Autumn Tree Craft

Isaiah made a tree with real leaves last year and has been asking to do something fun again this year. Unfortunately, it rained before we got leaves collected to do anything using real leaves. Oops.

Since the leaves were a soggy mess, we had to get creative. I pulled out some paint and a roll of paper and informed Isaiah that we’d be painting our leaves this year. At first, he was pretty sure that was a bad idea, especially when I told him we could use his handprint as leaves. Apparently, sticking his hands in a bunch of paint was not appealing.

Of course, we couldn’t paint the leaves without a tree to put them on, so I started by painting a trunk and some branches. I even included a hole in the tree with eyes peeking out. While I was doing that, Isaiah managed to locate the green paint and pour a bunch of it onto a paper plate. He wanted to help and decided adding grass under the tree was the perfect job for him. As he painted, he sang “The Green Grass Grows All Around” at the top of his lungs.

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Trying out the paint...

When the trunk was finally finished, it was time to add leaves. With a little coaxing, Isaiah put some paint on his hands in bright colors. He made some handprints, making sure they hung neatly from the branches I’d painted. Then, he decided that it wouldn’t be a “fall” tree if there weren’t leaves, well, falling off of it. So, he set to work making handprint leaves in the space under the branches and even a couple on the grass.

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The very first leaf

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A falling leaf

Once he’d made a few handprint leaves, Isaiah decided that paint on his hands wasn’t such a horrible experience. He made lots more leaves and even got creative with the colors he was using. Instead of solid yellow or orange leaves, he started using combinations of colors to show the leaves in the process of changing color.

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Paint covered hands

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Carefully placing another leaf

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More leaves

After a while, Isaiah declared the tree complete. He worked on rinsing out the brushes he used while I cleaned up the paint and hung his masterpiece. Then, of course, he had to pose for a picture with it to share with the world.

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Lesson Plan: A is for Alligator

We’re starting our preschool year with the letters of the alphabet. Each letter goes with a theme that we focus on for the week. Each week covers math, science, geography, sensory activities, crafts, letters, calendar, weather, music, ASL, Bible, P.E., and story time. It may seem like a lot, but Isaiah gets through most of it in under two hours each day. Some activities are only once or twice a week. If it takes longer, it’s because he’s having too much fun and wants to keep doing something longer than originally planned. I’m sure not going to argue with that.

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Just being cute

A is for Alligator

Click here to see the full lesson plan for the week. Feel free to use all or part of it yourself.

Our days all start out the same. We look at the calendar, discuss the weather and sing the ABCs. This is an opportunity to practice counting (days on the calendar), learn about dates, learn the weather, and do a little quick review.

The “name” section on the lesson plan is pretty simple. Isaiah does not write his name yet. He has learned the first two letters and really struggles with the rest, so we have to work on that every morning. I try to give some variety and do things he enjoys so that he’s more willing to practice.

I chose 5 Little Monkeys to learn this week because I couldn’t find any rhymes specifically about alligators. The rhyme can be found here. Isaiah loved it and picked up on it very quickly. Along with the rhyme, we always sing a couple of songs. I wrote in some songs I knew he’d know well to kick off our year because I wanted to keep things simple. Music is pretty flexible, though. Once we did what was written on the plan, I let him pick a couple of songs he wanted to sing. The purpose of music time is simply to have fun and get a basic introduction to music, though, really, he’s already pretty familiar with music because he’s in a music loving family.

Isaiah saying his rhyme

I have chosen to work on American Sign Language with Isaiah as a foreign language. He’s also working on Spanish with my dad, but that’s not on the lesson plan because he’s not around during our school hours. I believe that learning more languages is good for his brain’s development, so I work hard to give him lots of opportunities to learn them. Again, we started really simple. I didn’t want to overwhelm him at the beginning because school needs to be fun at this age. There’s certainly freedom to add more during phases where he’s picking things up quickly. The lesson plan will still just show a few key words that I really want him to know by the end of the week. Just assume he’s likely picking up a bit more than that. These words also go on his word wall. (If you’d like to do ASL with your child, this is a great free resource to get you started.

