Showing posts from 2014

I Felt Like It

Yesterday's post was about how our road trip has turned pirate.  In writing it, I had forgotten the other thing that helped me change my mind toward pirating- this Disney Pirates of the Caribbean personal CD player.  I bought it during the Christmas season because it was only $5 and I thought it would be convenient for our road trip.  I really like that it has a hanging piece, that the door to the CD chamber has a "lock," and that it has two "jacks" already on it (no need for a headphone splitter).

Today, I'm featuring some of the felt projects I've been working on for our trip (I didn't make them all today).  First is the car play mat I made for the boys (primarily).  The track fits a micro machine.  I got the design from this maze and used freezer paper to cut it out.  Everything has been hot glued down.  I wanted the boys to be able to make up their own ideas about the buildings on the mat, what they were or who lived/worked in them.  The pink f…

Pirate-Themed Road Trip

The kids got a bunch of pirate dress-up items (hats, treasure, hooks...) for Christmas from one of their aunts.  They've been having a lot of fun wearing the accessories and fighting with the swords I made them.  All the while, I've been obsessively planning the road trip.  Then, I ran into this post on Pinterest and the pirate themed road trip took on a life of it's own.

In my typical fashion, I've been pinning all sorts of treasures.  Like these adorable (and printable) peg peoplefor small world play or these Safari toob figures.  I've even found a free audio book version of Peter Pan and lots of Youtube videos of read-aloud books.  Of course, a pirate ship (across the unrelenting prairie) needs vittles like these fruit skewers.And, we can't forget costumes!

Dragonfly has already been telling everyone that we're having a pirate-themed road trip, even though she didn't even know what a pirate was until a few days ago.  We'll have to see what becom…

Crafting There is Half the Fun

The motto for road trips is "getting there is half the fun" but I'd say that "crafting there is also half the fun.  Our road trip is still 9 months away, but I can't seem to stop crafting for it.  I have at least six things in progress right now.  Today, I'd like to share three projects that I've finished, two originals and one slightly less original.

I have seen empty chapstick cases used for many things on Pinterest, but I haven't seen anyone make a first aid kit with them.  This one has a few ibuprofen in it.  It will go in a larger, child-proof bottle with a few more tubes of medicine.  The "stick" of medicines would be perfect for a day outing or even a vacation if one didn't need to worry about children accessing it.
 I first wrote about this game here.

I think this might be an original idea (at least I haven't seen one like it on Pinterest).  The game is velco, which I chose because it is safer for little kids.  The case is a…

Dress-Up Rack Reveal

The rack itself is made out of 1" PVC pipe.  It's just a rectangular box.  I created the hooks by adding metal hardware (key rings and such) to colorful chip clips.  I'm hoping that the design and wider "squeezy-part" will mean that the kids will be independent at getting the clothes down and put away again (a mom can only hope).  I like how colorful and inviting they look on the rack.
The first side has a clear plastic canister (from the Dollar Tree) zip-tied to the left corner.  The canister holds the insulation and duck tape swords (tutorial here).  Next to them hangs two Dollar Tree superhero capes (with breakaway velcro fasteners).  The boy's tie (with an elastic neck band) and his "just like Daddy" apron are in the middle.  The apron has a button down dress shirt and black dress "pants."  This is not what "Daddy" usually wears- just in case you were wondering.  The girl's "just like Mommy" apron dress is ne…

Mini Sensory Bottles

In my road trip preparations, I've started making sensory/discovery bottles again (I wrote about them first here).  The pink bottle is composed of mostly baby oil, a bit of water, food coloring, and glitter.  The clear one is corn syrup with floral beads.  Both bottles are hot glued shut (super glue didn't last long, in our experience).  I can't open them so I'm hoping that the kids can't open them either (especially in the car).

As I previously wrote, we love the 3oz travel bottles for this project.  They're just the right size for
my toddlers' hands.  I also like how light and transportable they are at this size.  Hopefully, they'll buy us some time on our road trip.

