Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Lazy Daisy Summer Fun

It’s official. Summer is here with its heat, humidity, and ever-present chance of afternoon thunderstorms. For many of us this change in weather patterns is a signal to slow down, relax, and enjoy the lazy daisy days of summer.

I’m embracing this philosophy with today’s activity—a fun yet easy-to-do creation of bright rainbow colors for your air conditioned spaces. Bring the summer inside—both the flowers and the rainbows.
I have many fond summer memories of treks to the fields with my sisters to pick huge bouquets of Queen Anne’s lace. When we got home, we’d promptly give each stem a long drink of water—but not just any water. With Momma’s help, we’d squirt food coloring into the glasses of water before standing the flowers in their own rainbow-colored swimming pools. The next morning we were always rewarded with a perfect blend of nature’s beauty. No longer white bunches of tiny white blossoms, the lace caps had turned to amazing shades of red, blue, green, and yellow.

As daisies are my all time favorite summer flowers, I am substituting them for the Queen Anne’s lace of my childhood adventures. The lesson is presented in photos only. This activity is also an opportunity for a springboard discussion on how flowers absorb water—a great way to bring a bit of science into summer.
So, the next misty morning, take your little ones for a walk in the field to pick the base for their own indoor rainbow creation.

Hint: I have found better success using blossoms that have not been recently watered. The flowers shown in the photos went two days with no rain.





Wednesday, June 19, 2013

ARE YOU A RAINBOW, A SNOWFLAKE, OR A LITTLE BIT OF BOTH?


 
Rainbows and snowflakes are true contrasts of nature. To best experience the splendor of a rainbow, we must pause, step back, and gaze from a distance. A snowflake, on the other hand, implores us to draw close. We must capture the fleeting beauty of winter’s masterpiece as it quickly blends into a snowdrift.
In many ways we are a blend of both rainbows and snowflakes. Some of our qualities are rainbow bold, easily noticed by others. However, each of us also possesses wonderful talents that can be easily missed. Like a quietly drifting snowflake, these talents implore others to draw closer to truly appreciate the traits that make each of us a unique snowflake.
As you and your child create today’s activity, take time to explore how wonderfully unique you are.
ARE YOU A RAINBOW OR A SNOWFLAKE, OR A LITTLE BIT OF BOTH?
SECONDARY RAINBOW SHOWN
 
Today’s activity is a colorful spin on the traditional silhouette-perfect fun for those rainy days waiting inside for the rainbow to signify the rain has come to an end.
Age range: Fun for all
Time to complete: 45-60 minutes
MATERIALS:
Thick drawing paper or card stock
White paper
Bright light source for silhouette creation
Pencil
7 cotton balls
Colored pencils* (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet)
Scissors
Repositionable adhesive

*This activity can also be completed with crayons or tempera paints.
INSTRUCTIONS: **
**Some of the instructions are intended for completion by an adult. Those steps will have a ** prior to the step.
1. ** Using a bright light against a white wall, trace the silhouette of your child.
            a. Tape a piece of white copy paper to the wall directly behind where your child is sitting.
            b. Shine the light on the profile of your child and trace the shadow formed by the bright light.
2. **Make a copy of the drawing to use for the project and cut out the copy. (You will use the silhouette for the project.)
3. Create the paper snowflake:
            a. Trace and cut a circle that is 4 inches in diameter out of white paper.
            b. Fold the paper in half, as shown.
            c. Fold the half circle into thirds, creating 6 sections.
            d. Draw and cut a decorative V shape at the curved edge. You will leave at least 1" edge not cut, to form the snowflake stencil.
            e. Open and flatten the paper snowflake. (You will use the outside portion of the snowflake for the project.

4. Prepare the materials for the coloring portion of the activity.
            a. Draw a heavy block of each color on a white sheet of paper. This will be used for the cotton ball ‘painting’.
            b. Load the color onto the cotton balls by rubbing the cotton balls back and forth across the colored blocks. You may have to reload from time to time.
5.**Spread a thin layer of repositionable adhesive to the back of the silhouette.
6.**Attach the silhouette to a blank sheet of heavy paper.
7. Beginning with either the red or the violet colors, rub the cotton balls onto the paper, around the edges. Complete these in order to create either a primary rainbow or a secondary rainbow. A secondary rainbow was used for this activity.
8.**When all seven colors have been used, carefully remove the paper silhouette.
 
