Friday, September 28, 2012

Spongebob Party Ideas

Ever since my daughter was born in 2007 I have held an annual Halloween party for her. (Yes, she had a party at age 7 months...) It is so fun and special! When my son was born in 2010, I struggled to choose an occasion for his annual party that wouldn't clash with other occasions and finally settled on an Annual Summer Party of some sort. Maybe some years when he's older it will be a pool party and maybe it will be a sleep over, but this year it was an End Of Summer Party... mainly so all the big kids would be in school and all the little siblings would be free to party on their own!

I allowed Ben (2) to choose his own theme for the party and I was not surprised when he went with Spongebob Squarepants! We had already done a Spongebob theme for my own birthday celebration in May (per my daughter's request) so we got to reuse a bean bag toss we had created. You can read all about how to make it here!

I searched Pinterest for ideas first, and happily came across something I could use! I was surprised  there weren't more good ideas on there though! Many of the Spongebob ideas were professional-type cakes and cupcakes that real moms with real kitchens and real limited time just cannot make!

The treat I settled on was perfect, though, and used donuts which was great for a morning party - not to mention that Ben LOVES white powdered donuts! I just used large, store-bought powdered donuts and added strips of red frosting around them to make them look like floatation rings. My frosting was made from scratch (at 11pm the night before the party...) but you can just use store bought if you want. I found the perfect little Spongebobs made of sugar from a local baking store to ride in them. I served the donuts in a blue container to look like water and it came out so cute! They were also yummy, not too messy, and just too easy!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Easy Ideas for Busy Bags

Many Busy Bag activities are homemade, but they don't have to be! It is OK to take the easy route and bag up some store bought activities for your kids. The activity will be new and appealing to your child and these silly foam locking shapes are a perfect example! We've had these forever but my kids have neglected them for a long time. Ever since I stuck them in a Busy Bag, Molly (5) can't get enough of them! I'm so impressed that she uses them to make roads, practice counting, and create really great 3-dimensional shapes! You can find them in sets of 9 at a dollar store and they come in several character designs.

Lacing cards are a great addition to your Busy Bag collection! I've seen several sets on Pinterest that are homemade from card stock and hole punches... but believe it or not I don't own a plain hole punch! Yes, I have little heart shaped ones and a big circle one, and ones shaped like cats and leaves and spiders... but no regular one! So instead I found this CUTE set for a buck at a dollar store and that's good enough for me!

Here are two examples of homemade activities I've included in our Busy Bag collection. These items have previously been featured on my blog so I won't go into detail with them but I will include a link to those posts! The first is a set of roads made out of old denim and a few toy cars. You can read more about it here

This last one is a homemade Tic Tac Toe game. My daughter and I enjoy playing this one together, of course, and my son (2) just gets a kick out of sticking on the pieces! You can read about how to make it here

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Busy Bag Ideas - Counting, Habitats, and Colors

Busy Bags are still going strong in my house!! Molly (5) loves to pick one out to play with during quiet time, or as a part of when we play school. Ben (2) enjoys most of them and at his age, just taking all the pieces out of the bag is fun too!

Here is a popular bag I came up with using some small plastic animals we already had and some strips of card stock. Make squares to place the animals on, labeled with numbers to practice counting. Ben is really getting into counting right now (he can count to 11 already!!) so this is a great activity for him. Meanwhile, Molly needs to work on writing and recognizing her numbers so it's important for her to practice while looking at them written down. I also included some easy math problems, which can be added to and upgraded as my kids get older.


I also included three pieces of card stock with habitats on them so my kids can sort the animals by where they live. This is Molly's favorite part. I only used animals we already had, so that limited my habitats, but if I bought more animals we could also use a Farm or Pet Store for example. Once your child gets older, you could use this idea with more specific habitats (fresh water stream, lake, desert, rainforest, savannah, etc).

 Another really popular activity I found on Pinterest that my kids love is a simple color-sorting activity. I found some great plastic gems at a dollar store in four different colors - a buck per package. Then I cut out four rectangles of felt in matching colors. Ben does a really good job sorting these gems - it is such good practice for him! Any craft gem or stone or small toy will work... you just need several of each color!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Fun Game to Practice Sight Words

My little kindergartner has homework every night! It's easy enough and the perfect amount for her, so I'm definitely not complaining! In fact, her homework time has turned into special bonding time for us each day! She'll sit at the kitchen table working while I sit with her and do my own work (paying bills, making grocery lists, planning activities, etc). She also loves to play school while we do it so I get to be her teacher! Oh, how I love this because I played school ALL-THE-TIME when I was little.

We have working time, coloring time, reading time, recess, and today I found a way to incorporate P.E. into our homework studies! She has a list of sight words to practice each week (the, in, is...) Today I wrote them each on a paper plate. Then we took them into the living room to start our gym class:

Spread the paper plates out on the floor. As you set each one down, be sure to show them to your child and use the word so they know what it is. Once all the plates are down, call out a sight word and have them stand on it as fast as they can when they find the correct one. They can run to it or jump on it or dance around them. Your child will never know they're learning at the same time! Keep calling out the words so your child can find them quickly and stand on them.

