Cardboard Box Dream House

Big exciting projects are often really simple , this cardboard box dream house is a kids craft anyone can make, and best of all it will get played with after too! We have officially given up nap ( can you hear me crying? ) and my little man is not one for ” Just go upstairs and play sweetie.” He needs a plan and last Friday our plan included making this super cool cardboard dream house after he read books quietly in bed, and played with his trains in his room. Having a big fun project was a great treat to do after he had alone time , which is not at all his nature and taking us some time to get used to.

  1. Gather your materials. You will need a cardboard box, strong scissors, a marker, tape,  and crayons or markers and some toy people.
  2. Start by cutting the box into the shape you want. We made it into a house but you can make a castle, school, hospital…
  3. Next add whatever windows doors etc.. you want in marker . My son was not into this at all, he was like ” Make a few windows mom.”
  4. Color! He was MUCH more into this. I couldn’t get a good picture because he was coloring so quickly, and pressing so hard we broke every crayon we used. It was awesome!
  5. While they color ask them what furniture they want. If they are old enough have them make it themselves. For little guys I find if you make furniture you end up with better play than a plain box. It definitely sparked good imaginative play for us.
  6. Color the furniture .
  7. Cut out and add tape to the back. Stick the furniture to the walls.
  8. Play!

    Yes this guy is blogging. It's a common theme with our pretend play.

Books

A House for Hermit Crab by Eric Carle is a book I have owned for many years. It offers so many learning opportunities for young readers and doesn’t loose any of the entertainment in trying to hard to teach. The hermit crab feels drab and each month he asks different sea creatures to help decorate his shell . As the shell is getting more and more beautiful it’s also getting more and more snug and almost time for the hermit crab to leave it behind and find a bigger one.  The book teaches about sea creatures, months of the year and moving. More than moving it teaches about change . Change is  difficult for all of us but a little trickier for most preschoolers which makes this book so valuable .

How a House Is Built by Gail Gibbons. In this book  readers are taken from the architect’s desk to the day the family moves in with just the right amount of detail about all the intermediate steps. Each worker and what they contribute to building a house is explained briefly, from the laying of the foundation, the carpenters who frame the house and even the landscapers who lay the sod. If you have a little builder in your house they will love reading about the steps and many people who help build a house.

Eek! There’s A Mouse in the House by Wong Herbert Yee is a silly book with wonderful rhymes and engaging pictures. In other words it’s a great kids book. In it a mouse gets in the house and to fix it a little girl sends in larger and larger animals until all reason is thrown out the window and an elephant shows up.  My son while protesting me reading him a board book ( it’s for babies he said) couldn’t help but giggle at how silly this book was and was rhyming a long. I think this would make a wonderful book to read to a baby and toddler or preschooler pair, the rhythm of the book will delight a baby and toddlers on up will laugh and rhyme while you read it.

Pretend Play : Library

This was an impromptu activity, I didn’t plan it at all. I was finishing up a post for Parentella about school anxiety when my son decided that he had enough of Legos, and since it was pouring outside his beloved backyard was off limits too. I suggested we play library. By the time he was all set up my final proof read was done and we were playing.

  1. Gather your props. You will need LOTS of books, an old computer to be the check out , a cloth bag and” library” card . You could make a card as a craft before hand if you want or just use a old Starbucks card.
  2. Set up your library. Ours was set up on our family room couches. My son sorted the books by ones for big kids and ones for little kids. I couldn’t tell the difference but the fact that he initiated the sorting and classification was good enough for me. We popped my old laptop on the coffee table for check out.
  3. Next ask your librarian to help with book suggestions. This was eye opening for me he suggested some great books by title, this is a great way to get a sense of which books your child remembers and loves.
  4. Time to check out books. I had to pay a fine too. Isn’t it fun when you realize your kids is listening all.the.time.
  5. Next it’s story time!

Pretend play isn’t just fun, it’s an important component to early childhood education. It allows kids to practice social situations, learn by doing and develop storytelling skills as well. So grab some books and turn your living room into a library .

Milk Carton Fire Station

It’s no secret how much my son loves firetrucks and doing firetruck crafts. I won’t be shocked if I get a restraining order from the fire department in town for stalking, I am always driving by slowly to let my son see which trucks at at the station. Obsession is perhaps not a strong enough word. So during the bruhaha of becoming a big brother I have stockpiled some super fun ideas that I knew he’d be into and we could have some mama son time like before so there is some continuity in his life.

  1. Gather your materials. You will need some milk cartons, plain paper, double sided tape , red paint, some black and white paper , glue and scissors.
  2. Start by taping the cartons together. You can use hot glue as well but double stick tape is easier with eager helping hands.
  3. Cut doors in each carton.
  4. Cover with paper. We used butcher paper ( find it at Walmart under the title “craft paper” for cheap), There is probably an easier way of doing this but I wrapped it then re cut the door holes.
  5. We colored with crayons first just because we wanted to but decorate it how you see fit.
  6. Paint with red paint. If your child wants to they can draw windows , signs, etc with permanent marker first before painting it.
  7. While they paint ask them what number station they want it to be and make a sign with the white and black paper. If they are able to write have them do this after painting.
  8. Add glue for the sign.
  9. Add the sign.
  10. Let dry and play… or if you are my son play with it before it’s dry. I couldn’t stop him!

Books

Clifford The Firehouse Dog by Norman Birdwell is not my favorite book. Generally speaking character books never are. They are formulaic, lacking in originality and in general poor quality. This book is no exception, but I have still read it 400 times. My son loves it. He loves anything about firetrucks or firefighters , saw it at the library and grabbed it.  I would rather him enjoy an ok book than no book at all. I am just not personally a fan of this franchise. If your child is into this character or theme I would get this from the library, but I wouldn’t waste your money on it unless you can’t get your child to read anything else. There are much much better books surrounding this theme to choose from ( the two below are fantastic).

