Friday, December 11, 2009

Prize in the cereal box.

Max:  I want to make a firestation!
Mommy:  Ummmmmmm....... let's look through recycling!

I grabbed a few cereal boxes from the recycling bin and we recycled them ourselves.  And made fire stations from them.  great fun.  Just take all of the tabs up and lay it flat and inside out, have them color whatever they want to and then reassemble it inside out with tape.

And also, don't forget to put a box on your head while you eat your toast.

To see something else you can do with a cardboard box, check out what we found outside our house!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Trick or Reading

Mid-afternoon is the hardest time of the day for me.  My 4 year old isn't napping anymore (well, on rare occasion) and my 2 year old is snoozing away.  It's quiet time and it's mom time (at least a few minutes if I can).  We came up with a fun idea one afternoon when Max was asking for treats and Mom wanted him to sit quietly and read books.  

1.  Lay out a handful of books and put a small treat on each one.  We normally use chocolate chips but these pictures were taken back in October so candy corn were aplenty. m&m's, grapes, blueberries, pretzels, goldfish, etc.  

2.  Child chooses book and eats corresponding treat.
3. Reads Book

4. Repeat until all treats are eaten and books are read.  

It's a great way to stretch a treat, stretch reading time 
and stretch a few mommy minutes.

I have made a little rule at first that Max must tell me when he finished before his next treat just to make sure he understood that he couldn't eat all the treats first.  Now he gets it and he doesn't have to tell me, although sometimes he still likes to tell me which one he is going to pick next. 

Variations:  You could switch it up and do a different little treat on each book or if you are daring, spread their lunch in bite-size pieces over all of the books.  Nothing that would stain books though.  or get pages messy --- well, maybe that wouldn't work.... but maybe it could?  hmmmm...  

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


It started with Max bringing me a penny he found and me reaching up on the shelf to put the penny in the change jar.  He asked if he could do it.  I said sure and took the jar down.  He clanked it in and smiled.  Then Oliver wanted to do it.

So, since Oliver is out of the put everything in the mouth stage I sat them at the table with the change jar.  I gave them all sorts of containers to put them in.  The smaller the opening and the taller the container the better.  Hence the bud vase and thermoses.

Max sorted coins by color and sizes.  I told him to put five in each colored bowl.  Oliver lined them in a long long choo choo train.  But mostly they just wanted to hear the clank clank into the containers.  Metal and glass were the best clanks. And they loved pouring the filled containers back into the change jar or into another vessel...

Of course you can't play this with younger kids.  PLEASE don't.  Make sure that all participants are out of that mouth-y stage.  Also, make rules.  No money on the ground and if a "money" falls, tell mom and she will pick it up.

This kept my boys busy for nearly a half hour while I made dinner.

Thursday, October 22, 2009


2 or more players

This is a fun game that I made up while teaching.  Start with a 3 letter word like the above "big".  Pass it to the person to your right.  The next person can only change one letter and has to make a new word.  You can change the first, middle or last letter.  Then you set your new word down and pass it to the next person (kind of just slide it on the table to the next person).  You can't do the same word twice.  Sometimes it helps to have a scribe that is writing down words to make sure they are not repeated.

If a person is stumped, they get the letter P given to them.  Then that person starts over with a new 3 letter word.  You can also choose at this point if you want to allow the person to change it to a four letter word.  Or five letters.... That is up to the group and the age and the skill level.

So the game continues until a person ends up with a PIG and then is dismissed from the game.  When a person is dismissed the person to the right starts with a new word.

Words can be changed and anagrammed however a player wishes.  Basically, the letters can be mixed in any way as long as only one is changed.  For example:

Player1: HEAT
Player2: BEAT
Player3: TALE
Player4: LEAF
Player1: FALL
Player2: BALL
Player3: BALE
Player4: BLED
Player1: LEAD
Player2: DEAD
Player3: DATE
Player4: TAPE

You can also not implement the PIG part of it and dismiss players.  Another option could be to try as a group to set a record for number of times anagrammed...or just gather points for every time you create a word, keep track of points and the most points wins.  When you are stumped you don't get a point... Or if you create a word that stumps someone else you get an extra point.  You can change things however you wish to fit your group.  Have fun!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Words in a word.

In third grade my teacher, Mr. McArthur, would challenge us every holiday with a word contest.  He would give us the name of the holiday and we would have to see how many little words we could find within the big word.  I LIVED for these word contests and would spend any remaining time after I finished homework in the evening searching for words, dictionary beside me, until I was quite certain I would be the winner.  I think I won all, if not nearly all, of those word challenges that year.

