{Cardboard Box Aquarium}

Now that I've started working again, Princess Pea and I have designated Saturday mornings as our Creative Time, when we do fun art and crafts projects together.

Our first weekend, we had a marvelous time making this cute cardboard box aquarium!

For her birthday, Princess Pea had of course received all kinds of lovely gifts, and many toys seem to come in boxes with clear plastic windows in the front, to display the toys. This box was from a jewellry box, and we thought it would be great for making .... a tv, another theatre, a shadow box, a shop window, or ... an aquarium!

It was really easy to do, but required a couple of sessions to allow for glitter glue drying time.

We decorated the front with some yellow corrugated paper, pipe cleaners, and a picture of a mermaid (also recovered from a tag on a gift). We also glued some blue tissue paper to the inside back wall of the box, and some more yellow corrugated paper on the bottom inside. I mostly did this part to get the pieces stuck on in the right places. We decided not to bother covering the whole box, as Princess Pea rather liked the pinky-purple colour of the box itself.

Then we cut some simple fish shapes out of craft foam (I drew the shapes and she cut them out), and decorated them with glitter glue on both sides. Cutting the foam was surprisingly easy for her. This was Princess Pea's favourite part, as glitter glue is her art supply of choice these days. We also had some pre-cut foam stars, so we used them to make jellyfish by glueing on googly eyes and some bits of embroidery thread dangling underneath.

We used embroidery thread and children's plastic needles to string up the fish and jellyfish, and tape the ends of the threads to the inside of the box lid. I showed her how to thread the needle and push it through the foam by doing the first one for her, then she did some on her own. The foam was quite easy to push the needle through.

And finally, she finished it off with some ocean-themed stickers we had on hand.

This was such a fun project to do together, and was made entirely of odds and ends from around the house!

I think it turned out great!

(And much easier to take care of than a real fish tank!)

{Some Simple Preschool Math Play Ideas}

Playful preschool math ideas cover image

Princess Pea has decided that now that she's four she wants to learn all her letters and numbers. ("Because that's what four-year-olds do".)

So, we've devised a few fun, play-focused activities to help her with some basic math skills at home.

counting pom poms for preschool math play

Counting Objects:

Egg carton math. Each egg compartment is numbered (1-10, eggs come in packs of 10 here, not 12). She counts out the correct number of pompoms to place in each labelled compartment. Although she can rote count to 10 easily, she has a harder time with one-to-one correspondance when counting objects (i.e., she double counts some items, or skips some others because she's counting too fast, etc.). This is a good activity to practice that correspondance (which is also an important early literacy skill, by the way), and she thinks it's so fun!

You could also use beans or any other small object, and you could mix things up by using tongs instead of fingers to place the items in. Good fine motor skill practice, too. We used teeny-tiny pompoms, which also gave her fine motor practice.

Later I plan to use them differently, for example, using them like a number line to count up and back. E.g., "Start at 4 and count up 3. Where do you end up?" etc.; and for simple addition, e.g., "Take the pompoms from 2 and 3 and add them together. How many do you have now?"


A dinner-time 'math game' she's started playing lately with Daddy is a sort of number quiz game. Very simple. Daddy asks, "What number comes after 4?" or "What number is before 5?". Then he changes the wording slightly to, "What's one more than 6?" or "What's one less than 3?", which begins to introduce the terms "more" and "less" that will be important for math in school. Then he makes it more challenging with, "What's 2 more than 2?" or "What's 3 and 2 more?", etc.. Princess Pea loves this game! Sometimes she comes up with the answers instantly in her head, and other times she counts her fingers. We played it in the shower the other day and she was so engrossed in the game that she almost didn't even notice I was washing her hair! Bonus! ;-)

Comparing Numbers:

Another game we introduced to her recently is "Top-It". For this you need a deck of cards. (We got a free pack from Lufthansa in their kids' goodies - very convenient for airplane distractions! And perfect because you don't need a full deck to play this game, so if some get lost between the seats it's no biggie!) Remove the face cards. Two or more people can play this. Each person turns over a card. The person with the higher number wins the cards. Princess Pea can't read most of the numbers yet, but she can count the hearts or whatever are on them when she needs to. This is also good practice for counting numbers at a glance (e.g., looking at the picture of 4 hearts and instantly knowing there are four without counting them out), and for beginning to learn to 'read' the number digits.

Also, see my post about our Magnetic Fishing game. We all love that game as it's so versatile for children of different ages/skill levels, so both girls can play it together and each enjoy it.


We have also been making pattern strings. See my post on our Pool Noodle pattern strings. You can use anything to practice making patterns. Foam shapes (circle, square, circle, square...), coloured pompoms (red, blue, blue, red, blue, blue...), toy cars (car, car, truck, truck...), or ink stamps (butterfly, airplane, flower, butterfly, airplane, flower...) etc. Try making different kinds of patterns, gradually increasing their complexity as suits your child.

