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Create your own backyard bliss just in time for summer


Dust off your grills and break out the pool toys summer is right around the corner. Pretty soon your kids will be camped out on the couch remote in hand complaining that there is nothing to do. So do yourself a favor take a weekend and get your backyard ready for summer. There are some inexpensive things you can add to your backyard, no matter what the size that are sure to keep your kids engaged and having fun. Here are a few of my favorite backyard DIY's that you can easily do in a weekend and keep those kids busy and learning all summer long.


Project1: Building a Raceway

Use brick pavers to create a road for your little ones favorite trucks and cars, add buildings out of blocks of wood and tunnels using some PVC pipe and a little mulch. Your little ones will let their imaginations loose and play for hours.

Project 2: An Outdoor chalkboard

This is a must have for any backyard, simply mount a large piece of plywood onto your fence, (We used a scrap piece from a recent home improvement project) and paint with black chalkboard paint. If you are impatient like I am you can use the spraypaint. It dries very quickly and goes on very easy. Make sure it is mounted so your little ones can reach, use a small towel hook to hang a galvanized bucket for your chalk. Let your little ones explore with their chalk, let their inner artist go! Crayola makes a wide variety of sidewalk paint including 3D paint, so be on the look out for some fun new products you can let your little ones try out on their chalkboards.



Project 3: A Water Table

Lets face it on those hot summer days your little ones want to splash around, but you need something that won't attract the bugs and is easy to cleanup. I love this project at Lowes you take an inexpensive drip pan and use it as a makeshift water table, easy to just flip over when not in use to keep those pesky mosquitoes away. Your little ones will love splashing around and playing with their water toys.


Project 4: A Plexi Art easel

This is our last project we are adding to our backyard summer reno, Home depot sells sheets of plexi glass, a hard piece of lucite that you can attach to your fence. We used some scrap wood to create a small easel edge on our fence. We are also adding metal binder clips which we hot glue to the plexiglass, to hold up artwork and paper for our little ones to get creative. We are adding the plexiglass above it for a couple of reasons. When painting you can simply hose the plexiglass down for easy clean up (we really didn't want a rainbow colored fence). You can also encourage your little ones to explore with a multitude of materials like shaving cream, gels, paint etc.

My number one mom tip is to make sure you include a relaxing shady place for mom to hang out so you can supervise those young ones. For me it's a hammock nestled right between two trees. I'm right in the middle of all the creative action!


Some other summer must haves for your backyard bliss....


Bubble, bubbles and more bubbles. 

Kids love to explore with bubbles. So why not encourage their fun. You can purchase an inexpensive kiddie pool ( that could double as a water sensory bin for your little ones) and a hula hoop. Fill your pool with bubbles ( dawn liquid dish soap and water works best, you can add a few drops of glycerin if you would like stronger bubbles) Have your child stand in the pool and pull the hula hoop over their head and Viola! They are in a bubble! They can also use the hoop to twirl around and make their own large bubbles. I love keeping a large drink canister (plastic of course) on our deck with bubble solution in it. I give my daughter a plastic cup for her bubbles and she refills them when she runs out...she is 4 so they run our quite a bit!


Waterballoons

Enough can't be said for a good old fashioned water balloon fight. Waterballoons are squishy and slippery and down right fun to pick up. Keeping these on hand for an afternoon splash fight will be sure to bring a giggle to your little ones face. Encourage them to sort them by colors into a variety of buckets, or count them. Or one of my favorite literacy games is to tape flash cards ( letters) to a wall or fence and call out the different letters have your little one hit the correct letter with their water balloon....just remember the younger your child the larger the letters need to be. For your older kids do this with math problems or other concepts that need some practice.








So get those kids off the couch and playing outside instead. Have them help you create a backyard oasis that they can enjoy with their friends all summer long. 
Join us on Pinterest to see some more creative backyard ideas!



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Lil Sprouts Book Club: LMNO Peas



Go ahead and admit it. How many of you still rush through the middle of the alphabet to get to the chorus of "LMNO Peas?" You're not alone, we've all done it! It has such a nice flow to it, and it becomes a hard habit to break. Now with a little one at home that is carrying on the tradition, Keith Baker's LMNO Peas was a must read.

It's a delightful story of some rambling little peas that make their way through the alphabet with a variety of different careers and hobbies. Baker is also the illustrator and his pictures of peas being acrobats all the way to zoologists, are clever and creative.

