Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Dyed Pasta: Multi-Purpose Entertainment!

Who knew a couple of boxes of pasta and some food coloring could provide my kids with multiple fun and learning activities enjoyed over a couple of days' time?! One of my son's home school lessons this week showed how to dye pasta and make beads to string. We dug out several kinds of noodles and prepared several cups of colorful beads. But the necklaces were just a start...we have actually used these noodles for three more activities so far. And happily, it took a whole 10 minutes of prep with things I already had on hand!

First, for the dye job. Materials needed:
  • dry pasta in various shapes
  • vinegar OR rubbing alcohol (the vinegar smell will linger, but may be preferable option if you fear a noodle "taste-test")
  • small plastic ziploc bags
  • food coloring
  • paper towels on trays

Put a cup of dry pasta in a ziploc. Add 1 TBSP of the vinegar OR rubbing alcohol and several drops of food coloring to the bag. Close it up and gently smoosh it around to color all the pasta.

Empty it on paper towels to dry. Best to leave it overnight.

I only had food coloring gel around, and a couple of the colors didn't dye the pasta so well by this method. So I actually mixed the gel with the rubbing alcohol and a cup of water in a bowl and we let the noodles sit in it for 7-8 minutes until the color "took." Not too long or the noodles would get mushy. That worked much better for us.

Noodle Fun #1: Beading!

String the beads on plastic elastic cord for necklaces or bracelets. Love the bright colors!

Noodle Fun #2: Sorting!

Using the sorting idea from this post, I gave my 2-year-old a muffin tin and several colors of pasta mixed together in a bowl. I showed him how to sort the colors in separate tins.

He LOVED it and sorted over and over for an hour-and-a-half! My 4-year-old thought it was super fun and did it several times too...first by color, then by shape.

Noodle Fun #3: Math Manipulative!

Use the pasta to make patterns. I laid out a pattern of various colors/shapes on a paper, and then asked my daughter to copy it. I hadn't tried this before with her, and she really liked the activity. She even made a complicated pattern for ME to copy! Noodles=learning fun for everyone.

Noodle Fun #4: Easter craft!

I drew an Egg shape on colored paper, added some craft glue, and then had the kids decorate their Easter eggs. They loved their pretty eggs.

Gotta love when you can make several new and exciting activities for FREE with a few supplies from the pantry!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Giveaway! Original Bottle Cap Necklace + Bonus T-shirt!

Alrighty folks.  Here is a fun giveaway with a lovely reminder to enjoy all the muddy moments with your little ones now!
We are offering this one-of-a-kind bottle cap necklace which proclaims one of our favorite sayings: Long Days, Short Years.

Along with this charming necklace, we are also including one of our MPM T-shirts!  Our logo is displayed attractively on the front corner, and our favorite saying is on the back as seen here:

There is only one size (A fitted woman's size Large!) so if it is the wrong size for you, give it to a friend!

Here is a glimpse at the giveaway goods: necklace and shirt together!
{The Rules!}
1. Leave a comment here.  Post your favorite activity with your kids here for 1 entry! 

2. For a 2nd entry, post this giveaway on your FB page and leave a 2nd comment letting us know!

Thanks and good luck to you all.   This giveaway will end on midnight April 10th and we will announce the winner on Weds. April 11th!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Creativity Corner: Art in the Sky.

I have always been mesmerized by clouds.  
Before I became aware that lying on my back in prickly grass would result in dirty clothes or bugs-in-hair, I would gaze for hours up at the sky.  The cloud-object game has been around forever, but to my 5-year-old, it was a completely new phenomenon.
Our recent cloud-gazing adventure was a wonderful activity and I really enjoyed sharing it with her!
Springtime is one of the best times to hunt for clouds.  I took Maddy on the front porch so we would be slightly shielded from the sun, but we also had a great view of the open sky.  This activity would also make a great field trip--literally, to a field! Or a park. At any rate, we headed to the front steps armed with several sheets of blue construction paper, a few white crayons and white pencils, and our best seeing eyes.
At first we simply sat on the porch and talked about what we saw.  The sky was so blue and the clouds were perfectly white and fluffy... it was easy to get started.  In the beginning, Maddy described the clouds without much creativity:  A bush.  A ball.  A splotch.  I tried to offer suggestions to help her use her imagination to SEE things differently and she quickly got the hang of it.  Once she figured out how to play, she couldn't get her pencil to paper quickly enough, and she was loving it! 
This activity was so interactive.  We talked about how the clouds change so quickly and why.  We also talked about our amazing Creator who makes each cloud unique and beautiful.  Why aren't all clouds the same size and shape? Why do we have clouds at all?  It was fun to see her really thinking and trying to take it all in.
**Artist Bonus**
If your child is older and interested in art, another idea would be to let them do a Contour Drawing of the clouds.  This is basically an outline of the cloud itself without filling the inside.  Another great exercise for any budding artist is Blind Contour Drawing which is a contour drawing that is done by only looking at the cloud and not looking down at the paper.  This will really work your child's fine motor skills and enhance their ability to process what is going on in their eyes and brain and eventually transferred onto the paper. Blind contour drawing is always a great way to practice drawing no matter what the object! 

