Down Home

Shape Banjo

There is a guitar store in our local mall and all I have to do to keep my son happy is to tell him that we are going to make a trip to see the guitars and banjos and he is calm ( for the most part). The last banjo was recently sold and he was crushed, he still shows me where it hung in the store saying “No more banjo, someone took it” so to appease his loss we made one. This was so similar to the guitar we made a while back , I decided to make this one out of shapes to vary it.

  1. Gather your materials. You will need some construction paper, a cereal box, a marker, glue , scissors, tape, and 2 pipe cleaners.
  2. Start by drawing the following shapes on your construction paper. We used all different colors but there is no reason to follow our lead, do whatever you wish! A large circle, a rectangle, a square, 4 small triangles, and a smaller circle ( not pictured)
  3. Now trace the shapes on your cardboard , we did this because we wanted a sturdy banjo for him to play with. If you are just making one to display you could simply glue it on paper and not worry about tracing and shape matching.
  4. Add your glue
  5. Start adding the shape pieces
  6. Keep going!
  7. Let dry
  8. When the banjo is dry, cut out.
  9. Poke two holes in the neck, two in the circle
  10. Thread your pipe cleaner through both, bend it towards the back and tape down.
  11. Voila!


“Ben’s Trumpet” by Rachel Isadora is a simple but profound book about one little boy’s dreams. Ben loves jazz, his favorite is the trumpet and he spends much time alone playing his imaginary trumpet and listening at the door of a local jazz club. When other kids make fun of his imaginary trumpet he stops playing, that is until the trumpeter himself steps in. I like this book and as a mom of a little boy who plays an imaginary trumpet often I love that it gave him something to relate to and confirm that dreaming and imagining is good for the soul.

“Zin Zin Zin ! A Violin” by Lloyd Moss is a big hit at our house and if you have a child into music or musical instruments this is a great book. You count the instruments as they come on stage for a performance and not only is this a great counting book, but it introduced musical instruments in it’s rhyming text and super fun pictures. I am biased though my little man is really really into instruments and loves this book. The day we bought it I had to sit in the back with him on the way home from the bookstore because he couldn’t wait to read it .

“Max Found Two Sticks” by Brian Pinkney is a great book for any kid that likes to drums or stick, or drum sticks. So that pretty much means all kids. Max isn’t a talker but he can express all sorts of things by thumping and banging the sticks he finds on different things. I like how he imitates the changing sounds in his environment and my son loved the marching band . Great tool for teaching about sounds, music and self expression.

Learning Outside

hose it down

My son is a little obsessed with the hose. Maybe it’s that he loves firetrucks, or that he sees his dad using it or maybe it’s just because kids are attracted to water like bees to honey! This game got created because my son refused a nap. It was hot, I was cranky so we went outside. I didn’t stay cranky long, we had a blast. Learning outside is the best!

  1. Gather your materials. You will need a garden hose ( or squirt bottles) , some sidewalk chalk and a future sharp shooter to play. Don’t forget your sunscreen either!
  2. Start by Drawing letters on your fence ( or patio) I asked my son which letters he wanted .
  3. Hand then the hose and call out the letters.
  4. Spray!!
  5. After the letters we moved to another piece of fence and did shapes!
  6. Spray!!

The sky is really the limit, you can use numbers, sight words for older kids, colors for younger… have fun !

Shape Painting

Tape Shapes

Ever have an idea that works great in your head but by George it just doesn’t work when your hands are making it? Well I knew I wanted to make a shape picture using blue painters tape but it was ripping all my paper. I am not one to give up when I want something. The answer was foam! I love how this eventually turned out. The picture looks blurry but it’s the way the markers blended together- the edges are sharp.

  1. Gather your materials. You will need a sheet of foam, some markers, and painters tape. I also used a scrap piece of construction paper ( it had stuff on the other side) and let the tape spill onto it. It gave a nice buffer for the markers when it came time to color.
  2. Start by applying your tape on the foam. I did the application with my son generally pointing where he thought it should go, so he was involved but I could make sure to make shapes.
  3. Color over it all, no need to be careful. We used lots of different colors, you do want to make sure the edges of the shapes are colored. I just kept handing my son new colors and it kept him coloring until they were all full.
  4. Say some magic words and do jazz hands.
  5. Peel the tape off!
  6. Viola magic shapes appear! My so loved this and after figuring out what materials to use it was so so easy.


“Mouse Shapes” by Ellen Stoll Walsh is a cute book that not only helps teach shapes it is also entertaining! The three crafty mice use the shapes to protect themselves from one hungry cat finally using them to make scary mice to frighten the cat away! Kids love to help find which shapes are used in the illustrations and older ones can even anticipate what the mice will make next!

Snake Craft

My son has been laying on his belly and slithering here and there for days so I figured we should channel that energy and throw in a lesson as well. So this activity makes something for my son to push along the floor as well as reinforcing shapes. He was also so excited to use our new paint roller, it’s amazing how something as small as a new paint brush can make art time new again.

