Thursday, August 30, 2012

Fine Art for Preschool!

FINALLY!  Here it is, my FREE sample from the Preschool Fine Arts Activity Pack.  Its my latest and its designed for Preshcoolers!  My preschool students have completed all of the activities and LOVED it!  I also have to say, that these lessons make parents happy too.  There is something fun in saying, "Yes, my 3 year old knows all about Monet and Kandinsky."  Love it!

Here is my tip for Fine Arts with young ones... EXPECTATION.  What do I mean?  Don't expect adult work from your 3 and 4 yeard olds just because you are teaching them about adult artists.  It sounds easy enough, but I have witnessed many a teacher do half or most of the work, "just so it looks nicer."  Don't fall into this trap!  The lesson pack I have created includes many cut and paste options to help make everything look more finished.  I also recommend framing preschool artwork to make things "nicer."  To "frame" all you need is a sheet of paper larger than the project.  Center the project and glue, tape, or staple together.  Black works best!  But other colors can be used as well.

And finally, just for my blog readers, I am including some further instructions not found on the teacherspayteachers FREE download.  You can use this "Water Lily" download any way you want, but here are some tips.  Have students paint a watery background onto white or blue paper.  Use only cool colors, blues, greens, or purples.  Once dry, have students color, cut, and paste the water lilies onto the painting.  Display the student painting next to a poster of Monet's "Water Lilies."

Check out the FREE sample here

Check out the FULL pack... you don't need to know anything about art to use this pack!  Almost everything you need is here

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Friday, June 29, 2012

Summer!! Let's Review Flip Flop Spa!

One morning, not too long ago, I stumbled across a morning show.  You know the ones with news and talk and such.  They had a table set up with all the great, new stuff you should be buying... I LOVE when they do that.  The girl help up a flip flop she said would soften my feet.  Hooray!

You should know that I hate my feet.  There isn't anything wrong with them in particular.  I just hate all feet!  I hate looking at them, putting cream on them, ugghhhh!  The thought of going for a pedicure or someone touching my feet totally freaks me out.  So, a shoe, even is its a flip flop (of course I hate flip flops and sandals... ewww) that can exfoliate and soften my feet just by wearing the shoe?!  Hooray!

So, I decided to visit the website.  The name was memorable, even though I didn't write it down that day.  "Flip Flop Spa" how decadent!  I visited the website several times over about 4 weeks.  The flip flops were a little expensive... if they were junk.  If they work, its pretty reasonable.  For around $60, you can have the deluxe type starter kit.  For about $30 you can have a more basic kit.  You can also purchase individual pieces to customize your experience.

I decided to try to save some money and pick and choose the most important pieces.  It was a little difficult.  The item descriptions were lacking, well, descriptions.  The website was forcing me to depend on purchading the expensive kit in order to get eveything I needed, because there was no description of what I needed.  Confused? Me too.  So, here's the thing, I ordered everything in the deluxe kit separately, and it was cheaper than buying them together... a lot cheaper!  Of course I was missing the carrying case (which you cannot buy separately, so I cannot include a price for that in my total), so technically they could say that case is worth $5 or $100-- see you really are saving if your buy the kit!  wink wink.

Despite the flaws in pricing, website design, and item descriptions, I really really wanted to try this product, so I spent the money!!!  (BTW I did email the company with all the complaints listed above.  It seems to be a small start up company that maybe is unaware of these complaints.  I have yet to hear back from them.)

My products arrived today.  I was a little surprised when the FedEx truck pulled up, since I recieved no product shipment email.  But they arrived safe and sound and packaged well.  Here is everything straight out of the box:

Everything was in a very cute burlap case.  The flip flops looked well made.  The color was silver leopard and it was very sparkly!  I do love sparkle!  I didn't like the heel on the bottom of the flip flop, but since I haven't walked around in them yet, I'll not judge just yet.  But aren't flip flops flat?

Here is the top:

And everything else:

Not sure if you can tell by the picture, I ordered an extra set of pads that I didn't need.  Due to poor descriptions on the website, I didn't know the base pair came with a set of pads.

I intend to try out these flip flops over the next month.  I'll review everything again then.  But so far, everything looks VERY well made.  If I saw this set in the store and was able to touch it, and try everything on, I would purchase it.  The only flaw I see so far is the website. 

But stay tuned because these feet...

... could use some work!  Oh ewwwww did I just post a picture of my foot???!!!!  I might have nightmares about this!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Misc.- Sippy Cups in the Dishwasher and Iced Coffee!