Our reading plan was a bit all over the place this week because the library had nothing about alligators. Oops. We also make sure to take some time for a Bible lesson. This includes reading Bible stories and working on his AWANA book and memory verse.

Isaiah's first AWANA verse

Science is Isaiah’s favorite thing in the world, so I wanted to make sure to nourish that. This week’s science included a video because he learns well through that. He’s been watching several science shows for quite a while and regularly amazes me with his understanding. Wild Kratts (and really anything by the Kratt brothers) is really popular with him and has tons of great, kid friendly information. After watching the video, we discussed what he’d learned and what he thought about it. On another day, we took it a step further by coloring a picture of an alligator’s habitat. This was another opportunity to talk about where they live, what they eat and what they look like.

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Coloring the alligator habitat

Math varies a lot for Isaiah because he doesn’t count very high, but within the numbers he knows, he’s able to do simple addition and subtraction. This week focused on getting him to count a little higher. I printed off pictures of alligators for him to count. I laid out different numbers for him and asked how many he saw. When the numbers got too high for him, I helped him to keep going.

Geography is another activity that Isaiah has shown a specific interest in. He’s fascinated by maps and wants to be able to read them. He loves to ask where people and animals live, when looking at maps. So, we’re working with maps as much as possible. This week, we charted the American Alligator’s territory on a simple outline map. This was also an opportunity to introduce him to using books for research (he’s used to seeing me Google things, so it’s important to me that he learn that information can be found in books, too). Since, obviously, he’s not reading, I helped him locate the right page in a book about animals so that he could find the map and copy the territory to his map.

A is for Alligator Map

Isaiah's completed map

Sensory and craft times are lots of fun. This week, Isaiah practiced writing the letter A in shaving cream, made an alligator from the letter A, played with water beads, made a card for his cousin, and played in a bucket of beans.

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Not so sure about the shaving cream

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Working happily on his alligator

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Water beads

P.E. for us is just an opportunity to burn some energy. Sometimes it’s pretty organized, other times it’s just Isaiah being wild. This week, I taught Isaiah how to play hopscotch. He was absolutely thrilled and has started using the tiles in the kitchen as a giant game of hopscotch. We also played with a mini trampoline and played games. Sadly, the weather went sour on us, so he didn’t get to ride his bike, but he’s hoping for a dry day to do next week.

Isaiah made up a song to help himself get the steps right

Hopscotch

Hopscotch fun

Handkerchief Doll

Isaiah loves making things, so when I came across some cloth napkins and styrofoam balls in a box of craft supplies, I decided to let him make a handkerchief doll with them. He thought that was a pretty cool idea and begged to make more when he finished his.

Isaiah's finished doll

Making the doll is pretty simple.

What you need:
1 large handkerchief or cloth napkin (handkerchiefs are softer)
1 ball–this can be a styrofoam ball, a wad of stuffing or a wooden bead
1 piece of ribbon or yarn, about 12 inches or so
Markers

Spread the handkerchief out flat and place the ball in the center. Pull the fabric up around it and make sure there’s a smooth area for the face. (For older kids, you can have them sew a face and hair on with embroidery floss before putting it on the ball, but with little ones, they’ll be drawing features after the doll is assembled.) Take the yarn and wrap it around the fabric, just below the ball, a couple of times, then tie a double knot and bow. Turn your child loose with markers to draw a face, hair and designs on the “dress”.

Coloring the doll's dress

I Spy Bottles

I made an I Spy bottle years ago at a 4-H day camp. I kept it for years and really loved it, so I wanted to do one with Isaiah. There was only one small catch… Isaiah can’t read the list of items to find. I went ahead and got supplies to make the bottle, then, as we were making it, I realized that I could easily take a picture of the items to attach to the bottle. It worked great!

I Spy Bottles

I Spy bottle

In the end, we actually made a few bottles with different things inside. We’ll probably make more later. It’s easy to get things that go together and make bottles with different themes. We can try different fillers, too.

