No Bake Cinnamon Ornaments

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Want to fill your house with the delicious scent of cinnamon, have fun with the kids and make some simple Christmas ornaments? Then give these No Bake Cinnamon Ornaments a try!

This is a wonderful recipe- it requires NO BAKING, only four ingredients and takes only minutes to whip up a batch of dough. And the absolute best thing about this recipe is that the dough will make your home smell divine!

Keep reading!

Perfect Jello Playdoh

Two things my kids and I enjoy doing on rainy Pacific Northwest days are cooking and playing with playdoh. Making homemade playdoh combines the two! The jello adds vibrant color and a pleasant smell to the playdoh.

Here’s what you will need to make a perfect batch of play dough. This recipe makes one nice size ball of play dough for each color.

  • 1 cup of  flour
  • 2 Tbs salt
  • 2 Tbs cream of tarter
  • 1 cup water
  • 1.5 Tbs oil (most recipes call for 2 Tbs but I happen to find it a little greasy)
  • 1 3oz. pack of Jello in the color of your choice
  • food coloring (optional)

First, mix all your ingredients in a medium saucepan.

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Mix in your jello and watch it turn a bright color! My oldest loves to add the jello.

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After it’s mixed, stir the mixture constantly (you don’t want it to burn!) over medium-high heat.

DSC_0197It will start smelling great! After about 2 minutes or so, your mixture will start to thicken and clump together.

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Once the playdoh has formed into one ball, place it on wax paper to cool.

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You may need to knead it with some flour once it has cooled. Go ahead and add a few drops of food coloring if you want more intensely colored playdoh.

Store your playdoh in an airtight container in the fridge and it should last for quite some time.

Start playing and enjoy! I went a little crazy one day with the playdoh making and made a whole rainbow! My kids love playdoh, so all this effort has kept them busy for hours.

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Our At Home Preschool: Valentine’s Day Theme

This post is entirely too late but I thought I would share our Valentine’s Day theme week. Late pregnancy exhaustion has a way of making you want to not get too much done and unfortunately my blog updates have suffered.

Our Valentine’s Day theme week was all about getting our hands dirty- both with arts and crafts and in the kitchen! I love the holidays and Valentine’s Day is no exception. The holidays always inspire me to bake and create. I hope to pass a love of these activities along to my children, as well.

We created some beautiful sun catchers with coffee filters, watered-down food coloring and eye droppers. Timmy enjoyed squirting the different colors on to the paper and watching the dye bleed together. He loves to remind me often that yellow and red make orange.

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Sponge painting was was a big hit with both of the kiddos! I cut heart shaped sponges for the kids and let them stamp away on white sheets of felt.

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I thought we could use the painted hearts to make Valentine’s Day cards for Timmy and Vera’s cousins. For the cards, we made pink marbled paper from food coloring and and shaving cream. It was such a fun and simple craft to do with both kids. You simply add a few drops of food coloring to a shallow dish of shaving cream and have the kids give the shaving cream a quick stir (so the food coloring isn’t completely blended). I had Timmy dip the card stock in the shaving cream and then I scraped the excess off the paper with the flat side of a knife blade. The paper needs to be dried under the weight of a few books. I think it looks so interesting.

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I attached the sponge painted hearts to cards made from the marbled paper. Cute and simple Valentine’s Day cards for the kids’ cousins!

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We made some yummy cupcakes together- pink frosting and red sprinkles are always a hit in the kitchen.

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I love to have the kids practice with lacing cards. I made some heart cards with foam sheets and twine. Even my littlest got in on the action.

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We had a fun week together. When I asked Timmy what he loves, he replied, “you, Mommy”. ❤ He made my week.

Our At-Home Preschool: Week 6

It’s a new year and a new start for our at-home preschool. I have so many ideas for our learning together thanks to Pinterest and all the great blogs out there! I could spend an entire weekend pinning and scanning new blogs. My children have other ideas about how I should spend my time. I plan to start introducing some theme weeks this year. I already have some in the works: time, maps, land forms, outer space, dinosaurs, city life, winter and Valentine’s Day would be fun themes over the next few months..