I've made a few more since I took these pictures.  A green one with "watered-down" corn syrup (to change the viscosity) and lots of glitter.  It's a nice "calm-down" bottle.  I've seen them made with glue but I didn't have any the house.  The corn syru…

Christmas Sneek Peek 2

Introducing the second Christmas sneak peek- a Rapunzel wig!  I've seen tutorials on Pinterest for yarn wigs and decided to risk my sanity making one.  I started with nearly 3 skeins of yarn and stretched them out between a fireplace hook and our play kitchen.  It looked something like this:
Learn a lesson from my mistakes- tie your yarn together into hanks when it's still taught on the hook instead of waiting.  It took me until the 3rd skein to do it right.  I tied spare yarn around the hanks about every foot, which greatly reduced my frustration as I braided.  If your going to add ribbon in the braid, it would be a good idea to tie it in with the rest of the yarn, instead of the way I did it which was a mess.  Here's a picture of the yarn ready for plaiting.

Then, just start braiding from the center outwards.  I did about one foot on each side of the middle and then joined them.  This created a very natural-looking braid.  I also chose to twist my braid a bit so that th…

Pixar Games

My kids (3, 2, 1) love Pixar movies!  Skimmer's favorites are the Cars and Planes ones, while Dragonfly prefers the Toy Story series.  With their favorites in mind, I've created these two games in preparation for our family road trip (still 9 months away).

For Skimmer, I made this tic-tac-to-Mater game.  The game features Lightening McQueen and Mater in a friendly competition for 3-in-a-row.  I made the car pieces to fit on 1.5" wood disks (found here).  As you'll soon see, I'm a bit addicted to these wood disks.  I love that you can print something (like the Advent calendar), modge podge it to a disk, and create a decent, enduring game.  With 3 toddlers in the house, everything has to be durable or it just doesn't last.

Anyway, here is the free printable game for making your own set.

For Dragonfly's love of Toy Story, I made a character matching game using these cupcake toppers from Over the Big Moon.  I printed two copies and modge podge them onto more …

Road Trip Activity Planner

I've just found out that we're going on a road trip!!!  I'm super excited.  Road trips are one of my favorite things.  Unfortunately, the trip isn't until Sept.  Fortunately, that gives me lots of time to plan and craft.  And, boy do I have a big list! (these are all links to the original)

- magnetic treasure bottle
- marble sensory bottle
- static electricity sensory bottle
"Let it Snow" sensory bottle
- jingle bell ribbon pull
- printable road map for cars
- velcro sticks
- geo boards
- printable coloring sheets
- magnetic dancing ballerina
- printable Tangled Pre-K pack

- lacing cards/sewing kit
- velcro tetris blocks
- foam sticker sorting
- clipping mat
- printable "road trip" games (and here and here)
- tangram puzzle
- doll house
- hexicards puzzle
- velcro block puzzles
- PBJ game (planning to use this bread template)
- marble maze (or the cloth kind)
- button snake
- printable Mr Potato Head
- popsicle sticks puzzles

Jesus Storybook Bible Advent Devotions

“There are lots of stories in the Bible, but all the stories are telling one Big Story. The Story of how God loves His children and comes to rescue them. It takes the whole Bible to tell this Story. And at the center of the Story, there is a baby. Every story in the Bible whispers His name. He is like the missing piece in a puzzle- the piece that makes all the other pieces together, and suddenly you can see a beautiful picture.”
Instead of doing 24 separate posts about our Advent devotions in the Jesus Storybook Bible, I've decided to do just one.  Our family has really been enjoying the stories.  We're using the ornament set from Joyfully Weary this year.  Eventually, I'd like to add more to our study - something like this:

Title: The Story and the Song
Verses: Psalms 19 and Hebrews 1
Symbol: puzzle piece
Name for Jesus: ?