We've been having fun with these play ideas, but I would never, ever recommend pushing them on your children. If Princess Pea initiates the play or discussion, we do it. Otherwise, we leave her to play whatever she likes. Kids are only kids for a very short time. I'm in no rush to have my little peas grow up!


{Making Pasta Necklaces}

One of our Summer To-Do List items was 'Make Pasta Necklaces'.

We followed these instructions at Frog, Goose, and Bear for dying the pasta (it works great for rice, too). Princess Pea loved the rainbow colours! (This would have been a great activity to have done at her rainbow birthday party last year!)

We found some nice, satiny ribbon left over from something or other.

Then we tied a loop knot in one end of each length of ribbon, to prevent the first piece of pasta from sliding off.

It was a great fine-motor skills practice activity for Princess Pea.

She was very proud of her creations!

Granny got one for her birthday and proudly (kindly) wore it for our outing to the Discovery Centre!

<a href="http://theoutlawmom.com/2012/04/24/play-best-of-kids-rainbow-art-eats-activities-blog-hop/" target="_blank"><img src="http://theoutlawmom.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/the-best-kids-rainbow-art-eats-activities-button.jpg" alt="http://theoutlawmom.com/2012/04/24/play-best-of-kids-rainbow-art-eats-activities-blog-hop/" width="125" height="125" /></a>

{I'm Guestposting!}

hands on : as we grow

Today I'm guestposting over at Hands On: As We Grow again! Very excited to be back there, I just love Jamie's blog - such a fantastic resource for creative learning activities for little ones! Last time, Jamie invited me to share the fun we had in the springtime painting easter eggs, and this time I'm sharing our colourful DIY Tie-Dyed T-shirts!

So head on over there to check it out, and while you're there, be sure to browse through some of her other awesome activities for preschoolers and baby play ideas! And you certainly won't want to miss the It's Playtime linky party that Jamie cohosts, for gathering oodles of marvelous play inspiration!


{Wordless Wednesday: See Spot Play in the Dirt}


{This Is Not Goodbye}

I've been holding off on writing this post for as long as I can, mostly because I've been in denial. Waiting and waiting for some miracle to occur to prevent this course of events.

But, I think it can't be avoided any longer.

This week on Tuesday, I will be returning to work, full-time. (There, I said it out loud.)

I am less than thrilled. In fact, my heart is breaking. I don't want to leave my little peas for a single day, let alone every day. (Though my husband keeps pointing out that, as teachers, we actually only work about 180 days a year, so I should really stop complaining. Hmmm, that does make it seem a bit better.)

I know I've been fortunate to have been able to take this time off in the first place, as so many others don't have that opportunity. But still, I can't help feeling that I'm letting my babies, and myself, down. It's not that I don't like teaching; I do. And I'm sure I'll be able to rally some enthusiasm once I get going again. It's just that I would much rather be 'teaching' my own kids here at home, where I know I'll be making a much bigger difference in their lives than in the lives of other people's kids (parents are the biggest influence, after all). And I know that I have so much to offer them, if only I had more time!

And, of course, I will miss my little peas terribly. I will miss our quiet playtimes, our outdoor playtimes, our messy playtimes, our creative playtimes, our kitchen playtimes, our storytimes, our naptimes, our snacktimes, our chatting times. I will miss picking up Princess Pea from preschool and having her run out of the classroom and jump into my arms with a giant bear hug and some little treasure she made or found during the day. I will especially miss seeing Sweet Pea's daily developmental changes; at 17 months she's at such an exciting and fun age when every day she comes out with new words or skills that she attempts or masters. This is when the fun with her really begins!

But, it is what it is. As they say, "You get what you get, and you don't make a fuss." Well, I will get what I get. But I can't promise I won't make a fuss.

As for blogging, I know I won't be able to keep up daily as I do (almost) now, but I will try my best to write whenever I can. I just don't know how often that will be. I have a few posts scheduled and others in the works, and as they're ready, I'll post them. I am also trying to get the Outdoor Play linky up and running again after our hiatus the last couple of weeks, though I may not always have any outdoor play posts of my own to share, as I doubt I'll be getting outside with my kids much except on weekends (boo!). I will try my best to update the Facebook page and to Tweet from time to time, and I invite you to share your own links and pictures on the Facebook page to help to keep it fresh. (I'll try to set up some designated places for that sort of thing.)

And I will truly miss blogland! I've loved reading all of the fantastic blogs I've come across and have made some wonderful bloggy friends - thank you to all of you for your inspiration and for making me feel so welcome in your little communities!

So, I will be around. I will still be checking my email regularly and would love to hear from you all.

This is not goodbye. It's just the end of my life as I know and love it.