Puzzles and Building:

Puzzles are such wonderful teaching tools for little ones. They develop visual perceptual, fine motor, critical thinking, memory, reasoning, sequencing, planning and logic skills. Timmy has done really well with puzzles from a young age (he was putting together 24-30 piece floor puzzles by himself at 26 months) and so I’m always looking for new types of puzzles and building toys for my little boy. This magnetic vehicle set was a birthday gift for Timmy from his Aunt.

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I can’t say enough about this toy. It’s really a wonderful, well-made toy for any child who loves things that go, magnets or putting stuff together. My son happens to love all three of these things and plays with these magnets often. It’s also a great alternative to Timmy putting together his floor puzzles. By the time I had come over to him to help him put some vehicles together, he had already correctly pieced together a race car, a fire truck and an airplane on his magnetic board. He was so proud of himself!

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You can find this toy on Amazon here.

Tim started playing with actual Legos recently- no more little baby blocks for him. He’s been very interested in building houses lately. He had a lot of help from his daddy building his latest creation. I’m not sure which one of them had more fun. Legos are such wonderful toys, aren’t they? And it makes me so happy that he has started playing with them!

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Pre-Reading:

We continued working on Timmy’s cvc word families. He’s mastered all of the -AT, -ET and -IT words and we’ve begun to work on the -OT words. I made Timmy this word index card flip book last week. On the left side cards I printed each letter of the alphabet. On the right side cards I wrote the word families we’ve been working on.

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He loves it. We took a recent road trip and he spent most of our time in the car flipping through his book. I plan to start introducing a couple of sight words each week this year in addition to working our way through more cvc word families.

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I’ve also started introducing rhyming words to Timmy. He was given a beautiful Mother Goose (or as my littlest calls it, “Mama Goose”) Nursery Rhymes book for Christmas by his nana and grandpa.

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He practically begs me to read it each day before “nap time” and bedtime. The truth is that he doesn’t need to beg, I love reading this book with both of my little ones! Timmy already knows most of the rhymes- we take turns reciting the lines of the rhymes and he always has the sweetest little smile on his face as we read together. Because he loves nursery rhymes so much, I’m going to check out some books of children’s poetry for him at the local library and add poetry to our weekly learning this year.

Timmy also loves to have me read Green Eggs and Ham to him. I point out the rhyming words as we read the book together. Combining his love of puzzles with rhyming words, I made this simple activity for him. I cut green egg-shaped puzzles out of cardstock and added some magnetic tape to the back of the pieces. He had a good time piecing the puzzles together and saying “fox rhymes with box, house rhymes with mouse, here rhymes with there, and rain rhymes with train”. I’ll have to make some more rhyming word puzzles for Timmy to piece together.

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Early Math:

There’s always plenty of counting around the house these days. Timmy loves to count. I came up with another way to reinforce the concept of counting on using a deck of playing cards. We take turns drawing cards and count on from whatever number we draw- sometimes to 10 and sometimes to 20. I plan on playing this game with him a lot over the next few weeks.

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For the last couple of months, Timmy’s been counting backwards while eating his veggies at dinner. “I’m going to eat 30 peas, mommy! 30, 29, 28, 27, etc.”, he says as he shoves the veggies in his mouth. I love this. Not only do I think it’s pretty cool that he learned to count backwards on his own but it’s a fun way for him to eat his veggies.