I did the same thing when I was a teacher except I had Limber Letters for my students to use.  It was great to see them mixing things around, finding words they might have not otherwise found.  It makes a HUGE difference to visually see letter combinations.  The double "ee" or "ll" for example.. putting those together and looking at the other letters makes it easier to see possibilities.

Have a friend, class, family or neighborhood challenge.  Give it as an assignment during school breaks -- it will keep your school aged children busy for quite some time (at least it did me).

Happy letters to all of you!  The letters are going fast.  I only have about 8 more bags ready for this round of selling and then I will be taking a break...

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Mix - Fix

This is a really fun one to play to practice your spelling words.  My students would do this activity nearly every week in preparation for our Friday test.


2 or more players

All tiles are placed facing up in the middle of the playing surface (ground, table, blanket).

At this point you can do one of many things:
Hand each person a spelling list to choose words from (something that needs to be practiced)
Hand each person a list of random new vocabulary to choose from
Pick a category to make a word from
Pick a certain letter the word needs to start with
Pick a certain amount of letters the word needs to contain
Give no rules and let everyone do whatever word they want

Each person secretly chooses their tiles and puts them into their hands and shakes them around.

Pass your handful of letters to the person on your right.

At this point you can see who can set their mixed-up tiles down and unscramble the word the fastest and they get a point (if it is spelled correctly).  Or you can simply have the person spell the word out and wait for everyone else 9no scoring).  Or you can have each person write down the word the received on a paper secretly, then pass around the mixed up letters until the whole round is done and then read the words off to see if they are correct.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Roots of Limber Letters

Today's game will be geared for the older audiences.

Limber Letters are bagged tiles originally used in a game that my grandmother has marketed called Anagrabber.  It is a game geared toward ages 7 and up.  She has graciously given me a few boxes of letter tiles to market to other communties besides the ones that she targets (senior centers, mensa groups, etc.).  Anagrabber is a wonderful game and our family enjoys playing it.  I have copied the instructions below for Anagrabber, which you can play with Limber Letter tiles.  

Before having children I used these in my classroom and sold them to my co-teachers left and right!  There are a million ways to use them in the classroom!  Now that I am home I can find a million ways to use them with my pre-schoolers!  I think the funnest thing about them is making up games.  Even kids will come up with fun ways to use them.

Also, because there are 300 tiles in a bag, your options are greater.  Scrabble only has 98 tiles and Bananagrams has 144.  I would love to hear how you think you would use them!

How to play Anagrabber (R)*

Number of players: 2 to 8

Ages 7 to 97

Object of game: To make and keep 6 words during a round of play. Drawing lettered tiles from a bag 4 at a time, players make words and discard any letters they do not use. Discarded letters may be used by other players. A player may "anagrab" (or steal) another player's word by adding one or more letters and rearranging the stolen word to make a different word. Once a player wins a round with 6 words, he or she must make 7 words while other players need only 6 to win. With each win, another word is added to the "handicap" to a maximum of 10 words for experienced players. For a more detailed explanation, see the instruction booklet that comes with each Anagrabber(R) game.

In the picture above, the player has made the word "DINER" using the blank as an "E". The blank remains an "E" even when the word is Anagrabbed to make "DINNER"
The blank tile designated as an "E" can be replaced by a player who draws an "E"; then that player owns the blank, but the word "dinner" remains just as it was.

After the blank tile has been replaced,it becomes wild again. Its new owner is using it now as an "I" to Anagrab "went" and make "twine."
Anagrabbing the word "twine" to make "winter"
A player has made the word "ale" from letters drawn from the bag during his turn. To Anagrab it with an "S" a player would have to make "sale" rather than "ales"
You can't just add an "S" to the end of a word to steal it; that would be too easy. But you can rearrange the letters to make a new word, such as "sale" or "leas" (leas are meadows).
Or you could add two letters, such as the "S" and another "E" to Anagrab "ale" as "lease" or "easel". There is no limit to the number of letters that can be added to a word.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Limber Letters

The Crafty Crow will be doing a Limber Letter Giveaway this upcoming Monday.  
I've just revamped the packaging and am pretty pleased with the way it turned out.  

I just added a couple bags to the etsy shop as a test run, and also, to let any of you have first dibs.  This batch is limited.  I will be adding more over the weekend in preparation for Monday.  Also, all next week I will be posting games to play with the letter tiles in celebration of the giveaway.  
Look forward to that!


Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Stuffed Bad Guys

Do you think this little fella looks like a bad guy???
Mothers of boys, why does everything in the house turn into a gun, sword or some sort of fighting something? We don't own a fake gun, fake sword, fake bow and arrow, but we have PLENTY of them around if you know what I mean.  Believe me when I say you don't need to buy them.  You have a dozen of them in your home already.

The boys are really into good guys and bad guys around here.  I guess Max is mostly, he's 4 , and little Oliver just goes around saying "Bad-eyes -- Bad-eyes" and doesn't know what he is talking about.  He is, in fact, usually the "bad guy" and doesn't know it and gets pummeled, or sworded or tackled by the good guy Max and doesn't even know what has happened.

Today they both had plastic clothes hanger "bows" and colored pencil "arrows" and were chasing each other around.  Max would pretend to shoot, but it didn't really work, so he would pretend shoot it and then just throw the pencil at Oliver. This was all Max's "brate idea" as he calls it.

Well, it's all in fun, but this mama doesn't want her 2 year old with a pencil where it shouldn't be. Not a good habit to let your older child throw things at the younger one. So.......

I thought up something I am sure you have thought of, but I just came up with it today.

Stuffed animal bad guys.

A sheep, a cow, a frog and a puppy.

The good guy pretends he is sleeping and then as he is, I hide the "bad guys".  When I am ready I yell, "Oh NOOOO!!!! the bad guys are loose again! Help me Maaaxxxx!!! " And then he gets his hanger and colored pencil and finds the sheep in the bathtub, arrows him and puts him in "jail" on the bed, finds the puppy on mommy's pillow, finds the frog in daddy's closet, and finds the cow in the hamper, takes them all to jail.

Once they are all in jail, the good guy can sleep again.  But then, OH NO!!! The bad guys get out again!!!! HHHHEEEEEEELLLLPPPP!!!!!

Rise and repeat.

Cost: FREE
Variations:  Your child can be a farmer and the animals get loose while he sleeps and the farmer has to catch them and put them back into their pen ( if you are not into the whole bad guys good guys hanger and colored pencil thing).

hooray!  have fun!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Hungry Hungry Oatmeal

oh, that's where they went.
Kids love putting things into things.  Both my four year old and two year old alike.  Cut a hole in the bottom of an oatmeal cannister and drop little treasures into the dark hole.  Pick it up to find them!  Start over again.

Cost: What -- like $2 for the oatmeal cannister? -- but you get to eat the oatmeal! So, really, it's free.

variations: snacks into the dark hole (goldfish, marshmallows, raisins, blueberries), you could count them and drop them as you count.  Take it outside and drop sticks or rocks that were gathered, dandelions, weeds. Oooh, that's a good one.  maybe a bigger cannister.  A weed eater!!!  Maybe you make a face on the cannister and the opening looks like a mouth.  I am a nerd.  But that would be fun. 

Thursday, August 27, 2009


I once heard a story about a father who had his child/children go out in a big field to pick up every stone they could find.  I wish I could remember the details, but the story went something along the lines of another adult pointing out to the father that they weren't even going to use that specific field but the father replying something to the effect that he wasn't preparing a field, he was preparing children to work.

Gosh, I wish I could remember that story better -- does it sound familiar to any of you?

Well, whatever the details are, it made a deep impression on me.  I really believe we need to teach our children to work.  Whether it is a specific chore or just giving them something to do and making them stick to it until they are finished.

Well, one day I did just that.  I gave 3 year old Max the chore of taking every book off of our bookshelves.  He already enjoyed doing that anyway, might as well make it a chore right?  So, he unshelved every last book and stacked them all on the couch (with my help).

Putting them back on the shelves we color coded them, which is great for teaching colors and also, it looks really cool.  He worked on this for a while but was side tracked when he found out the stacked books looked like stairs and a big mountain for his cars.

In the background of this picture you can see the final product:
Cost: FREE
Variations:  Have them clean out the fridge with you.  They LOVE this.  Have them take everything out of the fridge, you wipe it and clean it and they put everything back again.  They can put the laundry in the machine, take the laundry out of the dryer.  Have them sharpen all of the pencils in the house, make sure all of the lights in the house work, count the tiles in the bathroom floor, make sure there is a star sticker on every shoe/chair/window/blue thing in the house .  You know, silly things that give them a sense of purpose and accomplishment. 

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

I am thinking of an animal

I suppose it's your typical guessing game but I never thought about playing it with my 3 year old until I heard my good friend, Serena, playing with her 4 year old the other day.

Mommy:"I am thinking of an animal that is black and white and lives where it is cold"
Child: Zebra!
Mommy: No, remember it is so cold and this animal eats fish and walks funny.
Child: A penguin!
Mommy: Yep! Your turn!

