Thursday, June 28, 2007

Super Simple Collage Making

Making a collage is one of the best free form art techniques for artists of any age - preschoolers love it. The choices of items to collage with are limitless. We've used colorful bits of yarn and ribbon; snips of cloth or colored paper; rice and pasta in different shapes; grasses, leaves and small stones gathered from nature walks. We've torn pictures from magazines and newspapers, cut figures from greeting cards, sprinkled glitter and sequins and colored sand.

The trick is getting it all to stick on the paper and stay stuck!

That's where the secret comes in to play...
We use self-adhesive contac - type paper.
A good size square, taped sticky side up to the table works wonderfully.
(Tape it to keep it from sliding around and also to keep the child from picking the paper up and sticking it to itself - and if it's not taped down, the child surely will...)
The self-adhesive paper needs no drying time and will hold material that is heavier (like pasta) without a problem.

This is our collage of yesterday - using snips of foil ribbon, sequins and beads.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Try to Imagine...

On a day of suffocating heat across Connecticut, perhaps it help just a little bit to imagine ourselves into February?

Keeping Your Cool

Air conditioning can be a godsend in the humid summer heat, but not all of us are fortunate to have air conditioning in our homes and many of us who do have it have the smaller units that only cool one room.
Running an air conditioner is also a big drain on our resources,both energy and financial!
Depending on what part of the country you live in, many summer days may be hot but managable, without running the AC to cool things off, with just a few tips.
Maybe these tips that I've gathered might help....

1. Stay hydrated. Drink lots of water. Avoid soft drinks and caffeine, these will dehydrate you, as does alcohol

2. Dress for the season when inside your house. Wear shorts and a light shirt. Loose fitting clothes are cooler and more comfortable than tight fitting garments. Go barefoot or wear sandals. Natural fabrics are cooler than synthetics. At night, use light cotton sheets on your bed. Minimize indoor fabrics, as fabric increases interior humidity. This is good in the winter, but bad in the summer. People living without air conditioning should probably opt for no carpet on the floors; during the winter they can lay down area rugs, but roll them up and put them away during the summer.

3. In the summer, shade is your friend. Keep the sun's heat from hitting windows, doors, walls. Install window shades on the outside of your house; indoor curtains are not enough (although they will help). Once the sun hits the glass and window frame, the heat is conducted inside the house, even if you have indoor curtains, so shade them in addition to your curtains.
It is easy and inexpensive to make your own outdoor window shades One idea is to use mylar covered auto sun shades that are about 5' X 2'. They only cost a few dollars at local stores. Duct tape two or three of them together (depending on the size of the window) and hang them on the outside of the windows. Cover that with a white roll up shade, which is mostly for appearance. An inexpensive bamboo roll-up window shade works fine. One or more curtains inside will help, and choose white or another light color (sheets are do-able and cheap, more is better). Don't forget to shade the doors if you don't have a porch. Shade cloth is available and can be used over windows, although it costs more.

The best choice for your wall shade is vegetation. Although it takes many years to grow a tall tree, vines grow in just a few weeks. Morning glories provide plenty of shade plus flowers that are beautiful to look at. Try grape vines on your trellis -not only will you get shade, you?ll also get tasty grapes to eat.

If you have indoor thermal mass, such as concrete or brick floors, a masonry fireplace, etc., make sure it is shaded so it doesn't soak up heat during the day. (The opposite of what you want to do in the winter, of course.)

3. When keeping cool without any air conditioning, the basic rule is: keep the house closed up during the day when it is hot outside, and ventilate it in the evening and at night when it is cooler.
Natural ventilation maintains indoor temperatures close to outdoor temperatures and helps remove heat from your home. But only ventilate during the coolest parts of the day or night, and seal off your house from the hot sun and air during the hottest parts of the day.
The climate you live in determines the best ventilation strategy. In areas with cool nights and very hot days, let the night air in to cool your house. A well-insulated house will gain only 1°F (0.6°C) per hour if the outside temperature is 85° to 90°F (29° to 32°C). By the time the interior heats up, the outside air should be cooler and can be allowed indoors.
In climates with daytime breezes, open windows on the side from where the breeze is coming and on the opposite side of the house. Keep interior doors open to encourage whole-house ventilation. If your location lacks consistent breezes, create them by opening windows at the lowest and highest points in your house.
In hot, humid climates where temperature swings between day and night are small, ventilate when humidity is not excessive.

