Monday, March 31, 2014

Backyard Nature Hunt and Craft




This morning we went on a nature hunt in the yard. The best thing about yard nature hunts for my little guy is that he can do them in his pajamas :) I love that everything he finds, whether it is a different colored leaf or a funny shaped acorn, is so special to him. He found alot of fun nature items in the yard and was so happy about everything he decided to keep. When he was done we came inside and decided to make a picture from the items he had found. We got out the glue and construction paper and he got to work.


He poured out his nature items on the table and figured out what he wanted to use. He really like the fern because he said it looked like a tree on his picture. He glued it down and picked out a little berry he found to use as a roly-poly on his picture. I loved how he used his imagination to make his picture. He wanted a butterfly, so I helped him make one with some leaves and a stick. That led to wanting more bugs, so we used our imaginations some more to figure out how to make a dragonfly and a caterpillar. We made some flowers and a tree and bird nest on another picture.



This was a great activity for imaginative play and for fine motor skills, since he was gluing down small berries, acorns, and leaves. Also, he used his observation skills while picking out different leaves and other pieces of nature and we got to enjoy the beautiful weather while we were scavenging!




Thursday, March 27, 2014

Under the Ocean Activity




Since we went to the ocean this past weekend, my little guy has constantly been talking about it. I thought it would be fun to do an ocean activity with him. This is a very simple activity that he had alot of fun with. Supplies we used for this activity were:
For underwater scene:
Various colors of construction paper
    Sand (we used sand from his sandbox)
Scissors
Shells
Glue

First we started with a blue piece of construction paper. I made an outline on the bottom part of the paper where we were going to put the sand and let my little guy fill it in with more glue. I spread the glue out to make the "ocean floor." Then my littel guy sprinkled sand all over to cover the glue. I cut some fish, seaweed, starfish, and an anchor (his idea) out of different colored construction paper.



I asked him if he wanted to color the cutouts, but he didn't (he's not real big on coloring) so we just talked about them and I asked him what belongs in the water and what belongs on the ocean floor. He placed the cutouts and shells in the correct place in the scene. He had fun playing with it, pretending the fish were swimming and the crab was walking on the sea floor.


You could use any sea creatures you have to let them play with in the ocean scene. We had already made a couple of these cute little crabs with the shells we collected from the beach and used them for play.


For the crab, we used a big scallop shell for the body and two smaller shells for the claws. I hot glued pieces of  black pipe cleaner to the bottom of the big shell for legs. Then we hot glued a 2 inch piece of pipe cleaner to the two smaller shells and glued the other end of the pipe cleaner to the big shell to attach the claws. My little guy added the google eyes and there you have it!


My preschooler loved this activity and it helped him to learn about marine habitat and which animals lived where in the ocean!

Here are some books about the ocean and marine life that we love:


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Learning Math with Salt Dough



After our fish nature craft we made with salt dough, we had alot of salt dough left over. Since we had the playdoh toys out, my little guy wanted to continue playing. He started punching out  numbers with his playdoh number cutters and we lined them up in the correct order and did some counting. Then we punched out some circles...



I asked him to pick a salt dough number and then asked him what number it was. He knows most of his numbers through ten and can identify them. Then I asked him to put the amount of circles under the number. He would count the circles and then place them under the number...



   After he had gotten the correct number, I asked him to place a different number above the circles and put the correct amount of circles under the number again. As he put the different numbers above the circles he was adding and subtracting the amount of circles he needed. For example, above he had three circles and then he picked the 5 to put above the circles. So to make 5, he added 2 circles to the three circles that were already there.  He had so much fun and this activity reinforced the numbers he knew and helped him to understand adding and taking away!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Nature Salt Dough Craft




We came back from our trip to the ocean with alot of beach treasures. I wanted to do a fun craft to incorporate the shells my little guy had found. I decided it would be fun for him to make something with salt dough, since he loves the stuff.  I got his fish cutter from his playdoh toys (since this is his favorite cutter and fish are in the ocean:) but you could use any kind of shape you want. The salt dough is super simple to make. The recipe we use is 1 cup salt, 1 cup flour (we used wheat flour because it looks like sand) and 1/2 cup water. Just stir with a fork until a ball forms. So easy my preschooler basically did it by himself, with a little help with the measuring...