Here’s what you need:
Plastic bottle
Filler: We used rice for two bottles and birdseed in a third. You can also use sand, colored salt (or colored rice) or beans.
Trinkets: This can be just about anything that will fit into the mouth of your bottle. Ours had shaped erasers, buttons, a crayon, rubber bands, bobbie pins and beads.
Glue: White glue works fine, though hot glue dries much faster and tends to be a bit more secure.
Ribbon: I tied the list onto the bottle with ribbon. I only actually attached a list to one bottle, since Isaiah is more interested in shaking it to make cool sounds and seeing the treasure inside than he is in deliberately searching for an object.

I Spy Bottles

The list of treasures

I let Isaiah fill the bottles himself, which was pretty exciting for him. He filled them about halfway, added the trinkets, then put in the rest of the filler. Once everything was inside, I helped him put on the lid and shake the bottle to spread the toys throughout. It’s really important to make sure there’s some extra space left in the bottle when you fill it or nothing will move when you turn or shake it.

I Spy Bottles

Carefully filling the bottle

I Spy Bottles

He's pretty proud of his bottles

I Spy Bottles

Shaking his finished bottle

Christmas Countdown

*Originally posted on my personal blog, November 2011*

We needed a creative craft for kids club and my mom and I came up with this. Well, she came up with the idea and I made it work. We’re a good team that way. I think it’s really cute, so I wanted to share in case anyone else wanted to try it.

Crafts

Paper chain Christmas countdown craft

First, you need a picture of a present and a nativity. You can download the images I made here and here or make your own. Print them off onto card stock. Make sure that the nativity is small enough to be completely covered by the gift box. Once they are printed, cut them out.

Crafts

Paper strips--Isaiah thought they were pretty cool, even by themselves.

You will need a piece of construction paper that is slightly bigger than your gift box and twenty six strips of paper (to make into a paper chain). I used green for my background paper, since the gift is red, and red and green strips.

Crafts

Helping me cut the background piece

Glue the nativity image to the background paper, slightly closer to the bottom than the top. Make a fold about 3/4 of an inch from the top of the present so that it can easily be lifted to see under it. Put glue on the top edge of the gift and glue it down so that the gift completely covers the nativity. Using an x-acto knife, cut a slit toward the bottom of the gift, through both the gift and the background paper. Be sure to put something under your paper so you don’t gouge your table with the knife.

Crafts

This is how it should look when the gift is glued on. Sorry it's not totally clear, I was trying to hold it open and take the picture at the same time.

Now, make a paper chain with the paper strips. The top strip on your chain should be threaded through the slit that you cut in the gift and background to hold the gift shut. Make sure you only use twenty five of the strips. Use the last one to make a loop on the back to hang the countdown up. I forgot to take a picture of how I made the loop, but I managed to find one online.

This is how you shape the loop for hanging your Christmas countdown.

You now have a finished Christmas countdown. Each day, tear off one loop from the bottom of your chain. On Christmas, you will tear off the last loop, allowing the gift to be opened. The gift then reveals the true gift of Christmas–Jesus. Isaiah quite enjoyed helping with this craft and will be thrilled to discover the picture inside.

Crafts

Ours is hanging up, waiting for Isaiah to tear pieces off each morning.

Sensory Adventures

Isaiah loves new activities and seems to thrive on sensory play, so we did some old and new sensory activities today. We started our adventures with homemade finger paints. I’ve found a variety of recipes for finger paints, thanks to Pinterest and wanted to test one. Today, we chose a fairly simple one. Basically, it’s equal parts water and flour with some food coloring. We did one cup of water and flour, then put six or eight drops of color into each cup. Isaiah chose the two colors he can name (although, he’s not totally sure what they are, we’re working on that part): blue and purple, as well as “firetruck blue” (red).

Sensory Fun

Waiting patiently

Once all the paints were made, we pulled Isaiah’s table into the kitchen because it’s the only place (except bedrooms) that doesn’t have carpet. I taped his paper down so it wouldn’t slide away from him and be distracting and Isaiah settled in to paint.

At first, true to form, Isaiah would only stick one finger in the paint. With a little encouragement, he decided to try sticking two fingers in at once and soon had both hands buried in the paint. It was generally a big mess, but he had a blast, so it was worth it. This time, the mess was mostly confined to the table, so it didn’t take too long to clean up, either.

