Sunday, February 26, 2012

Happy Birthday to an Icon

One of my heroes while growing up was, and always will be, Theodor Seuss Geisel. He was of course better known by his children's book pen names Dr. Seuss and Theo LeSieg. On Friday, March 2nd, would have been the late children's author's 108th birthday. This date has also been reserved as "National Read Across America Day" during which many communities are holding read-a-thons and attempts to break records for reading related events.

I had wanted to share with you a whole week of activities that I have planned to celebrate my favorite author. Unfortunately, my ancient laptop has finally bit the dust and my computer access is highly limited at the moment. So for now, I will share with you some of the ideas that I have planned. I will make my best attempt to post our personal experiences with the activities through the week. I have categorized the activities with the books that they go with. A good starting point, before you jump right into these, would be to check out the websites:
and (I will refer to this further on in the post!)
Oh the Places You'll Go
~Discuss different jobs that your child could have when they grow up. Glue a paper doll die cut to a piece of paper and have your child decorate it as what they would like to be or do.  
~Make a balloon wall! Cut balloon shapes out of construction paper and have your child look through magazines to find pictures of things they would like to see or places they would like to go. Help them cut out the pictures and paste them to the balloons collage style, and hang them on a wall where they can look at it and be proud

The Butter Battle Book (my personal favorite) AND/OR The Sneetches
~Use multicultural paper doll die cuts to discuss how some cultures are different and do things in a different way. Have your child decorate the dolls using different materials. Then emphasize that even though we do things differently, and might look different sometimes, we all do things that are similar too! We all eat, sleep, play games, love our mommies, feel sad sometimes and angry sometimes. If you feel it is appropriate, discuss including everyone in games, even if they are different.

Cat in the Hat
Okay, so what would a week of celebrating Dr. Seuss be without giving a nod to this beloved book?
~Play a rhyming game. Look at some of the words in the book and see how many rhyming words you can come up with
~Make rhyming cubes. I haven't worked the details out on this one, but my plan is to make paper cubes, oragami style, and use a sharpie to write letters on each side of the cube. The child can then build a word using the cubes, and flip the first cube onto different sides to make a different word that rhymes with the original.
~ Pin the Hat on the Cat. Use a computer to print a large picture of the Cat minus his hat. If you are artistic like I am not, you can always free hand it onto posterboard as well! Make a hat or two and use two sided tape or single sided tape looped over to make the back sticky (or if you want a version that will last, you could use felt and velcro!) Play the game as you would pin the tail on the donkey
~Cat Hats. Cut a middle out of a paper plate, so you have an open circular strip. Help your child use construction paper to make a white and red top hat. You might want to make the top hat shape, and allow your child to paste the colored stripes on. If you want to do something different, offer a variety of colors! Staple the hat to the middle of the paper plate strip. Use a paper hole punch to punch holes in the ends of the plate and tie string to it, to help you size the hat to your child.

Yertle the Turtle
~Make several turtle "blocks" out of shoe boxes, tissue boxes, small packaging boxes (the kind you might get from Amazon etc) Use green construction paper to cover the box. Allow your child to help decorate the "shells" and cover with clear contact paper to add durability. Make turtle heads, arms, legs, and tails from different shades of green and brown paper. Cut them out and laminate them. Hot glue them to the boxes to make the turtles. Have fun making your stack of turtles as tall as you can! Have your child count as you stack together! It is more fun if the turtles are several different sizes.
~ Paper Plate Turtles. Place a paper plate in front of your child right side up. Help them cut and paste turtle arms, legs, a head, and a tail, to the edges of this plate facing up, or you can create the turtle parts yourself and have the child place them if they are younger. Place a second paper plate over top of this one, bottom side up, and staple the plates together. Older children can paper mache the "shell" and paint it, and younger children can use geometric self adhesive "foamies" to decorate their shells. Add some dried rice or beans to the plate before stapling them together if you would like to make this into a musical instrument

