Tutorial: Nature Stick

Posted 04-14-2014 at 08:25 AM by Banana Cat

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Many parents proudly proclaim that they and their kids “went on a nature walk today!” Living in the downtown area of the city makes nature walks a little harder to do. I can’t even get to a park without driving there or walking ten blocks up a steep hill (hence, the driving). Rather than going on a “nature walk,” it’s more like “we went on a walk and accidentally ran into nature along the way.” Don’t get me wrong, I love that my toddler daughter likes to explore and learn what bits of the world aren’t just never-ending traffic and sirens and pavement and the skyscrapers she calls “da big, big houses!” But everything she finds comes home with us. Flowers? Rocks? Sticks? A worm? Bottle cap? They all come home tucked away in her crevices of her carseat, or pockets, or shoes, or the diaper bag; her hoarding is evident everywhere. The other day she carefully poured a scoopful of dirt into my pocket because she had no room for it in her own stuff.

One day, while browsing Pinterest (of course), I came across a project someone did for her daughter she named the “Fairy Loom.” It was the perfect solution to the nature hoarding issue, although I renamed it the “Nature Stick” for my daughter since she doesn’t care about fairies, but loves sticks. It works well as a storage solution, a toy, and a decoration.

Diaper Swapers

Tutorial: Coffee Filter Window Flower Art

Posted 04-7-2014 at 08:12 AM by Banana Cat

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It is spring. Up until recently, we lived in an apartment with a balcony and every March I would begin planting herbs, flowers, and other plants that grew well in pots. We live in a new apartment without a balcony now, and it’s difficult to grow anything indoors without the cats deciding that yes, tiny plants are The Best Thing To Eat, Even Moreso Than Meat. How to help my toddler enjoy flowers from the comfort of our own home? Why, we do an art project, of course.

Supplies Needed

  • Coffee filters
  • Markers
  • Spray bottle full of water
  • Tape, or other temporary adhesive
  • A window
  • A child, toddler age preferred but any you have on hand will do

Tutorial: Melted Crayon Spring Eggs

Posted 03-19-2014 at 08:22 AM by Banana Cat

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So, I don’t like dying eggs. And I mean that in the Easter/other nondenominational spring festival way, not eggs that are in the process of no longer living, although I suppose that’s something I don’t like either because it would be pretty morbid if I did. Anyway, even when I was a kid dying eggs sounded fun but never actually delivered on the fun factor. Everything we touched smelled like vinegar for days. My brother and I would fight over who got to use which colors first, and then we’d put our eggs in the dye and wait…and wait…and wait. Then we’d take out the eggs, attempt to carefully stand them up to dry, then bump each other’s elbows and smudge up the dye job and then accidentally crack the eggs and in the end we’d have maybe three or four good eggs out of a couple dozen and be angry at each other in a sibling kind of way. When I was a teenager I swore to never dye eggs again…and now, many years later I find myself with a child old enough to decorate eggs. I still don’t want to dye eggs and after laughing hysterically at museum-quality Pinterest Easter eggs carefully decorated with dainty vintage lace and suspiciously smudgeless calligraphy, quite clearly not done by a harried mother of two, I stumbled across the idea of using crayons to melt onto freshly hardboiled eggs for a melted look. I like the melted, marbled look and goodness knows a harried mother of a two year old has millions of crayons sitting around. I also wanted to make egg salad and so combined a toddler art project and my lunch cravings together to make melted crayon spring eggs.

Step 1

Boil thine eggs, using your preferred process. You want the eggs hot or else the whole thing won’t work so plastic eggs are not an option. You might be able to use blown eggshells if you drop them in super hot water for a few minutes, but I haven’t tried that so I don’t know how it would work. If you try it and it does, let me know!

Celebrate National Popcorn Poppin’ Month with your students!

Posted 10-18-2013 at 02:42 PM by yoliyoda

I love monthly awareness months for planning lessons and educational experiences–it’s so inspiring! And the month of October is poppin’ with inspiration. It has plenty of things you can focus on, from the drums of the world to the seafood on our plates. The celebration that most inspired me with ideas is the fact that October is National Popcorn Poppin’ Month. There are plenty of things that you can do with your children to celebrate and learn.

Just what makes Popcorn “Pop”?

There are two great paths you can take with your kids to answer this question. Turn this into a science lesson and have the kids look up the facts behind what causes those kernels to explode into little light fluffy morsels. Challenge them to create a mini-lesson to either teach their younger siblings, father, grandparents, or other loving people in their life, the science behind popcorn. Make sure they know that they have to fully understand the science in case someone asks a question during the lesson.

Another route is a social science lesson. Have students research the Native American folklore on the subject. They’ll find that some tribes believed that spirits resided in the kernels, and when they got angry they “popped”. Imagine the result of challenging a creative child to write a story or create art based around that folklore!

Homeschooling – When The Teacher Is Sick

Posted 10-14-2013 at 12:41 PM by whitneywalters

We have been home schooling since my oldest ( who is seven ) was in preschool. While we have had a few sick days, nothing prepared me for what is would be like battling Pneumonia while pregnant and still trying to still be a teacher to my kids.

At first I tried to keep up the full schedule and it was just not possible. I was exhausting me, I was not giving the kids the attention they needed and we were all suffering for it. The thought went through my mind of just taking the time off but since we have a vacation time coming up already, I did not want to throw off the whole school schedule. I knew it was time to get creative and figure something out.

Below is a list of what I did while teacher was sick:

1. Call for help.
- It was not like I could call in sick and get a substitute teacher but I could call my mom and have her help me. We spent time at my mom’s house, I rested and she did school with the kids. My husband had been working over time and trying to keep up with what I could not do around the house but he still made time to help with school as well.