Ventilating your attic greatly reduces the amount of accumulated heat, which eventually works its way into the main part of your house. Ventilated attics are about 30°F (16°C) cooler than unventilated attics. Properly sized and placed louvers and roof vents help prevent moisture buildup and overheating in your attic.

4. Keep the air moving around inside. Use ceiling fans and rotating fans to create breezes in the house during the day and the night. Moving air can knock ten degrees off of the apparent temperature, so fans can add considerably to indoor comfort. They can also be used in conjunction with conventional air conditioning. With breezes inside, you can set the thermostat temperature higher than would be the case without the fans. Box fans are good for use in windows, but for other indoor uses, they are inefficient and usually noisy, rotary fans are better. Variable speed fans will help you get the right amount of air.

5. Insulation and weatherization help moderate indoor temperatures in the summer too. Minimizing leaks will help you keep your cool inside.

6. Minimize heat buildup inside the house.
Often-overlooked sources of interior heat gain are lights and household appliances, such as ovens, dishwashers, and dryers.
Because most of the energy that incandescent lamps use is given off as heat, use them only when necessary. Take advantage of daylight to illuminate your house. And consider switching to compact fluorescent lamps. These use about 75% less energy than incandescent lamps, and emit 90% less heat for the same amount of light.
Many household appliances generate a lot of heat. When possible, use them in the morning or late evening when you can better tolerate the extra heat. Consider cooking on an outside barbecue grill or use a microwave oven, which does not generate as much heat and uses less energy than a gas or electric range.
Washers, dryers, dishwashers, and water heaters also generate large amounts of heat and humidity. To gain the most benefit, seal off your laundry room and water heater from the rest of the house.
New, energy-efficient appliances generate less heat and use less energy. When it is time to purchase new appliances, make sure they are energy efficient. All refrigerators, dishwashers, and dryers display an EnergyGuide label indicating the annual estimated cost for operating the appliance or a standardized energy efficiency ratio. Also, many manufacturers participate in the voluntary EnergyStar labeling program. Use this label as a sign of energy-efficiency.Compare appliances and buy the most efficient models for your needs.

7. If the heat becomes oppressive, dowse your head, arms, and feet with cool water, or take a cool shower, or (my favorite) go outside and dowse yourself with a water hose. Keep a spray bottle of cool water handy, and give yourself a spritz of cool water every once in a while.

Monday, June 25, 2007

The House Fairy

I found my house-keeping hero about five years ago when I stumbled upon the home of the Fly Lady. I accepted her invitation to "come on in" and I've been visiting her daily every since. No More Living In CHAOS (Can't Have Anyone Over Syndrome)for me!
I suppose to be fair to myself, a part of the credit goes to Fly Lady and her system, but I've also grown old enough and wise enough to realize that a lot of what I regarded as some sort of character defect on my part (dishes in the sink? lint on the rug?)was really an insane attempt to keep order in the universe and a tremendously futile waste of my time.
I still like order, just not enough to obsess over it.
Love that Fly Lady!

This morning I was visiting her home page again. (My family is planning a possible move and I'm going to need some Fly Lady back-up for that one....)While I was there I found something new and I love this too - The House Fairy. The concept was intriguing, I went to her site to take a look - well worth the trip!
Check it out (check out Fly Lady too, if you haven't already)
I'm not affilliated with either of these sites in any way -
I truly am recommending them just because, for me anyway, It Works!

