Fortune Cookie Messages For Outnumbered Parents At Kite Festivals

These Are The Days We'll Remember...At The Laredo Kite Festival.  By Critters And Crayons.

At The Laredo Kite Festival

 

One of the festivals we absolutely love to attend each year in Laredo is the Kite Festival in March.

Today, we attended our fourth.

This means that we have attended since our children were in diapers, nursing, learning to crawl, learning to walk, learning to talk….all the way up to this year.

This year is the first year both children are past all of those milestones, but they can also both hold their own kites, fly their own kites, and be genuinely interested in holding and flying their own kites.  

They can do these things after getting just a little bit of help by Mom or Dad to catch the wind, of course.

I have to say, though, there is one truth that appears to be self-evident and inviolable.

If I had a fortune cookie message to foretell my future or offer sage advice about taking more than one child to any Kite Festival alone, it would read:

 

“Winds Favor The Wise Parent Who Is Not Outnumbered By Children Or Kites.”

 

Another possible fortune cookie message might bring a different perspective while delivering the same message:

 

“One Foolish Parent With Two Children At Kite Festival
 Will Be Entangled In The Strings Of Crashed Kites.”

 

Each year, we pile into the mini-van on a beautiful, but very hot day, with our newly selected kites.  We walk to the festival from our distant parking spots.  
 
We find a plot of land that is not completely marshy and that is not so packed with people that we might get one of our kites airborne.

 

But, the unspoken and unfair Law Of Wind Dynamics For Parents ALWAYS kicks in.

 

That law, in case you have not experienced it firsthand is:

 

“Your Child’s Kite Will Only Fly When Your Other Child’s Kite Crashes Into Some Unassuming Picnickers.”

 

And this Law is also supported by a couple of Theorums:

 

“The Vertical Height Of One Child’s Kite Is Directly Proportional To The Vertical Drop Of Your Other Child’s Kite.”

 

“If You Rescue One Child’s Kite By Gaining Wind Resistance By Running,

You Will Surely Run Through A Mudhole Where You Sink 3 Inches Before Kite Still Crashes Into Some Unassuming Picnickers.”

 

(Seriously, I cannot believe they didn’t move the first time.)

 

But, do you know what?

 

I’m certain we’ll be back, again, next year.

 

We may have muddy shoes and ankles, and some tangled kite string, and maybe even some occasionally frustrated children who haven’t completely grasped how to keep their kites in the air for longer than a few minutes, but, overall, we’re making some serious improvement.

 

Next year, we may be able to break that Law Of Wind Dynamics For Parents and its supporting Theorums.

 

Maybe, our Fortune Cookie Message, if we had a fortune cookie with a message about the Kite Festival, might read:

 

“Outnumbered Parent At Kite Festival Will See Two Kites In Air Simultaneously.”

 

or, maybe:

 

“You Will Not Trip On Tangled Kite Strings This Year.”

 

That would be cool.

 

But, maybe next year this fortune could really happen:

 

“You Will Remember To Wear Crappy Shoes To Places Where You Know You Will Run Through Mud.”

 

And, maybe, just maybe, some folks will get this fortune cookie message:

 

“Picnicker Who Moves After Kite Crashes Into Face Finishes Rest Of PB&J In Peace.”

 

But, I want to wish “Cheers” to all of the families out during the pretty Spring Days doing these kinds of activities.

 

There is humor in them, and sometimes, a little frustration.  
 
Yes.  Sometimes, you cave to the frustration after that Law Of Wind Dynamics For Parents kicks you in the teeth and ruins your shoes, again…when those imaginary fortune cookies foretold the future you should have predicted yourself.

 

For instance, I FINALLY cut the streamers completely off of one kite, and even sliced clean through the strings from the kite handle to regain the circulation to my legs after a near tourniquet had been formed by an errant kite with a very strong and determined child yanking on the other end.

 

I DID offer to pay the screaming child for the damage but she ran off to find her parents before I could give her any money.

 

(Um…..Really Sorry About That If It Belonged To Your Kid And You’re Reading This Now After Wondering Why Your Wailing Kid Brought Back A Kite Frame, But I Couldn’t Feel Anything Below My Ankle…..)

 

Seriously, though.

 

Days Like Today Are Never Boring. The Never-Boring Days Are The Real Memory-Makers.

 

THESE REALLY ARE THE DAYS WE ALL WILL REMEMBER.

 

HAVE YOU BEEN TO A KITE FESTIVAL?
 
STORIES!

 

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Making Molecules With Kids!

I woke up yesterday morning to quite a surprise.

Back in November, I posted THIS to The Critters And Crayons Facebook Page.

Santa was going to be bringing the kids a cool Molecule Building Kit.

He totally did.