Child: I am thinking of an animal that lives in the jungle with stripes
Mommy: A tiger?
Child: Yep! Your turn!

You will be amazed at how quickly a car ride goes by. And I think it teaches great deduction skills. Great pre-reading skills as well. Visualizing things, putting things together in your mind. It is simple, but so great. You will be surprised at how well this works. Since our friend was over visiting we have played it in every car ride -- no fail. It is now a family favorite.

Cost: FREE

With younger ones say the sound of the animal and have them guess it. You could do different categories as well. I am thinking of a food, I am thinking of a person, I am thinking of a toy, I am thinking of a color, I am thinking of something in the room....(I guess that is kind of like I spy, but oh well, that is fun too). For the older kids you can make it harder -- I am thinking of an animal that begins with the letter R and ends with the letter S and it is not plural. Or I am thinking of an animal that would live in Brazil, or florida or Asia.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

My Little Shortcake and the Rockers

Vintage fisher price meets pottery barn outlet emergency station meets Mickey Mouse
Wooden railroad meets remote control car meets blue tablecloth ocean with pirate ship meets dump truck meets hot wheels
meets teething toy giraffe.

I love the way Andy plays with his toys in the beginning of the first Toy Story. Everyone is involved - Potato Head, Bo Peep, Sheriff Woody, army men, a barrel of monkeys, dinosaurs, etc.

When I was young I would spend hours creating towns for my toys -- Barbie and friends had a mansion in my bookcase, My Little Ponies had a grassy meadow on my bedspread, and Strawberry Shortcake and the gang had their hangout. Stacked books became stairs, washcloths became bedspreads, socks became sleeping bags, shoes became cars (Barbies can sit in them so nicely-- no, I didn't have the convertible) and those white plastic pizza thingamajigs that held the pizza lid up in the pizza box to not smash the pizza made the most perfect little tables. Oh, tell me you did that too, with the pizza things.

I remember playing a little bit with my "land" after it was set up but I must admit that the setting it up was by far the funnest part. I'd have everything just so and my entire room would be a big land of My Little Shortcake and the Rockers.

And then someone would let in the crazy giant land wrecking madwoman/man and all would be lost. Wasn't that the worst? Isn't it the worst? I just feel for my older one when my younger one ruins something he made.

It was either that or it was time to go to bed. I couldn't sleep while the ponies were chomping on the grassy meadow.

Have your children use their imaginations and create a land incorporating all of their toys. Make it work. Create a story to act out. Create scenarios. Get neighborhood kids to come over and help.

Cost: Free (just use the toys you have!)

Variations: a million.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Grocery ads

Sometimes I don't post my ideas because I don't have a picture of it. I decided I need to just get these ideas out and not wait for the perfect picture every time. Here is an idea I have adjusted from the days in the classroom.

When I sort through the newspaper or mail I like to save the grocery ads. Max and I will go through them and do different activities. Sometimes we go through each item in the ad -- if he likes the item to eat, he circles it. If he doesn't, he puts and X through it. Teaches great fine motor skill (pre-writing) and teaches critical thinking.

Sometimes it becomes a look and find.

Mommy: I am looking for something to drink that is yummy for breakfast with pancakes.
Max: ORANGE JUICE (and then circles it or puts a star sticker on it)
Mommy: What would be something you can put on your bread to make a sandwich?
Max: Peanut Butter! (or jam or lunchmeat....)

COST: free
Variations: Younger ones can just do labeling. Can you find the apples? Can you find the milk? What's that? (point to something and have them tell you). Older kids could be given four or five different colors and be told to circle all the things in a certain food group i.e. fruits and vegs with a certain color, each group being a different color. An older child could be given a certain amount of money and be told to "shop" in the ads for what they would like to buy for that week if they could. Have them find the best deal. You can tell them to circle all the foods they think are good for them and X out all the bad ones (then look over it together and discuss). Find all the foods that start with the letter B. Different colors for different meals - blue for breakfast, red for lunch, green for dinner, yellow for snacks.... what else????

Friday, May 1, 2009

Tricky, tricky

You know how kids like to have a choice? Like to be in charge? If you are fighting with your kids about nap times, here is a funny suggestion.

My mom told me that when we were little and fighting her about naps she would ask us a simple question. "Do you want to take a long nap or a short nap? --- It's your choice!" she would say. If we complained and whined then we had to take the long nap. Of course we always wanted to take the short nap.

tricky mom.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

3 Year Old Tour Guide

another child -led activity. It is amazing what creative and fun things can happen in a day if you allow your child to lead for a little bit.

