or-treating after 28 conferences!!) Oh well, we all have a lot on our plates. However, please know that this week I don't have a lot of time to give the blog, so the posts may be well...............reflective of that.
OK.......don't take offense at the title of this post. (In the US---I don't know about other English-speaking countries---if you tell someone to "take a hike" it means you want them to "get lost" or "leave you alone". That is certainly not what I want for my blog readers!! ) I am merely suggesting that in this beautiful fall season you should seriously consider taking a hike. As in, take a walk somewhere in nature and enjoy the beauty of creation. This Sunday, I decided to take the boys on a nature hike. We live on two acres and have a great backyard, so they do get a lot of good outdoor play time. I have to admit, however, that DH is the one who usually takes them out to play. He is very good about doing this, and he enjoys it as much as they do. I enjoy being outside once I get there. Sometimes I have to admit that I can find many things indoors to do instead. However, every time I make time to explore or just "be" in nature, I am so glad I did.
I also came across a blog recently that provided me with further inspiration to make nature exploration a regular habit. The blog is called Handbook of Nature Study. It is one family's journey in nature exploration as they follow the book Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Comstock. This book is used by many homeschoolers. I checked it out a few summers ago through inter-library loan thinking I might use some of the activities with my boys. However, I was intimidated by its length and format. I am reconsidering it now after looking at the Nature Study blog. Anyway, what I like about this blog is that it has weekly challenges which help you focus your outdoor time with your children. When we hiked on Sunday, we just went for the pure joy of it with no focus other than that. However, on future hikes, I think I'd like to try some of the challenges. I really want my boys to know nature firsthand. I have really great memories of hiking with my dad as a little girl and him teaching me about different plants, etc. I'd like to instill the same knowledge and appreciation of nature in my children so that as they grow up, they can personally know their natural surroundings and be able to call trees and flowers by name and recognize their individual characteristics. So........my goal is to try to do a little nature "activity" with the boys each week. At this point it's really informal. If I get it more organized, I'll write about it here.
One thought I had while we were hiking is that nature walks provide great opportunities to develop vocabulary in children. On our hike we were able to discuss the concepts of "narrow" and "steep" as we literally experienced those adjectives on our path.
I'll end this post with a few photos taken during our hike on Sunday. We just hiked on the cross country trails at the park in our small town. I did not realize until we were well into the hike that some of the trails are closed. We got to a point where there essentially was no trail to hike on. We were just plowing through tall weeds and literally climbing over and under large trees which had fallen across the "path". It was a true adventure. However, it had an exquisite peacefulness to it as well. My oldest son, who can be uptight and anxious at times, was walking along with complete joy, humming to himself and carrying his "specimen" bag (I gave each boy a Ziploc bag to bring home a few leaves, nuts, seeds, etc.). He loved telling me each time he put something into the "specimen" bag. I think he got a kick out of calling it that. It was a windy day and at one point as we were walking the wind was whistling through the pines making gentle background music for our tromping. It really was a great time and I can't wait to do it again. We collected a few leaves which we are pressing in the phone book as I write this. I would like to wax them. There was recently a post about that on Crafty Crow. So..........I may try it, though I've never done it before. Anyway, I'm rambling now.........on with the photos.
We found an open milkweed pod and so I was able to explain to the boys about seed migration. BTW.......I ordered a great book about seeds on Amazon on Saturday night and will post about it when it arrives.
Little tromping feet
Beautiful, untainted nature
I am back from the trip, but kicking myself (figuratively, not literally..........that would be too physically difficult!!) that I didn't bring my camera to school today AND I accidentally deleted the photo I wanted to use in a post today. UGH!!!!!!!!!! So here I sit with so much to write about and no photos to go with my thoughts. I know I could pick one of the ideas and just write, but I really think having the photos illustrates most of my posts better than words alone. SO..............instead I will list a few of the things I will be writing about over the next few days (that way I will hold myself accountable for following through!) Here's the list: making silence, new fall classroom decorations, a new fall song at group time, a new story on tape with props, a new geography activity, a new art project (or maybe two) and a new math activity.
Lest you thought this would be a completely sans-photos post, let me leave you with a few photos I just took of some things I purchased at Hobby Lobby today. These items will eventually make their way into the classroom in one form or another.
I had purchased the leaves on the left earlier and when I went back today I wanted to find another identical set. Of course they were out!! So.......I bought the set you see on the right. I wanted to buy two sets of those leaves but............they only had one. I want to use these as props for a song we're doing this week, but I can already anticipate arguments over who gets the "big" leaves versus the "little" ones. Still..........I will probably try to use them that way anyway and hope for the best!!
Again.........I was disappointed by the inventory. I really wanted to buy enough of the smaller pumpkins to do a pumpkin counting activity (I would need 45 for counting 1-9; 55 for 1-10) but there was only one set of small ones left. So.........as you can see.........I bought one big and one small set. I will probably use the little ones in a tonging activity using the little jack-o-lantern candle holders to hold the pumpkins. I'm not sure yet about the big ones.
Be sure to look for many more posts this week showing what's going on in the classroom.
I squeezed in another trip to our local thrift store recently. I should really stay away, but they ALWAYS have the greatest stuff and I always find something new. See photos for my most recent great finds.
This is a little something just for me, just because. It is a tiny little apple teapot on top of a "barrel" teacup. When the weather turns cool, I enjoy a cup of tea with honey. It is a little indulgence. I can't wait to start sipping from this adorable little cup.
Here is the little set taken apart so you can see both parts.
I have been thinking of buying one of these for a while. I'm not much of a cake decorator, so I have thought these would be great for birthdays around here instead of doing a full-size cake. And..........it was pretty much new in the box at a GREAT price. So.......now it lives at my house.
This little squirrel basket will end up holding nuts to scoop or spoon in the Practical Life area this fall.
I am excited to announce that an idea I submitted was accepted and featured on The Crafty Crow blog. I love to read all the great ideas on this blog and was honored to have one of my creations displayed there. If you haven't already done so, check out this blog. It has TONS of fantastic ideas for things to make for and with children of all ages.