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Balancing Act

I decided to post this right after yesterday’s post of Balancing and Coordination Exercises, even though it’s not a suggested activity since it involves a lot of coordination and balance!

Sweet Pea loves walking around with his lovies on his head. (I know, sounds silly, right?) When he first started this his lovies spent a lot of time on the floor. I was just noticing today they haven’t been down there that often lately!


Have you ever thought about what goes into balancing something on your head? I mean, for a lot of us just walking a straight line is difficult! You’ve got to be holding your head steady (neck muscles) your back straight (core) your legs steady….so much gross motor control and so many muscles working together!

At first Sweet Pea’s hands were held up by the side of his head ready to catch his precious animal. As he did this more often his arms lowered out to his sides, like he was walking a tightrope. You could see his coordination improving minute by minute, day by day. And his balance…he hardly wobbles from side to side, just practically runs along!

Encourage Writing – Balance and coordination activities

I took my little break before realizing I never posted this. I am so sorry if you were following along every Monday, but here’s another post about Encouraging Writing (and sorry it’s on Tuesday this week)!

Balancing and coordination activities help with early childhood writing abilities by way of the trickle down effect (gross motor enabling greater control of fine motor muscles), but they also can be just plain fun for kids!

The suggested ‘exercises’ included in the OT packet I received to help Cutie Pie with his writing are great outdoor chalk activities, which we love!

1. Make several lines with chalk – straight, curvy, jagged. Practice walking forward on the lines keeping balanced. Then, walk sideways or backwards along the same lines!

2. Draw different shapes a few inches apart and practice jumping into the shapes. As this gets easier, draw the shapes farther apart, or jump sideways or backwards.

3. Play hopscotch! Practicing holding an adult’s hand may be needed at first! This is also sneaky number practice!

Of course, to make this more challenging for your beginner reader you can use letters instead of shapes and numbers, similar to the Basketball Alphabet Game.

For other posts in this series check out:

Encouraging Writing – Gross Motor Vision activities
Some Simple Ideas to Encourage Writing
Encourage Writing – Fine Motor Activities
Encourage Writing – Fine Motor Activities We Like
Encourage Writing – Fine Motor Visual Activities
Encourage Writing – Fine Motor Visual Activities We Like
Encourage Writing – Prayer Box (or a great idea for a visual wish list)


Encourage Writing – Balance and coordination activities

I took my little break before realizing I never posted this. I am so sorry if you were following along every Monday, but here’s another post about Encouraging Writing (and sorry it’s on Tuesday this week)!

Balancing and coordination activities help with early childhood writing abilities by way of the trickle down effect (gross motor enabling greater control of fine motor muscles), but they also can be just plain fun for kids!

The suggested ‘exercises’ included in the OT packet I received to help Cutie Pie with his writing are great outdoor chalk activities, which we love!

1. Make several lines with chalk – straight, curvy, jagged. Practice walking forward on the lines keeping balanced. Then, walk sideways or backwards along the same lines!

2. Draw different shapes a few inches apart and practice jumping into the shapes. As this gets easier, draw the shapes farther apart, or jump sideways or backwards.

3. Play hopscotch! Practicing holding an adult’s hand may be needed at first! This is also sneaky number practice!

Of course, to make this more challenging for your beginner reader you can use letters instead of shapes and numbers, similar to the Basketball Alphabet Game.

For other posts in this series check out:

Encouraging Writing – Gross Motor Vision activities
Some Simple Ideas to Encourage Writing
Encourage Writing – Fine Motor Activities
Encourage Writing – Fine Motor Activities We Like
Encourage Writing – Fine Motor Visual Activities
Encourage Writing – Fine Motor Visual Activities We Like
Encourage Writing – Prayer Box (or a great idea for a visual wish list)

Excuse this absence

I have been doing a lot of watching lately…watching my boys change little by little every day…watching words grow into more intricate conversations…watching independence develop…watching legs grow longer…watching interests change with new activities attempted…

These past several days I’ve found a longing into my heart to take a step back every once in a while and instead of writing about what we are doing, to actually enjoy the process of doing without having the thought of a blog post in the back of my head. So that’s exactly what I’ve been doing.

Please excuse the short absence. I’m taking a short step back and enjoying my kiddos!

Encouraging Writing – Vision Gross Motor fun

young child laying on floor drawing and writing
Encouraging Writing

Vision gross motor fun is pretty much typical play for seeing children, especially when it is play that takes coordination of their limbs to accomplish something fun.

With the warmer weather finally arriving we’ve been playing outside more. One thing 6 year old Cutie Pie loves to do is pop bubbles. He will pop them with his fingers, punching at them, hitting them with a bat, squirting at them with a squirt gun, you name it! This is great at building coordination between his eyes and his arms and fingers.
Another thing Cutie Pie loves to do is pour, although he doesn’t love it nearly as much as 4 year old Sweet Pea! Cutie Pie makes much less of a mess than Sweet Pea, which shows me his eye hand coordination is better and improving! It’s another activity my boys love to do outside, where the mess isn’t even considered a mess!
These are just a few of my kiddos’ favorites for you to try to help your child gain greater coordination, which will ultimately help with their writing.