9. Repeat steps 5, 6, and 7 for the snowflake, placing the snowflake inside the silhouette.
Hint: If you plan to use paint for the project, allow the paint to dry thoroughly before removing the silhouette and snowflake.
For additional rainbow and snowflake-related activities, please check out my activity book posted below. The book is available on Amazon.
 

Book Review and Giveaway, Too: Winner Announcement


The first book giveaway is now complete. Congratulations to Lynn from South Carolina and to Kathy from Michigan.
Your copies of It’s a Firefly Night and a special surprise will arrive at your home shortly.
Thank you to all of those that participated in this book review giveaway.
Please check back for another review and giveaway later this summer. In the meantime, stay tuned for a new activity that will be posted later today.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

JUST IN TIME FOR FATHER'S DAY

Just in Time for Father’s Day

Today’s blog is the first post of one of my book reviews. From time to time, I will post not only a book review for a children’s book, but I will also add a fun, easy-to-complete activity that can be used as follow-up after reading the book. I will only review books that I can recommend. As tastes differ greatly regarding literature, only positive reviews will be posted. The intent of the reviews is a brief description and details that a parent might find interesting when selecting books to read to their children. A book that might become a favorite for a four-year-old will more than likely not appeal to an eight-year-old. One of my sons devoured practically every literature book he could get, while the other son studied and applied skills he found in how-to books. Each person, whether they are  a child or an adult, has different tastes in reading material.
Each book review will also include a book giveaway. The giveaway registration will last a week, with the drawing announced one day after the close of the registration. The books will arrive from Amazon and will be available ONLY to residents of the United States.
As this approach to my book reviews will more than likely evolve over the next several months, I welcome feedback and suggestions.
A delightful tale, tantalizing artwork, and lessons sprinkled throughout—they are the recipe for a summer-themed story children will ask to hear again and again.
It’s a Firefly Night, written by Dianne Ochiltree and illustrated by Betsy Snyder, is a must-read for children ages 3-6. The story flows through an exciting evening spent outdoors in the company of a little girl, her father, and many many fireflies. Told in rhyme, the pacing of this story matches the sudden burst of light a firefly emits on warm summer nights—quick, expressive, and oh-so-meaningful. Each page has only a few scattered words, encouraging children  to pause and study the highly textured illustrations.
As the evening fades, the little girl releases the fireflies from the jar—a reminder to all of us about the importance of  protecting nature. As Ochiltree writes, “I love catching fireflies, but they are not mine”.
As an added bonus, at the end of the story Ochiltree provides a page of firefly facts, beautifully showcased by Snyder’s artistic talent.

I highly recommend this story for the little ones in your life.
The Details:
Recommended ages: 3-6
Word count (excluding fact page) 177
Average words per two page spread: 16
Extra value: reinforces counting skills, treatment of nature, connection with a parent, additional facts

Activity: The Firefly Dance: Counting Fun

 

Ages: 3-6
Time to complete: 20-30 minutes, including reading the reviewed book

Materials: *This is a mommy-made craft

Copy of the book (It’s a Firefly Night)
Yellow Pom Poms, 5 for each child
Fabric or felt glue
Small plastic eyes (optional)
Dark blue or black construction paper
Circle punch (optional)
Scissors
Post-It notes or yellow construction paper with repositionable adhesive



 
 
 


INSTRUCTIONS:

1. Prior to reading the book, create one option of the fireflies to use with the children.
            a. Print illustrations from the activity list that include all 5 pages.
            b. Create pom pom firefly finger puppets.
            c. Create 5 circles to use with title page printable (circles backed with repositionable adhesive).




2. Read and discuss the story, It’s a Firefly Night.
3. Read the poem to children, having them act out each verse, either by placing the circles onto the printable or by placing a firefly finger puppet on their fingers, one at a time. 

Fly Higher with the Fireflies:

The book and poem provide a great review for counting, shapes, and repetition. Older children may be able to repeat the poem with you. 


