Upcycled Mat Roadway

I love making things with items that would otherwise end up thrown away and with Earth Day coming up now is as good a time as any to reuse things for fun!  This isn’t the first roadway we’ve made, we made this one ages ago and it’s still played with daily . If your child wants design and to make it go for it, my son decided he’d “Be the boss.” Which I am sure was a great change from being a kid and he still felt ownership and pride while playing with it knowing he was the designer. He’s already deemed this to be only for big kids and he is right – the tape used on this craft is not safe for babies or toddlers . If you are making this for a toddler I’d do this toddler friendly one instead.

  1. Gather your materials. You will need a green kitchen or door mat, black duck tape, additional colors of tape of your choice, permanent markers and  scissors.
  2. Start by making a plain black road. I wrapped the tape all the way to the underside to prevent it peeling up.
  3. Now add the yellow lane markers.
  4. Time to talk about what sort of buildings to make. A fire station was not surprisingly my son’s first choice.
  5. Next up a police station.
  6. He couldn’t wait to get his vehicles on !
  7. A super market complete with parking lot was next.
  8. Here he is deciding where we should put houses.
  9. We also added a school, and a pond with fish.
  10. It was an immediate hit!

In The Town All Year Round (a perfect book match for this activity).

In the Town All Year ‘Round by Rotraut Susanne Berner is amazing.It’s premise are the comings and goings of a town in all four seasons. There is limited text, which serves only to steer readers to look for specific people in the highly detailed illustrations. Each season has multiple pages and the people remain constant throughout the seasons. So you see inside an apartment building , the town square, the park, railroad station etc… in every season. You see the changes in town, the progression and of course the distinct weather in each section. The pictures also progress within the seasons, so a fire truck with a flashing light can be seen on every page in one season with the last page showing it getting to the fire . I can’t possibly explain the amazing detail and sheer number of things to find, make up stories about and spark your child’s imagination in this book. My son adores it. After renewing it multiple times from our library I bought it as his 2010 Valentine’s gift. It goes everywhere with us, perfect for long drives , waits in the Ob’s waiting room and plain old playtime he picks it up every day and finds something new.

What I really love is that because there is no text but still multiple story lines it’s helped my son to understand that literacy isn’t just about words, it about explaining what’s going on, and reading the pictures too. The absence of text has allowed me to really show him that . Now he has started grabbing books with text and telling me he’d read me the pictures, which boosts both his confidence and his enjoyment of independent reading.

Edited for 2011: My son is still crazy over this book. When I am desperate for him to chill out so I can get my daughter down for a nap nothing keeps him occupied ( and quiet) like this book. It’s magic!


DIY Geoboard

by Kim

My son had these in his preschool class. I thought they were really neat and wanted to have one at home. Have you seen the prices of these? I know they are worth it, but if I can make one inexpensively…why not?

All you need are colored rubber bands, black paint (helps the rubber bands show up better), ruler, rounded tip nails, hammer, and a wood plaque. You can use any piece of wood, but the store bought plaques are already have smooth routed edges.

I bought the rubber bands, plaque, and nails at Walmart and spent only $5.50. Your prices may vary, but it should be close. Here are the exact nails I bought. I had a hard time finding adequate ones at the home improvement store.

I had my son paint the plaque black with a small roller. This provides a nice even coat with quick drying time.

While he was painting I marked the nails with a red marker. This way I could keep the height of the nails even. I just lined a bunch up and made one mark across then at once. It was very easy.

Once the paint dried I made a grid on the board of 1 inch squares. [When I make another one I will make 1.5 inch squares, to give a little more space.]

Then I hammered the nails until the red line was in the wood. This is what it looked like all done.

It looks a like a medieval torture device, but it isn’t sharp at all. It could still hurt someone if not properly supervised, though.

This is definitely for preschoolers and not toddlers. I would suggest supervising, at least the first few times it is played with.

My son had a great time with it. He was so excited and recognized this from his classroom. What a great way to practice fine motor skills and experiment with shapes.

We plan on making a few more for friends. They were such a hit.

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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.

Shell Picture Frame

One of the best parts of creating with your child is the time you spend together. Parent and tot projects like this Beach Shell Picture Frame  are a special time to not only work together on something but also to practice taking turns something that can never be done too much . Ironically I did this without my son, he was at summer camp all week hopefully practicing taking turns with other kids, and exhausted when he got home. I will be doing this with him when we get back from our beach getaway next week though!

  1. Gather your materials. You will need some cardboard ( 2x as large as you want the frame to be) , a large magnet , crayons, shells, hot glue gun and glue, scissors , tape and a picture.
  2. Start by cutting your cardboard in half, then cutting an opening in one piece for the frame.
  3. Tape your picture ( I trimmed mine) on the other half  of the cardboard. Trim the cardboard so that it’s no larger than the frame piece , you don’t want it peeking out from underneath.
  4. Have your child decorate the frame with crayons.
  5. Heat up the glue gun. When I do crafts that require the glue gun but I want my son’s input of where to place things like these shells I will ask him before I add the glue where I should add it and what I should put on it. At the very least have them choose the shells to add.
  6. Glue the shells on.
  7. Glue the magnet on the back of the piece with the picture.
  8. Glue the two pieces together and let cool.

More Shell Activities

Shell Sorting

Beach Sensory Tub

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?