Last night we had a family dinner at my grandparents' house for Hanukkah. I started the "Hanukkah dinner" tradition last year with Zel because I wanted him to learn about different cultures and ways to celebrate. Now that we're living back home near family, we got to involve everyone in our new tradition. My grandmother was thrilled because she was raised in a Jewish family and was so happy that we wanted to incorporate this part of our heritage into our lives. We ate latkes, pot roast, and desserts and all (except Zel) partook in some wine (even my non-wine drinking husband). Saturday night was the official start of Hanukkah, so last night we lit 5 candles. At first, Zel thought that it was a birthday party and kept singing happy birthday to Zel and Papa (whose birthday is coming up soon). Zel was very concerned once the candles went out and made sure to bring it to our attention several times.
Before Hanukkah started, Zel and I made a menorah out of an egg carton, paint, and popsicle sticks. We don't actually have a real menorah so we have been using this one at home. It is very simple to make. Cut an egg carton in half, then cut one side in half so that you have a piece with 6 and a piece with 3. You can tape them together if desired. I had some colored popsicle sticks and used 8 yellows and one blue (for the shamash). I had Zel paint the egg cartons and popsicle sticks with blue paint, then I numbered the yellow sticks from 1-8. Cut a slit in the top of each spot with a knife. Each night we place the corresponding popsicle stick in the carton.
Here is what it would look like with all the sticks in.
Finger painting is a great sensory activity for kids. You can also use it as an opportunity to talk about colors too! Zel received some finger paints for his birthday a few weeks ago and we decided to use them with our Christmas Countdown project of painting leaves. Adding something new (like leaves) to an old activity (like painting) can really refresh your child's interest in it.
At first, Zel was hesitant to use the finger paints because normally our painting rule is "only paint on the paper." So he started off using a paint brush to paint on the leaves. He thought it was funny that the leaves would stick to the brush, so he experimented with that a little bit. After a few minutes of explaining that this was special paint that is okay to paint on your body, he started using the paint brush to paint on his fingers. It is "finger paint" after all!
Then he got bold and started rubbing the paint all over his chest and belly. After he was covered he felt confident enough to stick his hand in the paint and use it to paint on the leaves and paper. Once he was finished, we went straight to the bathtub and Zel helped scrub off the paint. He played for so long that I had time to give myself a pedicure!
One of our Christmas Countdown activities was to play a letter game using chalk in our driveway. Today was a great day to play this game because Zel had two friends over. The set up is extremely easy. Just write all the letters using chalk on your driveway in one area. I put about a foot or two of space between them and made sure to jumble them up. I used all capital letters, but adding lowercase would be great letter recognition practice as well. I put numbers 1-10 and a few shapes in the too. I only had four different colors of chalk, but I made sure to use them pretty evenly. The kids had so much fun with this. They even enjoyed watching me set it up. They would yell out the letters or numbers they knew as I was writing them.
Once I wrote everything I wanted to use, I would call one out and say the color. I made it more of a game by telling them to try to get there first. Of course, I praised all of them regardless of whether they got there first or not. I'm hoping it doesn't rain so we can play again tomorrow without having to set it up again!
When I was a preschool teacher, whenever a new child joined our class they made their own placemat for lunch and snack time. I don't know why it has taken me this long to have Zel make one, but it has finally happened. I printed a coloring worksheet with his name on it from this site and put it on his easel. I had him use watercolor so that it would dry quickly and also because tempera can get kind of lumpy. Zel was pretty excited to paint a snowman and to use the watercolor. As soon as it dried I used contact paper to laminate it and put it at his place at the dinner table. Zel wanted to do more snowman stuff so we watched Frosty the Snowman too!
I've seen a lot of advent calenders going around Pinterest and decided that it would be fun to do one with Zel this year. I made it a countdown because that seemed more exciting and to me, the word advent makes it too religious.
The countdown from little eco footprints is the first calendar that got my attention. I loved that it was nature themed rather than all Christmas or religious. During our outdoor playtime, we searched for the best leaves of all different colors. Once we started setting up the calendar, I realized that I didn't have enough clothespins. I decided that it would be much easier to just write the calender on the window with window markers and use the leaves for one of our activities.
I didn't want to just have a list of activities since that wouldn't be very exciting for Zel. I came across the advent jar from mess for less and knew this would work for us. I had recently purchased a pack of colored popsicle sticks and my mom always has a million extra glass jars around the house. I picked activities that I knew Zel would enjoy and would take little preparation. I used some Christmas projects and activities, some Hanukkah stuff, and a few projects and outings that are fun anytime of the year.
