F is for flower and frog

Spring is just around the corner and the flowers are in bloom and little signs of life are appearing everywhere! We focused our study of the letter F on flowers and frogs. We collected flowers from our very own backyard and discussed their color and size. We had so much fun grouping them first by color and then by big and small. We even brought the flowers inside for further observation and tried to draw them. For our study of frogs we took a look at a display in a museum of the life stages of a frog and read one of my all time favorite Beatrix Potter stories: Jeremy Fisher.

We of course spent a good deal of time coloring letter F coloring pages and talking about the difference between E and F.

Letter D

D is for dirt!

I was really looking forward to the letter D because one of my daughter’s favorite activities is digging in the dirt. What could be easier? We had a great time decorating a letter D, digging in some dirt, feeding ducks, reading Make Way for Ducklings and playing and learning about dinosaurs. The grand finale was eating a small doughnut. We got out into nature, read a book, played together and had a treat. Time well spent and no fancy prep work required.

The caterpillar friends were so successful I decided to try out the use of imaginative play with toy dinosaurs to encourage language use in my daughter. I let her take the lead, but asked questions and had my dinosaur get into problems that only she could solve. We used books and toys that were already around the house. I am excited to find a way to incorporate imaginative play in future letter learning. It’s such a fantastic way to encourage language!

In case you cannot find a copy of Make Way for Ducklings, here is a link to the book being read aloud on YouTube.

Letter C

C is for Caterpillar!

We have had a lot of fun with the letter C and focused on how caterpillar starts with C. My main goal with this ABC series is to compile resources that help your toddler learn their ABCs through interacting with nature and using what you already have around the house. This process has personally given me a lot of peace and happiness. Ten minutes here and there spent in nature, with a book or just playing with my toddler has made a huge difference in our relationship.

Check out the activities we used to learn about the letter C and caterpillars:

We started by checking out our plastic letter C and decorating a letter C coloring page with some fun Dab o’ Ink markers. Using one color per coloring page created a great opportunity to talk about colors as these markers are very bold! We then talked about the caterpillar life cycle and colored this butterfly life cycle coloring page. In late summer we had a great experience with some pet caterpillars that we watched turn into butterflies. I highly recommend this experience in the right weather. All five of the caterpillars formed a chrysalis and turned into butterflies. It was absolute magic watching my two year old as we released the butterflies into nature. She was amazed! This was the butterfly habitat we purchased.

After learning about the caterpillar-butterfly life cycle there was clearly only one thing to do- read The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle. If you don’t have the book on hand there are some really calming versions of the book being read aloud on YouTube such as this one.

We ended our study by creating caterpillar friends using folded paper and eating a carrot. It was so fun to munch on carrots and give names to our paper caterpillars (Apple and Banana) and then we took them on a mini hike around a lake by our house. Our little caterpillar friends were a surprising behavior management tool. Banana and Apple were much better than me at convincing a toddler to get into a car seat!

Want to really drive home the letter C? Nothing wrong with a cookie and a little viewing of the Cookie Monster on Sesame Street. I was actually thinking baking cookies together this week might be a great way to review our letter of the week!

Letter C was a great experience!

Letter B

B is for Bug and Bird

The smash hit for our study of “B” was our bug hunt. I definitely want to repeat this activity when it warms up as all the bugs were hiding from the cold. We started with little review of “A.” My daughter has been so excited to check on her apple seed to see if anything has sprouted. We then walked around the house together and filled up our “B” bag together. Our big activity for the letter “B” was going on a bug hunt in the backyard using a magnifying glass from the dollar store. We looked under leaves, rocks and fallen branches. Before the bug hunt we examined these wonderful printable bug flashcards. It was a simple and fun learning time. We ended with some free tracing and coloring of the letter B worksheet.

Our bug hunt was fun, but not incredibly successful. We are well in into fall and I noticed there were many birds flying south. I decided to do a little detour on our original letter plan. We went on a bird hunt and then made pine cone and nut butter bird feeders. I found that we did not need bird seed, but could use any nuts we had around the house. I ended up using peanut butter, chia seeds and sesame seeds. I did a bit research on what nuts and seeds could be safely fed to birds. Most common nuts and seeds are fine in moderation. Here is a a list of things that are toxic to birds. Now we just watch from our window and see what birds we help on their way south!

We went on a bug hunt
Our “B” bag

Letter A

My two year old and I have had such fun creating learning plans for each letter. The plans for each letter follow the same basic schedule: letter bag, tracing of the letter and exploration of the letter in nature. How could this not be fun? These plans are not complicated, but we hope they help you. Everything is in one place with links to many wonderful resources created by some wonderful people!