I couldn't resist using some split peas in the pantry that never got used in a soup this winter (since we didn't have one) as our muse. I've been working with Mack on recognizing textures and on words that start with the same sounds. I had the picture perfect pea project in mind. I drew the letter M on a piece of white card stock paper. I drizzled glue throughout the inside of the shape. I poured some peas in a bowl and let Mack take handfuls and sprinkle them over the glue and then press down. We let it dry for a bit and then shook off the excess peas (like when you work with glitter). I then showed him some pictures of objects that started with the letter m (I found them on Google Images and printed them out) and had him tell me what they were. He is somewhat familiar with the items that I showed him, but I was really pleased that he could call them out on his own. I put a dot of glue on the back of each picture and let him glue them down. We practiced again and again saying the words as I made a point to clearly enunciate the m sound. We also talked about how rough the M made with peas was compared to the smooth paper. 




For children older than Mack's age (20 months) you could do a few different adaptations:

*Find an assortment of pictures that having different beginning sounds. Allow the children to point out the words that start with the letter you are focusing on. If they are old enough to cut and glue then allow them to work on their fine motor skills.
*Children could also do a scavenger hunt through old magazines or newspapers to look for words that have the same beginning sounds. They can then make a collage out of these pictures.

Our family has this book memorized by now, and we're still loving it! We were quite proud of our pea masterpiece today, and it was a great simple late afternoon project. Now if I could only get this little boy to eat his peas!

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Mommy & Me Mondays: A heartfelt Thank You


Happy Memorial Day!  Boy am I proud to be an American.  Days like today make me stop and realize that we remember many, but we honor all who serve and served our country.  Both of my grandpas are veterans, and I couldn't let this day go by without a thank you.  Throughout the years I have have found it very important to teach my students about civic responsibility.  We've had pen pals in Iraq, made hundreds of baggies of candy to be dropped on low flying missions over Afghanistan, written to Wounded Warriors, and reached out to our local armory.  Our school hosts Take a Veteran to School Day each November, and this event allows students to honor and hear about sacrifice first hand.  Memorial Day is more than just yummy backyard barbeques, it is also a day of remembrance and gratitude.

For our Mommy and Me Monday activity this week Mack and I decided to make a thank you note.  I think I might be one of the last people on Earth that still LOVES snail mail, so this was a perfect project for me.  Teaching children the significance of thanking others is important.  Whether it be for material things, kind gestures, or freedom.  We started off our thank you by heading to the pantry and grabbing a potato.  I hadn't made a potato stamp in a very long time, much less a star shaped one, so this was going to be interesting.  I prevailed and we got to painting. 
 I'm working with Mack on color recognition.  He is tempted to classify everything as green, so with some badgering he got the red and blue pattern down.  Let me back up a little though.  I let him use the potato stamp freely at first, since a 20 month old isn't really concerned about a "neat" product (but I doubt my grandpa is either).  Once he got used to holding the stamp, we started with our border pattern.  I wrote a sweet thank you message to my grandpa (Mack's great-grandpa), he signed, and we sealed with love and admiration. 

Today would be a great day to have your children design their own thank you notes.  Your children could mail them to a family member or friend who is a military hero or someone in your community that has lost a hero.  A thank you goes a long way when it's made with love from a child.


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Make snack time learning time with a patriotic snack


  We decided to pack our kids up today and take a little adventure. We went to a local blueberry farm near the Wacissa River. There were so many blueberries! Our kids each got a gallon bucket and were encouraged to fill it up, neither one of their buckets ever had more than a few berries at a time because they spent their time eating them...once my 1 year old discovered he could just walk right up to a bush sit down and eat, it was all over. 
I think in order to get their money from us they should have weighed my son when he arrived and then again when he left.



This was such a neat experience for my four year old to see where our food comes from, the owner of the property talked to her about how they cared for the bushes and even showed her how they take little "suckers" from the plant to make new ones. She saw blackberries and blueberries growing straight from the Earth.
 
 We took those berries home and since we have a whole gallon of them we brainstormed some ways to use all those blueberries, Kaitlyn loves them in oatmeal and on cereal, her daddy is looking forward to a fresh blueberry pie and I can't wait to make some of Amanda's homemade lemon blueberry bread.
But before all that we decided to turn snack time into math time.

To get in the spirit of Memorial Day we decided to go patriotic with our snack. I used my star shape cookie cutter to cut some star watermelon while Kaitlyn rinsed and cleaned the blueberries. She played around making different patterns focusing on A-B-A-B patterns as well as A-BB-A-BB patterns. She was learning and exploring all at the same time, making snack time learning time!