For other posts in this series check out:

Encouraging Writing – Gross Motor Vision activities
Some Simple Ideas to Encourage Writing
Encourage Writing – Fine Motor Activities
Encourage Writing – Fine Motor Activities We Like
Encourage Writing – Fine Motor Visual Activities
Encourage Writing – Fine Motor Visual Activities We Like
Encourage Writing – Prayer Box (or a great idea for a visual wish list)

Encouraging Writing – Vision Activities Gross Motor

*Disclaimer: These ideas are not totally my own. I have been given some resources by the Occupational Therapists at my child’s school to help with his handwriting at home, unfortunately not all came with sources attached. I’m simply sharing these ideas in hopes that by seeing how they are helping my child they can help you or encourage you to seek help if you feel it is needed for your child.

I have previously posted about fine-motor visual activities. These are activities that require coordination between the eyes and fingers in order to accomplish a fun task.


OT has also suggested activities requiring coordination of the eyes and gross motor muscles as well. As we’ve all learned elsewhere, gross motor muscles are the first to develop and play a large role in developing fine movements.

Some of the suggested visual motor activities on the gross-motor end of things are:

  • Popping bubbles
  • Balloon volleyball
  • Flash light tag
  • Water balloon catch
  • Practice pouring water
My kiddos love doing all of these, so it’s been very easy to incorporate gross-motor visual activities around here! Especially with the warmer weather it’ll be easy to include more activities like this in our daily routine.

For more ideas to encourage writing, check out these past posts:

Encourage Writing – Sensory Motor activities

*Disclaimer: These ideas are not totally my own. I have been given some resources by the Occupational Therapists at my child’s school to help with his handwriting at home, unfortunately not all came with sources attached. I’m simply sharing these ideas in hopes that by seeing how they are helping my child they can help you or encourage you to seek help if you feel it is needed for your child.

For the past several Mondays I’ve been posting about the materials/ideas sent home by the Occupational Therapists at 6 year old Cutie Pie’s school to help with his handwriting here at home.

Today I’ll be sharing some items from their list of Sensory-Motor activities:

  • Play in wet sand (bury and find objects)
  • Fingerpaint
  • Trace sandpaper letters
  • Practice air writing
  • Practice writing on a vertical surface, like an easel or in shaving cream on the tub wall
  • Wheelbarrow walking
  • Crab walk/Bear Walk
  • Blow and pop bubbles (use fingers only or clapping hands)
  • Ball games

As you can tell a lot of these games increase coordination at the gross motor level, but all contribute to the overall coordination of a child’s body, including the finer movements like forming a pincer grasp.

If you like this, you might want to check out other Encouraging Writing posts for more ideas!

Some Simple Ideas to Encourage Writing
Encourage Writing – Fine Motor Activities
Encourage Writing – Fine Motor Activities We Like
Encourage Writing – Fine Motor Visual Activities
Encourage Writing – Fine Motor Visual Activities We Like
Encourage Writing – Prayer Box (or a great idea for a visual wish list)

Partner Storytelling

brothers reading together
Brothers Reading

Cutie Pie and Hubby were having fun playing by making up a story together the other night. I think making up stories is a great way to encourage reading (it’s not really that far of a stretch), growing the imagination in all sorts of ways!

Cutie Pie was in charge of all of the details and telling Hubby what would happen next based on what Hubby said he’d want to do. Hubby was a character and could only ask questions about what was around him. This really brought out Cutie Pie’s imagination! (creativity, processes, imagination)

Their story involved Hubby being a knight in a castle and needing to rescue a person trapped in a net being held in place by a friendly bear. Through a series of questions and actions Hubby had discovered the castle was surrounded by fields, but the bear was in a tree on the other side of the village. Hubby ultimately became a rescuer and was given a feast in exchange, however he had to obtain his own food!

I love the way questions like where am I, what is around me, what am I’m trying to do and what am I looking at (among many others) can result in an intricately woven story as told by a 6 year old and his Daddy!

What a great activity to have in your arsenal for long waits, car rides and any time you need a little distraction or imaginary play. Can’t you see this happening while playing with dolls or driving little cars around or building with LEGOs!

I’d love to hear the adventures you and your child experience this way!

Encouraging Writing – fine motor visual motor activities we like

As I posted yesterday about the fine motor visual motor activities suggested by 6 year old Cutie Pie’s OT, today I’m sharing the fun ‘Vision Activities’ suggested.