Games and Other Fun Activities:

Another thing I’ve started doing with Timmy lately is playing board games with him. Playing board games with children is an excellent way for them to learn to share and take turns, cooperate with each other, to increase logical thinking skills, and to learn basic math concepts. It also teaches kids how to lose gracefully. I don’t just let him win and he seems to handle not winning just fine. Candy Land has been a wonderful introduction to board games for Timmy. It’s a great game to play with 3 year olds because the instructions are simple and the game doesn’t depend on reading. (It’s also a helpful game for those toddlers and preschoolers who need more practice with their counting and colors, too). The games are sometimes long (we don’t remove the cards that can send the game pieces backwards) but he’s usually able to focus until the game is over- this kid has a great attention span.

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Cooking and Arts and Crafts:

We spent some time cooking this past week. Timmy made chocolate pudding all by himself. I poured the milk in the measuring cup for him, though. I’m not that brave! He also helped his daddy make a special Filipino cake (my husband is part Filipino).

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And that was our latest week of learning together. I was thinking the other day about how much my little boy has grown and learned in the past year and I’m excited to see what changes this year will bring.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Week 3: Our At-Home Preschool

Our third week began with an unexpected snow day.

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Apparently it doesn’t just rain in the Seattle area- they get some of the powdery, white stuff, too. The kids and I had a great time making snow angels. Our fun was over all too soon once Timmy decided he didn’t want to wear gloves but that the snow was too cold on his bare hands.

This past week was all about letters, counting with manipulatives, baking Christmas cookies and making Christmas-themed crafts.

By age 2.5, Timmy knew all of his uppercase and lowercase letters and the sound each letter makes. Now that he just recently turned three, he can almost always identify which letter a word begins with (and often with which letter a word ends). We spend a good part of each day reading together and he’s always asking me how to spell words, but I know he’s ready for more.

As someone who is not well versed in early childhood education, I often struggle with exactly what the next steps should be. Searching online only leaves me feeling even more overwhelmed. My mom, who has a background in early childhood education and was a teacher turned stay-at home-mom (who homeschooled her four children through kindergarten), has been a huge help to me. With her guidance, I have a much clearer understanding of ways to challenge Timmy and develop his pre-reading skills. Some of the things my mom suggested were to start introducing word families, rhyming words, sight words and consonant letter blends.

This past week, I introduced Timmy to his first word family- the AT family. I spelled out AT, ET, IT and OT on a cookie sheet with some foam stickers. Once we sounded out the word AT together, I showed Timmy how he could use different consonant letters to form words. We sounded out the words in the AT family together- BAT, CAT, HAT, MAT, PAT, RAT and SAT. Later that evening, Timmy was able to spell the -AT words for me on our fridge using his magnetic letters. Success. I’m going to slowly introduce more word families each week. I love how enthused he is to learn how to read!

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letter families 2On the back of the cookie sheet, I used some more foam stickers to form some consonant letter blends. We went over the first five together. Unprompted, he was able to identify that cheese and choo-choo begin with the CH sound. Once he learns all of these blends, my plan is to make these exercises into some sort of a Bingo game. Perhaps start by calling out the sound a blend makes and have him identify and mark the blend with an animal cookie; once he fills the board then he can enjoy his cookies. Moving on from there, I could call out words that begin with a consonant letter blend and have him correctly identify and mark the blend. I think he’ll enjoy the game- especially the cookie part.

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And speaking of cookies, Timmy and I made some Christmas tree and snowmen sugar cookies together. He just loves being “my little helper” in the kitchen. They were without a doubt the best sugar cookies I’ve ever had- so good that I just have to link the recipe.

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Timmy has been working his way through the alphabet, tracing over the letters with his dot markers. He loves making his letters and telling me what words begin with each letter. So far we’re on the letter E. I’ll include pictures in next week’s post.

I’ve mentioned in a previous post how much Timmy enjoys building. He’s always been an extremely clever builder, and with his love of building comes his intense focus. I really have been blessed as a mother with a child who is able to entertain himself for hours on end- I’ve never once worried if Timmy was “bored”. This picture says it all. With minimal help from me, Timmy put most of these tracks together. He worked on it off and on for hours one rainy day.