2. Make use of the computer and television set.
- There are a ton of educational shows on television. We have netflix and it is full of cartoons and documentaries the kids watched for part of their classes. I also have a membership to starfall.com and use several free educational game sites. I had them do math and reading games instead of working in their books. They were having fun, practicing skills, learning new things and I was still able to get the rest I needed.

Get Outside!

Posted 08-9-2013 at 12:45 PM by whitneywalters

I am a very outdoorsy type person. I enjoy hiking, walking, camping, fishing and many other outdoor activities. My husband and I both agree that it is important for kids to stay active and we want them to spend a lot of time outside. As long as the weather is nice, we spend several hours every day outside.

We have a large yard and have put together a nice little play area for the kids. We built a  large sandbox,  have a swing set , a climbing toy, bikes, scooters, a sand and water table, a kiddie pool and other things out there for them to play with. We live in a very quiet part of town and the kids are able to ride their bikes on the side walk as much as they want.

Several times a week, I take the kids to a local park. My kids adore going to the smaller park that is in our town. It is the right size for all of them, well taken care of and quiet. Amelia is able to use almost all the equipment there without help, Kairi is able to use everything now and the oldest two are still plenty entertained by the equipment that is there.

Once and awhile we will take the kids out walking by the lake, they like to hike the woods that my parents own and they enjoy fishing. I am really glad to see them enjoying the outdoors as much as I do.

Here are just some of the reasons that I find outside time so important:

Hands on Mom

Posted 07-18-2013 at 11:25 AM by whitneywalters

I am a very hands on type of mom. If my kids need help learning something at a park, I am right there to help them learn. I get involved in  their art projects, play games and do a lot of other things to spend quality time with my kids. I am sure that some people would call me a helicopter mom but I am perfectly okay with that. I like being involved with the kids activities when we are out. We play tag together, swing with them and play with them. If they want to try something new but do not have the confidence to do it alone, I help them. I know a lot of people are hands off and want their kids to figure things out on their own when it comes to the park. This is just not how I parent.

When Alex wanted to go down the fire mans pole but was afraid, I helped him. At first he wanted my hands on him, not long after that he just wanted me to stand there in case he needed me and now he is going down it with ease. Having Mom close by gave him the confidence he needed to be able to go down on his own. He loves doing it now and does it several times while we are at the park. He always has a huge smile on his face and wants me to watch him.

Destiny has been wanting to learn the monkey bars. She is just a little bit to short to reach the bars on her own so I help her across. I hold her up and she pulls herself across. I am thinking once she grows the couple inches and is able to reach the bars, she will be swinging across them all on her own. She also had a fear of climbing high on the jungle gym. She wouldn’t even make it half way before she would get scared and want help. It took some coaching and having me right there with a hand on her before she made it over the top and down the other side.

Rain, Rain, Go Away!

Posted 07-15-2013 at 10:15 AM by whitneywalters

We have been getting a lot of rain lately and the forecast says we have a lot more rain coming. I was starting to run out of ideas to keep the kids entertained. We went outside whenever we had the chance but it has been raining so much that the ground is a mess, the sand box is a mess and they do want to do out in all the yuck. On the rare occasions that we have had a sunny day and things dry out enough to play, we spend most of the day outside. We are an outdoor loving family so being trapped indoors so much lately has been hard on us all.

My kids got board of the same board games very quickly, I will only let them watch so many cartoons, they only want to color for so long and they get tired of playing in their rooms all the time. We had to do something different.

Here is a small list of some of the things we have been doing to keep the rainy day blues away.

1. Get messy
- Break out the paints and let them go wild. My kids love finger painting and water color painting. I just make sure to cover the kitchen area with newspaper for easy clean out.
- Play with playdough, moon sand and other things of that sort. I cringe when I think of the clean but the kids love it and as long as I can keep it in the kitchen, it does not seem so bad.
- Do a messy or very hands on science experiment.

2. Swim indoors
- If you have the space ( and the towels ) bring your kiddy pool inside. Other wise fill the tub up and let them keep their suits on. My kids love “swimming” in the bath. They think it is the best thing ever when I let them swim in a bath that is brimming with bubbles.

Our Summer Bucket List

Posted 07-3-2013 at 02:36 PM by whitneywalters

Summer is my favorite season. I really enjoy the warm weather and everything that comes a long with summer. I made a list of things that I wanted my family to do this summer. Some of them we have already completed but we still have several left to go. We have had a blast with the things we have done so far and I know everything else is going to be a bit hit with my family.

1. Plant a garden
- This is part of my kid’s summer school project. They have been helping with the garden from the start. They have helped plant, weed and water. When the time comes to harvest, they will be helping and they are looking forward to eating the produce as well.

2. Plant flowers
- I am a garden lover. I have several areas in the yard with flowers planted. Most of what I have planted are perennials but I do have two pots that are filled with annuals. I do that because the kids have always like planting flowers with me. This year we planted petunias.

Little Artists

Posted 07-2-2013 at 12:15 PM by whitneywalters

I started doing art related things with my kids from a very young age. I introduced them to coloring as soon as they would stop trying to eat the crayons, side walk chalk as they could hold it and draw, finger painting before age two and a lot of other things. I have always loved art and I know that kids usually love art. This was something I could share with them and I knew we would have a lot of fun doing it.

I still have a lot of the first art that Alex made when he was little. I will always hold onto their first finger paintings and other special drawing they have done for me. When Alex was two ( almost three ) and Destiny was almost eighteen months we made Valentine’s cards for their Grandparents, Aunts and Uncles and I had them make one for Chris and I to keep. They colored on them with markers, decorated with stickers and then I wrote on them. I will always treasure that little card.

After I had gall bladder sugery my oldest two made me cards ( with the help of my mom ). It was the sweetest thing. They are still hanging on my fridge months later and I will be holding onto those forever.