  1. Gather your materials. You will need a paper grocery bag or large piece of paper, paint, a brush or roller, 2 googly eyes, some different color foam , a plate for paint, scissors and glue.
  2. Cut open the bag so it’s a one long piece and draw a snake. I taped it right to the table.
  3. Start by choosing your paint colors, I was itching for my son to pick something bright but he chose brown and orange- and I am so happy he did I think it looks great. Pour both colors into a plate.
  4. Start painting.
  5. While your child is painting ( or before you start if that works better for you) ask your child what shapes they want to put on the snake, or decide yourself if they are too young. Cut large pieces for little guys that are still mouthing things. We don’t want anyone to choke!
  6. Time to glue the pieces on! I put the glue on in dots all along the snake.
  7. Cover each glue dot with a shape. Older children should be doing a pattern !
  8. While they are adding the shapes, cut out a tongue from red foam.
  9. Add the eyes and tongue.
  10. Let dry and cut out!

” Hide and Snake” by Keith Baker is a fantastic book for a wide range of ages. The story follows a snake that hides in multi colored places. It is not too easy to find the snake , but easy enough that this won’t frustrate your child. With older children this book can open a dialog about camouflage and how snakes use it for protection and hunting. Younger children love books likes these because they can stay “busy” while you read the fun rhyming text.

“A Snake Is Totally Tail”by Judi Barrett is a great book for teaching about animals. It doesn’t go into great depth for each animal instead if focuses on the one most obvious attribute of them all. What I love is that for toddlers they are able to see that easily in the pictures as you read the story. It seems simple and sorta average at first but sit down with a child, read it and it’s simple genius is blatantly apparent!
“The Sea Serpent and Me” by Dashka Slater is a sweet dreamy book. A little girl finds a sea serpent in her bath tub and they become friends all the while knowing he belongs in the sea. She promises to take him back but they keep finding reasons to wait. When they do finally go and he returns to the sea you can’t help but get a little lump in your throat remembering all those times you have had to say goodbye even though you didn’t really want to. The illustrations by Catia Chien make the whole book feel like a dream.


Garbage Day !

Shape Garbage Truck

These simple shape activities have been a favorite of my son for a while now, so it was only fitting to match it up with his other favorite thing- a garbage truck. I don’t know about your child but my son is nuts about these wonders of public sanitation. Luckily if we sleep in on garbage day there are hundreds of garbage truck videos on youtube. Did you know that garbage trucks in Japan play music, I know because I have seen them on youtube, many many times!

  1. Gather your materials. You will need some plain construction paper or cardboard ( such as a cereal box) , some green markers or paint, some black and brown construction paper, scissors and glue.
  2. Draw one large square, one small square and an obtuse triangle on your cardboard.
  3. Have your child color or paint the shapes green, point out the shapes and label them for your child. We used markers because we were taking a break from paint eating .. *Side note – all parents get frustrated with their kids at times, if you know your patience isn’t at your all time best, or even good take steps to make the craft or lesson less stressful for everyone involved. My son really wanted to make this before his dad got home so instead of getting frustrated at the paint eating, I offered him markers. It worked well for everyone and we had a peaceful time making the garbage truck.
  4. While they are coloring the shapes, cut out 3 large circles from the black paper.
  5. Cut out the truck shapes
  6. Grab the brown piece of construction paper and the glue!
  7. Add the large square, small one and triangle, so the triangle is only touching at the top.
  8. The glue for the wheels- you can add the glue as a guide for your child.
  9. Pop the wheels on and let dry.


Trashy Town by Andrea Zimmerman and David Clemesha is my favorite garbage truck book , and yes I have read a lot. Mr. Gilly is a hard working garbage man with one task, to clean up Trashy town. The text is so melodic I find myself singing while reading ” Dump it in, Smash it down, drive around the trashy town” . It’s not all trashy time for Mr. Gilly though, after a hard days work cleaning up Trashy town he gets into his bubble bath ! My son loves that this big garbage collector has a bath just like him. Super sweet and colorful book that explains garbage collection is a nice way.

” I Stink” by Kate and Jim McMullen was the bain of my existence in my Pre-K class, the kids loved this book and I really liked most of it, but there are some gross things in it like puppy poo, dirty diapers and kitty litter but we put all those things in the garbage so they are totally appropriate. Just know that they will also get a group of 4 and 5 year olds giggling and repeating the words for days on end. Overall though the book is effective and I own a well read copy. The garbage truck is sarcastic and rough, and the alphabet of garbage is creative.

“I Am A Garbage Truck” by Ace Landers is my son’s favorite toy right now, he kisses it good night and it’s the first thing he asks for when he gets up in the morning. The book itself is okay, the story is a little disjointed, when my husband read it to him for the first time he looked over at me in my son’s bed and said ” Am I reading this the right way? It seems like I should have started from the last page?” my son didn’t care, he loves the illustrations and the way the book is in the shape of a garbage truck. I like that it covers both garbage and recycling!