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I bought some counting manipulatives for Timmy last week in preparation for teaching him the concepts of sorting, patterns, one-to-one correspondence, counting on and addition and subtraction. I chose some classic manipulatives (and ones I used myself as a young girl)- counting bears and unifix cubes.

Sorting by color and simple ABAB and AABAAB patterns using the manipulatives proved to be too simple a task for him, so we moved on to one-to-one correspondence. I already knew Timmy could do this- he loves to count objects in books and in everyday life. Even though counting the manipulatives wasn’t difficult for him, Timmy enjoyed using his new “counting tray” I made for him. To make his counting tray, again I used foam stickers on a cookie sheet. I divided the cookie sheet into 10 squares for him to count out the corresponding number (and color) of manipulatives. I plan to start introducing the concept of counting on to Timmy next week.

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ps3 11 ps3 12I shared a post earlier in the week about a ribbon lacing Christmas tree craft we worked on together. Timmy had a great time making his Christmas tree and worked on some lacing skills as well.

ps3 1 ps3 6 ps3 5We also started making some Christmas ornaments using pom-poms which I will share in next week’s post.

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This was our third week of learning, myself included. What are you working on with your little ones? I’d love to hear from you and hear your thoughts on how we’re doing with our at-home preschool!

 

Cooking with My Kiddos

Well, cooking with Timmy, to be exact. Vera mostly just toddles around the kitchen while we get our hands dirty. Someday soon we’ll all be cooking together in the kitchen and making a big, beautiful mess. For now Vera is happy tossing food around her play kitchen (which is in our kitchen). She’s begun to start “cooking” in her kitchen along with Tim and I- so adorable!

Timmy loves being “my little helper” in the kitchen. He always smiles as he drags a kitchen chair over to the island and climbs up to see what I’m making. He scoops and dumps ingredients into bowls, mixes and learns the names of new ingredients with such excitement. I even started giving him a plastic knife to cut up vegetables or butter toast. I love how much enjoyment he gets from cooking and baking right now and I’m doing my best to encourage his new interest.

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Timmy covered in flour and helping me bake muffins.

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Vera playing with flour while Timmy stirs.

It’s not difficult to get your kids involved in the kitchen! My first tip would be to spend time in the kitchen with your kids. Don’t just turn on a cartoon so you can get dinner going or cook while the kids nap. I’m guilty of doing both from time to time, but over the last few months I’ve made a real effort to involve the kids in the kitchen.

I’m a big believer in getting kids into the kitchen at a young age. Obviously babies can’t do much in the kitchen, but the kitchen is full of sensory experiences that can hold the attention of little ones. Let them play with food or bang on pots and pans with wooden spoons while you cook.

Once they’re toddlers, give them tools and utensils to play with and bowls to stir pretend ingredients. If you have a play kitchen and the room, move it into your kitchen. I fill my kids’ play kitchen with real food boxes, empty spice containers, my smallest pots and real utensils. Both of my kids play in their kitchen daily. Timmy makes me snacks each day. I love observing him pretend play.

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Older toddlers can be a real help in the kitchen. Toddlers can help dump ingredients into bowls and mix ingredients. There are toddler safe knives- don’t be afraid to let your older toddlers use them. With a little supervision, they can help chop spinach or cut pepper strips into bite size pieces. Once a week, I make pizza with Timmy. He loves adding the sauce, grated cheese and toppings to our homemade pizza dough.

Cooking with your kids is also a great way to incorporate early math into your everyday lives. Timmy likes to count as he sorts and adds ingredients. I would imagine as he gets older, it will be a good way to introduce measurements and fractions.

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Making pizza!

I think what prevents most people from getting their young children involved in the kitchen is the mess that is sure to result. Embrace it. If they’re not making a mess in your kitchen, it’ll be in your living room. And everything is wipeable in the kitchen.

How do you get your young children involved in the kitchen? I’d love to hear from you!