Blueberry Springs

383 Wacissa Springs Road, Wacissa, FL 32361.
Phone: 850-997-1238.
Open: Now Open, May 12, 2012, Tuesday through Sunday, from 7 am to 12 pm and 5 pm to 8 pm; Closed Mondays; We will be open through mid July, 2012
Bring Cash! 1 gallon of berries is $12

Do yourself a favor and pack a picnic lunch, go blueberry picking and then go dip your toes in the Wacissa River.


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My Wish For You - Graduation Grab Bag

I'm always looking for a way to put my wishes into words for my students as they depart fifth grade and move on to middle school. It's a time of anxiety for me and them. I am hoping and praying that I've taught them what they need to know in the classroom and beyond. I hope that I've instilled some life lessons on them, and always encouraged them to be the best person they can be. I told you the other day that I write them each a letter to go in the back of their memory book, but I also like to put together a bag of "significant" things. I use significant loosely because individually the items are cheap, breakable party favors. However, when combined they help express my wishes for my students. All of the items in the baggie can be found in the party section of your local Target or Wal-mart. All you'll need to do is pick up a pack of bouncy balls, mini Slinkies, Jolly Ranchers, candy bracelets, glow stick bracelets, plastic bugs, and a ball note pad. Simply print the tag below and tie it to the bag. 


 I'm handing my baggies out this coming week to my students. These items might get eaten, thrown away, or lost eventually, but I hope the message will stay with them always!
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Lil Sprouts May: Ocean Fun

 
Our lil sprouts had a whale of a time today learning about the ocean!
We started off with a book about whales, Baby Whale's Journey


We did a little science demonstration to show the lil sprouts how whales use their blubber to keep warm on their long journey to arctic waters.
Our lil sprouts put their hands into our ice bucket to experience the frigid temperatures. Then they slid their little hands into a glove insulated with blubber (crisco) and dipped their little hands back in. Our little ones noticed a definite change in temperature and were able to see how a whales blubber would help to keep them warm and insulated.

 Learning Centers





Next our lil sprouts were divided into groups.
They rotated between 3 learning stations to complete 3 different activities. First they made jellyfish, they added tentacles and used their hands to get creative with some finger paint.
 The next station was ocean sensory bags. We love encouraging our lil sprouts to learn through sensory experiences. They filled their ocean bags with shells, ocean animals, fish stickers, and fish bubbles (sequins). We then added a little glitter sand and then the fun stuff our blue ocean goo (or dyed hair gel) When the little ones were done we closed them up tight and they had an ocean in a bag. These are great for counting, classifying, and tracing their letters. Our lil sprouts practiced making o's for ocean using their pointer finger tracing it in the gel.


                                                                                The last activity was painting seashells, our lil sprouts examined some pretty cool seashells and looked at their brilliant colors, then we let their artistic touch take over. they used q-tips to apply paint to their seashells, we had some beautifully colored shells when they were all done.

Making an Edible Beach



To finish our activity day our lil sprouts made their very own edible beach. We talked about seashells and how the waves pound them down to make sand. Each lil sprout got their own bag with Nila wafers in it and we encouraged them to crumble, smash and bang them until they were mere crumbs. Like the waves erode the seashells in the ocean. We discussed animals that live in the ocean and they added gummy fish and sharks to their jello ocean. When they were done adding their wildlife they sprinkled their sand on top of their ocean. They added a gummy beach towel an umbrella and some star fish and crabs, some even added a few water toys like a gummy life preserver.



Exploring the ocean with a sensory pool

 

To encourage our lil sprouts to learn, laugh and play we set up a double sensory pool that had a sandy shore where they could investigate with shovels, seashells and sand toys. And an ocean sensory pool where they could explore with ocean animals, water buckets and other water toys.

These ocean sensory pools are great summer fun for your little ones, they take just a few seconds to set up and provide hours of learning fun for your little ones.



The kids really enjoyed their playtime as well, its always fun to explore and play on a swing set!



We had a whale of a time learning with our lil sprouts today! As favors our lil sprouts took home their very own sea creature we can't wait to hear their observations as they watch them this week! We look forward to comments from our lil sprouts!

Amanda and I love watching our little friends play, learn and explore! We look forward to next month when we explore a new topic and have s'more hands on learning fun! We hope you will join us next month, Saturday, June 23rd in the afternoon, more details will go out via facebook later this week, and as always will be posted on our site.
Be sure to sign up as a follower so you don't miss important dates and new activities!