But, the kids thought it was more like a set of tinker toys and they built car shapes, and crocodiles, flowers and other things out of the contents immediately.
 

BUT YESTERDAY Our daughter said,

I made the particles on the back of that box Santa brought us.

 

PARTICLES?

I promise I have never used the word “particle” with my child.  Where did she learn that word?

She says she learned it when Batman was talking about splitting up something called “Particles”.   Go figure.

She didn’t know what she had made, but it was a real joy to  RELEARN all of the molecules I hadn’t looked at since 11th grade Chemistry class!

Water Molecule (H20) From Critters And Crayons "Making Molecules With Kids!"

Water Molecule (H2O). Two Hydrogen Atoms Linked To One Oxygen Atom!

 

Our 6-year old was fascinated to learn that the water we drink and that comes flowing from our faucets looks like the model she’d made in its tiniest, tiniest building block form!

She had also formed the molecule below  without knowing exactly what she had made while following the diagrams on the back of the kit box…..

 

Hydrogen Peroxide Molecule From Critters And Crayons Post "Making Molecules With Kids!"

The Hydrogen Peroxide Molecule (H2O2).

 

I explained that the stuff we use to clean her ears and earrings looks just like the model she made if we were able to see it in its smallest form-  Lots and lots and lots of these make up what we use in that brown bottle!

WHOAH.

And, then we had fun looking up the rest that she had constructed so quietly in the play area….

 

Molecules From Critters And Crayons Post "Making Molecules With Kids!"

 

Can you guess what they all are?

Don’t worry.  I had to look them all up, too!

Top Left:   Diatomic Nitrogen Molecule (N2) 

Top Right:  Hydrogen Peroxide Molecule (H2O2)

Middle Left:  Diatomic Oxygen Molecule (O2)

Middle Right:  Water Molecule (H2O)

Lower Left:  Methane Molecule (CH4)

 

What I love about this molecule kit is that it invites kids to play and learn without even realizing it.

There is a lot to build upon from this very beginning point of building the molecules according to the diagrams and explaining what each of the molecules actually IS to a first grader.

We can keep these models up, or break them down again- but, as the years progress, we will be able to delve into more complex concepts like the differences between Diatomic Molecules, Ionic Bonds, Covalent Bonds, Organic Compounds, and other things I’m going to have to get smart on, all over again.

I found our kit at a local craft store, but you can find them online, too!

I am so glad I happened across this “Making Molecules” activity for kids.

 

The FloraCraft Molecule Kit

 

I need to remember to thank Santa next year for the awesome toy.  And, I think I may have him throw in a “Chemistry For Dummies” book for me, too.  :)

Speaking of Chemistry…..

 

I came across some amazing ideas centered on Chemistry and Molecules….

 

Hostess With The Mostess did a round-up of Clever & Creative Mad Scientist Party Ideas For Girls

Lightbulb Books Made Molecules Using Straws And Play Doh

High Hill Homeschool’s Marshmallow And Toothpick Molecules

Kids Activities Blog Atoms & Molecules:  10 Fun Ways To Learn!

 

So, do you remember anything from your 11th grade chemistry class?

 

Oh, Good.  I thought I was alone. 

 

HAPPY SCIENCE LEARNING!

 

 

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Teaching Kids About Culture With The Elf On A Shelf

We have a very Curious Elf On A Shelf.

 

Teaching Kids About Culture With The Elf On A Shelf

 

Time is scarce so our elf, is very thankfully, not too into mischief and messes.

He IS a very curious Elf, though.

Each morning, the kids find him on top of something that came from a different place in the world.

And, each evening, we sit down at the computer together and they excited ask questions about whatever it is that they found the Elf sitting on or in or under that morning.

We simply Google Away together.

And, each image or map or costume they see triggers another question and another search.

An example of what our curious Elf On The Shelf taught the kids this morning when they found him on the Mongolian String Instrument was that it was not simply a “HORSEY BANJO”, which is what they called it when they found Snowflower Flaky Sassypants sitting on top of the traditional horse-handle like a rocking horse.

It’s called a “MATOUQUIN“.

 

It is from MONGOLIA.

 

MONGOLIA is in ASIA.

 

 The MATOUQUIN is shaped like a TRAPEZOID.

 

 

The kids now know that Snowflower The Elf is NOT simply  sitting on a Horsey Banjo.

So far, we’ve explored Mexico, Afghanistan, and Mongolia alongside our very globally curious Elf On A Shelf.

I wonder where she’ll take us tomorrow?

 

HOW DOES THE ELF ON THE SHELF BEHAVE IN YOUR HOME?

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A Hopping Popping Christmas Literacy Event!

I hope you’ll come out to to see me and my friends at Laredo 8 HEB Plus for a super fun literacy event on November 30th!

