Thursday, October 27, 2011

Imagination Booster: Leaf Art

If you're outside enjoying enjoying Autumn today, you may want to bring a few leaves back inside for a fun and easy art project.
We found some favorites, laid them out on a white paper, and then gazed at them for a bit. You have to tap your cloud-watching skills to see what animal or object each leaf resembles.

Glue them down when you know what they are, then use pens and thin markers to turn them into those imaginary friends.

Little sister's imagination is remarkably similar to big brother's!
Nature art is the best!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Do As I Say?

My little guy is still figuring out how to make his words. Don't get me wrong, he talks non-stop all day long, but the words coming out of his mouth don't always sound exactly like American English. They often sound like a combination of Mandarin and puppy. Sometimes this results in frustration on both our parts, and sometimes it results in a lengthy game of charades and please guess the important thing I am telling you now before I internally combust.

These games are particularly frustrating when my little guy has something important to tell me when I am driving. Normally my big guy will interpret and pass the important message along to me so we can get it figured out. This morning we went through the process yet again: lengthy detailed story, charades, a misinterpretation, a corrected interpretation, excitement over correct interpretation.

I laughed when I looked in the rear view mirror and saw him sitting so happily in his carseat after we correctly interpreted his speech. He was calm, euphoric.

I was reminded again of the significance of communication. How important are words? Are we always so urgent and passionate with our speech? Does it really all begin with those first words while the baby is holding a drippy sippy cup and wearing a diaper?

We all want to be interpreted correctly.  How many times have I written an email or a text or said quick words without weighing them first, only to have my thoughts all tangled up in a big mess. It only takes a minute for simple little words—spoken or written, to become a powerful, sometimes hurtful, sometimes dangerous tool. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! (James 3:5)

We are currently training our little guy with the use of one of his favorite words: “No.” Since he spent the first year of his life hearing...
  • “No! Don't touch the socket!”
  • “NO! Don't stand up in the tub!”
  • “NO! DON'T HIT YOUR SISTER!!!” doesn't surprise me that we eventually had to backtrack and explain that “No” shouldn't rank #1 on his list of favorite words. Now that he is finally past the age of munching marbles from under the couch and treating anything (and everyone) as a teething toy, it is time to use the word “No” more carefully. It is his first power word, and it's time to train him that no should be used kindly and thoughtfully.

In the meantime, while I am attempting to focus on these things with my kids, speaking kindly, speaking without pride, speaking to encourage, speaking without complaining, the weather vane arrow keeps snapping back around and pointing at me square in the face. I don't think it's possible to teach your two year old to stop saying “No” if you are constantly screeching “NO! Stop!!” from various rooms of the house or the front seat of the van. In the same way, I doubt our little ones will learn to “do all things without complaining and disputing” with each other if I whine every time I have to take out the trash or mop up yet another tall glass of spilled milk. It will be hard for my kids to really learn to place the desires of others above themselves if I pat myself on the back whenever I go about my good deeds for the day.

What a challenge! I am trying to remove the use of the word “overwhelmed” from my vocabulary thanks in part to some great advice in Rachel Jankovic's book Loving the Little Years.  But our words and how we choose to use them in front of our little ones is a daunting responsibility. I could spend every minute for the rest of my life attempting to only say encouraging things to everyone, and I would still blow it. I would still find myself running late with 3 kids trying to find a missing shoe while gathering up car snacks and finding missing keys, only to start the car and remember the gas tank is empty. It is so hard to impart grace to my angelic cherubs at that moment. 

But in that moment, I have a choice. In that moment I can make a habit out of calmly evaluating the circumstances and remembering those 3 sets of little ears are listening and those 6 little blue eyes are watching. In that moment, everything we have been telling them about our words are put to a visual test, and they will be keeping score. I need to stop telling myself that I'm just tired or there wasn't enough coffee or I am too busy to calmly respond, because I don't accept those kinds of excuses from my kids.

