Pompoms for Preschoolers

Here is a really simple and fun learning activity for preschoolers.  It doesn’t take much to set up or to clean up at the end.
Materials

  • Pompoms in a variety of colours and sizes
  • Muffin tin
  • Large tweezers (I got mine from a board game called Avalanche, which is also a really fun game for preschoolers)

What to do

Dump the pompoms out and have your preschooler sort them into different cavities in your muffin tin based on colour and/or size.  Show them how to pick up the pompoms using the tweezers.  This way they are developing fine motor skills AND pre-math skills (see what I did there?).  This is one of those activities that I showed to my daughter once, then left the bag of pompoms in her toy bin.  Now she brings them out to me and asks to set up the muffin tin for her.

This is what happens when her hands get tired:

 

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Rainbow Birthday Cake


*Note:  I started this post back in June, but then decided to take the summer off, so I will now finish this post and will start posting more regularly again.

I really wish I had a better picture of this cake, but we were so busy with all the birthday party preps that I really didn’t get a chance to do too much photography!  I didn’t know how the stars on top were going to hold up, so I just added them a few minutes before the party started (I literally put the last one in moments before the first guest arrived).  As it turns out I could have easily done them first thing in the morning and they would have been just fine.

This is the inside of our beautiful rainbow cake.

I also didn’t take any photos of the process, so I don’t have a great tutorial, but I will share my recipes and a few tips I learned along the way.

I’m fairly new to fondant covered cakes (this one is my third), and I found out the hard way that not all cakes are a good choice for covering with fondant.  My first one ended up being a little saggy around the middle… So, when I went to make my second one, I looked for a more dense cake.  I was doing a lady bug cake for my daughter, so I also needed something that was going to hold up as a dome and could possibly be sculpted.  I turned to google and came up with this recipe:  http://allrecipes.com/recipe/whipping-cream-pound-cake-2/

Not only is it sturdy and forgiving to work with, it is also delicious!

I didn’t really think out my plan before I dove into making this cake.  I knew that I had three round 8″ pans, so I knew I would have to do two rounds to make the 6 coloured layers that I wanted.  I mixed up the cake recipe (just a single recipe, which proved to be a mistake) and greased and floured my three pans.  With the idea to save myself a few dirty dishes, I decided to pour half the batter evenly between my three pans and then colour the batter once they were in the pans (mistake #2).  The problem is that once the batter was in the pans I realized I couldn’t really mix very well because I didn’t want to mess up my grease/flouring job…  These were my red, orange and yellow cakes.  As you can see from the picture they actually turned out alright, but I still wouldn’t recommend this method.  Too stressful!  So for my next three cakes I poured the remaining half of my batter evenly into three bowls.  I then added the blue green and purple colouring.  This is where I started to run out of batter.  No matter how good you are with a spatula,  you’re going to leave some batter in the bowls and some on the spatula.  This is why my top three layers are considerably more thin than my bottom three.  Oh well, none of the five year olds at the party complained 😉

I baked the cakes three at a time for about 10 minutes (first batch a little longer, second batch a little shorter).  I let them cool in the pans for 10 minutes before turning them out onto my wire cooling rack.  I let the pans cool completely before re-greasing and flouring for round two.

I’m not going to go through all the details of assembling and decorating the cake.  There are tons of other tutorials that are great and have lots of pictures or good videos.

I will say that I wasn’t sure how well the fondant stars and the fondant 5 would hold up, but they did just fine.  I rolled the fondant quite thick for cutting those shapes.  I then inserted florist’s wire into each of the cutouts.  I let them harden over night and then inserted them into the cake.  I wrapped the ends in aluminum foil, as the wire I used wasn’t food grade and I didn’t know if it had some coating on it that might leach into my cake.

All in all I was very pleased with how the cake turned out.  Danny helped me with every stage (including decorating) and we had a really great time with this project.

Cocktail Umbrella Birthday Wreath

My son’s fifth birthday is a little over a week away (and his birthday party  a little under a week away…), so we have been busily crafting up decoration and party favours.  My next few posts are all going to be party related, although most of the ideas aren’t really exclusive to birthdays.  This wreath, for example, is not birthday related unless you add the age in the middle as I have done.

My son’s preschool invited students from the local university to come and do a segment on colour theory.  My son loved the activities and was really taken with colours and colour mixing.  When it came time to decide on a birthday cake, he chose one that was very colourful and rainbowesque, without being rainbow girly.  I decided to have a rainbow colour themed birthday, but not have the rainbows.  Instead I’ve mostly stuck to stars and shooting stars in rainbow colours.  With that in mind, I browsed Pinterest for rainbow wreaths and came up with quite a few really nice ones.  My son then got to pick his favorite, and he picked the cocktail umbrella on from Family Chic.  It may be a little too girly for some boys’/men’s taste, but whatever.