Title:The Beginning- A Perfect Home
Verses:Genesis 1-2
Symbol: globe
Name for Jesus: Creator

Title:The Terrible Lie
Verses: Genesis 3
Symbol: frui…

Christmas Sneek Peek (princess apron)

I'm very excited to share this dress-up apron with you!  Dragonfly's favorite princess, and the only one she knows by name, is Rapunzel.  She watched Tangled 3 times with her Aunties over Thanksgiving and the princess era was born.  I'm not completely comfortable with buying/making costumes that only apply to a certain character.  Therefore, when I set out to make this dress-up apron, I wanted it to be reminiscent of Rapunzel, but not a clone of her dress so completely as to rule out other "pretends" and characters.  Whether I have succeeded or not has yet to be seen.
The apron was built from a yard and a quarter of sparkly purple fabric and a scrap of dark purple fabric.  Additionally, you need 1/2" elastic and basic sewing supplies.  I started with the skirt, a full yard of fabric folded along the bias (?), and rounded the corners a bit before sewing it together with the wrong sides out (don't forget to leave a hole for turning).  Turn the skirt right …

c is for cookie

This week, I feel like I've done well with sticking to the theme.  We made chocolate cookies and played with chocolate play dough.  I added some sugar to my regular play dough recipe and liked the slight difference it made to the texture.  We have also been watching Christmas movies and talking about "c" words (like cup and cocoa).  There were many other things we could have done like making cookie cutter ornaments or gingerbread houses.  Our songs this week were "C is for cookie " (Cookie Monster) and "It's Called Christmas- with a capital C" (Go Fish).

C is also for:

candy canes

Follow In Our Pond's board "c is for cookies" on Pinterest.

Sewing Up a Storm

I thought it would be fun to share all the sewing I've been doing lately.  I got the machine last Christmas, and am only now feeling confident enough in my skills for sewing to be enjoyable.  I've been sewing dress-up costumes, gift bags, things for the kitchen, and random things I saw on Pinterest.  Here are a few examples of the "kitchen things":

 First, a classic, simple hanging towel.  Nothing interesting about the way I made it.  Just some cuteness for this Christmas season.
 This was our old method of storing extra plastic bags.  It was convenient, but (as you can see) it didn't always work well.  This particular bag has been shred by the cat, who decided a plastic bag full of bags was the best toy ever.  It needed a better solution.
 Tada!  The solution- a cloth bag holder made from an "extra" kitchen towel.  I stretched elastic out as I sewed to give the opening a stretchy, ruffled top.  I also made "buttonholes" for the first time for…

Pre-Christmas Simplicifaction

In  my last post, I wrote about how eager I was to get the house in order before Thanksgiving.  So far, I've organized the toys and tackled the mountain of outgrown clothes (10 bags for donation and 4 bags of garbage).  I still need to clean off the mantel and the kitchen counters.  I have quite a few craft/sewing/knitting projects to finish up as well.  All of this is done with the goal of having a simplified Christmas.

The Plan:
We follow the "4 Gift Rule" at our house: something you Want, something you Need, something to Wear, and something to Read.  With three kids, I like the "4 gift rule" because it makes it really easy for me to plan out the giving.  I get similar things for each kid: a toy, a practical thing, a book, and pjs.  I even do the "4 gift rule" with my husband.  We also do stockings and a "big toy" for sharing.  This year, I'm doing a dress-up box; last year, it was a play kitchen.

The other way I simplify is by getting …

u is for universe

This week, we focused on the solar system and specifically our relationship to the sun.  We sang a fun song about the earth going around the sun once a year while dancing around a big yellow ball.  We also talked about how our closeness to the sun effects the seasons.  I'm not sure how much the kids understood.  Big concepts for little kids.

Follow In Our Pond's board "u is for universe" on Pinterest.

g is for groceries

It's turned bitterly cold around here so I'm hoping that the colder weather will get me back on track with Mommy School. The theme this week was groceries.  We watched a few Youtube movies about how food is made and how it gets from the farm to the store.  We also made chocolate chip cookies and talked about how Daddy works so we can buy food.  In the future, I'd like this theme to also be an into to using money.

