Backyard Safari and Map Activity

map activity for preschoolThis map activity was a huge hit because it included pretend play. Preschoolers love jumping into a fun pretend play scenario and adding a big dose of imagination to a regular old activity. My daughter loves going on safari when she plays dress up so I used that love to turn a simple hunt into a map activity. Reading maps is an important skill not just for the future but it teaches directions ( as we played we practiced left and right)  and uses spatial thinking skills . This took less than 5 minutes to set up and even if you don’t have a yard you can pop the toys in a backpack and try this at the park, beach, or even inside your home.

 

Gather your materials. You will need some toy animals, toy binoculars ( or make some like these binoculars), safari dress up, a clip board, markers and paper for making the map.backyard safari supplies

I started by mapping out our yard. It took me two tries before I got a somewhat accurate map. You could probably google earth your house and get a great shot of your yard but I don’t plan that far ahead so I free handed it.map activity for kids backyard safari

Then I added and X for each animal. Some spots have two Xs because there are two animals together.safari map for kids

Invite your little explorer to get ready for the safari!backyard safari dress up

Show them the map and go over it with them by asking them if they know what it is. What each part represents etc… don’t explain it all to them, let them explain it to you and you can fill in any big blanks if they arise.safari map activity for kids

Get ready to find some animals. I only helped once when she was really getting frustrated. The little alligator was tiny and well hidden. backyard scavenger hunt for kidsEvery time she found an animal she kissed it and put it back. gross motor safari game for preschoolI explained that when you go on Safari you observe the animals but you don’t take them with you.map activity for preschool  As we went along she found them even faster as well as got into the character , she was running so fast from one to the next.gross motor map gameMake sure you take a few moments to talk about what kind of animals they are and a little bit about them. We talked about herbivores and carnivores and how they are different.  She was very proud of herself for being able to read a map. For older kids have them create their own maps of the yard and add the Xs on after.back yard safari scavenger hunt

Story Books Featuring Safari Animals

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books about being different

Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae is a very sweet story about a giraffe who gets laughed at because he doesn’t know how to dance. A cricket gives him some great advice and with new found confidence that different isn’t always bad he starts to dance!  This has been a favorite in our house for years!

Elmer
Elmer by David McKee is another book with a great message. Elmer is different, he isn’t gray like all the other elephants, and he’s a little bit of a goof too! He’s not so sure he likes that though. Like all of us it takes some time for Elmer to accept who he is but in the end he sees that patchwork is just who he is!

Hilda Must Be Dancing

Hilda Must Be Dancing by Karma Wilson is a lovely story about a big hippo that loves to dance, although her neighbors aren’t as keen. See Hilda is bog and when she dances she shakes and rattles everything, it’s noisy and disruptive and is making her friends very angry. They suggest that she try new hobbies, but knitting and singing won’t do it’s simply not in her heart, Hilda needs to move and groove!  I loves that a solution is found that makes everyone happy, that Hilda doesn’t have to give up her passion, but that she isn’t so selfish as to simply say ” too bad” to her friends either.

Twig & Bead Fairy Wands

twig and bead fairy wand craft for kidsI love exploring in the woods and while my children enjoy it they take it for granted. I love finding new ways to get them exploring their own environment and finding creative ways to use what we have in our yard. These twig and bead fairy wands were so much fun to make. We brought some of our favorite art supplies down to create with twigs. My daughter was all over this idea and I think this was the longest she’d ever beaded anything without asking me to take over. Beading is a fantastic fine motor activity and beyond that it often leads naturally to counting so you can slip some math in there too.  We also had a friend over who is 11 and she used the same materials to make her own funky twig and bead fairy wand.