Pop balloons
Balloon volleyball
Flashlight tag (catching each others circle of light)
Flashlight object search
Water balloon catch
Pouring water back and forth using containers with different size mouths
Play high five while looking into each others eyes, not at the hands

Cutie Pie’s favorites from this list are pouring water and flashlight tag (catching each others light circles) the best.

*Disclaimer: These ideas are not totally my own. I have been given some resources by the Occupational Therapists at my child’s school to help with his handwriting at home, unfortunately not all came with sources attached. I’m simply sharing these ideas in hopes that by seeing how they are helping my child they can help you or encourage you to seek help if you feel it is needed for your child.

Encourage Writing – Fine Motor Visual Motor Activities

*Disclaimer: These ideas are not totally my own. I have been given some resources by the Occupational Therapists at my child’s school to help with his handwriting at home, unfortunately not all came with sources attached. I’m simply sharing these ideas in hopes that by seeing how they are helping my child they can help you or encourage you to seek help if you feel it is needed for your child.

The occupational therapist at Cutie Pie’s school sent home a summer kit meant to keep kiddos working on their OT and writing skills throughout the summer.


These tools were meant to give me tools to work with him at home to improve his writing. He tends to hold the pencil with three fingers and his thumb, which seems to cause difficulty in forming letters and slows down his work pace, both of which will cause more difficulties when it comes to writing tasks in older grades.

Some visual fine-motor activities suggested are:
Cutting with scissors
Coloring, painting, writing with chalk
Drawing
Dot to dots
Mazes
Puzzles, hidden object seeking
Tracing

Each of these activities are focused on connecting what you are doing with your hands to what you are seeing. I think as adults we sometimes take for granted that everyone can do this easily. Kids really need to practice this eye-hand coordination, not just in a gross-motor way (like sports) but for writing as well.

Encouraging Writing – Fine Motor Activities We Like

Over the past two weeks I’ve been posting about encouraging Cutie Pie to write as well as ways to help him get better at it. Today I’m sharing some ways he’s working on his fine motor skills, ways he doesn’t realize he’s learning and developing skills.

Cutie Pie loves to draw, so we’ve been doing a lot of drawing on paper together, as well as coloring. We’ve gotten some How to Draw books out of the library, which Hubby and I have noticed have given Cutie Pie more confidence in drawing. This has seemed to help get him to draw even more than before, which helps (in theory) to get him using the pencil the correct way more often!


We have also gotten him some dinosaur dot to dot books. Getting something he is interested in encourages him to actually complete them. The books we have also tell about the dinosaurs, so we get some reading in there, too.

Cutie Pie loves to do mazes, whether on paper or on my iPad. Of course, dinosaur themed mazes catch his attention the most! There are some letter formation apps available for the iPad as well, but as I have stated before, Cutie Pie doesn’t seem to like learning using methods that appear as learning, and most of the letter forming apps we have found are of no interest to him.

He does, however, love finding hidden objects, and so does Sweet Pea! I found a neat free app, called ABCMysteriez, which is all about finding letters in the picture. (As for most products, to get to higher levels you will have to purchase the full game, but my kids love what is available on the free app.) This reinforces letter recognition, too! I love sneaky learning!

We started this whole endeavor with a strong interest in playing with stickers, so the first thing we did was get a dinosaur sticker book, called Dinosaurs, Sticker Encyclopedia (more than 600 stickers), which he loved and we could see that it definitely helped with his fine motor coordination!

Now it’s your turn. How do you encourage your kiddos to write? What fun ways are they gaining control over their fine motor skills?

Encouraging Writing – Fine Motor Activities

encourage writing

Last week I posted about Cutie Pie having a little difficulty with his writing. Today I thought I’d share a section of a basic list of fine motor activities that Occupational Therapy sent home for us to work on for a month to work on coordination, concentration.

Please remember, these aren’t something I am taking credit for, rather something I’m sharing as I’ve seen it has been beneficial for Cutie Pie, age 6, who is having a little difficulty with writing with his left hand, although they aren’t necessarily for left handers.

These are also great activities for younger children developing pre-writing skills!

  • Play with play dough – cut, squeeze, use cookie cutters, squish an object inside to be found
  • Pinch and pop bubble wrap – great pincer grasp work!
  • Use of eye droppers – with water or other crafts
  • LEGO play
  • String beads
  • Cut paper
  • Use tweezers to pick up objects, or play games like Operation
  • Practice zippers and buttons, snaps and shoe tying
  • Squeeze water out of squirt bottles (water plants or clean the driveway this way)
  • Stickers
  • Tearing paper for crafts – my 4 year old loves this!

There are lots of ways you can make these activities more interesting if your child already does fine motor work like this often, however I think most kids just like doing these simple tasks without mixing it up.

If you’d like something different because you’re bored (hey, we’ve all been there doing the same thing over and over with our kiddos), look for resources on the internet. Simply look up “fine motor” and you’ll get a lot of results, make that a ton of ideas! You can also add an age in there, or a school term like preschool or early elementary to get more refined results.