Firefighters: Speeding! Spraying! Saving! by Patricia Hubbell is a wonderful rhyming book all about the work firefighters do. After only reading it twice my son was rhyming along with the simple but well crafted text. I liked that there was a mix of male and female firefighters, that the text incorporates information about equipment as well as tasks the firefighters complete on a call. Perhaps my favorite thing about this book are the details in the illustrations by Viviana Garofoli, the soot on the faces of the rescued and firefighters, the unique angles used in the illustrations and the fun colors. Great book!

Firefighter Frank by Monica Wellington was a huge score at the library. My son and I both love this author/illustrator and have read many of her books , but this one has never been available, and I can see why. The author has a knack for sharing information with her readers in a fun, simple way that is perfect for preschoolers. This book is no exception to her other great books.  I particularly enjoy some of the vocabulary she uses in this book about Firefighter Frank, words like shrill, intense, and exhausted. They aren’t obscure words but they are not often seen in books geared to those as young as this one, and the context is supportive so that even a young child can help decipher the meaning of the words.  The book itself tells a simple( and common) story but between the author’s ability to tell the story better than other authors, and the bright and beautiful illustrations this books stands out from the firefighter crowd.

Speaking of fire trucks did you enter my

Constructive Playthings Toy Review and $50 gift certificate giveaway?

Learning About Money

Learning about money

Teaching children about money is not a one time thing. It will take years to instill all the lessons we want them to learn, my husband is a banker and you better believe that this is but the very tip of the iceberg but we will leave lessons about investing, interest rates and such for another year or 5 !  Today we focused on learning the names and denominations of the coins and dollar bills while playing bakery.

  1. Gather your materials. We are using a few props for our bakery, play cookies, an apron for our baker, a cake stand and place mat, a magna doodle, real money and a little change purse. Learning about money
  2. Start by setting your prices. I kept it simple so that we could focus on our lesson which was identifying the coins and amounts. If you wanted to focus on addition I would make the cookies cost amounts that would facilitate addition ( $1.25, 75cents etc..) but if your goal is the same as mine make them for exact coin amounts. I did make other cookies $2 but that was easy for him with the dollar bills.Learning about money
  3. Set up your bakery. I find that when I set up the pretend play props he plays more, but some children will want to be a part of this and by all means let them.Learning about money
  4. Take some time to go over the basics of the coins or a quick refresher.Learning about money
  5. Put the apron on and start playing.  Learning about money
  6. We didn’t use any amounts that required him giving me the customer  change but for a child who is more advanced with money than my 3 year old, that is an awesome math lesson. We did count out some pennies though. Learning about money
  7. For younger kids you can make is simpler like I did here almost a year ago .
  8. When you play pretend with your child let them go off on tangents and tell you about their “character” ask them questions , and play the part. I know for some parents this can be really silly but it helps , the kids get into the lesson and forget they are even learning.Learning about money

* A great follow up to this would be to go to your local bakery and continue this lesson buy buying a cookie, having your child find the right coins to do so and enjoying it together. Or make some fun Letter C cookies .

Books

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Joffe Numeroff is a contemporary classic, and if you have ever read it to a group of children you will know why. The story builds as one thing leads to the next when you give into the whims of a silly little mouse! This is a great book to recall and recount with your child, after reading have them retell you what happened by asking ” What happened next?” this is a really easy and important tool in early literacy!

Mmm, Cookies! by Robert Munsch is a loud and silly book, that preschoolers love! The text is perfect for a read aloud encouraging audience participation the way only Munsch can .  The main character loves to play jokes on everybody but doesn’t really understand that they aren’t funny until the joke is on him. This book gives parents a easy going way to talk about practical jokes and when they are and aren’t funny.

Mr. Cookie Baker was an instant hit at our house. The book is about who else, Mr. Cookie Baker and it shows the reader how he makes cookies from scratch, ices them and sells them. It’s a great book to explain baking and bakeries. My son loves the part where Mr. Cookie Baker eats a cookie after a long hard day and then says goodnight. I like the illustrations, they are bold and detailed without being cluttered and can almost tell the story all by themselves. Be warned though reading this will almost definitely make you crave a cookie or two.

Pretend Play- During Dinner!

Pretend Play

My husband commutes into the city everyday and we are left with little family time during the week. So to fit some family fun in we decided to turn dinner time into play time ! My son and I planned the meal, the menu and even met my husband at the door “in character”.  It was a blast! Pretend play is a major part of preschooler’s play and there are ample opportunities to learn or simply connect with your kids within pretend play.

  1. Gather your materials.  Grab some paper and a marker to make a menu and get your food cooking! A you can see our menu was kind of spendy! Let your child set the prices. Pretend Play
  2. Make some table settings that are appropriate for the restaurant you are pretending to be, for us it was a local fish and chips shop so we gathered up some ketchup, tartar sauce and set the table with the obligatory water.  We rolled our silverware in paper towels and taped it with some paper.  Pretend PlayPretend Play
  3. We prepared the bread and butter. Pretend Play
  4. Met our customer at the door… that sign is sitting on our Recycled Music Stand we made a while back. Pretend Play
  5. Took his order Pretend Play
  6. Then I took his order- hey there are no rules to pretend play the waiter eats with the customers at our restaurant. Pretend Play
  7. Enjoyed some appetizers and ate our food.
  8. Then presented him with our bill.  If you have older siblings this would be a fun part to practice addition, explain taxes etc… Pretend Play

Remember to have fun even if the only time you have to do it is dinner time on a busy weekday!