Sensory Fun

Cautiously testing the paint

Sensory Fun

Diving in

When Isaiah decided he was done painting, I poured the paint into a plastic bag. There was no way a flour/water mixture was going to last to be used later, so I decided to try something I’d seen on a blog a while ago, instead. It was actually more paint than I needed, so next time, I won’t put so much in the bag (or I’ll use a bigger bag). I taped it to the table with paper under it and showed Isaiah that he could move the paint around with his fingers. It started out with the blue, purple and red separate, but soon combined to make a nice purple color, much to Isaiah’s amazement. The paint bag kept Isaiah happily occupied off and on all day.

Sensory Fun

This is interesting...

Sensory Fun

Drawing a house

This evening, I took Isaiah outside to play in his sandbox. He really loves playing in the sand and seems to sleep best after time outside, so it was a win-win situation. He happily played in his sand and wanted me to play, too. I don’t really fit in the sandbox, so I sat next to it and played over the side. I mixed some water from the outside edge of the box into some sand, packed it into a cup and made a tower, which Isaiah promptly knocked over.

Sensory Fun

Shoveling sand

I mixed sand and water to make a really watery mess at one point and Isaiah thought it was fun to cover himself in it. He wanted it on his back, too, so I dripped some over him.

Sensory Fun

Covered in sand!

Sensory Fun

Showing off how sandy he was for the camera--''Take a pitur a me!''

We had a ton of fun with his turtles that squirt water. He couldn’t figure out why mine shot water so nicely and his didn’t, even if he insisted on trading with me! There was no way I was going to hand him a loaded turtle to soak me with and he couldn’t quite get them filled with water himself. He still thought it was insanely funny and kept swapping turtles with me, then laughing hysterically when I sprayed him.

Sensory Fun

Getting sprayed by my turtle

When it was finally time to go inside, I hosed him down. Even doing that, I managed to miss some of the sand. It’s amazing how much got into his diaper! He got a bath when we got inside because he needed to take one today anyway. He was perfectly happy with that plan.

Sensory Fun

Rinsing off as much sand as we could

Crafting

Isaiah loves crafts of all kinds. Today, he got two chances to do some, first at kids club, then, later, at home. He was so happy!

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Isaiah loves art!

At kids club, the craft was paper bag puppets. Isaiah colored the face for his puppet for quite a while. When he was finally done, I got scissors to cut it out. He wanted to help me, so I put the scissors into his hand and helped guide him. He figured out how to open and close the scissors in no time. I just had to guide the paper!

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Me showing Isaiah how to cut

After his puppet face was cut out, Isaiah didn’t want to stop cutting, so I handed him another sheet of paper. He happily kept cutting the page until it was time to go home. He was able to hold the scissors correctly with just a few reminders not to turn his hand upside down. I guess we’ll have to add cutting to our regular craft activities.

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Working away

This evening, Isaiah found some glitter that I’d left on the counter (oops!) and wanted to know what it was. I got out a pan, glue and some paper and set him up at the table. I put glue on the first piece of paper in the shape of a dinosaur and let him dump glitter on it. He was so excited! He dumped glitter on a dog shape I made for him, then started making his own designs. When his designs were finished, he told me what they were, a “choo-choo” and “puppy”, and I labeled the pictures for him.

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Glitter!

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Isaiah's artwork

Gingerbread Train

My mom bought a gingerbread kit when they were on sale after Christmas. This year, she opted for a train shaped kit over the traditional house. Isaiah, of course, was thrilled with the train. He sat on the chair next to me and watched me (try) to assemble it. The icing was too old and we ended up using hot glue. Oh well, we weren’t planning to eat it anyway.

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So excited

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A gingerbread train

Once all the pieces were finally staying together, I helped Isaiah put wheels on his train (icing and mints). He thought that was pretty cool. It didn’t take much convincing to get him to start decorating for himself. I put the icing on and he stuck various candies to it.

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Attaching candie wheels

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Decorating happily

Of course, like all children, Isaiah had to taste the candy. He liked some kinds better than others. He really thought he should be able to shove it all in his mouth at once, though. I had to keep stopping him to make sure he remembered to chew and at least stick some of the candy on the train.