My Many Colored Days
~Color Felt Board. Create different colored felt items for your felt board. If you don't think you could have one, trust me it is easy! Cover a piece of poster board with a large piece of felt. Put it into a cheap off the shelf frame from a craft store. Voila, felt board! For this activity, create items in groups similar to color. A strawberry, a red shoe, a red flower etc. Then do the same for other colors- a blue crayon, a blue bird etc. Encourage your child to sort the items into different colors on the felt board. Really all you need is felt (found at a craft store) some scissors, and a glue gun.
~Feeling Faces. Use a few blank sheets of paper to draw the outline of a face. Ask your child to draw a sad face, a happy face, etc. Label each face with what emotion it is. Use clear contact paper to laminate the pictures, and bind them together with a loose binder ring (found at office supply stores.) Use the book your child made to discuss emotions and what to do when he is feeling sad, angry, happy etc.
~Feeling Magnet Board. This is something else a lot of people think they don't have the resources to have in their playroom. If you have a cookie sheet, you have a magnet board! Or if you want a fancy one, you could buy a piece of sheet metal from a home improvement store and frame it similar to the felt board above! At office supply stores you can usually find magnetic business card sheets for printers. Use those and construction paper to create facial features in different emotions. A smily face, angry eyes,sleepy eyes, a few different noses. Let your child make up their own faces! (Tip- you can use the computer to help with the creation of your facial features!!!)

The Lorax
Okay, yeah I'm getting on the Lorax train. Quite frankly, I'm pretty pumped about the movie that will debut on Dr. Seuss's birthday. Yes, I will attempt to take my children to see it, since Jonah has no school on Friday. It will be their first theater movie, so we'll see how much of it we get to enjoy!
~Talk about things we can do every day to "save the earth." Include the children in separating recycling, turning out the lights and electronics, switch to dish cloths and rags for the day instead of using paper towels. Depending on the age of the child, there are a lot of activities. Do a little online searching for kid-friendly eco activities!
~ Go to the Lorax Project website I have listed above. Click on "Info" and a list of places that need help are listed. Choose a place and explore it. Do an internet search with your child to find pictures of animals or plants in these areas that are endagered because of humans. Have your child draw a picture of the animal. Talk about ways that you can help. Talk about things that you might already be doing.

Bartholemew and the Oobleck 
~Make your own oobleck! Help your child pour some corn starch into a mixing bowl. Add water while stirring until you have a thick liquidy, but not watery, substance. Notice that it spreads out and acts like a liquid when you are not touching it, but if you poke it hard or try to throw a bit of it down, it acts as a solid! Even if your child is too little to understand all of that, they will still have fun playing with this stuff! To dispose, scrape as much as you can into the trash can, and then rinse the bowl. It will clean up with water from the table!  

The Birthday Bash:
On Friday we are going to have a Dr. Seuss birthday party. We will start the day with real green eggs and ham. I will let the kids help dye the eggs. (although in the book, they are pictured as sunny side up eggs with green yolks- I still haven't figured out a way to replicate this, so my kids get green scrambled eggs, with cubed ham in them)

We will then play our Pin the Hat on the Cat game and make our Cat Hats before reading our pledged 20 minutes together and having lunch. I am not completely decided on lunch yet, but I would like to somehow fashion the Cat in the Hat's head and hat out of sandwich stuffs. Tomatoes and ham for the hat stripes, cheese and olives for the face. It is still a thought in progress. But lunch will definitely include a one fish two fish jello dessert! Then we will be heading out to the movies, sporting our newly made Cat Hats.

That is the plan, anyway! I'll try my hardest to post the details of how certain activities went!

Are you planning to do anything special for Dr. Seuss's birthday? Leave a comment and let us know what!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Encouraging Children to Explore The World

 It's no secret that I love to travel. My bucket list is speckled with places to see and things that I want to do thousands of miles away. The appeal that travel has on me stems from the fact that there are so many amazing things in this world; cultures rich with history; plants, animals, and people, all waiting to tell a story. I have always known that I wanted to instill this curiosity about the world into my children, but how do we go about it with children so young?