Here’s what I used for mine:

  • a 10″ grapevine wreath
  • two packs of parasol picks (aka cocktail umbrellas)
  • fishing line
  • nylon thread
  • printed 5 on cardstock

Here’s how I made it:

  1. open up the parasols and stick them into the wreath.  Yes, it’s that simple.  I used 28 to cover my wreath.  I didn’t do anything to secure them in place.  The picks go all the way through the wreath and stick out the other side, so I was worried that when I put the wreath against the door, they would all get pushed out.  Luckily they don’t, so I didn’t have to do anything to keep them in place.
  2. I thread a piece of fishing line through the metal hoop that came on the wreath to hand the wreath on the door.  I thought of doing a fancy ribbon, but since it’s for a boy’s birthday I decided a big fancy bow wasn’t quite right.
  3. I then printed off a number 5 onto card stock.  I let Danny choose from all my digital scrapbooking kits and he liked the plaid 5 from the Primary Grunge kit by A Work in Progress.  I cut out the five and used a needle to thread a piece of nylon thread through the card stock.  I then tied the other end of the thread through one of the vines, and voilà, a 5 that is magically hanging in the middle of the wreath.

Cute Hand Print Penguin

Hand Print Penguin CraftI got this idea from a recent Kindermusik class.  I thought it was too cute to pass up.  I did this craft with my 2 year old, and it was a really good fit for her skill.

What you need:

  • 1 piece black construction paper
  • 1 piece white construction paper
  • scrap of orange construction paper
  • glue stick
  • tacky glue
  • 2 googly eyes
  • pencil
  • scissors

How to make it:

  1. Place your hand with fingers closed on the piece of black construction paper.  Trace around your hand with a pencil. Cut along your pencil line.  This will be the body for the penguin.
  2. Place your child’s hand with fingers closed on the piece of black construction paper.  Trace around his/her hand with a pencil.  Cut along your pencil line.  Repeat this step to make two wings for your penguin.
  3. Trace your child’s closed hand on the white construction paper and cut out.  This will be the penguin’s tummy.
  4. Cut out an orange triangle for the beak.
  5. Using the glue stick, glue the wings, tummy and beak in place.  I let my daughter go wild with the glue stick, and then helped her place the parts to make it look like a penguin.
  6. Use the tacky glue to add the eyes.  I put down the dabs of glue and let Anna place the eyes.

We went a step further to turn this into a Father’s Day card.  We glued the penguin to a blue piece of construction paper that had been folded in half.  We added “Happy Father’s Day” and my daughter added some doodles to turn it into a Father’s Day card.

Chinese Paper Lanterns

Chinese paper lanterns are a really great craft for cutting, measuring and ruler practice.  I think my son got the idea from the Treehouse website, but I’m not 100% sure.  I just know that he came and asked me if we could make paper lanterns after playing some games on treehouse.com.  I didn’t know exactly what he was talking about, so I googled something about paper lanterns and found this site.

What you need:

  • construction paper
  • marker
  • ruler
  • scissors
  • scotch tape

How we made them:

  1. Cut a 1 ” strip from a long side of your piece of construction paper.  This will be used for the handle.
  2. Fold your paper in half, long sides together.
  3. Draw a line about 1.5 inches from the long sides that you have just folded together.
  4. Draw lines about 1 inch apart from the folded edge of the paper down to the line that you drew in step 3 (see picture above for visual).
  5. Cut along the vertical lines that you just drew being sure to stop at the line drawn in step 3.
  6. Unfold your paper.*
  7. Tape the two short ends together and tape the handle to the top.

*At this point, for a more finished look, you can refold the paper the other way so that the marker lines are on the inside.

 

Button Snakes

button-pipe cleaner snakes

The site that I got this from used this as a craft, but we used it just as an activity.  I had a big jar of buttons that I had left over from a craft that I did years ago (really cute button leg Santa decorations),  so when I saw this activity on Pinterest, I knew I already had everything we needed.  My two year old couldn’t do this yet, but it has kept my 4 year old occupied for quite a while.  There’s really not much in the way of instructions.  I just looped around the end of the pipe cleaner to keep the first button from sliding off.  Then I jut let him string on as many buttons as he wanted.  A fun fine motor skills activity that easy to set up and easy to put away!