Have fun with this--I enjoyed listening to all 3 kids pointing out cloud shapes all the way home from school today.  Look up at the sky, you won't be disappointed!

God writes the Gospel not in the Bible alone, but also on trees, and in the flowers and clouds and stars.
~Martin Luther 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Easter Sunday Tradition: The Hunt for Easter Baskets is ON.

SO, while I am currently compiling a list of songs, videos, verses and illustrations to share with our kids in the weeks before Easter that focus on the reality of The Resurrection, I have already received several requests for hidden Easter Baskets.  
I decided to hide the kids' Easter Baskets the night before Easter last year, then spent a few minutes drawing very SIMPLE pictures on cardstock--very similar to something you would see on Blue's Clues.  While the kids were outside I hid the cards in familiar places all over the house.  Each clue contained a drawing of where they would find the next clue/drawing.  They caught on quickly and the energy and excitement built each time they discovered a new clue.  
This is not award winning videography, but this is what our Easter Basket Hunt looked like last year!
This fun activity did not require much time or planning at all; my kids talked about it for weeks and still remember it one year later.  
While I want to place much emphasis on the true meaning and celebration for Easter this year, I try to remember that my kids are simply kids.  This is a great chance to bond and share an experience together!
Check out many more fun spring ideas HERE.

Friday, March 16, 2012

All About Me: Birthday Questionnaire!

Last week we celebrated with my daughter as she turned 5. She is our only girl, and she loves everything about celebrations and parties.
I'm trying to do a better job commemorating milestones while my kids are little, and one way to do that is by printing this simple page and filling it out with them every year. I enjoyed the special moments we shared while my sweet girl answered questions about her current tastes and favorite things;  I know it will be so fun to look back on her answers 5-10 years from now.  It is easy to add a few more personalized questions to this list as well.
Maddy already loves her All About Me and this page is a perfect addition.  I look forward to celebrating more birthdays with our special girl, and using this simple page to reflect on how she is growing and changing each year!
And in case you were wondering, it was a Zhu Zhu pet party--we had a lot of fun making these cupcakes together. Oh Pinterest, what did we ever do without you!?

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Pretend Play: Felt Mail Envelopes

My daughter needed a project one recent rainy day while her older brother was busy with school. Since she had just recently learned to sew buttons onto scrap fabric, I thought a "real" button sewing project would be fun for her...such as felt Mail Envelopes that the kids could use for pretend play afterwards.

These are super easy to whip up, whether you use a sewing machine or hot glue gun.

I cut 4 different colors of felt into 7" wide by 12" long rectangles. Then I angled one end to make it look like an envelope flap.

The button was to go on the end that still had square corners, about two inches down from the edge and centered. She chose her favorite buttons from my little jar and got to stitching. She was super careful and made sure the needle went back in the same side it came out...great progress from her first lesson!

Next I folded the end (with the button) up a little more than a third and stitched the side edges together. Hot glue would work great too, or a young seamstress could even hand stitch those seams.

Then I folded the Flap side down and cut a slit to fit over the button.

Finally, we cut out little felt Stamps and hot glued/stitched those on the front of our envelopes. 

They've had fun writing notes and delivering mail to each other. Best perk of this project: my sweet little love notes!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Defend yourself! Create-A-Shield.

Around here, we have spent the past few days playing with foam swords that I picked up (yes, impulse purchase!) at Target in the dollar bins.  The intense indoor action has been just the energy release the kids (especially boys) have needed.
I expected the swords to break; they were $1 and we've invested in foam swords before. They last about an hour.  
Last night I decided to wrap them in colorful Duck® Tape to help make them last a little longer.  I am in love with all the duct tape options out there! It is fun and my mind is spinning with all the things I can wrap and make with these tapes.

I also realized that by wrapping them with tape, I was turning our harmless foam swords into respectable weapons.  So, this morning I decided we needed to create shields to even the playing field.

Although a pillow and belt make an excellent shield, I had some extra mat board that was perfect for the job. Of course any cardboard or old boxes would also work.  First, I drew a simple design on the board and cut it out.  Then I divided it into sections for my daughter to decorate. We did a quick search for some shield decoration ideas by looking at pictures online.  My daughter colored hers with crayons and I did a few lines in duck tape for my little guy's shield.

For the handles on the back, I simply used an extra piece of mat board for the arm holder and cut a circular loop from an old yogurt container (I have 6 million of them in my pantry) for the small handle.  I wrapped them in duck tape for extra reinforcement and we were ready for battle.  It isn't very pretty, but it is strong!
At this point we ran out of the lovely blue and white tape and had to resort to my husband's plain black gorilla glue tape--it was super thick and I hope he doesn't mind that we borrowed it!
Once our shields were decorated and strengthened with even more tape, we were ready for battle!  This project was a success.  We combined artistic fun and creativity to make a useful toy of protection!  I am sure these shields will last as long as the swords, and if/when they are demolished, I'm sure the kids will be thrilled to make a new shield!