Friday, June 22, 2007

Five For Friday - Super Surfing for Kids

Played all the games? Told all the stories? Sang all the songs that you know? And the kids are starting to drive you (just a little) crazy?
Give them a turn on the computer with these fun, family safe links- some of them are even educational!(sshhhh)

National Geographic for Kids
I had a great time looking around this site from National Geographic magazine(fascinating article on polar bears....who knew....?) The pictures are fabulous, and there are games, activities, experiments and homework help. I loved it.

Seussville- The Wonderful Dr. Seuss!
Click and play games, print and play activities and the Seussville storymaker.

Marilee's Paper Doll Page
Lots of dolls to print and play, houses and furniture too.
I still love paper dolls! - The Science of Having Fun!
Here’s what they have to say about their great site:
Welcome to! is the best place on the Web to find things to do. Not just while you’re sitting at the computer, but anywhere. Things to do by yourself or with your friends, your parents, your pets, anyone. We’ll teach you a million and one ways to make things, explore the world, and discover skills you never knew you had. It’s one place where you’ll never be bored!

Games Kids Play
Hundreds of good old fashioned (non computer!) games and the rules for how to play them. The folks there say that the reason for their site is two-fold:
One- to let you remember some of those old games we used to play and to bring a smile to your face and Two- to try to catalog a fascinating piece of oral tradition and make sure none of these games are ever lost forever.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

"Strawberry Cake With All Good Cream"

We made our first strawberry shortcake together this week - Maya and her Grammy. It was the "strawberry cake with all good cream" that she has wanted ever since she saw it in the April issue of a family magazine.
Another four generation creation - Great Grammy and Great Grampy picked the strawberries for Maya, Grammy and Maya made the shortcake and Mommy, Grampy and Maya "ate it all up."
A summer treasure.

We have more projects planned for our strawberries.

Here is an easy recipe for Strawberry Jam - it's a good one because it makes a small batch - two or three jars of jam.

We will need:
4 cups of strawberries,
rinsed and hulled (stems removed)
3 cups of sugar

Crush and mash the strawberries (we use a potato masher )
Mix in the sugar and pour the mixture into a large heavy pan.
Bring it slowly to a boil and continue that slow boil for about 10 minutes. You'll see when the jam starts to "boil down" in the pan - there will be a space of 1/4" or so between the mark on the inside of the pan that the mixture made during the early "high boil" and the level where the jam is boiling now.
That's the time to start testing for the "jellying point"
Dip a metal spoon into the boiling jam, then tilt the spoon until the mixture runs off. Watch the spoon. When the jellying point is reached, the last drops off the spoon will run together and slide off like a jam snowflake. Let the jam cool and pour it into clean jelly jars. Seal and refrigerate.

To see more recipes using strawberries along with some art and craft projects and strawberry fun, please visit Grandmother Wren's Project Page.
While you're there, check out her Summer Pages too!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

June Craft Activities from Highlights Kids

Kids will love working on these fun, free craft projects from Each craft includes full step-by-step instructions.

Patriotic Treat Holder
This decoration is "tops" as a centerpiece for your July Fourth picnic table.

Color-Wheel Whirligig
Save up your plastic
"to-go" lids and make
a fun and colorful toy

Click Here to see more of this month's Craft Activities from Highlights Kids

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Shop for Groceries Online?

This ad came in an email late last week and caught my eye.
I haven't been to Amazon myself to do any price comparisons with local grocery stores, but with free shipping...
Amazon Grocery offers over 22,000 non-perishable items including some of your favorite brands, shipped to your door, just like any other purchase. We've also recently introduced the Subscribe and Save program which is a great way to save money on items you use routinely. You can sign up for routine convenient delivery of products such as coffee pods, shampoos, laundry detergent or diapers and receive a 15% discount off Amazon's already low prices and free shipping on these items. The 'Subscribe and Save' option sure sounds convenient - combine it with free shipping and 15% off? I'm heading that way for a look!
(I didn't even know Amazon had groceries for sale...
this is very handy for a busy grandmother!)

Monday, June 18, 2007

Graduation Time!