Pre-Christmas Preparations

I don't know about anyone else, but I almost feel the need to countdown and prepare for Christmas Season in the weeks before Thanksgiving.  I need to organize the toys (and donate some), clear off the mantel (our prime child-proofing area), and clean our bedroom to make it ready for hiding gifts.  It's a bit overwhelming to think about, since there are big reasons why those things haven't been done yet.  I also have a goal for this Christmas of being able to find a Christmas stocking for every member of our family (we have them- I just need to locate them).  Here's to hoping that writing them down will actually translate to doing them.

Homeshooling Fail

For the last 2 months, most of our homeschooling has been VERY basic.  I've read them books about our topics and I've taught them the ASL letter of the week.  We talked a lot about the subjects in casual conversation but we've done hardly any "real" homeschooling.  As least we haven't home-schooled like I had been planning.  But, the kids have played outside a lot (we had a long, unusual "Indian" summer) and they played together a lot.  Besides, they're 3, 2, and 1 currently.  There's plenty of time for schooling later.  Sometimes I feel like a failure... but I'm also learning to accept life as it is happening now.  And, really, it's not that bad.

Here are the themes I didn't blog:

d- duck (pond)
number line busy bag
spelling folder game

e- eggs (metamorphosis, frog and butterfly life cycles)*
folder games

r- rain (water cycle, rainbow, colors)
color spelling
writing practice

Oo- ocean
Nemo folder game

I've also been getting the…

f is for fire

By accident, we happened to do this letter during national fire prevention week.

Theme: fire (campfire, fire trucks, fire safety)

Practical: practiced crawling under the smoke
                  learned where to meet in case of a fire
                  practiced stop, drop, and roll

Sensory: none

Educational: YouTube videos (stop, drop, and roll/ fire trucks/ Elmo and the fire)

Work Boxes: truck roll and count (mine)

Books: "Planes: Fire and Rescue" (the only book left at the library)

Song: "Stop, Drop, and Roll"

Outing: Didn't make it to the fire station.  Hoping to get there next year.

Follow In Our Pond's board "f is for fire" on Pinterest.

i is for ice cream

I'm thinking that perhaps we've lost our schooling power.  It's been another flop week.

Theme: ice cream (yes, I know this isn't phonetically correct)

Practical: practiced making balls with dough

Sensory: pink, sparkly, peppermint play dough
                ate ice cream (the kids are lactose intolerant so this was a treat)

Educational: counting "scoops" of dough on a cone

Work Boxes: patterning paper scoops (here)
                       counting paper scoops (here)

Books: none

Song: "1 Scoop, 2 Scoops, 3 Little Scoops" (tune of "10 Little Indians")

Outing: We got our cat neutered this week, so the kids learned about "animal doctors."

Costumes for Play Time

I've already started thinking about the Toddlers Christmas presents (it's the beginning of Oct).  My plan is to make them a dress-up/costume box.  Here is my plan so far:

- crowns (Ravelry)
- chain-mail (here)

- hooded "princess" cape

- repurposed dress shirt into doctor's coat (here)
- cowboy vests (here)
- dancing ribbon
- "apron" dress (like this and this)

- business "man" apron
- ribbon skirt (like this)
- snow cape (like this)
-  jedi robe (here)

- break-away super hero capes ($ store)
- fancy skirt (thrift store)
- Halloween clearance stuff (gloves, masks, etc)
- dollar store apron (shopkeeper, gardener, barista)
- dance shoes (thrift store)
- leotard

I also found lots of other ideas from Pinterest.  Check out this inspiration:

 - princess hair wigs (here and here and here and here)
- superhero costume (here)
- felt glasses (here)
- boot covers (here)
- twirly skirt (here)
- astronaut c…

s is for seeds

Another strange week because the kids were sick.  We did a bit of schooling but not nearly enough.  I had a friend point out to me that we're doing a lot of school just having the kids home with me and including them in the life of the house.