   
After we made the salt dough, he cut the fish shape out with his playdough cutter and picked out the shells from our beach trip that he wanted to use.  He positioned them where he wanted them to go and pushed them down into place. I made sure the shells were squished in good so the dough would bake around them so they wouldn't fall out. 


Bake them at 200 degrees until they harden up. It only took about an hour for the fish to harden since they weren't that big. When they cooled off, I hot glued a magnet on the back and now we have some cute new magnets for our fridge that reminds us of our fun time at the beach!


My little guy had fun playing with the fish, too,  pretending they were swimming in the ocean! 



This craft was super fun for my preschooler!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Exploring the Beach


     This weekend, to kick off spring, we headed to the beach. Exploring the beach is one of my little guys  favorite things to do. On this trip we ventured out to Shell Key Preserve. This little island was full of marine life and the island has a 110 acre bird preservation area which makes it an awesome place to bird watch, as well. We saw terns, black skimmers, pelicans, egrets and many other bird species. On our walk around the island we came across horsehoe crabs, sea urchins, sand dollars, crabs,  sponges, and an array of different kinds of  shells and seaweeds. We even spotted a few stingrays and dolphins! My little guy was so delighted to see the marine life!   



Tips for Exploring

                  Low tide is the best time to explore. At low tide, more of the marine life is exposed.

  We were on a barrier reef here, so there were no rocks, but most tide pools have a lot of rocks to navigate, so it's best to bring a pair of water shoes.

 Check the local Audubon Society for a guide or checklist to birds in the area. We like to print out a checklist and check off the birds we see. Here is a  link to get you started birding.

     Bring along a simple guide to seashore life like this one to identify the marine life you discover. My little guy is curious about everything he finds and wants to know more about it.

 Be responsible and respectful of the wildlife. Don't poke at the animals or pull them out of the water. I allow my little guy to touch with two fingers, but usually he's happy just observing.

Make sure the shells you decide to take home don't have any creatures living in them and if they do put them back in the water. After all, shells are animal homes!


Crafts for Creating

             Here are some from crafts we are planning to do with our treasures from the beach:

           Beach Mobile from bhg.com
           Seashell Ornament from busykidshappymom.com
           Shell Crabs from kleas.typepad.com
           Driftwood Fish from completely-coastal.com
           Keepsake Sandcastle (from sand and shells collected) from education.com


                                                                    Have fun exploring!

                                           

           




Thursday, March 20, 2014

Simple Science


On our last visit to the science center, we made a profound discovery. Water mixed with cornstarch is a magical concoction. My little guy sat and played with this newfound discovery for the longest time. He was fascinated! A few days later we tried this at home. I wanted to incorporate some more fun play and learning opportunities for him with this awesome goop (even though it super fun to play with by itself!) The recipe is very simple. We started with 1 and 1/2 cup of cornstarch and 1/2 cup water. Mix the cornstarch and water together slowly with a fork until it comes together. If it is too firm, add a little more water and if it is too runny add a little more cornstarch. If you lift it out of the bowl with the fork, it should run down smoothly. I let my little guy help with the measuring and he had fun pouring the water and cornstarch into the bowl.  Then we experimented with food coloring...


I let him choose which colors he wanted to use and let him drop them into the mixture. I originally planned to make seperate batches of red, blue, yellow and green, but he said he wanted to mix all the colors together, so that is what we did. It turned out to be really cool, because the colors just swirled together without really mixing up for a while. He was very excited about the outcome of the decision he made to mix the colors together and so was I!


Eventually the goop did turn brown. My little guy played with it for a while and then decided it looked like quick sand.


Soooo...he ran as quickly as he could into his room and grabbed his octonauts. He played with them in the "quicksand" sinking them and rescuing them. They actually did sink in the goop. He had so much fun with this and he thought of it all on his own!


And, because we can't do any kind of activity without incorporating trucks, we took the goop outside to make a construction site. The goop was starting to harden up a little by this time, but I decided it would be fine for the construction site. We just poured the goop out on the table, but you could use a baking sheet for easier cleanup (the goop cleans up easily with a damp cloth). He had a blast digging, dumping and pushing the goop around with his trucks.


These activities are perfect for practicing fine motor skills and helps them learn cause and effect by moving and manipulating the goop around. Plus it's just plain fun!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Camping Fun!