This book is available on Amazon.com.


This giveaway will include a free copy of It’s a Firefly Night, as well as another surprise. The registration will last from the posting of this blog post until midnight, June 18, 2013. One winner will be randomly selected from all entries. The book will be shipped from Amazon within approximately 2 weeks following the close of the giveaway. The giveaway is open to residents of the United States with a United State’s mailing address. The winner’s name will be posted on the blog, unless the winner chooses not to have his/her name posted.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

TROPICAL STORM ANDREA IS GONE, TIME FOR A RAINBOW

We are lucky enough to have rainbows form in our back yard quite often.
The hurricane season is officially here on the east coast with an early start from Tropical Storm Andrea. Yesterday was definitely not a day to head outdoors. Today, however, is a different story. The clouds are thinning and the sun is slowly forcing its way through the heavy gray haze—the perfect recipe for a rainbow.

Today I am posting an easy way for your kids to make their own rainbow—no rain required. So, head outdoors, grab the hose, and have some wet summer fun.

HOW CAN YOU MAKE YOUR OWN RAINBOW?

Time to complete: 20-30 minutes
Ages: Anyone can enjoy this activity 

Materials:
Garden hose with an adjustable nozzle attached
Photographs of naturally occurring rainbows
Picture of a right triangle or angle
Open space outside
Sunshine (the sun should NOT be directly above you)
Instructions:

1. Show the children images of naturally occurring rainbows (single and double rainbows).
Ask: What colors do you see in the rainbows? How do you think these rainbows are created? Look closely at the double rainbows. How are they different?
2. Show children the picture of a right triangle.
3. Demonstration:
            a. Position yourself with the sun directly behind you so that you and your shadow form the legs of a right triangle, as shown.
            b. Position the hose approximately halfway between your shadow and you. The actual angle is 42 degrees for the primary rainbow and 50 degrees for the secondary rainbow. However, using the phrase halfway will be easier for the children to understand.
            c. Have a child turn the water on FULL blast. Arc the hose spray to create the rainbow. The rainbow should be formed close to the halfway point between the legs of the triangle.
Ask: What colors do you see in the rainbow? What color is at the top? At the bottom?
4. Have the children take turns creating their own rainbows. It may be possible to create a double rainbow in this manner, but the secondary rainbow will be faint.
 
Conclusion:
To create a rainbow you need a source of light and something that will refract and reflect the light. The light from the sun is refracted (bent) and reflected (bounced) inside the droplets of water from the hose. As each color of the rainbow has a different wavelength, the way they are refracted and reflected causes the sunlight to split into the different stripes of the rainbow.



RAINBOW fact: Double rainbows are actually mirrored rainbows. The primary rainbow is on the bottom with the spectrum colors beginning with the red stripe. The secondary rainbow begins with the violet stripe and is not as bright as the primary rainbow.
There are many ways to create a rainbow—using CDs, water, water and oil, and many more. Try your own hand at creating rainbows.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Today’s post includes the eighth and final activity from the Sizzling Summer Snow Day Unit. While your children may be too old to complete the activity, they might be interested in helping out their younger siblings.

ACTIVITY 8: SILLY SNOWMAN AND HIS SILLY SEASONS

This short activity is a great way to end the day of winter-in-the-summer play. It’s a quick reminder about how each season is different from the next, with a bit of overlap in between. The activity is intended for the younger children, but the older kids might have fun helping out.
Ages: 4-6
Time to complete: 15-20 minutes
Materials:

Copy of the Silly Snowman poem
Copy of the seasonal snowman sheet
Scissors and glue
INSTRUCTIONS:

1. Read the poem to the children.
2. Discuss how each season is different in your area (or possibly similar).
3. Show the seasonal snowman sheet to the children and discuss how each season is represented.
4. Help the children match the season words to the correct seasonal snowman.

 

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Three for Thursday

The week is winding down. The school year is winding down. And, quite possibly, the kids are winding up. The early days of summer vacation are exciting for children. The three activities listed below, a continuation of the Sizzling Summer Snow Day Unit, are great ideas for helping them wind down a bit during the afternoon.

Please check back for the final activity to be posted next week.

