## Leaf Matching Puzzles

by Kim

Looking for a fun way to practice number recognition? Then look no further. Playing with these letter and number recognition puzzles is a fun way to get little fingers and mind active. This is an activity you will want to do ahead of time and have ready for the little ones.

Grab a piece of corrugated cardboard, a marker, and a pair of scissors. You can use posterboard or craft foam, but corrugated cardboard is so much thicker and it is easier for your child to see that they are matching the pieces up correctly.

Draw some leaves on the cardboard. Then draw a line through them. I like to do a squiggly line to help the pieces “lock” in together better. Now draw a number on one side of the leaf and dots corresponding to that number on the other side.

Cut out the leaves. This is the part where you will be glad you are not making these pieces with your children. Cutting the cardboard can be tricky because it is so thick.

You can also draw and cut out leaves with upper and lower case letters to match up.

*VARIATION- Math equations would offer a more challenging task for older siblings that want to join in the fun, too. For younger children (and ambitious caregivers) you could color the leaves for color matching.

Cut along the line you drew that divides the leaf.

Now divide your leaf pieces into two sections. One section with the numbers written on them and one section with the dots drawn on them, or upper case letters and lower case letters.

Watch your child match them up. It is fun to watch them match different ways each time. Sometimes my daughter would match by number recognition and then counting the dots. While other times she matched the shape of the leaves.

Any way they match is great practice for reasoning and logic skills. Putting the pieces together make great motor skill exercise, too.

Kim is a contributing writer for No Time For Flash Cards, a mom to a toddler, a preschooler, and a foster parent, too. She juggles her day by trying out fun activities and crafts with the kids. After all, she is just a big kid herself. See what she has been up to over at Mom Tried It.

## Balanced Meal Match

by Kim

We have been talking a lot at our house about vegetables, fruits, and grains. My five year old son is very into healthy eating (he says it will make him a better ninja). To help explain a balanced diet to my three year old I made some felt food. I then decided to remake some felt food to help my toddler learn her colors and color matching. This easy kids craft activity evolved from that and has been a huge hit with all three kids.

You will need a piece of felt in any colors you would like (but be sure to grab a white one), marker, scissors, and glue.

Draw out strips of bacon, a small circle, and a piece of fruit that coordinates with the color you are using. We used blueberries for blue, strawberries for red, green grapes for green, purple grapes for purple, lemon for yellow, grapefruit for pink, and orange slice for orange. Draw all of these things as close together as you can on one side of the felt.

Draw some blobs on the white felt. These are going to be your eggs.

Cut everything out. Older children can easily do this, but my three year old had trouble getting the felt to cut.

Trim the empty side of your felt piece into a rectangle. This will be your plate (or placemat if you want to put a plate on top of it).

Glue on the small colored circles to the white egg pieces as the egg yolks.

We spread out our plates on the table. The girls had a blast yelling the colors out as they placed the plates. We also had to count and make sure there was enough for everyone.

Now match the colored pieces of food to the coordinating plates.

My toddler loved doing this part and would pretend to eat as she placed the food. It was so cute.

There was lots of cheering when we matched up everything.

My three year old and I talked about how eating just an egg probably wouldn’t give her all of the vitamins and energy she needs for her morning. We also talked about the importance of eating a fruit or a vegetable with each meal.

This activity is such a fun way to talk about food, color match, learn colors, work on motor skills, build teamwork, and the felt does make for fun sensory play.

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Kim is a contributing writer for No Time For Flash Cards, a mom to a toddler, a preschooler, and a foster parent, too. She juggles her day by trying out fun activities and crafts with the kids. After all, she is just a big kid herself. See what she has been up to over at Mom Tried It.

## Mustache Match Puzzle

We love mustaches, puzzles and felt around our house so this Mustache Match activity was a hit! My original idea was to use construction paper (which would work great!), but since I love ALL things felt I went the felt route instead. Last Christmas I made felt mustaches on a stick for each of our family members so I had those in mind when creating this project.

I didn’t want it to be too easy for Sweet P so I created 10 mustaches and made some that looked similar to make it challenging for her. I used a variety of colors (but you could just use black), including some that we don’t talk about often so we could incorporate color recognition as well. I looked up a few of the styles (Charlie Chaplin, Fu Manchu, Handlebar, Lorax) so I could talk about the type of mustaches with her for fun. Sweet P loved this game and wanted to do it several times.

The Project: Mustache Match Game

What you need:

• 1 piece of construction paper
• pencil
• various colors of felt
• scissors
• black marker or Sharpie
• flat magnets
• hot glue gun/glue
Trace mustaches onto various colors of felt or fold felt in half and cut free hand. Trace each mustache onto a piece of construction paper (this will be your puzzle). Outline each mustache with a black sharpie. You can stop here or cut them out (I cut them out so the magnets would work a bit better). Laminate the construction paper for durability.
Stiffen felt using 1 part water/1 part glue. Mix the glue and water together in a small bowl, then dip each mustache into the mixture. Squeeze out excess water and place damp mustaches on a baking sheet to dry overnight. They should be stiff in the morning.