My husband loves to be outside. He is an avid fisherman and he loves to camp. Before we got married I had never been camping and once I got past dealing with the pesky bugs, I learned to love it, too! We have been taking my daughter camping since she was two years old (she's now 14) and my husband thought it was time for my 3 year old son to start camping. He is much more rambunctious than my daughter was at his age so I wanted somewhere that wasn't too out of the way. For this trip, we chose Fort Wilderness. Fort Wilderness is a little gem of a place in the Walt Disney World Resort area and I'm pretty sure there is not a more kid-friendly camping spot than this!



Camping at Fort Wilderness is much easier than traditional camping. They have a general store and a couple of delicious restaurants around the campground. They have two swimming pools and a nice kiddie pool for younger kids, which was one of  my son's favorite places to be. Even though these conveniences are there, you can still get close to nature. There is a small river for kayaking or canoeing and a pond for fishing. We were lucky to get a beautiful campsite on the river where my little guy could fish just a few feet from our campsite! He loves fishing with his daddy so this was a definite plus. They even caught a few fish!


They have a spot where you can practice archery, a horse stable called Tri Circle D Ranch (which my daughter loved!), where they keep Cinderella's ponies and other horses that they use at the Magic Kingdom. The kids can ride a pony there or at the front of the campsites, there's a place where you can go horseback riding on a wilderness trail.  There are jogging and bike trails, playgrounds, and an arcade. But my little guy found plenty of other things to do to keep him busy like playing with his trucks in the mud...:)


The only thing I didn't like about the campsite is that you couldn't build a fire. But we went down to the community campfire and that made up for it. They started out with a sing along and a visit from Chip and Dale. Then they lit the campfire for roasting marshmallows. They even had smore packages for sale just in case you forgot to pack your own. 



When it got dark, they played a Disney movie for us to watch under the stars. Very cool! Unfortunately for us, it started raining (pouring!) right as the movie started! We decided to go to the dinner show they have on the campground called The Hoop dee doo Musical Review. This was so much fun and the food was delicious!


 We had so much fun on this camping trip, even though my husband argued that this was not camping. Too much convenience, which was fine with me! I loved the convenience and can't wait to go "camping" here again! 



Here are some fun activites to incorporate into your camping experience:
Fishing
Bird watching
 (don't forget your binoculars and birding book)
Nature scavenger hunt 
Storytelling
Make a wildlife journal
Bug hunt
Search for animal tracks and identify them
(check you local Department of Wildlife Conservation web page for animal track guides)
  Make nature crafts like these 
Watch the sunrise



Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Favorite Truck Books and Activities



We love to read stories at our house and since my little guy is so crazy about trucks, any kind of truck or construction vehicle, he has chosen a few books that we just can't stop reading together. He got this book for Christmas and it quickly became one of his favorites. I mean, dinosaurs that are actually trucks! What little boy does not love dinosaurs and trucks. Genius! Dinotrux by Chris Gall (affiliate link) is so fun to read...





Another favorite is The Construction Alphabet Book by Jerry Pallotta and Rob Bolster (affiliate link). This book goes through the alphabet naming different construction vehicles, so you get letter recognition and you learn the names of some really cool machines...


And when it is time for a bedtime story, his favorite is Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site (affiliate link).  In this book, all the construction equipment have worked hard all day and are settling down for bed. I love the illustration of this book as well as the story...


There's nothing better than reading a great book!



I found these fun crafts to do to go along with the stories...

For this one, we just cut out shapes and he glued them on a sheet of construction paper to make a truck picture. It reinforced shapes for him and was fun and quick...


The directions for this drinking straw truck from No Time for Flashcards are  here


and this bulldozer craft from Learn, Create, Love  here


We had a blast with these crafts!



Monday, March 17, 2014

Builder Birthday Party

Since my little guy loves anything construction, we wanted to give him a birthday party with lots of construction fun. We started off by visiting a construction site to get some photos for the invitation. My hubby runs this jobsite so we had special permission.  He was so excited to check out the equipment...



The invitation turned out so cute. I ordered the digital papers and cutouts from etsy (here construction party cutouts) and designed the card with them...


We had lots of fun construction themed snacks...


Wrecking balls


Truck tires


Build your own Sandwich

And for dessert we had a "dirt" cake and build your own cupcakes...



And for drinks, we had the fueling station...


This is what the party table looked like...


The kids had fun playing in the sandbox "construction site" we set up...


We also set up a photo booth for pictures of guests and my little guy with his adorable digger shirt (here digger t shirt)



We had hats and chocolate boulders for thank you's...


It was a great day of construction fun!