Activity 5—In the summer you see this, but in the winter you see that—
The This and That Game

This activity is a fun way to cool down after the mitten relay (previous post), but will still keep the little one’s brain circuits warm and humming. Play the This and That Game-a comparison game. Accept reasonable answers that can be explained.

Ages: 5-10
Time to complete: 15-20 minutes

Materials:

Index cards with printed summer-themed words/phrases
Sand pail or other container to hold the cards
Answer sheet for moderator to use
Sample comparison item (ex: a snow shovel and a sand shovel)
INSTRUCTIONS:

1. Explain to the children that they are going to play a game where they will compare and contrast items from two different seasons, winter and summer. Discuss how the two seasons are different.
2. Show the children the sand shovel and the snow shovel. Discuss the purpose for each item.
3. Ask a child to pull a card out of the sand pail. The child (or parent) reads  the summer item on the card.
4. Children take turns stating the item or activity that is similar but used differently in the winter.

SummerWinter
Baseball gloveFuzzy glove
Fire pitFireplace
Sand shovelSnow shovel
Flip FlopsSnow boots
SkateboardSnowboard
Chocolate milkshakeHot cocoa
Build a sand castleBuild a snowman
Baseball capSnow hat
Ice HockeyField hockey

ACTIVITY 6—WARM YOUR IMAGINATION WITH A CHILLY SUMMER STORY
(and a hot cup of cocoa)

After a fun morning of activities, the kids can wind down while they sip a cup of hot cocoa topped with marshmallows and listen to a story about how it can snow in the summer time.
 

Ages: 5-7
Time to complete: 15-20 minutes

Read Sometimes Snow Falls in the Summer by Deb Troehler—a story of a child’s visit to her grandmother’s home. When the kids hear about the imaginative way that the grandmother helps her granddaughter create a summer snowstorm, the kids will definitely want to create a snowstorm of their own. That, however, may require a trip to the back yard when the sun dips low in the sky and the heat of the day has faded.
ACTIVITY 7—WINTER-THEMED CHARADES

Once the children have rested, it’s time to get them moving again with a fun game of winter-themed charades. This activity taps into their imaginations as well as their inner actors.

Ages: 4-10
Time to complete: 20-30 minutes

Materials:

Index cards with printed winter-themed activities
Sand pail or other container to hold the cards
Stopwatch and paper (optional)
INSTRUCTIONS:

1. Prior to the game of charades, discuss what type of things the children remember doing last winter. For example: If the winter was snowy, did they get to go sledding?
2. Write those activities on cards and place into the sand pail.
3. Ask a child to pull a card from the sand pail with a winter-themed activity listed on the card and read it.
4. The child then acts out the activity while the other children guess what the activity is.
5. Take turns acting out the rest of the winter activities.

Activity List:

Sledding
Shoveling snow
Skiing or snowboarding
Making Snow Angels
Putting on outdoor wear to play outside (hat, gloves, and mittens)
Building a snowman
Having a snowball fight

 
Modification for older children:

To reinforce concepts of telling time, designate one child the job of time keeper. Record the amount of time it takes for the children to identify the activity. Place those times in order to determine which pair of charade players had the fastest time.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Two for Tuesday, Fun Activities to Keep the Kiddos Moving


The temps have dropped and the sun is out, what could be more perfect for a Terrific Tuesday? How about two activities that your kiddos can do with their neighborhood friends?

The post for today includes two simple activities that require little preparation and will keep your little ones (or even your not-so-little ones) moving and thinking during their break from school.

*These activities are the third and fourth items from the SizzlingSummer Snow Day Unit.

Activity 3—Round as a snowball, unique as a snowflake scavenger hunt
This activity is a great way to keep the kiddos happy, active, and thinking during the hot summer months.