I am thankful, when the silly, crazy moment gets the best of me, that kids are so quick to forgive. I am thankful for a long hug-fest on the couch to make amends. 
I love these thoughts on 20 Resolutions to Taming the Tongue. If you haven't checked it out before, you will find it challenging.  As I spend time training our kids how to wield their tiny words, it's a great reminder that I am being molded, too! 

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Mask Contest this week!

We are running a Mask Decorating contest this week...all the details are here.

It's as easy as printing out a mask here, letting your child (or you!) decorate it with medium or craft supplies of choice, then uploading a picture of the artist in the mask on our FB page.

My daughter was all about sequins...who can resist glam??!

The last day to enter is Friday, Oct 28. There are 2 prizes up for grabs: this darling custom initial necklace from My3Chickadees etsy shop and a $10 Hobby Lobby gift card.

We look forward to seeing your entry soon!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Chilly Saturday Morning Paint Fest.

This morning we woke up with a sleepy, crabby little guy.  Normally we like to take it easy on Saturday mornings since our daddy typically has to work.  After a relaxing breakfast and some fussy-kid pampering, I gave in to the big kids' request for setting up the paints. 
We have had a cool snap in the weather, so while we wait for the sun to warm us up, the kids have been happily painting away at the kitchen table for most of the morning.  Sometimes I tell myself it is such a pain to get out the paints, but honestly the "big mess" is always worth it in the end!
I love the creativity of kids. They found one of our baby board books and went to work copying the images and words on their pages to create their own animal pages. We are going to put some of the favorite pieces into their "All About Me" books.
This is only a fraction of all the pages they have completed so far today!

If you are looking for a fun activity for your kiddies on these chilly Fall mornings, break out the paints and hand them a board book for educational references photos.  What a great exercise in painting, fine-motor skills, reading practice, and art!
Speaking of ART, be sure to enter our "Decorate your Mask" contest going on NOW. So far, your chances of winning are REALLY good!  Decorate a mask and enter your photo on Facebook to win an amazing original necklace! OR let your child decorate a mask to win a $10 Hobby Lobby gift card! The contest ends on October 26th. Check out the details here! Let your little artists go to work today!

"Art is not what you see, but what you make others see." Edward Degas

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Harvest Hullabaloo: Make a Memory. Carve a Pumpkin!

Have you ever carved a pumpkin with your kids? It may not seem like a big deal to pick up a pumpkin. It doesn't take much to get your hands covered in messy pumpkin-goo, and it won't take long to make a few holes and place a candle inside, but to your child it is a fabulous memory-maker and a wonderful family tradition!
We have been carving pumpkins with our kids for at least the past 4 years. Sometimes we go to a pumpkin patch and select the perfect pumpkin for our family, but if funds (or time) are limited, they are just as happy with an equally perfect pumpkin thrown in the cart from our super-center. Kids really don't care.
The main thing is to create a memory with your kids, and the #1 rule is to have fun and don't worry about the mess. Tell yourself up front that it's a bath night and let them get involved in the process!
If at all possible, I have discovered the joys of pumpkin-carving outside. It is much easier to enjoy the process if everyone can dig their hands into the pumpkin, whether you are planning to keep your pumpkin "guts" or whether you are planning to launch them into the shrubs.
Before I begin basic pumpkin carving 101, let me recommend a few tools for the job. Of course any old knife and any kitchen spoon will work as a pumpkin carver and scraper, but if you are willing to splurge on the tiny carving sets (knife and scraper) sold in most convenience stores, you will save yourself a lot of time and energy.  It's important to scrape the inside as cleanly as possible.
I also discovered a GREAT use for an art tool I had lying around.  If any of you are really looking to take pumpkin carving to the next level, or if you have linocut printmaking in your past, track down your Speedball Linozip set like I did. It was so easy and fun to peel away the layers using my old printmaking tool!
Once you have carefully cut the top off your pumpkin and removed the insides (it worked really well to store ours on a cookie sheet!) then it's time to become an artist.  We normally download a free template, if you do a quick search you can find all kinds of ideas for your pumpkin.  My husband chose to use a Darth Vadar template this year, and right now my daughter is really into Swan Lake Barbie. I found a coloring page printable online and added some black and orange in Photoshop to help me see how it would look on the pumpkin.
I normally cover the backside of my printed template with a thick layer of pencil, tape it to my pumpkin and trace a heavy line (using the carbon copy method).  My husband prefers to tape his template to the pumpkin and poke small holes through the paper where he wants to carve through.  Either method works depending on how detailed you want to be!
Once our drawings were lightly traced onto the pumpkins we went to work carving. My husband used the carving tool to make all his cuts and was finished in about 15 minutes.  I made all my deep cuts, then went back in and peeled back the layers of skin from my pumpkin. There are several tutorials online for how to do this effectively. I wish I had watched one of them before carving, but it was still fun and my daughter was thrilled! 