I’ll be reading some old Christmas favorites and the kids are going to enjoy some fantastic stomping on the Bubble Wrapped Floor and Christmas Tree Painting With…..

 Bubble-Wrap, of course!

 

 

HEB Plus Critters And Crayons Literacy Event A Hopping Popping Christmas

 

 

SEE YOU THERE!

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Family Night No-Carve Jack-O-Lantern Bar

We chose not to carve pumpkins this year….

 

But, We Totally Turned Family Night

Into A No-Carve Jack-O-Lantern Bar!

 

family night jackolantern bar-1-4

 

We rolled out that awesome roll of butcher paper in the kitchen to get our Family Night Jack-O-Lantern Bar ready for action!

Then, we put the pumpkins and craft materials along the paper so we each had a workspace.

 

I didn’t want to waste anything in our first aid kit, so I used a leftover white crepe paper party streamer and googly eyes to make a mummy pumpkin!

 

family night jackolantern bar-3

Mommy’s Mummy Pumpkin!

 

Our pre-school son used the gold and white paint that was set out, the sponge brushes and googly eyes to make his Scary Vampire Jack-O-Lantern!

 

family night jackolantern bar-2-5

Our Son’s Scary Vampire Jack-O-Lantern!

 

My husband used the shiny stickers and googly eyes to make a Man-O-Lantern with a goatee!

 

family night jackolantern bar-4

Dad’s Man-O-Lantern!

 

And our fashion-loving first grader blinged her squash out!

 

family night jackolantern bar-5

Our Daughter’s Jeweled-Up Pumpkin!

 

You can see how we did it here!

 

family night jackolantern bar-2-4

We’ve never done this before, but the Jack-O-Lantern Bar Family Night was a big hit!

We love how the whole family looks in squash form, with everyone’s personality looking right back at us on those pumpkin faces!

 

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween!


DID YOU DECORATE FOR HALLOWEEN THIS YEAR?

 

HOW DID YOU MAKE YOUR JACK-O-LANTERNS?

 

 

 

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Crafting With A First Grade Fashionista

 

first grade fashionista

 

There was once a time when I could style my daughter.

I favored earthy, bohemian clothes for her:  autumnal layers in subdued colors, natural fibers, denim and vintage-looking outfits…

 

Those days are gone, gone, gone.

 

A couple of years ago, our little girl began to assert her independence and claim her own identity by rejecting outfits with a “Nah.  That’s not really my style.

She developed a very glitzy, blingy style. Loud, bright colors and shiny, sparkling accessories are what she loves.

If she can’t find what she’s looking for, she’ll just make what she wants.

She’s turned into our little First Grade Fashionista.

 

 

Here’s one of her style creations:  

 

A mermaid skirt

made of butcher block paper,

held up with gold ribbon,

and stamped

with bubble-wrap

dipped in metallic paint.

 

fashionista-1-2

 

Within the last year, we saw this love of fashion translate into some fun craft and dramatic play activities:

 

1)  DRESS-UP:   This provided a good reason to pass items like scarves, hats, purses and fashion jewelry down to our daughter to fill her dress-up basket.

 

2)  DRESS MOM UP:   Our daughter brings a stepping stool into my closet sometimes to pick out a dress she would like me to wear to her stuffed animal birthday celebrations in the play room.

 

3)  JEWELRY BEADING:  With pipe cleaners or rubber elastic cord (found at craft stores) and various beads, kids can easily make their own jewelry.   A good tip on this activity?  Use a small piece of tape to secure one end of the cord to a desk/table to help small hands focus on beading.  Even our son enjoys this activity and it opens opportunities to work on fine motor skills, counting and pattern-making.

 

4)  FASHION SKETCHING:  A sketch book and colored pencils are all that is required, really.  But, there are many sketch books with stencils available now for kids!

 

5)  3D PAPER FASHION DESIGN:  This activity rolls all of the above activities up into one very cool and creative craft activity!

 

This is our daughter’s newest Fashion Passion….

 

Our first grader borrowed the little mannequin I was using to hold necklaces because she wanted to create actual outfits she had sketched.

 

This is what I saw one day while in the shower.  

 

In the shower.

 

Yes.

 

That’s Right.

 

IN THE SHOWER.

 

fashionista 25

 

But when creative inspiration strikes, it is something to be encouraged!

Anytime.

Moms understand that “Anytime” really means At. Any. Time.

So, of course, she could totally use that jewelry mannequin!

 

Fashionista 26

 

The kids are surprisingly imaginative in the ways they use the scrap materials.

We actually keep all of ours in an an old Legos Container.

When I have leftover craft materials, I don’t throw them away.

They go into our daughter’s new Fashion Design container.