June is not only the month for honoring Dads and Granddads, it's also the time for celebrating the graduate!
On Sunday we attended a graduation party for my nephew who will be attending Boston University in the fall. We put together a College Survival Kit as our gift to him.
We included
*a sponge - to help him soak up all the knowledge floating his way
*a big puff of cotton - to help cushion his seat during those long hours of study at his desk
*a package of craft foam hand stickers - to remind him that he has many helping hands sticking by him while he's at school
*a roll of lifesavers - we don't want him to drown in all the information
*a small jigsaw puzzle in a box - to give him a place to keep all the pieces together and to remind him that he is an essential part of the puzzle
*a bag of marbles - to replace the few he's bound to lose during his freshman year
*a battery - to keep him going and going and going
*a safety pin - to remind him to be sharp and stay safe
*a toothpick - to prop his eyes open during a boring lecture (this is not to be used during lectures from his parents. During those, he must remain alert and attentive!)
*a guidebook to the city of Boston - so he can find where he's going
*a pre-paid transit card to get him there.

We had a lot of fun putting this kit together for Michael and he enjoyed receiving it. A survival kit can be created for any occasion - to see a page of more kits to make along with a long list of creative (but not expensive!) gift giving ideas, please visit my website for my page of Creative Gift Ideas.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Countdown to Father's Day

There's a little time left to craft a nice last minute gift for Dad -
or maybe you'll find something you'd like to make for next year!

Father's Day at Kindercrafts

Thursday, June 14, 2007

From Caterpillar to Butterfly

We've been walking to the duck pond often in the past few days-
we're trying to find them again-
the caterpillars we found last year.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Father's Day

Tomorrow Maya's daddy is coming to celebrate an early Father's Day with Maya.
Today we made a picture of "Maya's Garden" as a gift for him.
We used:
*construction paper - blue, green and white
*foam flower stickers (we happened to have some, we could have just as easily cut flowers from more construction paper)

First we made the butterfly by tracing around each of Maya's feet on the white paper. We made the leaves by tracing around her hands on the green paper. I got busy cutting out the hand/leaves while Maya began to color her butterfly. (We left the footprints uncut on the white paper for easier coloring) When she was done, we cut out each of the footprint/butterfly wings. We drew a caterpillar with back marker on the blue paper and glued the footprint/wings on either side. Then we glued the handprint/leaves onto the paper too. Maya peeled the paper from the foam flower shapes with tremendous determination (and if I was still teaching I would say she was honing her fine motor skills - blah,blah...blah,blah) She showed the same meticulous concern in placing each flower and each circle on the butterfly "just so".

We had fun doing this project. Maya is proud of her work and eager to show Daddy when he comes in the morning. I think her Daddy will treasure the garden of hands, heart and soles of his little girl.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The World of the Small

We saw a butterfly out in the yard yesterday afternoon.
We followed him and watched him and sat with him for a while as he rested, swaying on a blade of grass.

In this morning's email, I received my twice weekly newsletter from Robert Genn. This time the topic is the art of Miksang. Robert writes:
"The art of Miksang was begun as a meditational tool by Shambhala Buddhists, but it has implications for painters and other creative people. The idea is to find joy and awareness by attending to the minor and seemingly insignificant--the colours, patterns and textures that exist in the close-up world. Miksang is a Tibetan word that means "good eye." Shambhalas think widespread use might lead to more compassionate and enlightened societies."

"These days Buddhist instructors in several countries are handing digital cameras to kids. Children seem to take to it faster than adults, and, according to some, get better results.

"Please visit Robert's Page Here to read the full article and take a look at some of the intricate detail in the photographs.
"Miksang makes for pause, reflection and quiet centering. By increasing awareness one builds a feeling of wonder and kinship with the overlooked. "

Monday, June 11, 2007

"Booze Ooze"

When I first read the email, I thought "oh, dear - another one of those horrid fear monger tales..." We've all read them - hypodermic needles in gas pump handles, perfume samples that are really ether in disguise (I don't think it would be all that easy for assailants to find liquid ether these days...).