My husband's Darth Vadar! We lost one of the eyes, but he still looks intimidating--especially at night!

We will not be entering any pumpkin carving contests anytime soon, but we had a great time digging our hands in the pumpkins and choosing the perfect thing to carve for and with our kids.  I would highly recommend making this a family tradition--this is the perfect week for you to go discover your very own Great Pumpkin rising out of the pumpkin patch.  We'd love to hear your favorite pumpkin carving or any tips you might have!

by Elsie N. Brady

How silently they tumble down

And come to rest upon the ground

To lay a carpet, rich and rare,
Beneath the trees without a care,
Content to sleep, their work well done,
Colors gleaming in the sun.

At other times, they wildly fly

Until they nearly reach the sky.

Twisting, turning through the air
Till all the trees stand stark and bare.
Exhausted, drop to earth below
To wait, like children, for the snow.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Decorate your Mask Contest!

The air is crisp, the leaves are falling, the store shelves are lined with rainbows of cheap, multicolored plastic pumpkins and ridiculous amounts of sugar-filled candy.

What can we do to join in (or escape from) all this festive Fall fun?
It's time to hold a contest. It's time to decorate a mask.  That's right. From now until October 26th we are hosting our first annual "Muddy Mask Decorating contest!"  The rules are simple. 
1. Print this mask. Go here for the PDF:
2. Decorate the Mask.  There are 2 Categories in our contest! They are:
  • Best, most creative & original design by a 3-6 year old child. Let your baby go to work on this mask and see what he or she can do!
  • Best, most creative & original design by anyone. Let's see what your muddy, creative juices can create with this piece of paper and the amazing left side of your brain.
3. What to do when your mask is done!
  • Take a photo of your child (or you!) wearing the completed mask and upload it to our FB site. We can't wait to see all your photos!

Initial Necklace
  • The winner in our 3-6 year old category for our Mask Decorating contest will receive a $10 gift card to Hobby Lobby so you can restock your creative genius's art supply shelf.
The Fine Print!
Feel free to enter both categories, but only one winner will be chosen per household.  The last entries will be considered on Oct. 26th, 2011. The winners will be notified and announced on Friday, Oct. 28th. Judging will be based on originality, creativity, and overall appeal of the photo itself. 

**Thanks for joining in on the fun...we can't wait to see your photos! Use this time to enjoy creating something  special with your little ones!

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Monday, October 10, 2011

All About Me: Taste!

Today we are wrapping up our conversation about the 5 senses. If you missed the previous posts, check them out now! Yes, we are talking about taste—it is normally our favorite and most enjoyable sense, but it is also the one we often take for granted!
If you really think about it, and if you ask your child to really think about it, the sense of taste is truly amazing. Why do foods taste different? Why doesn't everything taste like a blade of grass or a piece of cardboard? Does taste serve any purpose in the big scheme of our overall health, or is it simply a wonderful perk?

Our mouths are actually made up of almost 10,000 taste buds—on our tongues and all over the inside of our mouths. Although taste is the weakest of our 5 senses, it is amazing to think that as saliva breaks down foods, the receptor cells (in our taste buds) are sending all kinds of messages to the brain explaining the flavors exploding in our mouths. If it weren't for taste buds, we would not be able to enjoy eating at all. Although your child may not enjoy eating broccoli or salmon at this stage in the game, remind him that if it weren't for taste buds, a cookie and meatloaf would be interchangeable.
Our amazing taste buds tell us four things: sweet, salty, sour, and bitter. These sensory areas are located at different places on the tongue and mouth. 