I will share some of the activities Cutie Pie is partial to later this week.

Encourage Writing in Young Children

I personally love to download different fonts for projects from the computer. There are so many different handwriting fonts that I’m seeing. This got me to thinking that everyone writes differently.

I think sometimes we perceive our children learning to write through the same method, be it handwriting without tears or another means, with the end result being everyone writing the same at the same ability in the same timeframe. We know that as adults our handwriting is completely different from one another’s and also that children progress in abilities and skills at different rates. So why should children’s handwriting be the same and progress the same?
While our children may not acquire skills or abilities at the same age, it is still very important for the encouragement of the development of social and academic skills to be taking place, not just from teachers, but from parents as well.

Many children learn the same way. However, there are others than need to use their senses in different ways to learn the same thing. I think it is important that we, as parents, do our best to not only help our children learn what they should, but discover how it is they learn best to further the teaching at home.

Think about it in these terms:

  • Fine Motor activities – strengthen their fingers (to promote a better pencil grip)
  • Visual Motor activities – connecting eye-sight to hand/finger (greater pencil control)
  • Sensory Motor activities – learning through all senses
  • Gross Motor activities – improve balance and coordination on the large scale with can trickle down to improved hand and finger control
I will share examples (ones we use) in future posts. It is my hope that sharing this information will help you discover new (to you) ways of helping your child love to write!

*Disclaimer: These ideas are not totally my own. I have been given some resources by the Occupational Therapists at my child’s school to help with his handwriting at home, unfortunately not all came with sources attached. I’m simply sharing these ideas along with my observations in hopes that by seeing how they are helping my child they can help you or encourage you to seek help if you feel it is needed for your child.

Encourage Writing – Prayer Box

Do you pray with your child and record their requests?

Six year old Cutie Pie’s Sunday School teacher gave him a box, originally for writing down prayer requests. At night when we pray he now draws his prayer requests rather than writing them since drawing is something he loves to do. A prayer box is so simple an idea, one I had thought of for me, but not for my kiddos before. (I’m not sharing a pic because this is something personal to Cutie Pie and out of respect for him I have chosen not to share it.)

Making a prayer box is a very simple (family) project if you’d like to make one with your kids (any age) and help them keep track of their prayer requests and answers to prayer!

What you’ll need:

  • index cards
  • box (small shoebox is great if you don’t have an index card box)
  • pencils or crayons
  • stickers or other materials to decorate the box

Simply have your child decorate the box in whatever form they wish. Insert the index cards, possibly making dividers by month if you want to get detailed and leave near the place you usually pray! (coordination, fine motor)

It’s pretty simple to use, and can be something very personal for your child, or something you do together. It can be a great encouragement for your child to write if praying for others is their gift. Your and/or your child can use it in a way that fits them best, drawing requests, writing them, daily, nightly, recording their thoughts about Bible Stories they’re learning, whatever. The project is completely personalize-able!

When Cutie Pie draws a request we date it. At first this was just to be able to keep some order to the requests, but it turns out this has allowed us to see improvement in his drawing skills over a period of time.

We can also review his prayer requests with him periodically to see if any have been answered, although we haven’t done this with him yet.

We are involving him in nightly prayers, even though he doesn’t always say them. He’s learning to pray for others and to be thankful for what he has. Whether you are a praying family or not thinking of others and being thankful are two great personality characteristics!

Encourage Writing – about their day

In the beginning of the year when Cutie Pie came home from morning kindergarten he’d find a School Notes sheet to fill out while he waited for his lunch. It had a pretty large place for him to draw a picture of something that happened throughout the day as well as had a place to write the names of other kids he played with. (I’m so thankful for Living Locurto! Some really neat ideas over there – you’ve gotta check that site out!)

While this idea has been great for us because it gives me a place to start talking with my kiddo about his day, it has also has proven to show a progression in his drawing skills when I look back through them. (I haven’t used this with my 4 year old because he simply does not want to do it, but responds to questions and more readily offers information about his day, but I think you could!)

Why not take this a step further for older kids? For those who can write? Have them write a sentence or two, or paragraph or two for even older kids, about their day. It can serve as a journal of sorts, but also serve to show you progression in their writing skills. Plus, if school is like it was when I was younger, sometimes you only see one or two words in their writing coming home from school with the longer writing samples being sent home later in the year. (Is school still like this? I have a kindergartener, so I’m not really sure!)

Take an interest in your kids’ writing, by taking an interest in their day by way of what they choose to write about.

Glow Board Reading

Hubby spends more time with Cutie Pie at nighttime than I do, I admit it. Cutie Pie wants me to do shadow puppet shows against the wall with him and they just are, well, shorter than what Hubby does. I’m pretty sure it’s because my drawing skills are not good enough for him and Hubby is a great draw-er.