Here are some more variations:

* Use the sight word in a sentence instead of just saying it and have your child hurry to stand on that word.
* Just say the word, but then have your child use it in a sentence once they stand on it.
* Play music like musical chairs and when it stops have your child stand on the nearest word and read it aloud.
* Use the paper plates like giant flash cards.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Clothes Pin Cards for Busy Bags

Busy Bags are a great way to keep your kids busy for a few minutes with some quality quiet play time. However, MAKING those Busy Bags with your kids in the first place is another great activity for them to do! I feel weird having all the fun creating these Busy Bags for my kids, so I wanted to make one that they could get involved in too.

When I first came across these different clothes pin cards, I thought they were a great idea! This blog has two different ones: Second Story Window. The ones we made are basically the same, except we used one of my favorite craft supplies: paper plates! When making these Busy Bags, you'll also need plenty of clothes pins.  I found mine at the Dollar Tree: a pack of 36 for a dollar!

Now, start by dividing your plates into "pie slices".  I chose nine colors for the first one, so I used a straight edge to create nine sections, just by eye-balling it. Draw a blob of color in each section, to look like a paint palette. Now color the tip of nine clothes pins in those same colors.

Ben (2) will use the colored side to make his matches. Molly (5), will match hers using the other side, where I wrote the words out for each color. For now I wrote them in their corresponding color, but down the road you can write them all in black so your child truly has to read the word.

The second plate needed 10 slices, for the numbers 1 through 10. I also wrote the numbers 1 through 10 on the tip of clothes pins, and added that amount of dots on the other side of each clothes pin. To fill in the sections of our plate, I had Molly count out stickers to place in each one. After she got tired of that tedious task, I took over and had fun building shapes with them. :O)

Finally we made a plate with 26 slices for the alphabet. If you're using a ribbed paper plate like I did, each slice should be allotted about 2.5 ribs each. You can still use a straight edge, though. All along the edge, I wrote capital letters of the alphabet. I also rewrote them closer to the middle so they would still show up with a clothes pin hooked on. The clothes pins, on the other hand, had a lower case letter on each one. The object is to match the big letter with it's small one!

To store all these pieces in a Busy Bag, I kept each set of clothes pins separate in their own sandwich size bag. Now let's hope my kids stick to the Busy Bag rule: only one bag open at a time, and everything goes back in before you open the next one!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

I've Discovered Busy Bags!

My newest obsession is Busy Bags!! I came across them on Pinterest the other day and I just can't stop making them!! The idea is to have several gallon-sized Ziploc baggies, each filled with a different activity for your child. Many of the activities are homemade and many of them are educational. All of them are fun and great to hand your child when you need a few minutes to get something done. Having all the pieces in a baggie makes it easy to clean up, easy to grab on the go, and easy to keep everything together!

Right now I have 15 Busy Bags in my collection.  I plan to cycle through them on maybe a monthly basis as I add more and more, keeping no more than 20 available to my kids at any one time. Here are three blog pages I referenced when getting my own ideas: Small Potatoes, Second Story Window, Second Story Window. There are so many possibilities and variations, especially with the two different age groups I have to work with!

One of our busy bags is a "Build Your Own Cupcake" activity. I came across this online and had the supplies on hand so it became one of the first ones I tried. This is simply a collection of felt shapes that can be pieced together to create cupcakes. Some online posts included tiny scraps of felt as sprinkles but I decided to skip that part and save myself some cleaning up! I made enough felt pieces to create three separate cupcakes. I like this activity because both my kids - a toddler and a kindergartner - can do it. 

Even though I had a blast creating this for my kids, I felt kinda weird doing all the (fun) work by myself. I think in the future I'll draw some cupcake templates on regular construction paper for Molly (5) to cut out by herself. I just wouldn't be comfortable with her cutting felt yet!

A second busy bag I found online and re-created is some "Spelling Cards". This busy bag is perfect for my little kindergartner who is learning her letters and beginning to spell and read this year! I used some small foam letters, meant for bath time play, that we had laying around. I actually had used them to decorate our holiday tree for the beginning of school the past couple years! The word cards are made out of card stock.   I included a variety of words, utilizing every possible letter, and ranging from two letters up to five letter words.  Each card has the word in all capital letters on the front, then the same word all in lower case letters on the back. This is a great way for Molly (5) to review her letters and sight words she's learning at school now!

... Stay tuned for more Busy Bag activities, I'm sure!!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Colored Water Experiment

Thank you to my friend, Stephanie, for giving me this idea a while back! She lives in England and I just want to give a quick shout-out to the social media that keeps us in touch!!

I have saved this idea for a good time and now that Molly (5) is learning all about colors in kindergarten this week, now is the perfect time to experiment with colored water!

We started with four small bowls, each filled with about 3/4 cup of water. Lay them out all in a row, side by side. Add about 6 drops of food coloring per cup. We made a red, a blue, and two yellows - one for each edge.

Now twist a paper towel into a kind of rope and arch it from one cup to another. Make one for each connection. The colored water will soak up in the paper towel and as the colors mix you see the new color appear!

It might take a while for the colors to reach each other, so we helped them along by dripping some colored water on the appropriate spots. My little "princess scientist" actually liked this part best!