Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Hands on play

I often forget how much my kids enjoy play dough. I loved it when I was a kid. My mom used to make it and I loved playing with it while it was still warm from the stove. It is a great wintertime activity. We are hitting the cold of winter (it didn't get above freezing yesterday, sigh) so I have been looking for things to entertain the kids. And yesterday I remembered play dough. My mom lost her recipe once we grew out of that stage, but I was fortunate to be the recipient of a recipe for homemade play dough a couple of years ago. We have been happily using it ever since. I don't buy it any more, I just make it. It is cheap, it is easy, it is more malleable than the store bought stuff, you can make whatever color you want, and there is nothing in it that I would be afraid to ingest. My kids can spend the better part of a day playing with this stuff, so it is well worth the 5 to 10 minutes it takes to make a batch (that is without color, adding the color takes a bit longer, but you get an arm work out while you knead it in). Here is the recipe I use:

Play Dough

1 cup flour
1/2 cup salt
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 tablespoon oil
1 cup water

Mix all ingredients together. Heat on the stove (over medium heat) until it is "play dough" consistency. Stir constantly because it will thicken suddenly. Knead in food coloring when cool enough to handle.

So easy, and so much fun. I did see another recipe I want to try that uses kool-aid to color it. I'll let ya know how that goes!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Voting with kids

Our daily walk today took us to our local precinct to vote. Hubby stayed home from work so he could avoid the rush in what is expected to be a high turnout election. We prepared for the worst. We had snacks, and books, and toys for the kids. Yes, we could have taken turns going to the polls and staying with the kids, but Kiddo has been to every poll since his birth. I think the process is important enough that I always take the kids with me. It also opens a lot of conversational doors: what we are voting for, why we vote, why we chose to vote the way we did. I think I am a more informed voter because I expect to have to explain my position to a 5 year-old. I feel like I have to have some idea of what I am saying in order to make sure I am explaining it in a way he can understand. I tend to avoid political conversations in most circles, but not with my kids. They were both fascinated by the process and we did not need the provisions. We got in and out in no time. I think it took me longer to fill out the ballot than it did to do anything else. Tonight I hope to pop some popcorn and watch the returns trickle in. We'll see how much of that the kids are interested in.

A nice day at the park

In November it is very odd for me to say we had a nice day at the park. But yesterday's highs were in the 70's, so we took a walk to the park. The kids loved it, as usual. Kiddo wanted to use our five senses on everything. I have never had to listen to so much dirt before! Kutey conquered a new ladder on the equipment, just in time for winter and HOPEFULLY new equipment in the spring. Our park is a wreck. They have put metal plates in at least 7 places, one of which was a landing that actually fell through. The others are just exceptionally worn places. They have also closed a slide because it is cracked. Many of the other parks in my city have received updated equipment. Ours has not. Ours is one of the bigger parks in the city, and serves a large geographic area, but they have put replacing the equipment on the back burner while they build a new Environmental Learning Center. I am excited for the ELC, but I still want a usable park. I am afraid by spring we won't have one...

But for this warm spell in November, it served its purpose. We had fun, we got some much needed fresh air, and I think I can safely say it was the best part of the day for me.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Making manipulatives

For the past week or so, I have been spending much of my free time using scissors. I have been cutting out pumpkins to write sight words on. Then cutting them out again once I have put the contact paper on them. I had done just the sight words, but then Kiddo decided to use them to write stories. So he requested a few other words. I made those. Then I realized that I could make Kutey some cards that had the letters on them, since that is what we are working on right now with her. So back to the printing and cutting I went. I have been using this sheet, printed on orange paper, to make the cards. It works out pretty well. They are a pretty good size, though I did shrink the ones for the letters--Kutey has small hands. Kiddo has enjoyed using them. We are charting his recall of the sight words, getting some math skills in with our reading skills. Hubby suggested seasonal cards, turkeys next, then snowflakes or maybe bells then snowflakes, hearts, shamrocks, eggs, etc. I think he'll have to help with the cutting!