Another amazing thing about taste buds is that everyone has a different sense of taste, and our taste—likes and dislikes, actually change as we get older. This is why adults are able to eat foods that a baby would never eat. Babies have many more taste buds than adults and as we grow they become less sensitive. Our unique sense of taste shows an awesome creativity; we are born loving sugars which naturally promote energy and growth. We are also born disliking bitter tastes which protects us from eating poisons. Isn't that mind-boggling? I wonder how many other protective features in my body I take for granted.
What can we do to share this amazing sense with our little ones? Start by observation. If you still haven't purchased a magnifying glass, you should add it to your wish list! If you have a magnifying glass around, pull it out and let your child take a closer look at your amazing tongue and mouth. Have her describe what she is seeing. You might want to use mouthwash before this “fun” activity! If you don't have a magnifying glass, head to the bathroom and check out your magnificent mouths in the mirror together. 
What do you see? Describe the bumps (buds), the shapes, and the colors in detail.
When you are through staring at each other's taste buds, take a minute to talk about your favorite food combinations. Warm chocolate chip cookies with cold milk? Gooey pizza and a fizzy drink? Salty chips or a crunchy apple? See if you can get those saliva glands to start working!
There are many different activities that you can use to experiment with your own “buds” or have a taste test at home. One suggestion is to pop some popcorn, divide it into several small bowls or cups and season them differently.  Try using salt, sugar, cheese, garlic, or anything else you have in your spice rack to sprinkle on the popcorn. Let your child try to identify the flavors and see what they like or dislike about it.
Next, prepare a mini-feast of sample snacks ranging from sweet and salty to bitter and spicy to downright grody. Have your child test the foods, then describe how each food tastes. Also talk about food textures.  Record (or have him write) his reaction along with a drawing of the sampled food. If your child is older, you may want to blindfold him or her!
Eating the Alphabet by Lois Ehlert is a great book about taste if you want to read more with your child.
After you have finished your sampler platter, print this page for your All About Me book to record your child's memories! Find it here
**More Mud:
Talking about taste is a great reminder of the intricacies of our created human bodies. A great passage for further review is Psalm 139:13.

 For you created my inmost being;you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;your works are wonderful,I know that full well.
Finally, if you are looking for a way to record a funny story, a hilarious quote, or a memorable moment with your child, here is a page for you to print and add to your child's All About Me book! Someday he might appreciate reading about the time he decorated the house with Desitin, or the time she was convinced flying unicorns were first in line for the ramp of Noah's ark.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

All About Me: Touch!

Next in our study of the 5 senses is Touch. The sense of touch is different from the other senses in that it is located all over the body, not just in one specific part. Along with the face, neck, lips, tongue, hands and feet, fingertips are one of the most sensitive areas of the body. In fact, each fingertip has about 100 touch receptors! We put our fingers to the test in a few different ways today.

The awareness of one sense is increased when we can't use other senses. For our first activity, we sat down at a table, and I blindfolded each child. Then I handed them an object and gave them a minute to feel it. As they ran their fingers over it, I asked them to note the shape, the texture, whether the same texture was on all of it or part of it, the size, etc.

I tried to find things they were not very familiar with. After a minute, I took back the objects and removed their blindfolds. Then I gave each a piece of paper and pencil and asked them to draw their best interpretation of what the object was like.

Afterwards, we had fun comparing the drawing to the actual object and talked about what they felt and imagined in their mind's eye. Turns out they both knew what their objects were--so they did a pretty good job with their drawings!

Next, I gathered some objects with different textures and hid them under the couch cushions: a piece of sandpaper, a soft piece of cloth, a hard marble, a cold ice cube (in a baggie!), cotton balls, a pokey leaf, a smooth book.

The kids took turns reaching in without looking, and I asked them to describe what they felt. It was fun to see how many describing words or adjectives they could come up with.

Finally, we worked on this Touch page for our All About Me book.