I don't know what the weather is like where you are, but we're about ready to burst into flames here!  I'm originally from the northeast, but I'm getting to experience weather variety thanks to being a military spouse.  So, instead of playing outside every afternoon, we have been taking shelter in the air conditioning until AFTER dinner.  So here are some random thoughts I thought I would share.

First of all, sippy cups... I hate them.  We tried to skip them completely.  It was going well until we visited the grandparents for several weeks and sippy cups were just easier.  We had opted for the kid cups that look like travel coffee cups.  I just removed the valve and its a great training cup!  I also found, but haven't tried yet, a great product, the "Oxo Training Cup."  It's similar to what I have rigged up with the cups we have, so I don't think I will buy any more cups.

But anyway, back to the sippy cups.  I prefer the "Take and Toss" cups but I hate putting them in the dishwasher!  They always flip over that fill up with dirty dish water.  Yuck!  Whenever I filled the dishwasher, I was always looking for something to put on top of them, a collander, a bowl, anything.  The problem, they still sometimes flipped and the bowl or whatever didn't always get clean.  One day, the light bulb went on!  Accidently, of course, but on just the same.  I had been baking cookies and needed to wash the cooling rack.  PERFECT!  Now I always put a cooling rack on top of my sippy cups. 

I have ones with legs.  The legs wrap around the cups or the row.  Very rarely do the cups flip over now.  I also don't lose the lids.  At one point, I was short about 8 lids.  They kept flying down to the bottom and melting!  I hope this tip works for you too!

Next random thought.  Serendipity!  Once upon a time I used to buy Serendipity's Frozen Hot Chocolate Mix!  YUM!  They stopped selling it at our local mall and I haven't thought about it in years!  But my husband went to Las Vegas for our pre-deployment vacation.  We ate at Serendipity's and my husband had his first taste of the good stuff (better than the mix by the way!).  This week, since I was missing the hubby so much, I searched to see if I could still get the mix online.  I found the recipe!!!  I guess Serendipity shared the recipe with Oprah at some point.  (I don't know how I missed that episode!)  I don't want to put the recipe here, because its not mine to share.  You can find it if you search for it.  I highly recommend it!  The mix is easier though, and I might still order it.

I can share my secret for iced coffee!  I LOVE Sheetz's (is that right?) Iced Mocha Coffee!  We don't have Sheetz here, so I had to make my own.  First I tried making some coffee, letting it cool, adding chocolate and milk.  This did not work because the coffee was very week.  I tried searching for a recipe online.  The recipes had some great reviews, but seemed complicated.  One told me to soak some coffee grains over night and strain the mixture.  Plus, I have to wait till the next day to have my iced coffee??!!  Or plan ahead??  The other commenters said that they make wnough for a week or two and just keep it in the fridge... UMMM... gross.  OK, here is my way. 

I take a small amount of water, maybe a 1/4 cup or less (I don't measure it).  I microwave the water or boil it, doesn't matter.  When its hot, I dissolve 3 teaspoons of instant coffee.  Then I put in two or three iced cubes to cool it off.  In a cup, I mix about 10 ounces of skim milk with enough chocolate syrup for the amount of milk.  I add the coffee and stir.  I fill the cup up the rest of the way with ice and stir.  That's it.  I can make it in 2-3 minutes and be drinking it!!!  Plus you can adjust the amount of coffee, milk, or chocolate to suit your own taste.  I don't really like milk, so sometimes I use mostly water with just a splash of milk (but I don't recommend it, unless you don't like milk too... my husband thinks its pretty gross without the milk.  But we make hot coffee with mostly water soooo IDK)

So that's it.  I'm going to go make some iced coffee and sip it in my air conditioning.  Well, only if my 2 year old lets me, of course!!!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Missing Summer Camp!

I have been out of the classroom for just over two years.  I am currently a stay at home mom for my sweet little two year old.  I have to admit, I miss it.  I also miss the summer work I used to do.  I think every year since I was 18, I worked at some kind of summer camp. 

At first, it was a great way to make some money for college.  Then it was just a way to stay busy.  If you're thinking about working at a camp, DO IT!  Camp usually falls right in the middle of your summer break.  So, you get some time to yourself at the beginning and end of your summer.  Besides, if you do it right, summer camp still feels like a vacation!

