Screen Time and Free Time

Screen Time
It is probably inevitable that in this day and age, our children are going to spend some time each day in front of a “screen”-computer or t.v. If you paid attention to my summer schedule you probably noticed that the Ant Bug has screen time every afternoon. The Ant Bugs screen time gives me one-on-one time with the Sweet Bee to get her ready for a nap, and gives me a little time to myself (I confess, I usually take a 10 minute power nap then).

Here are the sites that she most frequently visits. Where children have fun learning to read!
This is my number one recommended site. There are four levels: Starfall ABCs, Learn to Read, Fun to Read, I’m Reading. Everything is presented in a fun, interactive manner. The Ant Bug started using this site when she was 2 years old and she hasn’t tired of it yet. I can’t say enough good about it, so just go check it out.

PBS Kids: Curius George, Super Why, Sesame Street–all the favorites

NickJr.: Dora, Diego, Blue, etc.

Sesame Street

Storyline Online: Actors read childrens books aloud

Spell with flickr: Have fun with letters doing things like this

KMcElman_090514_A2 letter B letter C

Bembo’s Zoo: This is just really cool

And two sites where you can make art without a mess:

Leave a note in the comments if you have a great site for children to share!

Free Time
As you plan out your summer, I just wanted to make you aware of a few great “freebies”.
Mars Real Chocolate Relief Act: Get free chocolate every Friday this summer (limit of 4 per household–I’ve already received one coupon in the mail)

National Park Fee-Free Weekends: There are 3 fee-free weekends at many National Parks this summer. Check this list for a park you might like to visit.

Don’t forget to check out your local library! Most libraries offer some kind of summer reading program with prizes and activities. Check the calendar for free events. Last week we went to a Music Together class and this week we went to a juggler show. Lots of variety and lots of fun!

For more ideas for cheap summer fun visit Being Frugal is Fabulous.

4 Activities for Kids

Here are a few fun activities to try on a long summer day!

Rainbow in a Bag (from More Mom Time)

Mix the following in a pot on stove:
1 cup cornstarch
1/3-cup sugar
4 cups cold water

Heat, stirring constantly. Once it starts to thicken – remove from heat.
Divide between as many bowls as you have colors (food coloring). Add some food coloring to each bowl and mix. Primary colors are great!
When it has cooled, scoop some of 2 or more of your goop into a ziploc bag. Seal the bag and enjoy squishing and squeezing to blend the colors.
And if squishing the bag isn’t enough, my girls had a blast mixing up all of the leftovers in the bowls. Messy, but fun!

Watercolor Initials (from Blissful Kids)

Contact paper

Draw and cut-out your child’s initial from the contact paper. Stick the initial onto the paper. Make sure you give the contact paper a good rub so the colors won’t seep underneath it during painting.
Let your little artist go to work painting the entire paper. When finished, let your painting dry, then peel off the contact paper.

Cutting Practice

We printed off these cute paper dolls and the Ant Bug had a fun afternoon cutting them all out. She didn’t really play with them much after she was all done, but it was worth it for the cutting practice!

Sensory Activity: Dig and Find (from No Time for Flashcards)

Your choice of rice, dried beans, unpopped popcorn, oats, etc.-we went with rice.
Small toys or items to find-we used plastic letters and animals
Storing and scooping supplies-plastic containers, spoons, measuring cups, etc.
I loaded up two large containers with rice, hid a few toys inside, and let the girls go at it. Finding the toys was pretty easy, but they really enjoyed scooping and pouring the rice and transferring it between containers.

It got even more fun once the feet were included!

Try not to stress out about the rice all over your floor! Sensory activities are messy, but they are so important for this age. That look of happiness makes it all worth it!

A Book, a Song, and a Craft

A book, a song, and a craft. That is my recipe for a great “school-time” session with my children. The Ant Bug loves to do arts and crafts but it can be difficult to come up with something to do everyday.


