Thursday, August 21, 2014

6 September Books for 4 Year Olds

This post is part of the series in Book Recommendations for Kids by Age and Month of the Year. It has September book recommendations for children who are 4 years old. Each book is paired up with additional resources that you can use to extend the story further.
September Book Picks for 4 year olds with extension activities
My daughter is now 7 year old and a very fluent reader. Very often I hear the same question, What did you do with her when she was little? Well, we read a lot, and I maintained a diary of our reading activities in weekly What My Child Is Reading entries in my blog. I decided to make these reading diaries more useful and create a new series on my blog where I will share our best books for each month for ages 3, 4, 5, and 6. Moreover, I will pair each book with an extension activity – sometimes with ours and sometimes with activities from my creative friends from Kid Blogger Network. In this post I am featuring books that we read when Smarty was almost 4 years old.
Disclosure: I am an Amazon associate and this post contains affiliate links. For full disclosure, please click here and thank you for supporting my blog!

1. Leaf Man

Leaf Man
I’ll start with the book we read every fall since Smarty was 3 – Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert. Simple text is beautifully supported by creative leaf collages. Lois Ehlert used a color copier to copy colors of real leaves on paper, but hardly anybody can resist running outside and creating something with leaves. I am sharing our own preschool take on Leaf Man here, but my post contains links to several more creative interpretations of this book.
LeafMan

2. Old Bear’s Surprise Painting

Old Bear Surprised Painting Old Bear’s Surprise Painting by Jane Hissey was a random library find, but it’s a great book to read with preschool children, especially in groups. All characters in this book are beautifully drawn stuffed animals who want to paint as well as their older friend, Old Bear. They soon discover that their individual “process art” pattern paintings are not that impressive, but Old Bear helps them to put a great picture together using a collage. Blog Me Mom has a beautiful textured paper collage project that would work really well as an extension for this book and would allow participation of children of different ages.
paper-flowers-crafts

3. The Dollhouse Fairy

The Dollhouse Fairy
The Dollhouse Fairy by Jane Ray is a beautiful book, both in story and in illustrations. It might be a little long for wiggly preschoolers, but my 4 year old loved it. A little girl named Rosy loves her dollhouse made by her Dad. One night Dad is taken to the hospital, and life is simply not the same. While playing with her dollhouse, Rosy discovers an injured fairy inside and nurtures her back to health. In the end of the book all is well – fairy heals and leaves the dollhouse, Dad also heals and comes back home. It’s a wonderful story about the healing power of imagination. Smarty read it while staying with her grandparents, and my Mom made a dollhouse for her out of several boxes. Every night a “fairy” left little presents and sweets in that dollhouse. Now it’s a few years later, and Smarty still insists on her fairy dollhouse when she visits grandparents while at home she never plays with her dollhouse. I love this “upcycled dollhouse” project from Teach Me Mommy – it’s amazing what can be done out of old boxes.
Bedrooms in the dollhouse

4. Bunny Money

Bunny Money
My daughter always enjoyed books by Rosemary Wells, and Bunny Money was not an exception. The book has a great lesson both on value of money and on spending it wisely as Max and Ruby go through a series of adventures while buying a birthday present for their grandma. The book has “bunny money” page that can be photocopied and used in play, but we had already play money that came with Smarty’s Play Cash Register (a present that was given too early, but in wide use now when Smarty is 7). We did a lot of activities teaching our preschooler about money, and I really like these suggestions on learning about coins from The Measured Mom.
make-learning-fun-with-coins-the-measured-mom

5. Tell Me a Dragon

Tell Me a Dragon
I think I liked Tell Me a Dragon by Jackie Morris more than my daughter, because the book is so lavishly illustrated, but doesn’t carry a lot of story. On each page spread a girl from a different culture describes her imaginary friend. The story would work well for artsy kids of both genders that could be inspired to draw their own dragons or, perhaps, make their own “customized” no sew dragon puppet like the one from My Little 3 and Me.
Dragon Puppet

6. Apple Farmer Annie

Apple Farmer Annie Apple Farmer Annie by Monica Wellington is a great book to read before the visit to a real apple farm or even to a farmers’ market. The text is short and works well for beginning readers, and the illustrations are bright and cheerful. There is even a recipe in the end of the book. We have yet to go to an apple farm, but we certainly enjoy apples at this time of the year. Preschool Powol Packets has a great post about science experiments with apples. Interestingly, I considered writing a similar post this year, in the blogging word great minds often think alike :)
apple preschool science experiments

More September Books Recommendations

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Your Turn

What is your favorite picture book about fall?