If you don't need the money, volunteer at a summer camp.  Most areas have camps that are free for low-income kids.  These camps don't have a big budget (usually) and could probably use your help.  I was lucky enough to be able to afford to volunteer, instead of "work," a few summers.  It was even more rewarding.

I'd love to hear some great camp stories, if you've got any!  Happy Camping!

Check out this post for a FREE arts and crafts spider lesson.

Check out this lesson pack for 6 weeks of arts and crafts lessons here.

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Thursday, June 14, 2012

Arts and Crafts for Summer Camp

     Over 10 years, I have experimented with different projects and the ones included in this lesson pack (get the full pack here) are the most popular among my campers and cover a 6 week camp season.

     I have worked or volunteered at 3 separate camps over the years, but the budget is always the same– pennies, it seems.  So the projects are really based on a shoestring budget, simple papers, minimal supplies.  I always try to splurge on one item, my favorite is liquid watercolors.  I get a lot of bang for the buck since they are so versatile.  You will notice I use them several times throughout the season. 

     It was also required of me, to create lesson plans that could be adapted for a variety of ages.  The camp directors wanted all the kids to do the same project each week.  So that meant the 5 year olds were doing the same project as the 12 year olds.  Art is easy to adapt that way, but you should note that the following projects were planned with that in mind.

     For my loyal readers, I'm including one of my favorite summer camp projects-- spiders!!! (We usually make bug paintings along with these-- check out my store for more info).

Get the entire pack here !

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I hope these projects see you through an exciting, happy summer!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Review of "Wonderstruck" by Brian Selznick!

It has been way too long since I have been able to sit down and ramble on about books and teaching.  As you can imagine, military spouses sometimes feel more like single moms than married ones.  Its been like that around here lately.  Not to mention bouts of the flu and strep throat. 

I haven't been able to stick with a new book lately.  I don't seem to have the concentration.  I read a chapter or two, then the books sits and sits until I forget what I read.  Well, my daughter dug out my copy of Brian Selznick's latest book "Wonderstruck" from the bottom of her book bin.  (She's not even two, so I am not exactly sure how it got in her book bin.)

Let me just start by saying that Brian Selznick is a genius!  His giant chapter books are half pictures.  No, not just pictures, the pictures tell the story.  They MOVE the story forward!  I've never seen anything quite like it.  I first discovered Selznick's work when "The Invention of Hugo Cabret" came out.  I bought it at our school book fair.  I bought it to use as a lesson in how to pick out books for some 3rd and 4th grade struggling readers (basically, it was a room of kids that hate reading).  We ended up reading the book in class every Friday.  As we reached the end of "Hugo," a Friday field trip was scheduled and one boy, who particularly hated reading, requested to skip the field trip so he could find out what happened at the end of the book!  (Don't worry, we finished the book the following week.)

Don't tell my husband, but I wasn't a great fan of the movie "Hugo."  It was beautiful like Selznick's drawings, but the magic of the story got lost in translation to the big screen.  I made my husband go see it in the theater, he of course hated it.  He thought it was boring.  It was, but I'll never admit it to him.

After reading "Hugo," I searched for more Selznick books and discovered "The Houdini Box."  I think this is my favorite.  I taught some 3rd grade lessons using this book.  I cry a little every time I read it to my students.  Selznick gets it.  He is a master of communicating emotions.  Something that many elementary students could use a few lessons in.  Mr. Selznick, if you every read this post:  PLEASE write a few more shorter picture books like "The Houdini Box!" 

So now we arrive at "Wonderstruck."  "Wonderstruck" was just as easy to read as "The Invention of Hugo Cabret."  I read it in one night.  It felt shorter than "Hugo" felt.  I was more disappointed when the book ended.  I wanted to know more about the characters.  It was still a satisfying ending.

The story follows two characters, a boy and a girl.  The boy, Ben, has just lost his mother and spends the books trying to figure out the story of his father.  The girl, Rose, is deaf.  Rose's story if more of a mystery, since her story is primarily told in pictures.  Rose's pictures and Ben's prose intertwine as the mysteries deepen. 

As "Hugo" pays tribute to the silent movie era, "Wonderstruck" explores the both early museums as well as, the Deaf culture.  But primarily this is a story of family and love. 

Did I mention it made me cry?

I really hate reviews that give away the story, and I just can't do that to this story.  Just trust me and read it!  Or any of Brian Selznick's wonderful books... it doesn't matter which one, they're all good!