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Volunteer Thank You


It's the time of year to thank our classroom volunteers for making our year successful and memorable. Without parent support, I wouldn't have a leg to stand on. There are thousands of teachers across this country that do it alone, and I commend you! Times are a changing, so I am a huge proponent of being creative and finding a way to encourage working and non-working parents to be involved with their child's education. As a child of two working parents (teachers) they couldn't come to my classroom to volunteer, but they were very present in my educational journey. So I applaud all the parents who give of their time and talents to make sure that schools and classrooms have all the resources necessary to be the haven for learning.
 There is no way that I could purchase a gift to adequately say thank you to those through the years that have helped our classroom in so many ways. Instead I try to find a gift that will allow these parents to remember our class for years to come. This year I went with an ocean theme (can you tell Marcy and I are gearing up for Saturday's Lil Sprouts' event?), and found these fish platters at Wal-mart. I can't find a picture of it on their website, but trust me it's in the seasonal section and it was less than $8. With a Sharpie in hand I had all my students sign their name. Then I typed up a little tag to say, "Thanks for helping our school," tied a bow, and there you have the cutest poolside platter around!

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Lil Sprouts Book Club: The Rainbow Fish


 Rainbow fish by Marcus Pfister is one of my favorite books. It's a great story to teach your little ones about being humble and sharing. Rainbow fish is a beautiful little fish with shiny scales that seeks the wisdom of the wise octopus...along his journey Rainbow fish discovers that his shiny scales are no longer the most important part of who he is, but rather its about the kindness he shows others and how he learns to share what is most precious to him.  This story could not have come at a better time in our household. Last year we welcomed a baby boy into our household and now he is a year old he runs around the house trying to keep up with his 4 year old sister, following everything she does with such love and admiration...it is absolutely the sweetest thing I have ever seen. Until my 4 year old gets tired of it and takes her toy back or wants what he has...then utter chaos ensues. So the story of the Rainbow fish has helped to teach my little one how to share and include her little brother instead of pushing him away...while it hasn't solved the issue completely it is a colorful reminder for her. Each time she starts to get out of control with her brother I ask her to go read her Rainbow fish book and then come back and handle the situation. This technique has helped to calm her down and remove her from the intensity of the argument or tug of war she usually gets in with her little brother.

Since I love the artwork so much in this story we just had to do a couple of art activities for Rainbow fish.


Materials
Craft paint (blue and green)
white construction paper
paper towels
green crinkle paper
blue paint swatches
google eye
glue & scissors
For this activity we collected a few paint swatches in different shades of blue from our local home improvement store. I cut them to resemble scales. We also used an old gift bag that was silver and cut a few scales out of that as well. I had my little one layer them on top of the head and tail of the fish that I cut out. Add your google eye.
For the background I squirted a bunch of different shades of blues and green craft paint  onto a paper plate. I gave my little one a paper towel that was waded up and had her dab it all over her paper, blotting it with a dry paper towel.
Once dry glue your fish into the middle of the paper, add a little green crinkle grass for seaweed.


Materials
liquid starch
large flat shallow container
craft paint
white construction paper
marker, glue & scissors
felt stickers


To make your octopus pour your liquid starch into a shallow plastic container that is as big as your paper. Add a few sprinkles of your favorite color of craft paint, let your little one swirl the craft paint using a toothpick, until they like their design. Float your paper on top of the starch, as it starts to curl slowly pick up your paper and turn over to let dry. Allow to dry overnight. Cut a gumdrop shape out and 8 long legs about 1/2 an inch wide. Have your little one glue the legs onto the back of the octopus body. Turn it over and write the numbers 1 through 8 onto the legs. Have your little one practice their counting and number recognition. Ask them to name the different numbers (out of order), practice counting backwards, counting even numbers, and odd. Have them find the number that represents their age. When they are all done have them use stickers or another object and attach them onto the legs to represent the number shown for example on the fifth leg there would be 5 stickers. Once you are all done take a marker or other round object and wrap the legs around to curl them a little bit.
 
I found these fun cupcakes on pinterest. They would be a great addition to this story if you are looking for an edible treat. Follow our boards for more educational ideas for your little ones
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I hope that Rainbow fish becomes one of your favorite read aloud stories, it is definitely one of ours. What books do you love to read to your children? Leave us a comment below we would love to hear from you!


                         
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