Gather your materials. You will need some twigs, pony beads, yarn or cord, markers and scissors. bead fairy wands supplies

Before sitting down to create explore and find some twigs. I had found some that would work before inviting the girls to create in case they gathered the wrong size. twig hunting fiary wand tutorial

Break off any of the little bits and bobs on the twig and color it if you want to. I loved how much concentration this required. We used smelly markers because you can’t really see the color on the twig but the scent stayed and made it extra special. twig and bead fairy wand craft for preschool

Bead! Most twigs will naturally get wider at the base but if they don’t you can put a little dollop of hit glue to create a wider base. I just love how many great skills she is using by doing this fun activity. Her fine motor skills got a great work out!beading with twigs and beads

Wow look at all those beads! This is when you will want to casually say ” How many beads do you think are on there?” If you are trying to sneak in even more counting ask about specific colors too. ” How many green ones?” twig and bead fairy wand fine motor craft for kids

While my daughter was beading our 11 year old friend was beading on to the cord and then wrapping it around the twig and securing it with some tape. bead and fairy wands for older kids too

When my daughter was all done beading we attached some string to a bead and tied a knot.fairy wand tutorial Then beaded it on to the twig. fairy wand tutorial for kids

Next we wrapped the cord around the twig and make a handle. When it was all wrapped we tied it a few times and trimmed. magic wand tutorial

Now it’s ready for some serious fairy spells! magic wand tutorial for kids

You can see the rad wand our dear friend made too !beaded fairy wands for kids

Books About Fairies

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princess books for girls

The Very Fairy Princess by Julie Andrews and Emma Walton Hamilton is a cute book about a little girl who loves all things princess related. What I like about this book is that it’s message isn’t heavy handed and it celebrates princesses while sneaking in some very positive messages too. In a world where many parents ( me included) have issues with this whole princess thing and struggle to find that balance this book has it. It tells you it’s OK to want to be a princess and to “let your sparkle out!” and talks about confidence in the process. I must admit though I am a total Julie Andrews fan and I am not sure I’d ever dislike anything Maria , I mean Mary Poppins I mean Julie Andrews wrote.

Alice the fairy

Alice The Fairy is such a sweet book about a fairy who is still learning the ropes. I love the spells she casts and kids relate to her type of magic, I promise! I love that this book is about a fairy but not the Disney idea that we are so often bombarded with. It’s fresh, fun and my daughter absolutely loves it. I have been in love with this book for many years and to see my daughter connect with Alice so well just tickles me to pieces.

princess in the forest

Princess in the Forest by Sibylle Von Olfers is more than 100 years old yet my toddler absolutely loved this book. The story is amazingly simple and the illustrations are what a fairytale should look like. The princess is met at different times of the day by various magical fairy children and forest creatures who care for and play with her. My daughter loves babies and the Dew Children who come to help the princess get dressed , the Moss Children who bring her food and the Star Children who illuminate her night enchanted her. She would immediately turn to each page with these angelic creatures and touch each one with her little fingers. This book doesn’t have a strong moral message but it’s simplicity is so peaceful and calming that it makes a wonderful bedtime book for young kids.

 

 

 

 

Painting With Dolls

fun art for kids It was raining cats and dogs and we’d already read a stack of books and watched more PBS kids than I care to admit when I decided to steal this idea from my own preschool teachers Fran and Gumti. I loved it when they would roll out the paper and we could choose one of the plastic baby dolls to “walk” along it leaving prints. This painting with dolls activity is timeless because many decades later my daughter loved it. This is also a great adaptation for painting with kids feet if a child doesn’t want to use their own feet. Many kids hate the feeling of getting paint on their feet so having an option of doing it with a doll instead is a way to include everyone.

Gather your materials. You will need some dolls with plastic feet, a long roll of paper ( if you have extra wrapping paper you can use the inside of it), liquid tempra, some painter’s tape, a towel that can get paint on it, a paper plate or two, and a shallow bowl with soapy water. painting with dolls

Tape your paper down. Strip the dolls down and get the water and towel ready at the end of the paper.painting with dolls clean up

Dip the dolly’s feet in the paint.painting with doll feet in preschool

Walk the dolly across the paper.painting with dolls for preschool

Wash and dry and grab a new dolly. wiping dolly feet

She had to hold this dolly differently dolly paintingand it required much more concentration to keep her upright.baby doll painting for toddlers

She loved cleaning their feet and pretending to be a mama.dolly feet

After two dolls she asked for a brush and painted. That is what I love about doing planned activities, they almost always end in a new kid directed one as an add on. If I suggested painting to her she wouldn’t have done it but to just let her add on to this she did. Do what works for your kids but this always have for mine.painting with dolls extention activity