{Beach in a Box Sensory Tub}


Sensory Tub

While Sweet Pea was napping one day last week, Princess Pea and I made Sweet Pea her first official sensory tub! (Of course, she regularly engages in sensory play, but this was the first time I made an official tub for it.)

After our wonderful beach vacation in Croatia in June, and our summer spent in Canada, we had collected lots of beachy items: pebbles and gravel from the Baska beach on Krk (Croatia), seaweed from the Nova Scotia coast (Canada), and shells, mostly that my Granny had collected years ago since our shell-hunting expeditions this summer didn't quite go as planned.

So, we put them together to make a Beach in a Box!

First, I asked Princess Pea what kinds of things you find at beaches, drawing on her memory of our recent trips. She came up with rocks, seaweed, shells, and after a bit more thinking, sand. I told her we had all of those things except sand, but that's ok because we're making a rocky beach like the one in Croatia.

Then I asked what other thing we would need to make a beach, the most important thing that a beach needs to have. After a moment, she came up with - water!

So, she helped to fill the tub with pebbles, gravel, seaweed, shells, and water.

At this point Daddy Pea came along and commented that a beach really needed to have salty water, not fresh water. Of course! So, we got some salt to add, and Princess Pea mixed it in with her hand.

Then I remembered I'd bought a set of ocean-themed animal figurines, so I added a few of those, too.

We tossed in a little rake and an ice-cream scoop, et voila! Our Beach-in-a-Box sensory tub!

When Sweet Pea saw it, she dived right in gleefully, and Princess Pea was so proud that she had made a toy for her little sister all by herself.

Note: If you leave the seaweed in for a long time, it makes the water a bit gross (we found out the hard way and had to redo the whole thing!). Better to take it out when bubs has finished playing with it. We now have the seaweed kept in a separate bowl next to the tub. Also, we originally put in some blue and green pasta, too, which dyed the water a wonderful Mediteranean colour! But when we redid it the second time, we didn't bother with the pasta as they had gotten soggy by then.

For more great sensory tub ideas, check out this guest post by Quirky Momma!


PS - Wondering what we used to contain our sensory tub? It's an IKEA TROFAST storage tray that goes with their children's TROFAST shelving units, with a matching lid. The lid has a hole in the top for holding onto to open/close it, but I put a piece of tape over it so we can store it outside without creepy-crawlies getting in.

{Button Lovin'}

Dear Fellow Bloggers,

I have recently updated the hosting service for my MPP button. If you have already posted my button somewhere on your blog, it will hopefully still work as is, but if for some reason it doesn't, please just come over and grab a new one on the right here. The button is the same, but the code is slightly different now.

You can contact me if you have any problems.


PS - If you are interested in a button swap, please let me know!


{Through the Magnifying Glass}

(I wrote this as a guest post for Greening Sam and Avery. In case you missed it (which I will forgive you for since it was a weekend), here is the full post.)

I recently bought a kids' magnifying glass on sale at Michaels. It's made of plastic instead of glass, so no need to worry about my little peas dropping it and breaking the glass.

I was excited to see what the world really looked like through a preschooler's eyes, so after a brief demonstration of how to hold it (not too close to the eyes, just a little above the object), I set Princess Pea out in Grandma's garden with it and waited to see what she would find of interest to her.

Here are some of the things she examined:

(It's a pile of seaweed from a recent beach exploration, in case you're wondering!)

Despite the demo, her natural inclination was to hold the magnifying glass right up to her face, like glasses, so I had to remind her a couple of times about how to hold it farther away.

We talked a little about how you can see details with it that we wouldn't normally notice, such as the water drops on the grass (she was sure they were ice until she touched them), lines on our palms, and holes in the leaves (why are there holes?).

We talked about how caterpillars eat leaves and leave little holes in them, like in The Very Hungry Caterpillar (still a favourite in our household), and we looked under and around the leaves to see if we could find any caterpillars or chrysalises like in Clara Caterpillar (which we recently borrowed from the library) (no luck finding any, though).

We found a bee inside one of the flowers, which reminded her that bees go inside flowers to get the 'yellow stuff' (she can never remember the word pollen) to make it into honey, which reminded her of The Big Honey Hunt that we just read at Granny's, and of the working bee hive we saw during our recent visit to the Wildlife Park.

Then she discovered her footprints with it ... which led to a completely different tangent.

I can't wait to try magnifying glass explorations again soon. Even Sweet Pea took an interest when she woke up from her nap - she snatched it right up and had a go too! It was a great way for the girls to explore nature, and it led to some wonderful dialogue about how the natural world works. And I loved the connections she made to recent stories and experiences!


Linked to: It's Playtime, Best Toys for Toddlers, Sunday Showcase, I Can Teach My Child

This post was featured in Nature News!