Maybe one day I’ll get my jewelry mannequin back.

 

fashionista-7

 

Until then, I’m happy to see it being put to even better use.

 

fashionista-12

 

WHAT PHASE IS YOUR CHILD IN?

 

WHAT ACTIVITIES HAVE THEY DREAMED UP?

 

 

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Good-Bye, Batman. Hello, Alligators & Crocodiles!

Good-bye Batman.

Hello, Alligators & Crocodiles.

 

Alligators, Crocodiles, And Gavials

 

I knew our son would pass through the Chronically-Caped Super Hero Pajama & Mask Phase one day.

 

Embracing The Cape & Cowboy Boots (Critters And Crayons)

 

 

I didn’t know that his obsession would transfer to all things Crocodilian in all their predatory, scaly, swampy, toothy glory.

 

crocodilians-2

That is CHUBIDO.

 

Our son named his new pet alligator.

You pronounce it “CHUB”  ”EE”  ”DOH”.

We’ve been doing a lot of Large Reptile learning around here lately, mostly because I don’t have any answers to our son’s constant questions.

Until Chubido joined our family after ordering him for a great price from The Jungle Store, our son could be found in random areas of the house doing this:

 

crocodilians-12

Yes.  He has seen audited episodes of Swamp People. The Fast Forward Button comes in very handy.

 

He started out in that orange sled on a hunt for alligators we bought at the Dollar Tree for $1 each.  

 

But, he has since changed his dramatic play scenarios.  

 

He is an Alligator RESCUER now.

 

I often walk into the play area to find that every one of our blue sheets, even those impossible-to-fold fitted sheets, are spread across the floor to form realistic blue “lakes”.

He throws every imaginable reptilian thing on top of that blue linen pond:

Turtle-shaped legos that snap together, a bubble wand shaped like an alligator, a poorly designed stegasaurus puppet, his turtle pillow pet, and those Dollar Tree Floaty Alligators.

Then, he spends hours navigating that imaginary swamp….rescuing his alligators, and feeding them, piling them on his sled-boat, and then tossing them back into the water to start all over again.

The only time I had to draw the line on this imaginary play was when he started lining that sled up to launch downstairs after an inflatable alligator had been set up by the grandfather clock.

I mean, that boat could have really messed up that grandfather clock.  :)

 

Oh!  And we cook alligators around here, too!

 

funny alligator cake

 

I KNOW that alligator cake looks like a deranged salamander.

 

Have I ever passed this off as a Food Blog?

I mean…credibly?

If you want to see how we did it, check out this post which links to the Princess And A Frog Cookbook with the cool recipe.

A couple of years ago, our alligator cake attempt came out a lot better!  :)

Louis The Alligator Critters And Crayons

 

We visited the Laredo Community College Lamar Bruni Vergara Environmental Science Center’s Alligators, of course!

They have several.  And, we’ll be heading down to Alabama this Summer to visit Alligator Alley, where 450 Alligators live on a cool farm there!  Wahoo!

It’s totally on our Summer Travel Route!

 

crocodilians-1-4

 

Our son’s favorite crocodilian is actually the lesser known Gavial.

 

It’s a large reptile, the only one of its kind, that lives in India and has a very long snout and tiny teeth.

 

Our son believes a Gavial would be the perfect pet because their snouts are too long and skinny to attack humans.

 

crocodilians-5

 

And our son begged for a GAVIAL MASK.

 

Those aren’t everywhere.  So, we made one.

 

All it took was a:

  • paper towel roll,
  • some scissors,
  • some glue,
  • a green marker
  • and some twine.

He cut the roll down the center and cut out the jagged teeth.

Then, he glued the two ends together where they would sit on our son’s nose so that the jaws stayed open.

We let our son color the mask green.

Then, my husband ran twine through holes on each side and tied them off around our son’s head.

That was it!

 

crocodilians-1-3

Did our son wear that mask everywhere for two days?

 

Um…did our son wear a cape for 2 years straight?

 

Our favorite and most educational activity has been

The Crocodilian Species Geography Activity.

 

crocodilians-11

 

To learn about the different types of crocodilians and where they live, we put a map up on a magnetic dry-erase board.

 

We all sat around the computer and clicked through the information found on this Crocodilian Species List.

 

Each species is linked so the kids can see information and images of each individual species!

There really are many surprising variations!

To get the activity ready, I found images of:

  • Crocodiles (showing upper and lower teeth),
  • Caimans (I used an image of a Dwarf Caiman with large eyes to help the kids distinguish better),
  • Alligators (with teeth showing pointing downward),
  • And the Gavial (with its long, skinny snout).

Each image was cut out and glued to a round magnet.