Books About Dolls

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corduroy

Corduroy by Don Freeman was a childhood favorite of mine and my son loves it too. The story is about a lonely bear at a department store who despite being a little disheveled finds a forever home with a kind little girl who needs him as much as he needs her. There are so many levels to this book, as a child I remember being awed by the thought of toys coming alive in stores when the doors are locked and the shoppers leave. As an adult I see this as a touching adoption story . My son loves the escalators Corduroy travels on in the store ! This is another book that has lasting power and can be read for years in your home.

the paper princess

Painting Sea Glass

beach art

We live by the ocean and while we don’t get sandy beaches or palm trees we do get sea glass. Looking for sea glass on the rocky shore is one of my favorite calm activities and sometimes my kids join in , no matter how small the piece they are little treasures. Searching for it has taught my kids to pay attention to detail, be determined , as well as patience. Of course all those things will take many more years to develop fully but this is a fun way to work on it while they are young. If you don’t have a spot to search for sea glass you can buy it from craft stores and online.  Painting sea glass is a great way to think out of the box for different canvases, recycle , and even work on those oh so important…fine motor skills.

Gather your materials. You will need some sea glass, paint that works on glass, a few paper plates, and paint brushes. One of my best toddler art tips is for parents to use big brushes that can cover big spaces for toddlers but in this case do the exact opposite. Use the smallest brushes you have because one of the great benefits to painting on small areas is developing fine motor skills while you get creative. sea glass painting fine motor painting

Start by putting a little bit of each color you are using on a paper plate. You can absolutely use a reusable plate but the paints are not washable and I find it much easier and ultimately less wasteful ( of water) to use a paper plate I can roll up and ditch at the end of the activity. sea glass painting art ideas for kids

Take time feel the glass and to talk about how sea glass is made. Why it is so smooth unlike freshly broken glass, why it’s frosted, and if you have any memories to share about finding it. exploring sea glass with preschoolers

Time to paint. There is no wrong way to do this. Paint one side, paint both sides… just have fun getting creative with a new sort of canvas. painting sea glass outside summer activity

She loved it and needed zero direction. painting beach sea glassInstead we chatted about colors, and what we thought the glass used to be , and if there is more than one Santa to deliver all the gifts. My daughter is random like that and I love conversations over art, it’s easily my favorite way to chat especially with such an interesting partner in crime. painting sea glass summer art for kids

Once they are done pop the plate into the sun to dry. Our paint dried while we made words with stamps and playdough. painting sea glass fine motor art idea

reading lists for kids

Check out our collection of books we love about the beach. See the full list here.

Bubble Bin Sensory Play

bubble bin sensory playWhen my daughter and I found these pink and purple whisks at the store today we knew they would be leaving with us but we weren’t sure yet what we were going to use them for. A few aisles later we were sure whatever we did do it would involve bubbles. Whisking bubbles is a classic Montessori activity although we have spun it a little with the bubbles at the start and whisking in color. We also added glitter and the whisks were princess whisks but that was just our interpretation of it. My daughter had a blast as you will see…

 

Gather your materials. You will need a bin that holds water, some dish soap ( I have done this with baby shampoo with my son who had extremely sensitive skin as a tot), some food color, whisks, glitter( optional) and some fun cups for the glitter and later for scooping and pouring. princess bubble bin supplies

Start by filling your bin with water and add in the soap. princess bubble bin bubble maker

Explore. bubble bin soap frothing

Add some food color and mix! princess pink bubble bin sensory soap playShe loved how the bubbles would froth. bubble bin over

Time for some glitter. princess bubble bin glitterFirst pour it in the cup then add it in and mix some more.princess bubble bin glitter water play

I must have taken 100 pictures sitting back and watching her play. bubble bin

After a long while she ditched the whisks and put as much of her body into the bin as she could fit. bubble play whisking bubblesThank goodness she was wearing her favorite new pink shoes, I think they were the only barrier stopping her from getting in the bin completely. bubble bin whisking bubbles