This past week, we have been on vacation with my husband's family, in a place that is very different from where we live. Although Arizona, at first thought, may not seem like such a different culture from Ohio- after all, it is a relatively short plane ride away, in the same country, with the same chain restaurants and big box stores- Daryl and I took this opportunity to focus on the rich cultural diversities that we can find right here in our native country. When it comes to the landscape, Arizona is noticeably different for the children. Jonah literally thought that our plane had landed on another planet. Of course to a three year old, "Phoenix" sounds an awful lot like "Venus."

While commuting, we pointed out the mountains, the buttes, the desert ground and plants that were strange to us, things that we just don't see in our little corner of Ohio. We met with a family that Daryl knew from college and encouraged the children to play and talk to their children; they met the family chickens and played games that their friends don't play back home.

We also chose activities and destinations that encouraged them to learn about things different from what we know at home. We fed a giraffe at the zoo, and came nearly nose to nose with monkeys (while these creatures are not a part of Arizona wildlife, these are still experiences we cannot gain at home.)

We got up close and personal (but not TOO close) to desert wildlife and plants at the desert botanical gardens. We learned about cacti.

We met a ground squirrel.

We said hello to a cactus dwelling bird.

We even met some friends that were familiar.

I encouraged them (unsuccessfully) to try foods that had culinary roots from nearby Mexico, and fruits and veggies that were grown local to the area where we were staying, although we also had familiar comfort foods available in our kitchen at the resort. And above all, they were encouraged to just be kids and have fun!

I know they will never remember the specifics. They will not remember the names of the animals, they will not remember seeing a cactus, they will not remember looking at a mountain in the distance and shouting "A volcano!!! YIKES!" But what I hope they are beginning to develop that will stick with them throughout their lifetime, is a sense of wonder and curiosity about how people live and why cultures behave a certain way; I hope that the seeds have been planted that will grow into a drive to explore a world full of interesting stories and places. And I hope that this curiosity and drive will foster a life of compassion and understanding for cultures and individuals that are a bit different from what we have grown used to in Ohio.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

"Chocolate-Covered Strawberry" Oatmeal Pancakes

Valentine's Day occurred in our house a few days late because of our vacation to Arizona. It crossed my mind to pack everything up and take it with us to create a fun day for the kids, but we decided to pack very lightly and all of our pink, red, and heart shaped items were left at home. I wasn't going to let the kids miss out on their day of fun special treats, though! They don't know that the rest of the world celebrated love and romance nearly a week ago! My favorite part of the day is probably breakfast, because the kids are always so delighted to find heart shapes somewhere on their plate! The oatmeal in these pancakes make them a little more hearty (pun intended) than regular pancakes, and also replaces wheat flour and sugar in the overall volume of pancake that you are eating. The chocolate chips are optional; I thought I'd throw them in as a special treat on a holiday!

1 batch of your favorite pancake batter
1/4 cup of skim milk
1-2 cups quick oats
2 cups frozen strawberries, mostly thawed and chopped coarsely
about 1 cup chocolate chips

Prepare your favorite pancake batter or mix. Add in the extra milk, oats, and strawberries. Mix until well incorporated, with 3-5 strokes of your spoon. Do not over mix the batter, it may be lumpy, just be sure that the oats and strawberries are evenly distributed.

Heat a frying pan or griddle over medium-low heat until a pat of butter or drop of water "dances" on it. Butter the cooking surface well. Use cooking spray or butter to lubricate the sides of  metal heart shaped cookie cutters. Place a metal heart shaped cookie cutter on the cooking surface and use a spoon to place batter within the cookie cutter, making sure that batter covers all corners. Drop a few chocolate chips evenly throughout the surface of the batter. When the top of the batter appears "play dough-ish" and bubbly, use tongs to hold the cookie cutter as you push the shape out gently with a butter knife. Use caution here, the cookie cutter will be HOT! Once the shape is out of the cookie cutter, use a spatula to flip it over. Cook for another minute or so, until the bottom of the shape is slightly browned and the chocolate chips are melted. You may need to use the butter knife to trim any stray batter.

You can also use this method to cook eggs into heart shapes, but Jonah has been asking for pancakes for breakfast all week.