I know there are a lot of ideas out there for teaching kiddos to read, but my kids aren’t drawn to many of them. Are yours? (Sounds like I’m talking about two separate ideas in this post doesn’t it? Keep reading!)

A few years ago Cutie Pie was given this glow board and we have been drawing on it almost nightly ever since. At first it started out with us drawing pictures for him, then letters of the alphabet, then he tried his hand at drawing and writing letters. Now it’s a combination of drawing and writing done by Hubby. Let me tell you it’s been a great tool in helping Cutie Pie get better at reading!

Hubby sometimes writes what Cutie Pie requests be written. It can be a nonsense word, a silly word, whatever, and Hubby will write it so Cutie Pie can make the connection. Other times Hubby will draw something and then label it, be it a silly name for a drawing of a silly man or some such thing that will inevitably make Cutie Pie squeal with laughter.

Making learning fun seems to be one of the ways Cutie Pie absorbs and excels in the learning area. How do you make learning to read fun? I’d love to try other methods!

Alphabet Learning

I’ve posted recently about Sweet Pea learning the alphabet at preschool and how we’ve been trying to reinforce that learning at home.

One thing we still do to help Cutie Pie, his 6 year old brother, in learning to read is to have things labelled around the house and to point out words when we see them in writing (like on signs at the store).

I decided to take this approach with the alphabet, too, but by placing the alphabet around the inside of the house. I already point out letters when we are out and about, why wasn’t I doing it at home? Oh yeah, because they are only in certain areas of the house, not throughout it like the word labels!

We now have letters on cards we use as mail for their mailbox, letters on the wall in the family room, in the bathroom, on the stairs. He’s getting pretty good at recognizing them and getting them right! (My computer is on the fritz so I have no pics for you, sorry!)

What do/did you do to help reinforce learning letters with your little ones?

Learning Letters

I’ve mentioned before that Sweet Pea (4 yrs old) is learning his letters in preschool. We’ve been working on them here at home, too, but in the form of play. Here’s one way that’s fun for him!

Most days Sweet Pea likes to get out the sign language cards (which have a large letter on them and pictures of words beginning with the letter) and the mail box that I made for him. He likes to put the cards in the mailbox as well as scatter them throughout the house! (fine motor coordination, gross motor, too!)

I have made this into a game, because I was a little tired of the cards ultimately being strewn about the house as he ‘delivers’ the mail. Now when he’s done playing he says each letter and describes the pictures on the cards as he puts them into the mailbox. (Now, I know this isn’t terribly fun for me, but he seems to love it and the repetition that goes with it!)

A bonus from this activity is that we have learned a few signs that we use! Sweet Pea loves this because it’s “our secret talking tool”!

Tool for Coordination

What do you do after your kids are in bed? Catch up on the chores? Read? Watch TV?

Hubby and I used to sit together on the couch sharing a snack while engrossed in one of our favorite shows (I love a certain thing on our DVD player that has a red box with white lettering…you can watch a whole season of a show on your time without your kids ever knowing it, and bonus – no commercials!)

Lately, however, I’ve been the one catching up on folding laundry or figuring out my to do list for the next day while Hubby practices his Wii skills. It’s so funny that our uncoordinated Cutie Pie can play some of those games so well now that he beats Hubby!

Cutie Pie is getting so much better and more coordinated. For this boy, having a game system in the house has been a good thing. He’s also been learning about time management, rewards and incentives, spatial awareness. For some, a game system is probably not a good idea. We actually thought well against it for a very long time, but in this case it turned out pretty OK.

Are there things you thought you’d never have in your home, but have turned out to be little blessings in disguise?

Creating Childhood Memories

I found myself following a school bus today. That in itself isn’t that strange, but this one was the same number as the bus I rode as a kid. It brought back so many memories!

I sometimes find myself wondering what kind of memories my boys will have when they are grown. Will they remember silly things like their bus number because of the memories made riding it? Will they remember Hubby and I laughing and having fun with them, always being busy, or scolding? Experiences like day trips, camping in the backyard, discovering new things together?

One of my friends posted a sign the other day on Facebook, which simply said, “Excuse the mess, the children are busy making memories.”

I think those are the kinds of memories I’d like my kids to have.

What about you?

Tape Resist Painting

In what ways are your kiddos creative? Do you have to reel them in by setting something up for them, even if it is an open-ended activity?

I set out some painting materials last week to see if I could draw the boys’ interest. Cutie Pie came over almost immediately, and tried his hand at painting dinosaurs and dragons. It took a bit, but Sweet Pea joined in, too.


After a few minutes I set out some painters tape. They were both curious as to why. I began placing strips of it on a new piece of card stock and encouraged them to paint it.

Sweet Pea loves to mix his colors and see what shades of brown he can make and Cutie Pie found the end result cool, but was more interested in creating his dragons and dinosaurs, so I made my own little creation. Do you like the pic I made with it for the blog post?