Theme: seeds

Practical: extracting seeds from a sunflower (planned but never happened)
                  pouring and scooping seeds
                  planting a seed (never happened)

Sensory: seed sensory bin

Educational: Youtube video of a seed sprouting
                       talked about the "seeds we eat" every meal

Work Boxes: identifying and sorting seeds
                       coloring (never happened)

Books: "The Tiny Seed"
             "Seed in Need"
             "How Does a Seed Grow"

Song: "The Johnny Appleseed Song"

Outing:  This week was our once-a-month excursion to the big city.  This month, that trip also included a visit to the pediatric dentist.  Dragonfly saw braces on someone'…

t is for trees

This week, Mommy got sick.  I'm an asthmatic, so I get really knocked down by a head cold.  We really didn't do much for school.

Theme: trees


Sensory:  nature walk in the yard to feel the parts/types of tress


Work Boxes: maple tree life cycle
                       pine tree life cycle cards

Books: "Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf"
             "The Maple Tree"
             "Count Down to Fall"


Outing:  We had the developmental specialist in our home on Monday.  That was the only "outing" since I was so sick (I got sick on Tues).

Follow In Our Pond's board "t is for trees" on Pinterest.

m is for milk (week 2)

This was a really strange homeschooling week.  I think we've had too many extraordinary, crazy weekends in a row so everyone's sleep schedule has been off.  I only like to do "activities" if the kids are rested, but that didn't happen very often this week.  Here's what we did do.

Theme: milk (cows/farm)

Practical: practiced pouring and serving "milk"

Sensory: smelling and petting cows at the fair
              chocolate "mud" goop*
              played with knit farm mat

Educational: picture cards about milk
                     Youtube movie about how milk
                        get from the cow to our house

Work Boxes: sorted barns by size (here)
                     matching animal families (here)

Books: "Milk Machines"
             "Life on a Dairy Farm"
             "Click Clack Moo"
             "Big Red Barn"
             "Little Blue Truck"

Song: "Old McDonald Had a Farm"


Super Simple Apple Sensory Bin

For our "apple" week, I made Skimmer a super simple bin to play in while Dragonfly did her "school work."  This bin is about 1/4 cup oatmeal, a tbs of cinnamon, a few fake apples, and a truck (cause we always need a truck).  Skimmer enjoyed pushing the apples around with the truck and making tracks in the oatmeal.  I'm sure that he would have had a bit more fun if I had given him more oatmeal.  But, when Skimmer decided he was "all done" and dumped the whole thing on the floor, then I was glad I'd only gave him a bit.

a is for apple (week 1)

For week 1 of preschool, I decided to go classic.  And, to me, nothing says "back to school" like apples.  I'm very "Montessori" influenced right now, so our activities for the week were mostly practical and hands-on.  The big way that I'm not Montessori is that I don't allow my kids access to the tot trays and activities whenever chose.  Instead, I chose the times when I think they might be ready to do something at the table and allow them to chose from a few options.  I've been calling them "work boxes" since they're contained in a 3-drawer plastic unit.  However, they're not technically work boxes either since I let the kids pick what they wanted to and didn't force them to complete any of the tasks.

So, here's what we did this week-

Theme: apples

Practical: chopped apples for apple pie and applesauce
                  planted an apple seed in a bag (to watch the "tiny tree" be "born")

Sensory: cinnamon p…

Super Simple Ocean Sensory Bin for Young Toddlers

I've found that my kids are just as contented with a simple small world set up as they are with complicated ones.  This ocean set up is about as easy as you could make it.  A half inch of warm blue water with a toob of Safari Reef animals.  Skimmer has so much fun moving the fish though the water and exploring the different pieces.  The thing that I love most about the super simple bins is that they're very easy to clean up when the young toddler decides to dump the bin on the floor.  The Toob pieces are stored in a Crystal Lite container with the name of the toob and the number of pieces written on it instead of in the original toob.  The CL container makes it easy for the toddlers to put away the animals themselves since the fit isn't as tight.  All of our CL containers are stored together in our "invitation to play" box.