Thankfully, No Time for Flashcards has been a life saver and it has now made the list of my daily must-read blogs. Allie is an experienced childhood educator and she posts daily activities for young children that promote play, discovery, and learning. Most of her projects are relatively simple and can be tailored to meet the interests and abilities of many children. She always includes a few book suggestions that correspond with the project, and she quite often includes a song (with a video clip so you can learn the tune). The two new favorites we’ve added to our musical repertoire are A Slippery Fish and Fried Ham.

Alligator A

One thing I really appreciate about the site is that the majority of her projects require only the basic art supplies I am likely to have in my cupboard (construction paper, paint, glue, scissors, markers, crayons, pipe cleaners, etc). Check out her recommended master list of craft supplies here.

Spotty Spider

Every few weeks the Ant Bug and I go through the site and make a list of the projects that we would like to do. Then I put the recommended books on hold at the library. Whenever the urge to do a craft project strikes our fancy, the Ant Bug just chooses one of the current library books on our shelf and we pull out our craft supplies.

Rabbit R

Great projects that don’t require a lot of planning. Perfect for busy mamas!

Peacock (really, it’s a peacock, not a turkey). It goes with Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What do you hear?

So the next time you and your little one’s are in need of some arts and crafts, be sure to check out No Time for Flashcards.

Create an Animal Alphabet Book

After a recent family visit to a nearby wildlife preserve, we realized that we had a lot of great photos of wildlife (thanks to the skills of my husband). The Ant Bug and I decided to make an Animal Alphabet book and it turned out to be a great hands-on learning project.

We first spent a few afternoons sorting through the pictures, selecting the photos she liked best, and then labeling and making a list of what we had.

A is for Alligator

C is for Caracara

O is for Owl

P is for Pelican

For most of the animals the Ant Bug would identify what letter the name started with, then either she (with some help from me) or I would type the rest of the name. We supplemented our collection with photos from visits to the zoo in past years, and few photos from online for those difficult letters like X and U (we went with Xenops and Urchin).

Once we had photos for all of the letters of the alphabet printed (plus a few extra for good measure) we headed to the store where she picked out an inexpensive photo album (30 pages).

We then sorted through the photos and put them in alphabetical order in the book. She added letter stickers and glued on a small label with the name.

This project kept us busy for multiple afternoons and was a fun way to reinforce emerging literacy skills. This is a great book for our collection that both of my girls love to read.

The idea for this book was inspired by a Color book I saw on Make and Takes.

If you would like to make your own, there are lots of options for homemade books: colors, numbers, shapes, emotions–just choose a theme that works for you and your child and personalize it how you like.

Happy book making!

Red Ripe Strawberries=Homemade Freezer Jam

It’s springtime (and nearly summertime) where I live, and that means red ripe strawberries!

My girls and I headed off to a local pick your own farm and had a grand time picking berries. We picked 18lbs in about 30 minutes. Then we went back a week later and picked another 18lbs!

With 36lbs of strawberries, we are stocking our freezer with delicious homemade freezer jam.

This is what you’ll need to make your own.

-Containers to store your jam

If you’re new to home preserving, this is what you’re looking for when you shop for pectin. Depending on your local store, you might have a few options. No cook pectin is the way to go. To my delight, this year I discovered the no cook packets on the left which use 4 cups of berries and only 1 1/2 cups sugar. The liquid pectin on the left calls for 2 cups of berries and 4 cups of sugar. Hmmmmm. You decide.

Once you have your pectin, it’s pretty simple. Just follow the directions included on the package.

Wash the berries well, then cut off the stems. I cut the berries in half or quarters to save myself a little mashing effort. Crush them one layer at a time using a potato masher.

You’ll need to provide your own cute assistant.

Mash the berries to your desired consistency. I like my jam still a little chunky.

Follow your directions for adding the pectin. Some recipes also call for lemon juice. Mix it really well.
Ladle into jars, leaving space for expansion during freezing. I like the Ball freezer jars shown above (they come in 8 or 16oz size), but you can also use regular tupperware containers. Don’t they look beautiful?

The jam will keep for 3 weeks in the refrigerator, or up to 1 year in the freezer. Peanut Butter and jam sandwiches are a staple in our home, so a jar never lasts long!

If you still have strawberries leftover they also freeze well.