Interested in doing this with your kiddos? Simply start with a clean piece of paper, card stock or canvas. Place strips of tape as you please on your painting surface, then paint as desired. Once dry carefully remove the tape.

To make something a little more interesting (for any age) you can continue to layer the tape over dry paint and repeat as many times as you like, maybe over the course of a few days. Be very careful when removing the tape using this method as the paint with be thicker and will tend to peel off a bit. You could also use this method on a large piece of paper and watch your child use their gross motor skills to cover the paper with paint!

Cutie Pie asked to do this again another day and that time we painted on canvas with the tape placed right on the canvas making white lines. He added dinosaurs to the white lines using different colored crayons.

My boys aren’t necessarily into making crafts, but when they find a creative activity they like they tend to ask for it again and again!

What was your kiddos’ most recent creation?

Blog Party Time

Ultimate Blog Party 2013

It’s time to party over at 5 Minutes for Mom! Click on over if you want to join in on the fun!

If you’ve come here by way of the party, then I should introduce myself! I’m Tricia, aka Mom is the Only Girl, a mom to two boys (currently 6 and 4) and wife to a wonderful, loving, selfless Hubby! For other details, click over there on the ribbon. It’ll take you to my about page with contact info and some more info.

On this little blog of mine you’ll find ways my boys and I have fun everyday with a little sneaky learning integrated in there. (See Train Game and Chalk Play) I share to give you ideas, but also to show it’s possible to be teaching your kiddos while they don’t realize they’re learning! My style is to share how and what we do, but not to really show you how you need to do it. That’s up to you!

So sit back, have a look around and maybe you’ll pick up and idea or two to try with your kiddos. Currently you’ll find ideas for kids ages 2 through 6. Maybe you’ll be inspired to take the kiddos somewhere new or have some other new experience with them. Tap into their interests and have some fun! That’s my hope!

You can always pass along ideas and links you’re too scared to try and we’ll try it! I’ll post about the experience and then you can decide if you’d like to try it too!

So now that you know a little about me and this here blog, click on over to 5 Minutes for Mom and party along!

Spring Fun in the snow?

Many of you had spring break last week, but this week it’s our turn here in the North East. The only thing is, it doesn’t look much like spring out there! It snowed yesterday and today (so far!)  The really pretty snow, at least, but still with mud hiding underneath, so it isn’t that much fun spending time out in it.

We had hoped to be doing stay-cationy things like riding bikes and going on springtime nature hikes watching everything wake up after a long winter, but instead we’ve been spending time hanging out as a family, playing board games and visiting the kid-friendly museums in the area. Even though these are things I do a lot with the kiddos, it will be extra fun because Hubby is able to go with us!

Even though I won’t post on Thursday or Friday, I will be working on the blog! I’m hoping to have my new design up early next week!

Maple Sugar treats

This week I’ve been posting about our Maple Sugar Festival weekend fun. I thought I would end the week reminding you that maple syrup is not just for pancakes, waffles and french toast, although those are delicious, especially with pure maple syrup! It’s always fun to get the kiddos into the kitchen and do some sneaky learning with them while you bake together!

Why not try some maple sugar cookies*? (delicious!) Or maple syrup drizzled muffins apple muffins*! Pure maple syrup is great for these recipes! There are also plenty of places on-line that sell maple candy, or you can buy some at a maple sugaring festival.

*I am posting these links simply because I like them and recommend them based on deliciousness!

Jack Wax How to

Monday I told you about our trip to a Maple Sugaring Festival. They told us about a treat the Native Indian and early American children used to have during maple sugaring time. They would take a bowl of snow and drizzle the boiling syrup over it to create a toffee or hard treat (think hard like peanut-brittle).

As a child my dad used to give us a bowl of snow with nice warm pure maple syrup over it. I don’t remember it getting stretchy like taffy or hard like peanut brittle, but I remember it being a delicious slushy treat. I think the trick for it to become true Jack Wax is to get the pure maple syrup to the ‘soft ball’ candy stage, if I remember what they told us yesterday correctly.

If you don’t have snow around you, maybe try this with finely chopped ice? If you try it please let me know how you liked it! I’d be interested in seeing what your kids think the science is behind it!

Maple Sugaring Festival

Cutie Pie and Hubby trying to tap a log

Do you live in an area where there are maple trees and maple sugaring festivals?

Maple Syrup and sugar is made from the sap of sugar maple, red maple or black maple trees in colder climates, which store starch in their trunks and roots before winter. This rises in the sap in the spring, providing nutrients for new leaves. Sap can be harvested from the trees at this time by boring holes in the trees to collect the sap (called tapping), which is then boiled down leaving the maple syrup!