You can print it here. I cut some pieces of fabric, sandpaper, shiny posterboard, and bubblewrap, and they glued them above the right describing word.

A couple of books you might want to find on your next library trip are: Find Out By Touching by Paul Showers and My Bunny Feels Soft by Charlotte Steiner.

And of course, touch is very important through hugs and cuddles, so be sure to give out lots of those today!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

All About Me: Sound!

I make a great noise
Of rustling all day
Like rabbit and deer
Running away.

This week we are focusing on the 5 senses. So far, we have covered sight and smell.  Today we are turning our focus to hearing!

Of course we want our kids to become better listeners.  Can teaching my kids to listen and observe (both quietly and while discussing loud sounds!) help them fine tune their hearing, and listening? Since sound is a sense that is frequently triggered by stimulation (i.e. when the baby hears a marching song he wants to stomp his feet!) we might overlook it in our sensory training. Today, during our ongoing 5 senses week, we are going to focus on sounds.

One of the best and most important ways to learn about sound (or any concept for that matter) is through the use of music. Just ask my mom.

Using music, we can teach rhythm, motor skill development (dancing), loud vs. quiet, etc. We can also use music to talk about emotions. Is this music relaxing or sleepy? Does this music make me want to march? Is this great music for twirling? Basic childhood songs are also a great way to learn about numbers, ABC's, animal sounds, and on and on.

One fun way to teach your child about sounds and music is by creating homemade instruments. Any contained bottle or jar filled with rice is an instant “shaker.” And what child doesn't love to beat on pots and pans with a spoon?  

For our purposes today, I was excited to make use of the 6 trillion Easter eggs sitting in a large bag in our pantry. They made lovely concealed noise-makers! I filled each egg with something different: rice, candy corn, beads, rocks, marshmallows, and noodles.  I took the kids outside where we shook each egg, then guessed what was inside. They really had fun opening them to see if their guess was correct!   

In addition to music, there are many listening activities that you can regularly do with your child—whether you are in the house, in the yard, at the park, or walking down main street. What is that noise? Can you hear that? What do you think it is?  Today we sat under a tree with our eyes closed and heard a car passing, a bird, the dog panting, and a jet flying above, all in just one minute.

Fortunately, we have “The Ear Book” by Al Perkins checked out from the library this week, so it worked out perfectly to read on our Sounds day!  The other amazing book on sound is Polar Bear, Polar Bear What do You Hear? by Eric Carle. There are many other great books that focus on Sounds and Hearing; we also have several books with sound effect buttons—those would be great, too.

To incorporate all of this learning into your child's All About Me book, here is a new page!  After you have spent time listening and discussing all the sounds around you, have your child write a list or draw her favorite objects on this page for her book.

**More Mud:
If you want to take Sounds and Listening to another level, you could talk about the story of Samuel in the Bible. What did Samuel hear? How did he respond? Samuel 3:10. Other optional verses are Mark 4:9, and possibly Rev. 3:20.

Enjoy making sounds and listening with your little ones today! And here is a great Fall poem by Robert Frost:

Gathering Leaves
Spades take up leaves
No better than spoons,
And bags full of leaves
Are light as balloons.
I make a great noise
Of rustling all day
Like rabbit and deer
Running away.
But the mountains I raise
Elude my embrace,
Flowing over my arms
And into my face.
I may load and unload
Again and again
Till I fill the whole shed,
And what have I then?
Next to nothing for weight,
And since they grew duller
From contact with earth,
Next to nothing for color.
Next to nothing for use.
But a crop is a crop,
And who's to say where

The harvest shall stop? 

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

All About Me: Smell

It is 5 Senses Week here on The Mud Pie Makers, and today we are thinking about our sense of Smell.

To get our Sniffers engaged, we first walked from room to room in our house, looking for interesting things to smell. In the bedrooms, we sniffed the clean bed-sheets, crayons, and stinky shoes. In the bathroom, we smelled the soap, the toothpaste, and the shampoo. In the living room, we stopped to sniff the fireplace, and in the laundry room we compared the smell of dirty and clean laundry.