Unfortunately as I was writing this post, Google told me that I reached my photo limit. So please check out the blogs that inspired me to do this project and go to the Z is for Zel facebook page to check out our photos from Christmas countdown activities until I solve this photo dilemma. I will also be posting Zel's activity choice each day on facebook and I will write up blog posts on our favorites...Stay tuned!
Update: Thanks to my fellow KBN bloggers I figured out how to add more pictures!
Ever since Zel was given a lollipop several months ago, he has been obsessed. He asks for one every single day and it's only gotten worse since Halloween. Well technically he asks for a "p pop," but a lollipop is what he wants. After trick or treating, he was the happiest boy in the world because I let him eat two lollipops at once. I've never seen him more content. I remembered a trick that I used several months ago to get him to eat a healthy lunch using his love of lollipops. I told him that he could have a Lollipop Lunch!
I used mini meatballs, cut up apples, and peas and stuck them on toothpicks. At first he was not too happy about the fact that there was not an actual lollipop, but then he tried a few bites and realized how fun it was to eat with toothpicks.
I was searching for a fun and easy to make Halloween craft for Zel. I discovered a Felt Pumpkin Faces Activity on Two Big Two Little. I have an abundance of felt with my crafting materials and I was excited to see that there was plenty of black and orange. Rather than buying a pumpkin shape, I cut one out of felt and hot glued it onto some cardboard. On the back I wrote "Jack O Lantern" so that Zel could point out the letters.
He has had a lot of fun with this. I love it because it gets him talking about shapes and parts of the face. He loves making all sorts of silly faces then running to show them off to everyone in the house. Another thing he enjoys is dumping all the felt on the floor, but luckily there isn't too much of it.
When we lived in the Pacific Northwest, we were used to the rain and discovered many fun things to do out of the house. Now that we live in the Southeast, sometimes it is so hot in the summer or there are too many mosquitos that going outside isn't an option and I haven't come across as many fun, indoor places to bring young children. I've found that the pet store is a fun and free place to bring the kids.
I started using the pet store as an outing when I was a preschool teacher. I used to take my class on walks to our local Petco. There are tons of animals for the kids to see. The fish and the rodents are always a hit. The reptiles and amphibians can sometimes be harder for the little ones to see. Zel wore his Nemo shirt because he was so excited to see the fish. We like to play with the dog toys and even try out some of the dog beds and houses.
Sorry it has been a while since my last post. We made our move across the country. Our stuff and cars have finally arrived, although most of it is still in boxes. We have really enjoyed spending so much time with family (and being able to go on some dates with my hubby too!). Zel took a few days to adjust but he is loving all of the attention. There are perks to being the only grandchild!
For the past month, Zel has been very interested in letters. I used a reward certificate from Toys R Us to buy him an alphabet puzzle. Before I bought the puzzle, he already knew some capital letters. After a few days of playing with the puzzle, Zel had learned all of the capital letters! I am such a proud mama. I wanted to make sure that his letter puzzle stayed fun, so I tried to think of how we could play with it in a fun, alternative way. I saw a pin about searching for letters in colored rice from Teach Preschool. I modified it by using non-colored rice and letters from Zel's alphabet puzzle. Zel enjoyed putting the letters into the rice, but he seemed completely uninterested in searching for the letters to place back into the puzzle. However, he found that he could fill the letters on the puzzle board with rice.
He had a lot of fun trying to do this carefully with a measuring cup and his hand and also by throwing the rice (this was an outside activity).
We talked about which letters he was filling with rice and that throwing the rice didn't seem to fill the letters very well no matter how fun it was.
We learned our letters, practiced fine motor skills, and had a lot of fun!
Feeding a toddler can be difficult. Some days Zel is a never ending abyss eating anything and everything, while other days he seems to survive off of a few bites of food. Forcing food upon your child never works, so parents have to figure out gentle (or sneaky) ways to encourage their child to eat. One way that I do this is by letting Zel make his own sandwiches. I cut up some bread and gave him a heaping spoonful of peanut butter and a child sized butter knife. I showed him how to use the knife to spread the peanut butter on the bread then let him try it by himself. Sometimes it takes a little restraint to stop myself from doing it for him or keeping him from getting too messy, but I find that he enjoys the food so much more when he does it all by himself. This is also great fine motor skills practice too!
Eventually he forgot about trying to spread the peanut butter and just ate it with a spoon (I've been know to do this myself).
I also wanted to share this adorable snack idea from Creative Kidlets 101 that I found on last week's Kid's Co-op Link Up:
We are getting ready for a cross country move in less than two weeks, so I've been trying to use up the various foods in our fridge, freezer, and pantry. I came across a container of Trader Joe's House Whip in the freezer and knew that Zel would love to play with it (and eat it, of course!).