 

Using the link showing all Crocodilian Species above, we cut out 14 Crocodiles, 6 Caimans, 2 Alligators and 1 Gavial.

 

crocodilians-10

 

Then, we reviewed where all of the continents were and started placing the magnets where they belonged using the Species listing as a guide.

 

crocodilians-9

Some of the most interesting facts we all learned in this activity?

 

  • Caimans are actually a type of Alligator.
  • There is only one Gavial (also pronounced Gharial) and it lives in India.
  • Gavials only eat fish, but False Gharials are actually crocodiles who eat much more than that!
  • There are more species of Crocodile than there are Alligator or Gavial.
  • The State of Florida has Alligators AND Crocodiles!
  • The only other place you find an Alligator other than North America (not including Caimans) is China!
  • Central and South America have all the Caimans.
  • Our son’s favorite crocodilians, the Gavial and the False Gharial live in India and Indonesia, respectively.

crocodilians-8

 

Once we were done putting all of the magnets on the board, we used the remaining crocodile images to practice coloring and cutting skills.

 

crocodilians-7

crocodilians-6

One of the best aspects of being a parent is that we are personally invited into a child’s world every day on their quest to discover and learn.

It’s a world where every body of water, whether it’s a puddle following the rain or a ravine under a bridge, might be home to an alligator.

AND….As our son begins his journey toward crocodilian-knowledge domination, my husband and I have become used to fielding questions like these:

 

“Will an alligator eat you?”

Answer:  You Bet.

 

“Do Crocodiles have skulls?”

Answer:   A-Yup.

 

 “Can I be an Alligator Hunter When I Grow Up?”

Answer:  Hell To The No.

 

“Can We Have  A Gavial For A Pet Because They Won’t Eat You?”

Answer:  Eh?  If we ever move to India, we’ll think about it.

Well, Batman.

I’m sorry to see you go with all your capes and masks and batarangs.

It was fun with the utility belts, and the Batmobiles….but not the Nun-Chucks.  The nun-chucks can totally go.

(Side Note, Folks:  If you hate someone, give that person’s kid a set of Batman Nun-Chucks.  I can’t think of a sweeter revenge.)

Anyway, Batman.  I’m sorry, but it appears you have been replaced.

 

You just can’t compete with ‘Ol Chubido.

 

crocodilians-1

 

SO….WHAT PHASE IS YOUR CHILD IN OR PASSING THROUGH?

 

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The One Hundred Board In Our Montessori Kitchen Corner: The Opportunity Learner’s Series


The Hundred Board In Our Montessori Kitchen Corner

 

Back in April, I ran the introductory post for the Critters And Crayons Opportunity Learner’s Series and I broke down how we had structured our kitchen corner to host Montessori-Style learning materials for the kids to access at any time.

It’s been a busy, busy couple of months, but here is the first part of that series featuring The Hundred Board.

We purchased our Hundred Board via The Montessori Outlet.

But here is a great post by We Can Do All Things that teaches you how to make a Hundred Board  yourself!

 

Montessori Hundred Board

 

The picture above was taken several months ago in our kitchen.  Our son had taken out The Hundred Board and tiles after lunch.

When the kids take out an activity and work for awhile, but do not complete the activity, we will generally allow the board to stay “as is” on the kitchen floor or table so the kids can come back to their work (or play) when they want to.  This differs somewhat from what you’d find in a traditional Montessori environment.  The tiles and the board would be put away at the end of the activity.

(  If the activity is in the way, or is not attempted for a period of time, the children will put the activity away once they confirm they are not interested in pursuing it further.  Unless we are working on a specific lesson for our Summer studies, I do not force them to complete the full Hundred Board activity if it’s pulled out.)

They usually do!

You can see how we were using The Montessori Hundred Board tonight with our four year old pre-school son in this YouTube Video.

 

 

When you watch the video, you’ll see that there is room for some fun and humor as your kids use the board.

 

“What’s That?”

“Ten.”

“What’s That?”

“Ten-TEEN!”

Love.  That.

 

You might have noticed that the video shows our older daughter showing her brother how to look for number patterns.

 

One of the aspects I really enjoy watching in Montessori

environments is how

children assume leadership roles

when teaching the younger children

how to do tasks and use materials…  

 

There are many ways to use The Hundred Board in a Montessori classroom or homeschool environment, but we use it for very basic purposes right now as our son is beginning to grasp simple math concepts:

  • Number Recognition
  • Number Sequencing From 1-10 
  • Number Pattern Recognition (1, 11,21,31,41,51, etc…)
  • Counting By 10s (10,20,30,40,50, etc)

This means that we don’t fixate too much on whether or not he knows all the number names up to 100 just yet.

For instance, tonight, he emplaced all the tiles properly from 1-50 on the board before we finished up our “Summer Bridging” homework.