Ages: 5-8
Time to complete: 30-45 minutes

Conduct a winter-themed scavenger hunt. Potential items to find in the home—an object that is a round sphere like a snowball, something that you use in the yard in the winter, something to keep you warm in the winter, something that you can use to measure the depth of the snow, something you can do inside when it is too cold to go outside, something a parent uses to clean the snow off things, something that has 6 sides like a snowflake, something that is as powdery as snow (flour, talc, cornstarch), etc.
ACTIVITY 4—MITTEN MATCH AND HAT RELAY
Ages: 4-8, with adult supervision

Time to complete: 30-45 minutes
The preparation for this activity is a wonderful way to get the neighborhood kids ready for the Sizzling Summer Snow Day. Have the kids bring their winter hat and mittens with them when they come to your home. Keep the reason for the mittens and hat a secret. This will definitely be a conversation starter when the kids arrive with their winter gear in hand.

MATERIALS:

1 pair of mittens or gloves for each child
1 winter hat for each child
Jingle bell or other device to signal the beginning of the relay
6 containers large enough to hold the mittens and hats

INSTRUCTIONS:
1. Prior to the activity, prepare the room for the activity:
            a. Clear an area of the room to provide about 12 feet of space for the children to participate in the relay. The area should be free of obstacles and sharp corners.
            b. Place all of the mittens in one container at the end of the relay track, making sure they are well mixed.
            c. Place the hats in another container at the end of the relay track.
            d. Place the remaining empty containers at the beginning of the relay track. These containers will be used to gather the hats and mittens when the child finishes their activity run.
2. Divide the children into two teams, having them sit in a line behind one of the empty containers.
3. Conduct the relay:
            a. Ring the jingle bell to start the relay.
            b. The first child in each team runs to the pair of full containers at the end of the relay track.
            c. The children then sort through the containers to locate their mittens and hat.
            d. The children put on the hat and mittens and run back to the beginning of the relay track.
            e. They take off the hat and mittens and place them into the container at the beginning of the relay  track.
            f. They tag the next child in line.
            g. Repeat steps 3b through 3f until one team finishes the relay.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Snow in May?~No Way!


This year our weather on the east coast has been anything but typical. We had many sunny and warm days in January and a heavy frost in mid-May. In parts of New York they received close to three feet of snow on Memorial Day. As Memorial Day is now known as the unofficial beginning of summer, I guess you can say that Sometimes Snow does Fall in the Summer. Yesterday the temps were in the 90s and the humidity turned the air into thick steamy soup.
What a difference a week makes.

However, whether you are experiencing the real snow- fluffy, frosty, and fun, or creating a snowstorm of your own—soft, squishy, or solid, the activity posted today will encourage your little ones to ponder the delights of physical characteristics. Below you will find the second activity from the Sizzling Summer Snow Day.
Activity 2—Snowball Sort and Snow Wall Fort
 

This activity is an extension of the preceding marshmallow sorting activity. It provides a terrific opportunity to explore texture, density, and other physical attributes of common objects found in the home.

Ages: 3-6, with modification

Time to complete: 15-20 minutes

Materials: For this activity, gather various sized and textured round objects in your home that are white or mainly white. Suggestions include—play balls, cotton balls, foam balls, bath scrubbers, rolled socks, home d├ęcor, etc. Use your imagination and let your little ones help find the objects with you. You will also need a container that is large enough to hold your collection of ‘snow balls’ and sorting containers. Optional: Flash cards with physical attributes written on them.

Instructions:

1. Gather the objects to sort. This is a great opportunity to reinforce the concept of roundness with the children.

2. Place those objects (the ‘snowballs’) into a container.

3. Ask a child to randomly pull one of the snow balls out of the container.

Ask: Is this snowball hard or soft? Squishy or firm? Heavy or light? Etc. Can you find another snowball that is similar? (Select an attribute for them)?

4. Ask another child to pull out a snowball that is different from the first one. For example, if the first snowball is hard, the second snowball could be soft.

5. Sort the remaining snowballs by the two chosen attributes.

6. Count how many of each type of snowball there is in each pile.
 
 

Follow-up Frosty Fort Fun

After completing the snowball sort, play a game of topple the snow fort. This activity reinforces fine motor and gross motor skills as well as teaches children about balance and gravity.

Instructions:

1. Stack 10 foam cups, as shown.
 
 

2. Take turns tossing the snowballs from the first part of this activity to knock down the cups.

Ask: Which snowball was the best for knocking down the cups? Why do you think it was the best choice?
Are you ready for a snowball fight, summer style?