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

DIY Sparkling Bath Stones

My 7 year old daughter loves science. She enjoys free form science exploration, such as “potion mixing”, but she is even more delighted to make things that can be used later. This post is about making bath sparkling stones inspired by 101 Kids Activities Book.
DIY Sparkling Bath Stones Disclosure: I am an Amazon associate and this post contains affiliate links. For full disclosure, please click here and thank you for supporting my blog!

101 Kids Activities Book

101 Kids Activities
We received a new book 101 Kids Activities that Are the Bestest, Funnest Ever! by two terrific kid bloggers Holly Homer and Rachel Miller for review some time ago, and over summer my daughter read through all of it color coding her choices with different color tags. The book has 4 different sections, and it cracked me up that the first three sections had only 2 red bookmarks (that meant that Smarty really wants to try that activity), while the last chapter, science, was full of red tags. It is a big testament to the strength of this book that kids with different interests (and their parents) will find something in this book that will call their name.
Reading Kidsn Activities BookIt was very typical of my Smarty to practically ignore all the activities that were art-related, she is not at all interested in art unless it is done in a group or involves clay. Nevertheless, we did one activity from more “artsy” section of the book before – it was Solar Melted Crayons. Now we finally had time for the activity that was equally interesting for me and for Smarty – making bath sparkling stones.

Set Up for Making Sparkling Bath Stones

Bath-Stones-Ingredients
I don’t want to reproduce the full recipe from the book on my blog, but the only “secret ingredient” that required a trip to the store was Epson salt. The rest is easily found in your pantry. Smarty is currently very interested in how smells work, so she took her time choosing essential oils for her bath stones from our sizable collection, eventually deciding on lemongrass and vanilla. The book recommended using small paper cups to shape the stones, but we had several round plastic containers that came with all those party favors, and they were perfect in size and shape for this project.

Kids Love Making Useful Things

Bath Stones
I was hanging out with Smarty and sometimes gave her advice, but she did the whole activity on her own following clear instructions from the book. The book gave the warning about the fact that Epson salts are not edible, but Smarty had graduated from “put everything in your mouth” school a few years back. She divided the solids into 3 jars and added primary color food coloring into them. Then she packed 2 different colors into plastic containers. She also added her own twist to the recipe by throwing in a few lavender flowers for even more aroma and then set out the containers to dry out in the sun.
Bath-Stones-Packed

Did Our Bath Stones Work?

Kid Made Sparkling Bath Stones
They worked rather well! It took 24 hours for the stones to dry, and then I helped Smarty to get them out of the containers. She already tested one bath stone declared that bath “the most relaxing bath ever". Granted, the “bubbling” was minimal, since our stones were busily fizzing during preparations, but the stone looked very pretty while slowly dissolving and coloring bath water. The bath also smelled really well. This project will make a great DIY birthday or Christmas present for people who love pampering, but we will be experimenting with the recipe to see if we can improve it and make it more fizzy (there are some suggestions in the original recipe for that).

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Your Turn

Have you tried any DIY cosmetics? What was it?

Monday, August 18, 2014

Questions for the New School Year

Our school year starts on Wednesday, and our third grader is very excited. It became our tradition to conduct a small interview before the new school year. Today I am sharing questions you might ask your students who are heading back to the classrooms:
Questions  for New School Year

New School Year Interview

Me: Describe the last year in three words.
Smarty: Fun,… strict,…a little boring sometimes.
Me: How do you want your new year to be?
Smarty: Fun, bookish,… new!
Me: What is your biggest hope for this year?
Smarty: That I will learn something that I don’t know yet.
Me: What do you want to learn?
Smarty: Cursive!
Me: Do you have any worries about going back to school?
Smarty: No… I am happy. I just hope that Mrs L will be my teacher and that some of my friends are in my class. (Her wish came true, she will be in Mrs L's class)
Me: What do you think your favorite subject will be?
Smarty (looking at me funny): Why, reading, of course!
Me: What do you want to do better this year?
Smarty: Not to forget my stuff in school.