You do not have to go in alphabetical order. With my own kids, I have found success in first teaching them the letters of their name. All of my kids could spell their names aloud by age two thanks to the catchy tune of B-I-N-G-O. It’s a great way to get the kids interesting in letters beyond the alphabet song. I love the wooden name puzzles you can have personalized through Fat Brain Toys.

Note: We only used capital letters as these plans were created for a two year old.

A is for Apple

1. Read an ABC book and sing the ABC song

Our favorite alphabet book that we read each day is this one

2. Letter A bag

3. Tracing the letter A

-Have your child trace a 3D letter on a piece of scrap paper. Just let them handle the letter and explore the shape and feel of the letter.

-Tracing worksheets (I like these through megaworkbook.com)

4. A is for Apple:

Talk about how “A” is for apple. Take a look at the apple. Cut it in half and have your child scoop out the seed. You can plant the seed in a cup with dirt. Share a visual of the life cycle of an apple seed. Check out this example from The Helpful Garden blog.

Happy letter learning and exploring of the world around you!

Update: Our apple seed has sprouted!

Cinnamon Ornaments: Easy Craft for Kids (and Last Minute Gift for Relatives)

As evidenced by this post and the post preceding it, I am a procrastinator. Between this craft and the stove top potpourri gift you can throw together gifts and activities to make the holidays easy and fun (and better smelling). The nice thing about this craft is it can be baked simultaneously with the stove top potpourri and it keeps the kids occupied.

What You Need

4.16 oz Container of ground cinnamon (or two smaller containers)

3/4-1 cup Plain applesauce

Cookie cutters (of your choice)

Yarn or string

A very sharp pencil

What To Do

  1. Mix the cinnamon and applesauce in a bowl until it forms a ball. You will probably need to use your hands. Start with 3/4 cup applesauce and add more until all the ground cinnamon is gathered up into the ball. Please don’t use more than 1 cup applesauce unless you have more cinnamon.
  2. Divide the ball into 4-6 pieces. Use a rolling pin or glass bottle to roll each piece between two pieces of plastic wrap until the dough is 1/4 inch thick.
  3. Remove the top layer of plastic and use a cookie cutter to cut out your desired shape.
  4. Use a sharp pencil to poke a hole into the top of the ornament. Make sure the hole is clear of dough on both sides.
  5. The kids will love “drawing” on the ornaments with a really sharp pencil. At this point you can encourage them to decorate the ornament for a specific person such as a grandparent. Easy gift from the grandkids!
  6. Bake the ornaments on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper at 200F for 2.5 hours.
  7. Let the ornaments cool on a rack.
  8. String yarn through the top.

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Stovetop Potpourri: Last Minute Holiday Thank You Gift

One of my favorite thank you or neighbor gifts to give during the holidays is a homemade batch of stovetop potpourri. It is so easy to make and always a well received break from the endless parade of holiday sweets. This is a fun gift to throw together and you can be as creative as you like with the pairings. I am providing a recipe for what I put in this year’s batch, but feel free to add or take away ingredients as suits your fancy. This year I decided to crank it up a notch and oven dry my own orange slices; usually I just throw a whole lemon or orange in the bag with directions to slice it. Enjoy the aromas and save a batch for yourself!

What You Need

Oranges (1/2 per gift)

Cinnamon Sticks (2 whole per gift; you will break them in two to create 4 per gift)

Cloves (1 tsp per gift)

Bay Leaves (2 per gift)

Cranberries (1/2 cup per gift)

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What To Do

Combine the ingredients in a bag with directions to slice the orange 1/4 inch thick, place the ingredients in a saucepan, cover with water and simmer over low heat. Add water as needed. I used plastic gift bags and leftover yard to tie it up. Simple, easy, no fuss. If you want to go an extra step, consider drying out your own orange slices.

Drying Out Orange Slices in the Oven

  1. Preheat oven to 200F. Low and slow is best, but if you are pressed for time you can crank it up to 250F and try it for 2.5-3 hrs instead of 3.5-4hrs.
  2. Slice oranges 1/4 inch thick. Calculate about 1/2 orange per gift.
  3. Lay oranges out on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  4. Blot dry with paper towel.
  5. Bake for 3.5-4 hrs at 200F/2.5-3hrs.
  6. Turn them at least three times. This will also allow you to monitor the oranges in case some start to burn.
  7. Let them sit overnight (or longer) in the oven after it is turned off. This allows them to dry out even more.