While his sister and I worked on word endings and high frequency words, he sat quietly matching tiles to the board looking for number patterns.

To not overwhelm him,

I only issued him 10 tiles at time

to work on properly sequencing one row of 10 at a time.

 

After he completed one row, say 11-20, I issued him the next 10 to match up.

If you’re a trained Montessori Guide, you’ll probably notice that I haven’t done the lesson exactly as you might find it done in a formal video of instruction where the tiles are slid up the proper column slowly and methodically.  :)

I give our son ten tiles out of order and he sorts through them to find the numbers he wants to fit into the patterns on the board.

There IS one thing that has stuck in my mind since speaking with a Montessori Director  that I find fascinating and try to remember when working with my kids.

It’s something that doesn’t come naturally to me.
It’s actually very hard for me to remember and implement.

 

A lot of the interaction between Montessori Guides

and children can seem to be…

very smooth,

very methodical,

very slow,

and at times,

even elegant. 

 

Our Montessori Director said that Montessori Guides move slowly so kids could see “clear snapshots”.    It makes so much sense.

 

If we are hurried when talking,

 

or teaching,

 

or listening….

 

something is going to be missed.

 

It’s not the easiest thing to do

 

or remember when doing anything “instructional”

 

as a parent, or otherwise.

 

Not at all.

 

The Hundred Board was one of our daughter’s favorite Montessori Materials in the home and I can see our son really enjoys it, too!

This photo was taken over a year ago in our play area….full of lots of conventional toys that she chose to by-pass to “play” with this educational material.

Isn’t Montessori cool?  :)

 

Montessori Hundred Board Critters and Crayons Opportunity Learners Series

For more articles about how to use the Hundred Board,

you can check out the following links!

 

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Lots Of Fun, Foamy, Flubbery, Sandy, Salty, Scented Doughs For Summer

Super Fun Doughs To Make At Home!  Bubble Dough, Sandy Wheat Dough, Scented No Cook Play Dough, & Foam Dough!

 

Critters And Crayons recently participated in the HEB & Pampers Little Texans Tour as it visited the Laredo HEBs.

 

Critters And Crayons Little Texans Tour

 

The kids and I had a great time meeting some of the fantastic families in Laredo who came out to chat and play with some of the items we brought with us!

At our booth, I set up a few items to show some of the topics you might find on The Critters And Crayons Blog.   There were some:

There are many other topics covered by Critters And Crayons, of course, and you can find those by clicking HERE.

 

There was a great turn-out and I am very thankful to all who took time to come and visit!

 

I promised to write a post about the materials we brought

with recipes, tips, and resources so everyone could do the same at home…

 

We made four different “Fun Doughs” for families to take home with them and they are all easy and cheap to make!

 

Fun Doughs Critters And Crayons-2

 

One of the best things about making these fun doughs at home is that it’s something that the kids can do with you!   The act of simply mixing the ingredients together is huge sensorial fun!

It CAN be messy, but there are some pretty easy ways that even the most mess-averse parents can totally beat the mess!

 

Kids Enjoy Making DIY Fun Doughs!

 

See that large floor covering underneath my kids while they play on my kitchen floor with four very different and potentially very messy Fun Doughs?

 

It is paper cut from a huge spool of butcher meat-packing paper I bought at a bulk warehouse a couple of years ago for around $17.   Duct tape it to the floor and let the kids have at it.  The paper is the boundary.  You’ll note that that I even lined the sidewalk with it in the photo above for the kids to play with the doughs I brought to The Little Texans Tour!

 

Kids Playing With Different Fun Doughs!

 

SO….AS PROMISED….HERE ARE THOSE GREAT FUN DOUGH RECIPES!!!

 

FUN DOUGH #1: 

FOAM DOUGH!

 

Foam Dough 1

 

I first saw this recipe for Foam Dough on Mom Trusted!    It’s super simple and uses just corn starch and shaving cream, of all things!   For the recipe, please go to the original source HERE!

 

Foam Dough 2

 

This dough is unbelievably silky and airy light!   It is even finer and lighter than the flour/baby oil cloud dough I’ve written so much about!

It was definitely our daughter’s favorite of the four different doughs we made for the HEB Little Texans Event!

Foam Dough is perfect for making little snow people…..

 

Foam Dough 3

 

And speaking of snow…. What’s incredibly awesome about foam dough is that there are recipes out there that turn this awesomeness into SNOW DOUGH.  Check out my friend over at Creative Playhouse who totally froze her recipe using the same two kitchen ingredients and it was perfect for cold sensory play!