Wash them well, then you can cut them up depending on their size. Load them into bags (quart or gallon size) and load them into the freezer. Simple, and you have tasty berries all year round to top your waffles.

Since we’ve got strawberries on the brain, we decided to make this cute lumpy bumpy strawberry from an idea I saw on No Time for Flashcards.

Can’t get enough strawberries? These two books are our favorite “berry books”.

The Little Mouse, The Red Ripe Strawberry, and The Big Hungry Bear
by Don and Audrey Wood

Jamberry by Bruce Degen

Happy strawberry days to you!

Oodles of Noodles

What can you do with these supplies?
Make Noodle Doodles, of course!

This week the girls and I tried our hand at making noodle art, from an idea I saw at Flip Flops & Applesauce. It’s a pretty simple project that kept both of my girls entertained for more than 30 minutes. Here are the directions:
  1. Boil the noodles, for about half the time it says on the package so the noodles don’t end up too soft. Don’t forget to add a little oil so the noodles don’t stick to each other.
  2. Rinse the noodles in cold water.
  3. Get creative with noodles and construction paper. You can use a table knife to slice the noodles to different lengths.

Sometimes it is difficult to come up with activities that are appropriate and interesting for both a 4-year-old and a 16-month-old. The Sweet Bee still has the overwhelming urge to put everything in her mouth, which doesn’t work so well when it comes to traditional coloring or painting. But this activity was perfect since it was non-toxic and allowed for hands-on creativity at all levels.

It also worked well as our afternoon snack!

One of the Ant Bug’s creations. She called it “A fun playground ballet dance”.
Here’s mine: House with a Flower.

Once you’re finished creating, cover your artwork with a strip of wax paper and a heavy book so it will dry flat.

Check out these great suggestions from Kiddio for more activities to do with your mixed age kids. Next up, we’re going to paint with pudding!


The Ant Bug loves cats.
Photo by samdiablo666

She likes to pretend to be a cat, and spends a lot of time saying “Meow”. She also roars like a lion.
Photo by dougwoods
We have printed and colored countless cat pictures.

And we have tried our hands (or should I say paws?!) at any number of cat crafts, like this latest one.

Her favorite movie of all time stars a really big cat.

But mostly, we like to read books about cats.

Kitten’s First Full Moon, by Kevin Henkes
This is a delightful story about a kitten’s adventure in the moonlight.

Slinky Malinki, by Lynley Dodd
A mischievious cat learns his lesson.

My Cat Likes to Hide in Boxes, by Eve Sutton
This is a great book about talented cats from all over the world. But the best cat is the ordinary down home cat who likes to hide in boxes.

‘Tis the Season: The Results Post

Remember my plan for the month of December? Here’s how it all turned out.

1) Focus on Christ
Reading about the Savior was a wonderful end to each day, and the Gospel Art Kit provided a great visual for my young children. I think we might incorporate more GAK into our family scripture study in the future.

2) Open a pocket everyday

3) Make paper snowflakes
We tried the paper variety, but unfortunately it didn’t go over so well. I think I picked a “I’m not in the mood for folding and cutting day” for the Ant Bug. But, we did try the edible snowflake variety described in The Friend magazine with much success.

4) Take a family photo
Our family, the 2008 version.
5) Read Christmas Books
Our favorite of the whole bunch was Drummer Boy, by Loren Long.

6) Watch “It’s a Wonderful Life”
I have to admit, I got a little teary-eyed in the end.

We also enjoyed watching this movie as a family.

7) Take a walk at the duck pond and enjoy the holiday lights

7) Make Christmas crafts with my family
A very simple project, and a fun addition to our Christmas tree. I also made personalized versions for my piano students.

We ended up with a whole herd of these guys. The Ant Bug was in charge of shaping the antlers.9) Prepare for a piano performance
The recital was very lovely, but next year I think I’ll save myself a little hassle and choose an easier song!

10) Make Sugar Cookies
We also made some yummy gingerbread boys and girls, with this recipe.
11) Ooops, sorry. I’m not sure what happened to this number on December 3rd 🙂

12) Sing lots of Christmas Carols
Yes, we did!