Books for “Bookish” Children

I loved the list of favorite children books from teachers shared last week by Buggy and Buddy. A lot of our favorites appear here and a few books that Smarty hasn’t read yet. I certainly hope that her love of reading continues to burn bright this school year. I also hope that maybe her third grade teacher manages to restore her interest in non-fiction books, because she is “all in” for fantasy books right now.
favorite children books recommended by teachers

2014 After School Link Up Hosts

Share Your Learning Week

Some of our children are already back to school, and some are enjoying the last weeks of summer. We would love to have you link up your School-Age Post (Ages 5 and up) about your summer learning or the first weeks of school including Crafts, Activities, Playtime and Adventures that you are doing to enrich your children's lives. When linking up, please take a moment to comment on at least one post linked up before yours and grab our after school button to include a link on your post or site! By linking up you're giving permission for us to share on our After School Pinterest Board or feature on our After School Party in the upcoming weeks! Don't forget to follow along and join ourAfter School Enrichment Community.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Week In Review – August 16, 2014

Highlights of the Week

TreeClimbing
  • Smarty had a very busy last week of her vacation at home with her Papa. They made a big plan of places to go and things to do this week.
  • School starts next Wednesday, and Smarty is really excited about it. She can’t wait to find out who will teach her this year.
  • Smarty and Papa had fun going to play mini golf with friends while I “slaved away” in the office. It’s been a busy week for me as well!

Places We Are Going

Wilder Ranch
Last weekend we went hiking in another State Park near the ocean – The Wilder Ranch. Smarty was really not in the mood for hiking for some reason, but once we dragged her there, she enjoyed the walk, the scenery and a discussion about what it would take to invent a smell recorder.

What My Child Is Reading

Reading
Smarty is still stuck on Harry Potter rereads. She is now an expert on all things Harry Potter, just as she is an expert on all things Percy Jackson. However, one evening I hooked her on From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (an affiliate link). She wouldn’t touch the book based on its title and cover, but I read her the first chapter, and then she read the rest… in about an hour. Yes, she loved it. Yes, she is a speed reader. No, she doesn’t have a perfect recall, but she does have full understanding of the main story lines in the books that she swallows so quickly.

Favorite Memory of the Week

Candid_Aug13
Smarty never plays with dolls. Instead she is playing with her Hot Wheels cars. She constructs different tracks and then she has competitions for her cars, complete with complex result tables, rules, awards, opening and closing ceremonies, etc. It’s almost too bad that it took her almost all summer to really get into pretend play on her own, but she is certainly enjoying it now. It’s a new world when our daughter does not ask to be entertained by us, her parents.

Most Popular Post

I am very happy that my post on Back to School for Gifted Learners was shared by a popular Kids Activities Blog this week. I really wanted this post to reach parents like myself – parents of gifted students wondering how to support their children best. It was certainly the most popular post this week.
Back-to-School-For-Gifted-Learners

Your Turn:

What were the highlights of your week?

Thursday, August 14, 2014

6 September Books for 2 and 3 Year Olds

This post is part of the series in Book Recommendations for Kids by Age and Month of the YearIt has September book recommendations for children who are 2 or 3 years old. Each book is paired up with additional resources that you can use to extend the story further.
September Book Picks for 2 and 3 year olds with extension activities
My daughter is now 7 year old and a very fluent reader. Very often I hear the same question, What did you do with her when she was little? Well, we read a lot, and I maintained a diary of our reading activities in weekly What My Child Is Reading entries in my blog. I decided to make these reading diaries more useful and create a new series on my blog where I will share our best books for each month for ages 3, 4, 5, and 6. Moreover, I will pair each book with an extension activity – sometimes with ours and sometimes with activities from my creative friends from Kid Blogger Network. In this post I am featuring books that we read when Smarty was 2.5 years old.
Disclosure: I am an Amazon associate and this post contains affiliate links. For full disclosure, please click here and thank you for supporting my blog!

1. It’s Fall!

It's Fall
September is perfect time for fall books, and we read a fair share of them when Smarty was young. She really enjoyed It’s Fall! by Linda Glaser. Cut-paper illustrations work beautifully with a simple non-fiction text describing things happening in fall. This book can serve as the foundation of nature study for older kids. Toddlers and preschoolers can enjoy leaf identification activities and leaf collages from Toddler Approved.
Leafy Letter Collage from Toddler Approved

2. Mouse Shapes

Mouse Shapes
Mouse Shapes by Ellen Stoll Walsh is one in the series of her “concept books” of early math. As you can expect, this book focuses on teaching shapes and on making things out of shapes. It’s also illustrated with torn paper collages and a wonderful read for toddlers and young preschoolers. You can easily extend the book with paper shapes or with felt board games like the one from Teach Preschool.
Felt-Shape-Games from Teach Preschool