The publisher's recommended reading age is 9+ and 4th grade and up.  I believe that is probably a good suggestion for independent reading.  If you are a parent and are thinking of reading this to your child, I think 3rd grade would be an appropriate listening age.

Get the book from amazon here .

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Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Pete the Cat Inspires Me!

Pete has so inspired me!!!  My daughter and I have been doing EVERYTHING color since reading Pete's book!  And having a great time! 

We have been playing with balloons and paint, reading lots and lots of books, and now she wants me to tell her the color of everything.  I've created a color monster!!!!

I've put together a packet of lessons for a week of toddler and preschool color themed activities!  They are available at my store on click here for a full description.  Like the pack?  I'm going to put it on sale!  When I reach 20 followers I'll put it on sale for 20% that day!  So come on all you readers, follow my blog!

Here's my favorite activity from the pack:

Balloon Basketball:
Get a bunch of laundry baskets, one for each color balloon.  If you’re lucky you can find blue, red, white, etc baskets.  If not, just put a colored piece of paper in the bottom of each basket.  Put on some music and let the kids dance and sort the balloons.  The dancing and the moving around should keep the balloons floating around the room. having to give chase will make it more fun!
For music, I recommend:     “Let’s Move” by Steve Songs

Monday, January 23, 2012

I love Pete the Cat!

Do you know Pete?  On my most recent trip to the book store, I spotted a picture book with the most adorable cat on the cover...  "Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes."  Pete introduces colors in a fun, musical way. 

Pete has a pair of white shoes that he LOVES.  He loves them so much that he sings a song about it!  As he walks around, he keeps stepping in messy stuff that change the color of his shoes.  Pete never gets upset, he loves his red shoes, blue shoes, brown shoes, and wet shoes!  He sings a song about each one.

My daughter loves anything musical, so I knew we had to get this book!  I didn't get it right away because it's listed at $16.99!  But I won't complain because I do love using the local library.  We love reading the same book over and over, so I do like to buy. I am glad Pete has made his way into our library.

The best parts:
1. Its simple.  Pete's shoes go through 5 changes: white, red, blue, brown, and wet.
2. Its repetitive.  With each color change, the text repeats with minor changes.  Kids love that!
3. Plot has a circular pattern.  His shoes start out white and end up white, wet but white. 
4. Free reading of the story set to music is available FREE online!

The worst parts:
1. Its too short... WE WANT MORE PETE!
2. I don't like the brown page, it looks like Pete is drinking coffee.  I guess it could be hot chocolate. 
3. I love the color changes, but when Pete gets blueberries on his red shoes, I think his shoes should be purple, not blue.  But since my daughter is too young to know that, I guess it doesn't matter.
4. The free story download doesn't follow the text exactly.  So it wouldn't work very well for reading along.  Young readers might get confused.

I say, add Pete to your library!  He is so much fun!  And don't forget to download the free story and song! 

Pete the Cat Story and Song Download  plus some downloadable Pete the Cat activities!

Harper Collins features this youtube video.  It's cute but the little girl isn't always clear.  video

Pete's website:

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Friday, January 20, 2012

Wondering About Color Wonder? Review

My daughter is almost 20 months old.  So, I thought it was time to start some more structured learning times during the day.  As I looked around for learning supplies and activities, I discovered it is VERY difficult to find anything that is appropriate for the under 2 crowd.  So, I started buying things labeled for 3 and up.

Its been about 10 years since I taught preschool, and its been a little difficult for me to get back into the early childhood mindset.  I created about 90% of my lessons back then, because my budget was small.  Believe it or not, it was $100 for the YEAR.  That was $100 total for the whole building!  We had one toddler room, one preschool room, and before and after-school care up to age 12.  The $100 was for crayons, paper, pencils, balls, toys... everything we needed had to come from the $100!  I don't know how I did it!

It just goes to show you that I'm no stranger for pulling lessons and activities out of the air.  But I must admit, I am struggling to find activities that my daughter is willing to do.  (Thank goodness she loves books.)

Wandering around Kmart last week, I spotted the Color Wonder finger paint set.  At $10 for a teeny amount of paint and 12 sheets of paper, I thought "RIP-OFF!"  Plus it said ages 3 and up.  I wondered if I would be wasting my money on a 20 month old.

As you probably guessed, I bought it.  I thought it would sit in the closet for a few months, till I thought she was ready.  I pulled it out this morning, thinking we could make a "Happy Birthday" sign for my husband.  I thought he would feel special that her very first painting was made just for him.