I had a lovely month, crossing off everything on my list. I’m looking forward to continuing these traditions next year!

‘Tis the Season

Our tree is up and our home is looking festive for the Christmas season. Today I thought I would share with you a few of the items on our “Activities for the Month of December” list:

1) Focus on Christ

The December 2008 issue of The Friend magazine includes this great activity. Each night we’re reading the suggested scriptures about Jesus Christ and posting the related picture from the Gospel Art Kit. It’s a great way for us to remember the reason behind the season.

2) Open a pocket everyday

The first year that we were married, my mother-in-law presented my husband and I with this wonderful advent calendar. Each day we open one pocket and find an ornament with which to decorate the tree. It looks a little sparse right now, but we’re only on day 3.

3) Make paper snowflakes
Since we live in Florida, this will be the only snow we will see this year.

4) Take a family photo

I know we should have had this done by now, but we always seem to end up a little late. Here is our photo from last year. What do you think we will look like this year??

5) Read Christmas Books
Since I’m always looking for great books and ways to promote literacy, I thought this was a great idea. Find 25 Christmas books (or as many as you can), wrap them up and put them under your tree. Then everyday until Christmas your children can choose one to unwrap and read together.

My book shelf is a little sparse when it comes to Christmas books, so I consulted this book list and this one too and found some great titles, many of which are available at my local library. I’m headed there tomorrow to pick them up and start wrapping and reading!

6) Watch “It’s a Wonderful Life”
This is my favorite holiday movie, with such a great message. It gives me warm fuzzies!

7) Take a walk at the duck pond and enjoy the holiday lights.

8) Make Christmas crafts with my family
Don’t these look so cute and fun?

From Skip to My Lou

From Make and Takes

9) Prepare for a Piano Performance

This fall I added “Piano Teacher” to my list of responsibilities. I have six wonderful students, and we’re having our first recital this month. I decided to share in the fun with my students and prepare Silent Night/ Still, Still, Still to perform, arrangement courtesy of Sally DeFord Music.

10) Make Sugar Cookies

We love to make and decorate sugar cookies for the holidays. Here is the best recipe I’ve ever tried (courtesy of the Family Cookbook):

1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. baking powder
4-5 cups flour
1/2 tsp. salt

Cream sugar, butter and eggs. Add sour cream and vanilla. Add dry ingredients and mix well. Roll out in flour to 1/4 inch thick and cut. Cook in 350 degree oven for 7-8 minutes. Bottoms should be brown but tops should not be brown at all. These make a soft, cake-like cookies.

Mmmmm. They are delicious!

12) Sing lots of Christmas Carols

Silent Night, Joy to the World, Away in a Manger, Jingle Bells, The First Noel, O Holy Night, Silver Bells, We Three Kings, Hark the Herald Angels Sing, Rudolph, Christmas is Coming, Do you hear what I Hear?, O Little Town of Bethlehem, Far Far Away on Judea’s Plains, White Christmas…

Wow! I’m going to be busy, aren’t I? What are you doing to celebrate the season in December?

Thankful Turkey

I saw this adorable paper turkey and knew we had to have one for our family. I thought it would be fun to use our turkey as a daily record of the things we are thankful for.

We worked our turkey craft into a Family Home Evening lesson on gratitude. Using information from For the Strength of Youth we talked about how the Lord wants us to have a spirit of gratitude always. “Live with a spirit of thanksgiving and you will have greater happiness and satisfaction in life.” Then we discussed the story of the ten lepers and how only one leper turned back and gave thanks.

We sang Count Your Many Blessings:

“When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings; name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done…”

Then we made our adorable turkey and talked about the importance of this scripture:

“Live in thanksgiving daily, for the many mercies and blessings which he doth bestow upon you.” (Alma 34:38)

Each evening we will add one feather to the turkey, describing something we are thankful for that day.

And while we’re on the topic of thanks, remember this post? Thanks to Kiwimommy, I now have audio for the song that I grew up listening to as a child. Here for your listening pleasure: I want to be a mother. Thanks for sharing the link!