We came home from running errands today and Max asked to sit in the driver's seat to "drive". At first I said "no, let's go." And then I said, why not? (Sometimes I really try to conciously think of why I say no to my children -- is it because I am lazy????)

So, up he went and I buckled him in. Oliver and I sat in the backseat. Max told us we were going on an adventure. He vroomed this way and that. I shouted out places to go. IKEA! Ma's house in California! The playground! Grandpa's house! Africa! A carnival! Once we were "there" we said hi to things we would see there and then we were off to the new place.

We did it for about 15 minutes or so. We could have done it longer except Oliver wanted to really go somewhere -- like outside and into the house. I thought that it would be really fun to do on a rainy day --- when you can't go much of anywhere and need a break from the monotony of the day. Jump in the car and go on an adventure -- with your three year old at the wheel. You could even bring props and fun things in with you -- get all dressed up to go out. Just a change of scenery. And boy do they like to be the one in charge!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

A happy childhood

Yet another post on my main blog that the readers of this one might enjoy

Read about why pancake batter and blue tarps = a happy childhood.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Me, the Dinosaur Hunter

Just thought my Likely Classroom readers would be interested in a post I wrote on my main blog.

Here it is.


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Watering Hole

Even your youngest can have sink time. Create a safe "playpen" by backing up three chairs around them and give them a small cup and a trickle of water. The minutes will tick by (I got about 20) as you prepare dinner or get some kitchen chores done. I think my sweet Oliver must have drank 27 little cupfuls of water that afternoon. He was soaked head to toe. smiling and laughing, but soaked still the same ---- with the fullest diaper on him that evening I had seen in months. You know, the water balloon kind that weigh 10 pounds.

grand fun.

COST: free

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Button Pond

You may not have a button collection like mine but you can play nonetheless. You can use a wide mouthed jar or dishpan filled with rice or macaroni or beads or shredded paper. You can hide just one object in it or multiple. We hid a plastic goldfish. It could be made into a game and take turns. Make sure the children playing are out of the put everything into the mouth stage. My little 15 month old Oliver LOVES the button jar. We play in it every once in a while but he is HIGHLY supervised. I cannot deny him the feeling of running your hands through a button jar. It has to be one of my favorite feelings. If I could swim in them.....

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Pins and Needles

Do you have Pins? some Yarn? a pillow?

As I was sitting and finishing up some holiday crafting my son Max couldn't keep his hands off of my pin cushion. He kept taking pins off of the magnetic holder and dropping them on the floor. No good with a baby around. So I grabbed a pillow from the couch and turned it over and told him that he could press the pins into it. It started with him just randomly pushing them into the pillow.
Then he started lining them up and called it a train.
And then he said they were flowers in a garden. I love adding a little fuel to his fire so I asked him if he needed some water to help his flowers grow. I gave him a piece of yarn and told him it was his hose. He "watered" the pins and as he did I slowly raised each pin like they were growing. He was tickled with this little game. We watered and grew and then pushed down and watered some more.

As we played this little garden game I thought about using the pins as pegs on a geoboard. Do you remember geoboards in school? I did a spin on it and placed the pins in a certain shape and had him follow the pins, wrapping around each one as we went along. (knot the first one around the first pin) You can see the house in the first picture. We did a few shapes and a few letters together before it was time to clean up and do who knows what.

I love impromptu diversion. Let them lead. You just bring the fuel.

COST: Ummm..... please tell me you have straight pins! and yarn or string! and a pillow?

Variation: use different color yarns and create different artwork. Take pictures before disassembling. For older kids, have them try to place the pins to create pictures like a dot to dot. if you have multiple color pins, they could have to connect them in an order, like rainbow order or something. That way they could create something and a friend or you could complete it. I just had a great idea - what about turning over couch cushions and really getting crazy? You would have to definitely explain that pins don't go into anything, but if you had a canvas-y type couch or the undersides weren't something you would ever use, you could create some real masterpieces. I could see older kids trying to line up the pins in a way to spell their names in cursive using the yarn..... or creating a grid and putting objects into the grid. Make a zoo grid, a jail grid, a collection grid, a snack grid. Okay, I just love lateral thinking. I'll stop now.

More to come soon

Holy Smokes! I have been getting a ton of traffic from The Crafty Crow. She has featured two of my ideas now and I have yet to update. I have a lot of fun ideas, even the pictures to go with them, I just haven't made this blog a priority lately. I will definitely be posting more very soon. Stay posted and thanks for stopping by!

smiles, Likely