Listening to a description of how sap
was collected in hollowed
out logs while the sap boils behind us.
Cutie Pie experiencing how kids his age helped collect the sap

The Native Indians and early Americans in the colder North American areas used to boil this down even further creating maple sugar (hence the name Maple Sugaring Festival) which was used in trading as it was very valuable. Since the maple sugar was the only sweetener, and therefore very valuable on it’s own, tapping trees and collecting sap to make maple sugar was a major family project and very important to their welfare. We were told approximately 16 gallons of sap turns into 1 gallon of maple syrup, so it was also a very large project!

How do I know all of this? We live in central New York, where maple sugaring, as it is called, is common in early spring, and so are Maple Sugar Festivals. We spent Saturday about an hour away at Cumming Nature Center (an extension of Rochester Museum and Science Center) for their festival, where we enjoyed a delicious pancake breakfast, learned about the maple syrup making process, a treat called Jack Wax, walked the snow-covered trails, found lots of animal tracks and picked up lots of ‘specimens’ (read ‘twigs’). A perfect way to spend the day as a family! It was a bit nippy, too cold for the sap to be flowing, but truly fun learning history and how pure maple syrup was and is now made. The free samples weren’t bad either!

If you live in this area, you’ll have to watch for the Maple Sugaring Festivals next year, or possibly there will be some in the coming weeks during the thaw. It is a great opportunity to learn and to get outside and into nature!

Drawing Reptiles and Pencil Grip

We brought home a reptile science kit from the library and Cutie Pie was delighted to find a book titled “How to draw reptiles” in it! I think he’s been drawing them ever since!

This actually has been a great thing for Cutie Pie for a few reasons.
It’s given him confidence in his drawing skills. He loves to draw and has developed a few techniques that he learned through the book.
He’s been getting better at following step-by-step directions, not skipping ahead. (following the prescribed process) His pencil grip is improving! This is something we’ve been working on at home at the suggestion of the OT at his school.

This past library trip took us on a computer search for “how to draw” books and we brought one home about “How to Draw Ferocious Dinosaurs” by Aaron Sauter. Boy, are his drawing skills  and pencil grip improving!

5 Senses Experiment – Sight

Yesterday I mentioned doing some other fun things with the boys on the day we did our sight experiments. One taught about visual perception and was very fun. All you need to do it is a large piece of paper and makers. I found the idea, along with a wealth of other experiments for older kids, here. (visual perception, coordination, communication, colors, counting, math)

Sense of Sight Experiment
Visual Perception Experiment

Visual Perception Experiment

  • First, draw a target on the paper.
  • Give each child markers, use different colors.
  • One child stands with their arm outstretched with their hand over the target holding a marker with the cap off. The other stands a few feet away, giving directions to the other.
  • The child without the markers is to give instructions to the other (move your hand to the right, left, back, forward, drop!) aiming for the marker to land on center of the target.

My kiddos used markers of different shades of the same color and kept track of how many drops (marker dots) landed on the target. (You can label each circle of the target with a number and sneak some math practice in there if you’d like!)

After a while they just stood over the target and tried to get their marker to drop in the center without any instructions from the other, which was surprisingly difficult for them!

This was a very fun visual perception experiment, and it can easily be altered for a variety of ages!

Ice Ornaments

Some mornings this winter it was a little hard to keep 4 year old Sweet Pea occupied since we couldn’t go out and play with the frigid windchill hovering around zero.

One thing we did was play with water! I got out some containers and food coloring and we experimented with different color combinations, using an eye dropper to transfer water. Sweet Pea also practiced pouring and when the water ended up in some ice and muffin trays right before he said he was done playing, I cut some lengths of yarn and dunked it into the water. I then carefully placed the trays outdoors to freeze!

We did this a couple of years ago and were able to hang our ornaments on our front tree for some color. Unfortunately this year it started to snow those big, heavy snowflakes and by the time I retrieved the trays they had all overflowed and made one big ice chunk!

Discovered if you out your hand into a bowl full of water it ‘overflows’ and ended up learning the meaning of the word several through different methods!

Density Experiment

Our liquid density tower

Over the past few weeks we’ve done a few experiments, but it’s taken me a while to get the pics onto the computer. I’ve seen this density experiment in many places, several books I have as well as several blogs.

I’m posting about it simply because it was fun, but also to show you can do this with several difference liquids, not necessarily needing to go by an official experiment ‘recipe’. (Just make sure the liquids you are using are safe to be used together as well as safe for your child.)

Density Experiment

Experiment Liquids: olive oil, dish soap, water,
vegetable oil, food coloring

What we used: 

the same amount of olive oil, dish soap, water, and vegetable oil, a drop of food coloring, clean glass jar

What we did: 

I asked the boys if they thought the liquids they had in front of them weighed the same.

One by one I slowly poured the liquids into the jar, letting them dribble down the side rather than pouring into the middle of the jar. (I dyed the water red so we could see it more easily.)

Final density tower with items at each level

What we observed:

The liquids formed layers. (Cutie Pie loved this as he’d been learning about strata!)

It did not matter what order we poured the liquids. If a heavier liquid was added after a lighter one, it settled under the lighter one.