 

FUN DOUGH #2:

SCENTED NO-COOK PLAY DOUGH

 

Scented No Cook Play Dough 1

 

There are a ton of homemade play dough recipes out there.    I’ve modified a pretty good no-cook recipe I used in Critters And Crayons’ post The 4-Day Sitter.   THIS simple recipe for play dough is on the E-How website.   The only difference is that when I make my version of the no-cook play dough recipe, I double the amount that the E-How recipe calls for which makes a lot of play dough to save for the kids.  You’ll find that you’ll make small adjustments here and there to get the consistency you want.

FOR EACH BATCH, I USE:

  • 3 Cups of Flour,

  • 1/3 Cup of Salt,

  • 2 TBSP Olive Oil,

  • 1 TBSP of Cream of Tartar,

  • and 5-7 Packets of Crystal Light (* Always use sugar-free flavor packets to avoid stickiness.)

I’ve done it by hand, but I totally use my mixer now!

 

 It’s much easier to start it all by hand in a large mixing bowl so that the flour and salt are moistened before putting it all into a mixer.  

*You can tell if the dough is too moist if it sticks to the dough hook.  If this happens, I make a small well in the center of the dough ball, add a tablespoon or two to the center, cover it over with the dough to prevent flour splatter, and then mix.   I adjust with a little more water, a touch of oil, or more flour until the dough reaches the right consistency.

*You can also tell if the dough is too dry if it separates too easily or is crumbly.  In this case, use the same process I describe above, only add a tbsp or two of water into a well in the center of the ball and cover it back over with some dough before starting the mixing process again.   Adjust as needed until the dough is a smooth consistency.  You may find that coarse salts will not dissolve well.  (Once I had to substitute Irish Grey Salt because that’s all I had left, and it didn’t dissolve as well as table salt- but it DID give a glittery sheen to the dough).

 

Scented No-Cook Play Dough 3

Scented no cook play dough 4

Scented No-Cook Play Dough 2

 

FUN DOUGH #3:

BUBBLE DOUGH!

 

Bubble Dough

 

We can also thank Creative Playhouse for this awesome recipe for Bubble Dough!!!

When I was looking for ideas to do with my kids, Kat suggested we try her Bubble Dough recipe, and THIS is our Son’s Fave of the Four Fun Doughs!

It uses just two kitchen ingredients:  Dish Soap and Corn Starch.   I had a bottle of Babyganics Dish Soap we weren’t using so in it went!

 

Bubble Dough 2

 

The amazing thing about Bubble Dough is that it really reminds me quite a bit of Oobleck.    It’s not quite as solid as oobleck can get, but Bubble Dough definitely shows properties of being both liquid and solid.   When you first mix it, it’s a gooey, rubbery ooze.   But, as it settles in the bin, it has a smooth, solid surface that you nearly break open in order to play with it.

 

Bubble Dough 3

 

Our daughter pretended her bubble dough was ice cream.  She smoothed this ice cream out, and then watched as it actually seemed to melt down like an actual ice cream.

That’s Bubble Dough.  It’s completely cool.

You  need to check out Kat’s new and improved Bubble Dough Recipe on her blog at Creative Playhouse.  I hear she’s getting ready to make something like this with Strawberry Hair Conditioner and Corn Starch Soon….

 

FUN DOUGH #4:

WHEAT-COCONUT SANDY MOON DOUGH!

 

Wheat Coconut Oil Moon Dough

 

After I wrote about the things every parent needs to watch out for when it comes to Cloud Dough, I came up with a new recipe that I and my kids actually prefer over the baby oil and refined white flour version!

Instead of white flour, we use wheat flour.  And, instead of baby oil, we use coconut oil.

 

For every 5 lbs of wheat flour, add 2 cups of coconut oil.  

Rub out all the clumps between your palms and work the oil into the flour.  The kids love to help with this part!

When you make a fist with the dough in your hand, it should form the shape of your fist without falling apart.  If it does fall apart, add a little more coconut oil.

And, if it’s too greasy, add more flour.  If you run out of wheat flour, you can always add a little white flour.

The coconut oil smells great!

 

Wheat Coconut Oil Moon Dough 2

 

TO STORE YOUR HOMEMADE FUN DOUGHS!

 

I recommend keeping any homemade fun doughs in air-tight bins.

I highly recommend using hobby scrapbook boxes since they are low and shallow, and also small enough to not contain an overwhelming amount of dough.

 

Scrapbook Box being used to hold colored sand to practice pre-writing skills. This is one of the materials found in The Critters And Crayons Montessori-Inspired Kitchen Corner. The Scrapbook Boxes are fantastic for storing all kinds of sensory doughs.

 

If you have more than one child, you could always give one square scrapbook bin to each child.

You can rotate different doughs through the scrapbook bins, especially if you are short on space.

They pack away neatly underneath shelves or beds for easy storage.  They stack neatly and look tidy.