 I've seen some really elaborate sensory bins and small world set ups, but I'm blogging to advocate that simpler is better.  Try it …

Our 2014-2015 Homeschool Year

This was my first year of homeschooling and my first year of blogging.  The kids were 3, 2, and 1.  Click on the pictures to go to the posts.

An InLinkz Link-up


Interview With Dragonfly

This is Dragonfly's first year of homeschooling and, boy, is she excited.  She's been asking me every day for weeks if she can start "today."  So fun.  I'm excited to start it too.  But, first, here's an interview from Dragonfly about her life and hopes for the future.

Name: Dragonfly (not her real name)

Age: 3

Height: 34"

Friends: (Auntie) Katie and (Auntie) Emi (and she plays with her brothers a lot)

Favorite Thing Play: ocean animals in the bathtub

Favorite Color:  purple stuff

Favorite Book: I don't know, Mommy

Favorite Movie:  Elmo (anything Sesame Street)

Favorite Food:  mac and cheese

When I Grow Up:  I want to have babies and feed them Mommy Milk (sometimes she says that she wants to be a "tummy mommy")

Quotes: "dino-foam" (styrofoam)
              "No, brother!" (to either of them)
              "I can't like that."
              "I'm just a little girl."

Knit Farm Play Mat

We have yet another birthday this month.  Skimmer turns 2.  Continuing my current trend of giving handmade gifts, I've decided to knit him a play mat to go with our Schleich farm animals.

I'm more of a process knitter than a pattern knitter, so this play mat pattern is more of a "suggestion" than a recipe.  You can, of course, knit these sections in any order that you'd like or follow my layout, which I've included below.  Also, if you really like color work, you can knit the entire thing as one piece.  I've chosen to knit the big pieces in strips first and then to add the "road" strips to connect it all together.

My play mat is made of cheap yarn and stuff I had around the house.  Because of the choice to use what was easy, my play mat looks a bit like a coloring book page.  Most of the playscapes that I linked below chose much milder, earthy colors.  It's up to you.  I used:
- I Love This Wool Cocoa
- Simply Soft Kelly Green
- Red H…

Curves and Sticks Letter Building

My oldest preschooler is only three years old, so I'm not planning on focusing too much on handfwriting.  However, I do want to begin introducing to her the concept of how letters are formed.  Amazingly all the letters of the alphabet can be made with a combination of curves and sticks.  To make the process more interesting, I've made a series of curves and sticks in fun patterns.  I'm planning on printing and laminating them, but you could make them magnetic or with felt backing depending on your preference.

Here are the sets I've working on (click to download):

Radical Purple (pictured)

Plain Black

Harvest Orange


Jungle Green

Ocean Blue

Night Sky

Cattle Drive Game

To go with our D is for (the American) Desert, I made this roll and count game.  The children are instructed to take turns rolling the die and counting out spaces to see who can be the first to get their "cattle" from the deserts of Texas to the Markets in Illinois.  Watch out for dangers along the trail- if a player lands on one, s/he loses a turn.  This game would also be a great introduction to a Western Expansion unit.

To download the game, click on the link below:

American West Cattle Drive Game

Yarn Worksheet (same)

These are pretty easy to figure out.  Worksheets to go with our "Y is for yarn" unit.

To download, click on the link below:

Yarn Worksheets

Seed Matching

I've been working on this project since I first started planning for Mommy School, way back in April.  The activity has two parts and the prep for it is a bit complicated.  First print, cut, and laminate the jar labels (circles).  Next, begin gathering your seeds.  I chose to store my seeds in these cosmetic pots, but you can store them in anything you wish.  You can either slip the two "game boards" into page protectors or cut the rectangular cards out and laminate them.

The children can then match the seeds to the plants or explore the seeds on their own.  They can also sort the seeds by size or type.

To download the file, click on the link below:

Seed Matching

Resurrection Opposites

This busy bag is probably not strictly for younger kids.  The kids can match the cards with their opposite or sort the cards between "good and bad" or "before and after."  You could also print two copies of them and make 3-part cards where the child had to match the Bible verse to the card.

To download the cards, click on the link below:

Resurrection Opposites