I wandered over to where I always go to check out the truth in these tales - Urban Legends page and well, there it was. With some exaggeration, this tale is true. And I'm afraid I'm as guilty as the next grandma of leaving the hand sanitizer sitting right on the sink next to the soap. I carry a small bottle in my purse for cleaning hands when we're away from home. I never even thought of it being a hazard to our children.

I would still recommend the hand gel for inclusion in every Grammy's arsenal against germs, but from now on, I'll keep it safely out of reach.

Please read the warnings here and put the Purell in a safe place!

Saturday, June 9, 2007

100 Field Trip Ideas - Simple, Inexpensive And Close To Home

By making field trips a part of your summer plans, you are giving your child the opportunity to learn first hand about the world around her – a hands on, real world exploration involving the whole child.
Use the suggestions below as a springboard for trips of your own, adapting the ideas to your neighborhood or region.

Most field trips for children will be more successful if let your destination know ahead of time when you’ll be visiting. I have found that a mailing a brief note works better than making a phone call –almost always someone "in charge" will get back to you and offer a time that is good for you to visit. Remember to bring your camera and a notebook to record your child's ideas and impressions while on your trip. You can add them to your project memory book when you return home.
Make it a safe trip and Have Fun!

1. Grocery Store – make it a "non –shopping" trip this time and spend time in different areas of the store : produce, fish, bakery
2. Pet Store
3. Garden Center
4. Sporting Goods Store
5. State and National Parks
6. Herb Farm
7. Apple Orchard
8. Dairy Farm
9. Library
10. Petting Zoo
11. Art Museum
12. Children’s Museum
13. Aquarium
14. Playgrounds
15. Indoor Playscapes
16. Home Improvement Center
17. Hardware Store – the smaller stores have owners that may be more willing to spend time talking with your child
18. Pharmacy – same here, try to avoid the big "chain’ pharmacies; try to find a small local drugstore if you can
19. Walking Trails
20. Police Station
21. Pizza Shop
22. Nature Centers
23. Video Arcade
24. Movie Theater
25. Nature Reserve
26. Radio Station
27. Ice Skating
28. Roller Skating
29. Swimming
30. Sledding
31. Theme Park
32. Dentist
33. Pumpkin Patch
34. Ice Cream Shop
35. Dairy Farm
36. Planetarium
37. Local Artist’s Studio
38. Ponds, Lakes, Rivers
39. Airport
40. Local Cable TV Station
41. Food Warehouse
42. Hospital
43. Health Club or Gym
44. Bakery
45. Ride a City Bus
46. Recycling Center
47. Veterinarian
48. Fishing
49. Christmas Tree Farm
50. Bank
51. Animal Shelter
52. Car Wash
53. Retirement Community
54. Flea Market
55. Town Hall
56. Post Office
57. Local College or University Campus
58. Strawberry Patch
59. School Bus Lot
60. Elementary School
61. Barber or Hairdresser
62. Bus Station
63. Train Station
64. Bridge
65. Laundromat
66. Road Construction Site
67. Building Site
68. Church
69. School Cafeteria
70. Duck Pond
71. Farmer’s Market
72. Vegetable Garden
73. Flower Garden
74. School or Community Concert
75. Senior Center - many have lunch programs that welcome guests – call ahead for reservations
76. Fishing Pier
77. Marina
78. Jeweler
79. Stable or Horse Farm
80. Office Supply Store
81. Craft Supply Store
82. Craft Consignment Shop
83. Optometrist
84. Nail Salon
85. Tractor/Farm Store
86. Garage/Auto Repair Shop
87. Parking Garage
88. Trucking Company
89. Food Warehouse
90. Computer Store
91. Dog Groomer
92. Cemetery
93. Neighborhood Unlike the one you live in
94. Ethnic Market
95. Garbage Truck
96. Take a Taxi
97. Or the Ferry
98. Row Boat
99. Paddle Boat
100. Your Own Backyard – day/night; wind/rain/sun; camping

Friday, June 8, 2007

Father's Day Crafts

It's time to get going on those Father's Day gifts!
This page of Father's Day craft ideas from Michael's has everything you need -
from preschool crafts to adult creations.