Coat Hanger for Kids

We’ve been living in our house for almost two years now and there are still tons of things I want to do to make it more livable.  When we first moved in, we thought we would only be here for two years.  That meant that it wasn’t worth doing a lot of customizing.  However, we found out in April that we would be staying here for at least another year, most likely another three years, and possibly as long as five years.  I felt that that was enough to make it worth my while to start customizing.

There are a ton of things that I love about our house, but the front entry way is not one of them.  When you first walk in our door you see the stairs up to our top floor.  Immediately to the right and left are doors into other rooms.  Our front closet is just a little further down on the right in the hallway that leads to our kitchen.

This doesn’t leave a ton of room for storage of all our “front hall stuff”.  Ideally, I would love to have a mud room, but that’s just not going to happen in this house.  One small thing that I realized I could do, was to make a small kids storage area.  I waited to find a nice set of hooks on sale, then had my husband install them in the hallway that leads to our kitchen.  This small set of hooks is at just the right height for little kiddos to put away their own stuff!  The fun part is that they actually like taking care of their own things now that they can actually reach them.   I was a little worried that the hall was too narrow, and that we were always going to be bumping into the coats and back packs.  Luckily that has not happened and it doesn’t obstruct traffic flow at all.  Now I just need a good idea for storing mitts, hats etc in the winter.  Any suggestions?

Pipe Cleaner Kaleidoscope

This is a fun and easy little toy for the preschool set (okay, I played with it for quite a while the evening that I made it).  If your kids like kaleidoscopes, they are sure to enjoy this toy.  I didn’t have any plastic containers lying around, so I’ve used a glass one, but next time I have an empty peanut butter jar I’ll switch this over.  My kids are old enough not to break this one, but I think the magnet will be stronger through thin plastic vice thick glass.Pipe cleaner magnet jar

All I did was cut up twenty piece of pipe cleaner into fairly small pieces (3/4″-2″) and put them in a jar.  I gave my kids the jar and a strong magnet that I pulled of the fridge.  Voilà, hours of fun!  I got the idea from Pre-school Play on Blogspot.

When my 4 year old tried it out he almost immediately asked if we could try it with pom-poms, so that was the perfect segue into a very basic discussion about magnets and what they will/will not attract.

This was a real hit with both my 4 year old and my 2 year old 🙂

pipe cleaner kaleidoscope

Fireworks in a Vase

I came across this idea on jugglingwithkids.com and thought it would be right up our alley.  Sure enough, the kids loved it!  I only wish it lasted longer.  The whole activity was done in under 10 minutes 😦

Here’s what we did:

  1. Fill a tall vase with water.fireworks in a vase 2
  2. Pour a small amount of water into a small cup that’s good for pouring.
  3. Add 3-4 drops of liquid food colouring to the oil.  Do not add more than that!  Your water will darken fast enough with only 3 or 4 drops.  We added 4 drops, one each of purple, pink, blue and green.
  4. Mix up the oil and food colouring with a fork.  Mix it until you have only tiny droplets of food colouring throughout the oil.
  5. Pour the oil mixture into the vase.
  6. Watch as the colours fall from the oil down into the water.

thumbs up for fireworks in a vaseAs you can see, this activity got the thumbs up, but it was very short lived.  On the up side it was also very quick to set up and to clean up.

Home Made Play Dough

My kids are play dough lovers, but not always so good at remembering to put it away before it dries out.  That’s where home made play dough comes in 🙂  Much less expensive than the store bought stuff and I like to make it nice and soft so my kids can use the noodle making tools on their own.  The recipe I use is a combination from the Feed Me I’m Yours book by Vicki Lansky and a recipe that I picked up at the Early Year’s Centre in Olreans.  Here it is:

Mix in a medium bowl:

  • 1 cup white flour
  • 1/4-1/2 cup salt ( I found in Ottawa 1/4 cup was enough, but out here on the coast I need closer to the 1/2 mark)
  • 2 Tbsp cream of tartar

Add:

  • 1 Tbsp oil
  • 1 cup boiling water

Mix with a wooden spoon until it is cool enough to knead with your hands.  At this point I usually have to add a little more flour.  Again, I didn’t when I was in Ottawa, but the maritime environment is just too humid!  I always have to use the max or extra flour in bread recipes too.

Now add the food colouring.  When the kids were little I used to just make it all one colour, but now that Danny is older, he likes to mix colours.  I take the opportunity to divide the play dough to give him the chance to try out a few colour combinations. Today we used Club House Neon liquid food colouring for a fun change.

Thanks to Crayola’s creative colour naming, Danny decided to give them all names.  The blue one is Blue Wave Swirl, the pink one is Pink One’s Kitchen, and the orange one is Orange Trombone Blast.