What we learned:

The liquids have different densities (or weights) and therefore do not lie in the same layer.

Further investigation:

After letting our density tower sit for a while to make sure the layers weren’t going to combine on their own, we gathered a few small items and carefully dropped them into the jar. It was interesting to see where they settled. We used a small LEGO, a toothpick, a raisin, and a small stone.

Cutie Pie had fun with this experiment, trying to guess which liquid would be lighter and therefore higher in our final tower. He also had a lot of fun coming up with the items to drop into our final tower and guessing where they would settle!

When you try this experiment please let us know what results you came up with!

Fine Motor Play

Fine Motor PlayWhile on the subject of some fine motor play with the goeboard and shaving cream play posts, I thought I’d share about Sweet Pea’s interest in K’NEX.

Rochester Museum and Science Center has an area set up with every piece of K’NEX you can dream of and Sweet Pea will sit himself at one of the tables for such a long time. If you’ve read my blog you know this is a big deal since he doesn’t like to sit still much!

On a recent visit he created this ‘wheel’ all by himself! Of course, he’ll play with LEGOs and Trios, too, but there is something about these tiny little pieces that you have to clip together just so, but that fit together so many ways (coordination, processes, creativity, fine motor)….he’s well on his way to learning to write strengthening his grip!

Color Mixing (more fine motor play)

“Mommy, this is a really cool experiment!” I love hearing this!

I was on the computer checking out a couple of blogs when I came across this little project. Little did I know it would be the perfect sensory activity to settle my boys down before dinner! It’s also a fun little way to strengthen those fingers for holding a pencil or crayon! (read fine motor)


I happened upon Dilly Dali Art’s No Mess Color Mixing post. It is so simple and my boys were in love with it immediately!

Simply take contact paper, squirt some paint in the center of a square, then place another layer of contact paper over that and press down on the edges (and add tape if you’re worried about leaks). The kiddos will enjoy mixing the color without the mess, just like the post is called!

Modification: Tape the whole thing to a window to be squished for an added sensory experience! Write numbers or letters or make shapes.

It’s one of those “Why didn’t I think of that sooner?” things. Actually, come to think of it, we might have tried mixing colors in a baggie before, but for some reason this just sticks out in my memory!

(Sorry there were no pictures…dinner preparation took priority on this one.)

Geoboard Revisited

As I posted here, I’m revisiting some activities I originally did with Cutie Pie and am having fun introducing them to Sweet Pea!

One such thing is the Geoboard, which I originally posted about here. Great fine motor and coordination manipulative! It also makes a nice quiet time activity or ‘busy bag’.

Cutie Pie really liked this at first, but slowly his interest waned. I set it aside and it occasionally made an appearance, but not until recently was it met with enthusiasm. Sweet Pea can’t get enough of it!

He is enjoying making shapes, trying to create pretend scenes (making a square and saying it’s a train wheel or house) and counting how many bands he can attach to the board. Basically, he LOVES it!

If you haven’t already made one for your kiddo, I encourage you to. It’s cheap and easy to make! If your child loves it as much as Sweet Pea, it’ll be totally worth it! I think I might be making a larger one with nails instead of tacks, and maybe even elicit Sweet Pea’s help!

Happy Valentine’s Day

We don’t get overly mushy for Valentine’s Day around here, but we do make sure our kiddos let people they see often that they appreciate them. Of course, that unfortunately doesn’t extend to everyone, but you know how it goes! The boys created Valentines using their own ideas this year – truly home made!
This year Cutie Pie cut out hearts, stamped them with what else but dinosaurs to give to his classmates. Great fine motor scissor practice and I didn’t even have to be sneaky! (But I couldn’t be sneaky enough to get a pic!)

Sweet Pea wanted to do some marble painting, so we made sure to use red, pink and white and turned this fun activity into a Valentine making session! Another day he decided he wanted to play with glue and crushed cereal like we did here, so we added hearts to his Valentines for his 4 nursery classmates and teacher.

And this is one of the hearts I made for the boys. I cut and pasted words I found that reminded me of them, then used white frosting (the stuff that comes in a tube) and ‘glued’ on little candy hearts and conversation hearts. The boys loved hearing the words that make me think of them and especially eating candy right after breakfast!

Such a nice day in February to let people know they’re special!

Happy Valentime’s Day!
(imagine this being said by a 4 year old and a 6 year old with his bottom front teeth missing!)


An Early Valentine

Hubby took the boys outside to play after the big snow storm we had over the weekend. We only got about 10 inches, but it was enough for them to create an early Valentine for me in the snow!

Mom inside a heart! So sweet!

Writing in the snow was something Hubby grew up doing and he’s passing the fun along to our boys! Great spelling practice!

Isn’t it great? I love looking out the back window and seeing it there…of course, it’s melting now with the rain we had the other day and it hasn’t snowed since… Funny weather!