The kitchen had lots of good things to smell...we pulled out fresh fruit, spice jars, chocolate, a cut onion, coffee, and garlic.

Later we went outside to enjoy some outdoor smells. Someone was burning leaves...definitely a favorite smell of fall! We also got down to smell the dirt and some flowers.

After all the smelling, we talked about memories of smells. Were there any smells that made them remember a trip or special day? Did smells ever make them hungry, or make their mouth water? Were there any odors that made them want to get away quick?

Finally, we settled down on the couch and read the story of The Gingerbread Man. Mmmm...does anything smell more delicious than baking gingerbread??

Afterwards, each of them got to decorate their own Gingerbread Man on this printable page here. After coloring and filling in other favorite smells, we placed glue on the tummies of the gingerbread men and they sprinkled some ginger and cinnamon spices onto it.


We let it dry awhile, and then it was a yummy scratch 'n' sniff page to put in their All About Me book. You can get more printables here and some ideas for starting an All About Me book for your child here.

Have fun enjoying what the nose knows today!

Monday, October 3, 2011

All About Me: Seeing!

Shamefully I admit that I waited until today to start our "All About Me" books from Kylee's great post back in May!  It all started here.

This week I am going to start a book with my 4-year old daughter, as a way to incorporate some pre-school learning and bonding time! Kylee has all the details displayed on the blog if you want to know how to get started.  I am also working on some printables in case you are looking for some uniformity in your book, or if your child is not writing yet.

Today we are going to work on the first page of our "All About Me" book, which will include a self-portrait.  Some kids enjoy drawing more than others, but even if your child is not a budding artist, this is a great opportunity to help him/her learn about seeing and observation.  So, as we launch our 5 Senses week, encourage your child to observe and see as much as possible during this exercise.  

If you have time to head to your library or if you already have this book on hand, Brown Bear Brown Bear, What do you see? by Eric Carle is a very appropriate book for this project.  This adorable book will boost their creative thinking and help your child focus on understanding what it means to SEE.  Plus it's just a great book.

The first page of our "All About Me" book will look like this.  If you want to print your own, go here!  I have several other printables started and will continue posting them throughout this week:
To get started, I set up a mirror at the table.  Unfortunately I could only find a gigantic full-length mirror--a smaller one would have been better!  I encouraged my daughter to draw what she was seeing.  Kids tend to draw portraits based on a stick figure image in their mind as opposed to what they are actually seeing. For this project, I really wanted her to SEE her eyes, nose, mouth, hair and encouraged her to describe what she was seeing as she drew.  I would also encourage them to start with a pencil, but then use LOTS of color for the finishing touches. 
This is also a great time to introduce basic size and proportion to your child.  While she is drawing, ask her simple questions:  Are your eyes bigger or smaller than your mouth? Is daddy's face bigger or smaller than the baby's face?  This will help your child SEE, as opposed to drawing only from imagination, although drawing solely from the imagination is also a wonderful activity!
Next she drew a lovely portrait of our family! This printable is here.
The first two pages of her "All About Me" book are finished!  Next, I will hole-punch and place them in the binder.
**More Mud:
If you want to take SEEING to the next level, take your kid(s) outside and inspire them to really SEE!  Have them pick out several things, then observe them closely.
Ex. A mushroom!
My daughter asked to go get a magnifying glass. It really helped us see even more closely!
Ex. Observe all the textures in bark on a tree!
After we finished observing outside, we came back inside to finish our next page in the "All About Me" book. This page is all about seeing!  Have your child draw, describe in writing, paste or tape objects (a leaf, a blade of grass) onto this page. If you want to print this page, go here.
**In addition to all the learning that goes along with SEEING, this is also an opportunity to discuss the wonders of our created world.  Take the time to ask a few questions: Look at the details in this bark, leaf, mushroom.  Could you make that? Isn't it amazing? Suggested references are Genesis 1:1, Psalm 104:24-25, Colossians 1:15-16, Job 26:7-9, 11-14.  

Enjoy a fun time of observation with your child making your "All About Me" book this week!