Hot glue flat magnets to the back of each mustache. Place the puzzle mat on a baking sheet with your mustache magnets in a small bowl and you’re ready to go!

Don’t forget to try on a few! Baby Blue got in on the action, too!

Adrienne  blogs at The Iowa Farmer’s Wife. She is a mama to 2 munchkins: a toddler and a 5 mo old. She blogs about  daily activities, crafts and the fun foods they grow and eat. You can find out more about her here.

## Star Color Matching & Sensory Tub

Stars , space and rockets are a theme that has never really lost it’s luster at our house. My son who is 5 1/2 is not as keen on sensory tubs as he once was ( or so I thought) so I set this one up with a little reading and matching activity. If I was doing this for younger kids I would have a few rocket ships and a few cups for pouring and transferring and skip the matching activity completely. As it turned out I misjudged my son and you will see that even at 5 1/2 that simple is wonderful.It’s great for space themes, learning about shapes and even fine motor practice!

1. Gather your materials. For the sensory tub you will need dried black beans, bright star buttons and some tools like spoons and containers to dig and pour. For the matching activity I also used a chocolate box liner, some paper, scissors and marker.
2. Pour the beans and the buttons in. You could add sparkles but you will never be able to use the beans for another non sparkly tub again and cleaning it off the buttons if you want will be impossible. I like to re-use my sensory tub innards so we kept it simple.
3. If you want to make the matching container you can do it a few ways. For my son I wrote the words including light and dark blue and hot pink because we’ve been talking about different shades of colors. For pre readers simply use a marker in each color to write the word.
4. Other than setting up I just let him go. He read all the words to start.
5. Then got down to business sorting and matching. Don’t be surprised if they start counting while they sort. Everything is a competition at our house right now and so as he was sorting he was keeping me updated to which color was in the lead.
6. After he’d had enough he filled the extra squares with beans using his hands , then  grabbed a spoon, dumped the buttons out and and started carefully scooping the into the little squares one by one.
7. Then we got a big container and filled it  ( with the pot from our play kitchen) so his little sister could enjoy the stars too. She loves rolling it around and how loud it is when she does.

So even though I had a more directed activity ready I am thrilled he used it as a start but then directed the rest himself. I am just glad we had all the tools he needed.

## Paper Hearts – Crafts & Activities

I love my heart paper punch and my kids do too. It’s fun to make hearts for Valentine’s Day Crafts but you can also use them for math, write letters on them and play match.. the variations are endless. These three activities are just a few of the ways we have used punched out paper hearts lately.

### Shake Painted Valentine

I love painting in new ways and this was a great craft for my 19 month old who as you can see even helps me make a mess with a low mess activity like this. For another version of Valentine shake painting check out  Hands On As We Grow- older kids will dig how they did it for sure!

1. Gather your materials. You will need a plastic food container, some punched hearts( or cut out from construction paper), a piece of card stock, glue and paint of your choosing.
2. Punch out some hearts from construction paper.
3. Place them and paint in the food container. It’s easier to put the paint in first, they shake better that way. If you are nuts enough to hand your toddler the bottle of paint like I was be ready with a washcloth or my favorite- wipes.
4. Put the top on and shake.
5. Open and be amazed!
6. Fold the card stock and add glue .
7. Add hearts to glue and let dry. After seeing how cool the hearts looked someone else wanted in on the fun.

### Heart Patterns

Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to only be about arts and crafts, we love math and made this super easy patterning activity.

1. Gather your materials. You will need your paper hearts, a cookie sheet ( check out the dollar store), some double stick tape , a paper cup and a sheet of construction paper.
2. Start by taping the paper down on the cookie sheet and adding double stick tape to the hearts.
3. Make some simple patterns. I like to start simple then slip a harder one or two in before getting easier again. I want my son to feel successful but challenged.
4. Place the extra in a cup . I make sure there aren’t too many extra hearts but that there is more than the few he needs to finish the pattern.
5. Complete the patterns.

After we were done with this my daughter ( who is all about hearts right now)painted over it for a valentine for my husband. I love when we reuse tray table activities like that.

### Heart Color Match

This is another easy tray activity. Using a silicone pan I placed a different color paper heart in each and had the corresponding colors in a pile waiting to be matched up. This was too hard for my daughter at 19 months and my son would be bored to tears with it. It’s smack in the middle between their abilities so no pics of their participation but I still wanted to include the idea for the older toddlers and younger preschoolers who would love it.

### Heart of Hearts Collage

I made this last year over at my other blog Craftitivity Corner on FamilyEducation.com pop over to see the tutorial.