Although cloud dough and homemade moon doughs where oil is used to moisten the dry ingredients do not have to be covered to be stored, I recommend it to keep dust, pests or other allergens out of the dough.

 

CLEAN-UP TIPS!

 

I am a huge fan of buying butcher paper in bulk!

You can use it to cover tables at parties and it always comes in handy for play dates and parties!

If you have a tarp, an inexpensive sheet or tablecloth that you have reserved for arts & crafts work, then I recommend laying that underneath your Fun Dough Play Area!

Or, you an always do what I do, and duct tape a few rows of butcher paper underneath your kids!

 

Butcher Paper to Protect Surfaces

 

All that Salty, Scenty, Sandy, Foamy, Bubbly Dough Crazy Fun-Having Left Me With This Awful, Horribly, Messy……..Mess?  :)

 

Butcher Paper Easy Clean-Up

 

Just a quick paper roll-up (which you can recycle once you remove the duct tape, by the way) and a sweep….the Kitchen Floor is fine, again.

To clean off doughed-up, powdered up feet-sies, I definitely recommend that you use a clean paintbrush or something bristly to work any clumps off little soles and toes!

The children should wipe their feet (if they can) with a wet wipe or wet cloth before running around on your carpets.

Again, I’ll refer to  my cautionary post about what can happen if you aren’t careful with the baby oil/flour cloud dough.

 

Fun Doughs To Make With Kids!

 

For More Creative & Fun Doughs,

Check Out These Awesome Ideas & Sites!

 

 

SO…..WHICH ONE ARE YOU GOING TO MAKE??? 

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Dad’s “ALL IN” When He Plays With The Kids…

We are a pretty “ALL IN” family.  We believe in working hard, learning hard, loving hard and playing hard.

Still, I always find myself laughing when I see DAD to KID play interactions that I wouldn’t have thought to have myself.
 
 

My hubby definitely knows how to take himself

right down to the kids’ level

when it comes to play

and it’s something that I like LOVE to see.

The Man is ALL IN when he plays with the kids.

 
 
For instance, we recently had a dinner conundrum.

About a year ago, I figured out that, on days when there was nothing redeemable in my freezer or pantry, that I could make something super fast and make it fun.

I somehow justified that the levity we’d all experience in playing with our food, might possibly cancel out the general unhealthiness of what was on the plate.

It’s a sort of “Go Big Or Go Home” mentality.

So dinner, in such instances, can be very precisely-shaped dinosaur nuggets, pretzels that form logs, ranch sauce to form lakes and some veggies (at least there are veggies, right?) steamed in the bag in the microwave that I’m hoping is BPA-free….

You can see how we formed our Dino-Dinner Habitats in this post:
 

BY ALL MEANS, PLAY WITH YOUR FOOD

 

 

So….Fast Forward a year and a half.

There I was with a freezer full of exactly one pack of frozen-through sausages and pretty much nothing else that might actually resemble a good, healthy dinner-  even if my pantry and fridge were in one of those “Chopped” baskets on the Food Network….
 
It would be a Dino-Dinner Habitat Kind Of Night.
 

The difference is that on THIS  night,

dad was home for it.

 
And, we found something out.

Dad knows how play with his dinner, too-   And he likes to teach young kids what REAL dramatic play is all about.

So, on THIS Dino-Dinner Habitat night, we had dino-habitats and lots and lots of realism.
 
I should have known what was in store when my husband said,
 

“Hey!  Do we have any Ketchup?!??!?!”

My Hubby Setting The Stage....

My Hubby Setting The Stage….

And, now the torch of realistic dramatic food play with color-and-texture-appropriate props has been passed down to his children for them to pass these same important lessons down to their children one day….

Dino-Dinner Habitat Critters And Crayons 2

 

My hubby’s awesome.

Kind of reminds of when my hubby taught my kids his best clean “Knock Knock” Joke.

It’s all good.

We went grocery shopping the next day.

Unsuspecting dino-nuggets should be spared any carnage for a little while, anyway.

But, this experience is one of many that seems to demonstrate something I love to watch.

When dad plays with the kids, he’s ALL IN.
 

I could write a lot more about how Dads

can be ALL IN when playing with their kids,  

but I think, in this case,

pictures are far more descriptive….

 

When Dads Play With Kids

Dad’s ALL IN when doing art with googly eyes….

When Dads Play With Kids 2

Dad’s ALL IN when sledding…..

When Dads Go All In Playing With Kids

Even when doing art with old make-up, he’s “ALL IN”….YES. That IS a grim reaper drawn with mascara and eyeliner. ha!


 
 

WATCHING DADS INTERACT WITH THE KIDS IS SOMETHING SPECIAL, ISN’T IT?

 
 
 

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