Thursday, June 7, 2007


Baby Frog: Mama, who is smarter- a chicken or a frog?
Mama Frog: We are of course!!
Baby Frog: How do you know?
Mama Frog: Well, who ever heard of Kentucky Fried Frog?

Now that you have your toad house, find out everything there is to know about frogs and toads at Frogland - are frog fun and games, frogs in the news, stupid frog jokes, caring for your pet frog or toad, frog coloring pages, even animated Frog TV that you can watch in a small pop-up window.
And yes...even though it's Frogland, there is plenty to see about toads -
just type "toads" in the search engine on the site and look at all the cool stuff you'll find!

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

A Home for Toad

Toad Village is located in a mossy corner of the yard, tucked into a nook beside the steps to Grampy's workshop in the backroom of the garage.

We spent a morning painting empty coffee cans in colors toads would like - two year old girls have an instinct for this sort of thing
We waited for the next day and the paint to be dry, then went outside to pick just the right spot for toads. We dug into the damp soil for an inch or so and lay the cans down on their sides. Then we filled in around them with the dirt and added a little inside to make the toads feel at home.
There were lots of leftover materials from our fairy house gathering expedition -we glued the pieces of bark, pine needles and cones, dried moss onto the cans using weather resistant glue. All that was left to make the village complete was the toad's pool.
An aluminum pan was stolen from the cupboard and sunk into the soil beside the houses. Rocks were added to the bottom of the pan to hold it in place and we poured in the water. Welcome Home, Toads!

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Highlights for Children

Great Ideas from the Highlights for Children June Newsletter

June Fun from Highlights Kids!

Monday, June 4, 2007


Thursday is Great Grandmother's birthday. "What kind of cake do you think Great Grammy would like?"
Maya's answer was quick and sure "a Sponge Bob cake!"
Maya is obsessed with Sponge Bob. She calls everyone Sponge Bob. We have to call her Sponge Bob. If we call her Maya, she corrects us. She is Sponge Bob.
We don't know why or where this passion for Sponge Bob developed. She's never seen the TV show. Leaving aside the question of quality children's programming, she's never seen it because she's too young, it's not appropriate for a two year old.
She's in love with the Sponge Bob image.

Our project for today - a Sponge Bob cake for Great Grandmother's birthday.
We walked to the corner store in a misting rain, looking for puddles and rocks to bring home along the way. We chose a cake mix and frosting and some candies that I hoped would somehow transform themselves into Sponge Bob facial features.
We baked the cake. Measuring and mixing and stirring and spilling - the cake was in the oven.
then waiting some more while the baked cake cooled.

It was time to create Sponge Bob. We tinted the frosting just the right shade of yellow and argued a bit about not picking fingers full of cake from the dish.
The frosting was on and we pronounced it good.
Next came candy eyes and more frosting tinting for the blue centers (Sponge Bob has blue eyes and Maya has an eye for detail) Licorice was bent in the fashion of a Sponge Bob nose and mouth.

I stepped back and watched for Maya's response. We could have gone to the supermarket and bought a Sponge Bob perfectly portrayed in cake. Was that what we should have done? Is she happy with her cake?

"We did it! We made Sponge Bob! We need a candle to blow."
Tired and proud, Maya helped to cover the cake with plastic wrap and watched me put it into the cupboard to bring to Great Grammy tomorrow.
She did not ask for a piece of cake.
Her cake is a gift for Great Grammy.
She will bring it to her house tomorrow.
Then we will eat the cake.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Jean Warren's June Calendar

In the world of early childhood education, Jean Warren is my hero.
I have many of her books and I visit her website - Preschool Express - often.
Jean creates wonderful calendars for preschool classrooms or for "home schooling" your little one.
Get a copy of her calendar page for June Here and then wander through the rest of her site for more great ideas.