3. Here Are My Hands

Here Are My Hands Book Here Are My Hands by Bill Martin Jr. is a great complement to All About Me or Human Body preschool theme. The text is very short, which appeals to kids who cannot stay still for a long time, and the illustrations by Ted Rand feature kids of different races stressing the similarities between them. I like the extension activity of tracing your child’s body and labeling its parts from Bunch of Berries:
Here are my hands

4. Whose Mouse Are You?

Whose Mouse Are You Whose Mouse Are You? by Robert Kraus illustrated by Jose Aruego is a great read for young kids with big imaginations, especially for those who are overwhelmed with their responsibilities. Little Mouse feels unloved and imagines himself as a hero of his family. Both adults and children will giggle at short sentences that go so well with bright and somewhat mysterious illustrations that display only part of an object. We also read other books in this series, and highly recommend it. You can make this paper plate mouse from Reading Confetti with your children or perhaps an entire mouse family by Molly Moo for Nurture Store.
paper plate mouse

5. Dog and Bear

Dog and Bear
Laura Vaccaro Seeger is another author with a series of very engaging concept books for young children (one of our favorites was Lemons are Red). Dog and Bear is perfect for new readers (and we did reread this book about 6 months later when my 3 year old started to emerge as a reader) and it is an excellent “primer” on friendship. Kids Activities Blog has an excellent article on how to help children become better friends that might work very well with this book.
life-skills-for-kids-friendship

6. The Seasons of Arnold’s Apple Tree

Arnold Apple Tree
The Seasons of Arnold’s Apple Tree by Gail Gibbons is another non-fictional book about seasons that was very popular in our house. In this book a young boy is enjoying seasonal activities and games centered around his friend, an apple tree. We even made a fun family art project on it with each of decorating our own tree.
Apple-Tree-Fall

More September Books Recommendations

September Books for 4 Year Olds – coming up next week

More Booklists For Kids?

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Your Turn

Do you have a favorite fall book for this age group? What is it?

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

How to Make a Lego Drawbot

For the young and old makers out there – I am sharing a tutorial on how to make an easy Lego Drawbot.

Lego Drawbot Tutorial

Disclosure: I am an Amazon associate and this post contains affiliate links. For full disclosure, please click here and thank you for supporting my blog!

Maker Dads Rock

Maker Dad
My husband took a couple of weeks off this summer to spend some quality time with our 7 year old. Just before his vacation I brought home a book Maker Dad by the editor in chief of Make magazine Mark Frauenfelder. Our daughter is still a little young to do many of the projects described in this excellent book, but my husband was particularly fascinated by one project described there – screen printing. He has spent a lot of time during his vacation experimenting with different screen materials and techniques. I, on the other hand, was more interested in a much simpler project described in Maker Dad – a vibrating drawbot. My husband looked through instructions and informed me that it would be much simpler to make that drawbot with Lego. One weekend we both went to our Lego boxes, and he produced this simple Lego drawbot “from scratch” in under 10 minutes. After Smarty and her friends played with it for a few days, I disassembled it to show you how to make it too. The only “non-standard” parts in this Lego Drawbot are motor and gears. Ours are over 30 years old and come from a Lego set that my husband had a child. You might get the gears with Lego Crazy Action Contaptions Kit and get a separate medium size or stronger Lego motor separately. Of course, if you have a Lego Mindstorms set, then you should have everything needed to build this Lego Drawbot, but we don’t have Mindstorms… yet.

Lego Drawbot Tutorial

Lego Drawbot Step by Step 1. Make drawing legs. We used pencils, because my husband wasn’t willing to sacrifice markers to vibrating forces, but you can try to do yours with markers. We discovered that we need strong rubber bands to keep pencils in place when our drawbot moved.Lego_Drawbot_DrawingLegs
2. The foundation is pretty simple and uses standard Lego plates. The legs attach to this rectangular foundation – two on one side and another one in the middle of the opposite side to form a triangle.
Lego-DrawBot-Foundation
3. The motor and gears are mounted on top of this foundation and bound at the sides to prevent motor from flying off…
Lego_DrawBot_MovingParts
4. Our motor didn’t have a speed control, so my husband used a series of gears to “downshift” it to a reasonable speed:
Lego-Drawbot-Gears
5. The vibration part comes from an unbalanced top. This is a simple plate with a few Lego pieces attached to it. We experimented with changing the number of pieces to see how it affects the way the robot moves.
Lego-Drawbot-UnbalancedTop We are done! Our Lego drawbot is ready to draw:
Lego-Drawbot-Finished

More Lego Ideas

The Magic of Lego Bricks
Lego Egg Racers
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Have you built projects involving Lego motors before?

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