I sat her at the kitchen table, strapped into her booster seat.  I laid out the double wide Color Wonder paper and popped open the orange well on the very cute, plastic Color Wonder hand.  I dipped my finger into the gooey, clear paint.  It looked and felt a little like Vaseline, only goopier and not greasy.  I smeared it smoothly on the paper, saying, "look here, see?"  We both looked.  Nothing.  No orange.  I smeared some more.  It slowly turned orange.  But guess what, she wasn't looking anymore!  When she looked, she clearly didn't understand that I had put that orange there.  It was too much of a delay. 

I then picked up some more paint and smeared it on the paper.  I kept rubbing my finger on the spot until the color appeared.  That seamed to help her get it.  Next, I showed her how to dip her finger into the paint and smear.  She tried to eat it twice.  It must not have tasted very good because she did get a very big blob into her mouth, but it slid right out.  The goopiness of the paint kept it as a solid in her mouth... MAJOR PLUS!

She loved the plastic hand and the lids on the paint.  She spent most of the time trying to open and close them.  She liked it best when she had a big blob to smear.  I'm still not sure she understood that she was coloring the paper.  I think she liked the smearing part.

I went onto Amazon to see what other moms thought of this product, more precisely what moms of older kids thought.  It seems that many kids do not like the texture.  For older kids, it doesn't seem to be enough paint.  The best feature appears to be the mess free clear paint.

Thinking of my preschool classes of the past, I think this is not the right paint for 3 and up.  The lag time from clear to color is too great.  Preschoolers do have some precision to their painting and they need to SEE what they are doing.  The goopy quality would also hinder any preschool age precision.  The paint seemed to work best when my daughter took handfuls and smeared with the palm of her hand.  I recommend that Crayola rethink the age on this and recommend it for 18- 36 months.

In the end, I do recommend it... but don't replace traditional finger paint with it.  This is a nice addition to your art bin.  And tape your paper down!

Find it:

Crayola Color Wonder Paint

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Book Review or Review of My Brain: You Be the Judge!

Its no secret around this house that I enjoy "The Mysterious Benedict Society" series.  When I heard that a "Mysterious Benedict Society" puzzle book was coming out, I nearly died from pure joy!!!  I love puzzle books too.  They must be making this book just for me!!!

On my latest trip to Barnes and Noble, I spotted it on the shelf.  With great self control, I didn't crack the cover till I got home.  Not one flip!  I wanted a cup of coffee and a few cookies... a sleeping toddler wouldn't hurt either.

I sat down in my old, half-broken recliner, put my feet up, sipped my coffee and turned to the first page:

                               Dear Reader,
                               ...these individuals have developed a wish to see their owns wits tested...

That's ME!!  I want to test my wits!

Excitement was building. 

I reigned it in, because, after all, this was a KID'S book.  Would it really test my wits?  Would it even hold my attention?

I turned to the first puzzle.  It looks like the newspaper advertisement for "Special Opportunities" from the beginning of book 1.  Ok, that's cool.  Is it a puzzle?  Hmmm.  I'm not sure.  I turn to the next puzzle.

A riddle.  I'm not very good at riddles.  "The Message in the Advertisements."  Do I use the newspaper clipping from the previous page?  Hmmm.  I'm not sure.  I turn to the next puzzle.

Morse code.  Turn.

"The Maze of Pages."  Followed by 9 black pages with eyes.  What is this???  I have no idea!!!

I start flipping through the book.  Trying to find something I can understand!   The only parts I get are the quotes from the series that are in between the puzzles.

My husband looks over from the couch and asks, "How's the book?"

"Its great!" fake excitement fills my voice.  To myself, I wonder, "Is this book really bad?  or am I just this dumb?"

The world may never know...

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"The Mysterious Benedict Society: Mr. Benedict's Book of Perplexing Puzzles, Elusive Enigmas, and Curious Conundrums "  Trenton Lee Stewart

  • Hardcover: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers; 1 edition (October 11, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316181935
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316181938
  • Wednesday, January 18, 2012

    What I am supposed to do with a blog???

    What am I supposed to do with a blog???  I know everyone has one, right?  You should get one, right?  Well here I am with nothing to say and no one to read it, right?!

    So, here's my plan.  I'm going to try to write every week.  I'll review books.  I'll write about teaching my daughter.  I'll write about lessons.  I'll write about writing.  My free time for doing all this depends on my daughter's nap. 
    So we are all the whim of a 1 1/2 year old!!! 




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