All I did was scoop out the whipped topping into a muffin tin and add food coloring. I let Zel use a silicone basting pastry brush as a paint brush. Instead of regular paper, we used freezer paper so that it wouldn't get mushy and would be easy to clean up. I laid a plastic mat on the ground, taped the freezer paper smooth side down and showed Zel that he could use the brush to paint on it. He liked pointing out the different colors and using the brush to mix the different colors together.
After painting for a few minutes, he dipped his brush in and asked, "eat?" I gave him the OK and he proceeded to alternate between painting and eating the whipped topping. He thought it was really funny to stick his finger in the whipped topping and lick it off. At first he wanted me to lick the whipped topping off his finger. I showed him that he could use his fingers to paint too. While he was finger painting, I used the brush to write his name and make some shapes. He then took the brush and tried to paint on the shapes while saying the names of the shapes.
This was a fun, easy activity and a cool, tasty treat!
Zel has recently become OBSESSED with apples. I can't open the refrigerator door without Zel swooping in, opening the fruit drawer, and grabbing an apple. I often end up finding several apples with tiny little bites taken out of them. I have been trying to teach him that we need to wash the apples before we eat them. Sometimes he remembers, but most of the time the excitement about eating the apples wins out. I decided to let Zel practice with some pretend play. I put a towel down in the kitchen and filled a pot with soapy water. Zel picked some fruits and veggies that he wanted to wash. I gave him a wash cloth and showed him how to clean the food.
Zel examined the wash cloth and tried dipping it in the water and squeezing the water out a few times. Then he tried scrubbing the fruit with the cloth, but even more exciting than that was to stick his arms all the way into the water and touching all the play food.
Then Zel thought that we should wash his pots and pans too. He added in some fish and mixed everything together in order to make some soup.
Most fun of all was when Zel decided that he should clean his feet, so he got in the pot! He thought this was so funny. He kept giggling and did a little jig.
Pretend play is a great way for your toddler to learn about the world, and it's fun too!
This has been a very hot summer for many places, luckily for us, the pacific northwest was not one of those places. We have had a very mild summer, gloomier and rainier than usual. We have had some hot days, and on those days it is hard to escape the heat because we don't have air conditioning! In fact, most people around here don't. I was dreading the weather on our trip to the southeast (it was over 100 degrees some days during our visit) but the miracle of a/c made it more bearable than our mild northwest summer. On the hot days, I have tried to do activities to help keep us cool. One item that Zel had a lot of fun with was colored ice cubes. This is a super easy activity to prep. Just drop some food coloring into ice cube trays and add water then freeze. After the cubes were frozen, I put them in a bag so that I could reuse the ice trays. If you don't like to use food coloring you could also use juice, but your colors won't be as bright.
For our first experience, we did colored ice art. I gave Zel a piece of construction paper to draw on using the ice. He tried this at first but then experimented with the ice in many different ways.
We talked about how cold the ice was and how it melted from our warm hands. He said the word "ice" over and over then started morphing it into the word "eyes." So he put the ice on his eyes and on mommy's eyes. Then he tried the ice on as a hat too.
I told Zel that I hid an M&M inside one of the ice cubes. Then of course he tasted all of the ice cubes to try to find it!
Zel put all the ice cubes back in the bowl and started shaking it. Since he was using a metal bowl, it made a loud clanging noise which he absolutely loved.
I brought out a towel so that Zel didn't slip on any water and he used it to play peek-a-boo with the ice. Then he thought it was hilarious to hide the ice with his face.
Zel wanted to move out of the kitchen and began carrying the ice cubes into the living room by balancing them on his spoon. I loved this impromptu motor skills practice. I was very impressed about how few times he dropped the ice.
I had some colored ice left over, so I brought them out another day to entertain Zel while I exercised. I laid out a blanket in the living room and gave him some kitchen tools, a cup, bowl, baking sheet, and muffin tin.
Zel had a lot of fun moving the ice between the various containers. He filled the little cup, then placed one ice cube in each spot of the muffin tin.
While I was on vacation in South Carolina, I helped my mom with some babysitting. It was very hot there, so I thought the ice would be a perfect activity. My mother didn't have food coloring so we used apple juice, cranberry juice, blackberry juice, and coconut milk to make different colors. We set out a bunch of metal bowls, muffin tins, spoons, and tongs. The kids had a blast! They loved trying to use the tongs and of course sucking the juice out of the ice cubes. I gave the older kids some eye droppers and warm water and showed them that they could use it to melt the ice.
Colored Ice is a great way to beat the heat and have fun learning about colors, numbers, and temperature!