Yummy!

''I'm tasting the candy!''

Decorating the train kept Isaiah occupied for quite a while. He thought it was wonderful! It turned out pretty well for a not-quite-two-year-old, too.

Finished Product

The finished work of art

Paper Chain Christmas Countdown

We needed a creative craft for kids club and my mom and I came up with this. Well, she came up with the idea and I made it work. We’re a good team that way. I think it’s really cute, so I wanted to share in case anyone else wanted to try it.

Crafts

Paper chain Christmas countdown craft

First, you need a picture of a present and a nativity. You can download the images I made here and here or make your own. Print them off onto card stock. Make sure that the nativity is small enough to be completely covered by the gift box. Once they are printed, cut them out.

Crafts

Paper strips--Isaiah thought they were pretty cool, even by themselves.

You will need a piece of construction paper that is slightly bigger than your gift box and twenty six strips of paper (to make into a paper chain). I used green for my background paper, since the gift is red, and red and green strips.

Crafts

Helping me cut the background piece

Glue the nativity image to the background paper, slightly closer to the bottom than the top. Make a fold about 3/4 of an inch from the top of the present so that it can easily be lifted to see under it. Put glue on the top edge of the gift and glue it down so that the gift completely covers the nativity. Using an x-acto knife, cut a slit toward the bottom of the gift, through both the gift and the background paper. Be sure to put something under your paper so you don’t gouge your table with the knife.

Crafts

This is how it should look when the gift is glued on. Sorry it's not totally clear, I was trying to hold it open and take the picture at the same time.

Now, make a paper chain with the paper strips. The top strip on your chain should be threaded through the slit that you cut in the gift and background to hold the gift shut. Make sure you only use twenty five of the strips. Use the last one to make a loop on the back to hang the countdown up.

You now have a finished Christmas countdown. Each day, tear off one loop from the bottom of your chain. On Christmas, you will tear off the last loop, allowing the gift to be opened. The gift then reveals the true gift of Christmas–Jesus. Isaiah quite enjoyed helping with this craft and will be thrilled to discover the picture inside.

Crafts

Ours is hanging up, waiting for Isaiah to tear pieces off each morning.

Fall Carnival and Crafts with Isaiah

Today as a part of kids club, we had a carnival. There weren’t any fun activities for the kids this Halloween, so we decided to do something for them. I dressed up as a clown and made balloon animals and swords. Most of the kids thought it was wonderful. They loved getting balloons and wanted to know how I made them. One little girl, though, walked up to me and announced plainly, “I’m scared of you!” She sure didn’t seem scared to me. It takes courage to walk up to a clown and tell them you’re scared! Even Isaiah liked it that I was a clown. He watched me put the makeup on and used a clean applicator to pretend he was putting makeup on, too. He kept looking at me and laughing.

Clown

When kids club was done and everything from the carnival was finally put away, Isaiah took his much needed nap. By the time he woke up, he was ready to do something fun. He keeps getting into all the craft stuff, so I asked him if he wanted to do a craft. He, of course, started cheering and bouncing. I let him pick a few colors of paper and pulled out a big white sheet for him to glue pieces of color onto. I cut some squares from each color and put asked him where he wanted to put them. He’d point to a spot for me to put the glue, then stick a piece down as soon as there was glue on the paper. He thought it was great!

Glue

Helping me put glue on the paper

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Sticking pieces of paper down

After a while, the squares were getting boring–for me, at least–so I cut some other shapes from the paper. Isaiah was amazed and snatched up the new shapes. He found places to start gluing them to the paper and kept on crafting. Soon, he decided that putting the glue on the paper couldn’t possibly be that hard and wanted to try. I let him do it and, with a little help, he was applying the glue, setting the bottle down, sticking paper on and starting again.

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''I got glue everywhere!''

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''Look at my sticky fingers...''

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He wanted to do the gluing for himself

When it reached a point where Isaiah was mostly sticking pieces on top of other pieces, I told him we should probably stop for today. Not that he agreed or anything. I put the extra pieces away to use another day soon. He was quite proud of his work and kept showing it to everyone.

Glue

Proudly displaying the finished product