Go Shopping In Your Home

Not sure if this post will be of interest or of much help to anyone out there, but I wrote it more to help organize my own thoughts.

I am one month away from an overseas move with my family. Moves do not intimidate me; I rather look forward to the process of cleaning out and starting over. However, as the years go by and husbands and children and THINGS find their way into my life the moving out process becomes somewhat more difficult. I am a fan of the popular read on organizing: The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. This is where I admit that although the book inspires me, my personality and current life situation prevents me from following through on the process. In preparation for my current move I have developed  my own, simplified approach. I plan on going shopping in my own home. So far the experience has been productive and enjoyable. The process is a room by room approach and similar to how I would clean my room as a kid (ahh to only be responsible for one room). I would make a list of all the categories of items in my room with “trash” at the bottom of my list. There would be three check box columns next to each category. Under this list of categories I would write “vacuum, and dust” with only one check box next to those. After creating my list I would start at the top and work my way down, organizing and cleaning everything as I went. Yes, I would go through the categories three times, even trash.

This is what my adult clean out chart looks like:

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Before I would first decide on what I wanted to get rid of, however I have found that I keep less and have a better plan for organizing when I begin by deciding on what I want to keep; I go shopping in my home. This way I look at a room and see what is important and not just what is causing clutter. Everything around the important stuff becomes clutter, but I don’t stress myself out by just seeing junk. It’s a glass half full method. An appreciation for what is kept is kindled and I am more likely to fix up the item and take better care of it.

 

A Japanese Inspired Cleansed Life: Beauty

We are really looking forward to our trip to Japan this summer. It is an amazing opportunity for our family and a great reason for me to learn simple, natural methods used in Japan for beauty, cleaning and healing. The first post in the series explores simple ideas for creating a Japanese inspired natural beauty plan. In addition to the ingredients on the Terrific Twenty list, you will also need the following:

  1. Green Tea
  2. Rice Water
  3. Awesome Sun Protection

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Green Tea

Most everyone is aware of the awesome benefits of green tea. Green tea helps to fight the effects of aging, speeds up your metabolism, acts as an antibacterial, etc. You can drink green tea or use it as a topical beauty treatment. I need a break from coconut oil and apple cider vinegar so exploring different substances is most welcome. One of the best benefits of green tea for me has come from the anti inflammatory properties. Most everything seems to make my skin blotchy and red, particularly the endless amount of coffee I enjoy; green tea on the other hand leaves me energized with out the caffeine jitters and red, blotchy skin. In addition to drinking green tea I would suggest checking out the following green tea beauty treatments:

Green Tea Steamer

Steep two bags of green tea in a bowl of water. Place face over bowl while it is steaming. You may want to cover your head with a towel to keep the steam contained.

Green Tea Toner

Steep two bags of green tea in two cups of water and let cool. Use a cotton ball to swipe the face, gently. Face should feel smooth and pores refined.

Green Tea Foot Soak

Empty tea bags into a bowl of warm water and allow feet to soak until you feel rejuvenated.

Green Tea Hair Rinse

Steep 2 bags of green tea in 2-3 cups water. Let cool. Following your regular shampoo and conditioning routine rinse hair with the cooled green tea. I had great results from this one; added a lot of body to my hair. I took a break and put the leftover tea bags on my eyes for ten minutes while my hair dried. One thing I have found with these hair rinses (including the ACV rinse) is that you do not want to use them too often; perhaps once every other week or even once a month. However, everyone is different.

Green Tea Bags for Eyes

Reuse your green tea bags by placing them in the fridge and placing them over your eyes when you have ten spare minutes. Ahhh relaxation.

Rice Water

I read that rice water has long been a beauty secret of the Geisha, so I decided to give it a try. Making rice water is quite easy. After boiling the rice, pour the excess water into a jar. You may have to add filtered water to get the desired consistency: a white cloudy mixture. Keep it in the fridge. Rice water may be used as a toner or face cleanser.

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Rice/Coconut Oil Scrub

Although this does not contain rice water, rice can be used to do other great things.

What You Need:

  1. 1 TBSP ground rice
  2. 2 TBSP melted coconut oil
  3. 1 tsp lemon juice
  4. 2 drops lavender essential oil

What To Do:

  1. Grind the rice. I use a coffee bean grinder.
  2. Mix all the ingredients together.
  3. Scrub hands and feet with this scrub.
  4. Rinse.

Awesome Sun Protection

Protect yourself from the sun! Hats, sunglasses, non toxic sun screen, umbrellas! Just do it!