Thursday, March 31, 2011

Math and Reading for your 3-year-old

For the most part, every mom wants to do her best to teach her children and give them the knowledge they need to easily matriculate into public school. However, a lot of the things out there to help your kids through their preschool years are VERY expensive! Which brings me to my two new favorite teaching tools.

When Brooklyn first expressed her desire to read, I looked everywhere online for a good reading program that would be appropriate for a 3 year old. At first, I couldn't find ANYTHING that was under $200! Then I stumbled on a review for this book. I bought it off of Amazon for under $20 and that included shipping and handling!

The box of cards you see next to the book was a Walmart purchase on a whim. Kevin and I wanted a new game for our home-bound date nights and picked it up. It wasn't very fun but ended up being a fantastic math tool!

Some of the things I love about the book are that it works with lower case letters (which is 90% of what we read) and focuses on building sounds slowly into words. Each page can be a lesson in and of itself, although the lessons are several pages long. Brooklyn and I do about 3 pages a day and she is really picking it up quickly.

I decided to use the cards as a math tool when I was online, studying what math should look like for a preschooler. Everything I read really focused on categorizing and identifying things (shapes, numbers, positions, etc.)

Each card has a shape, color, and number of objects on it. I split the deck between us and then we start the first round of categorizing, which consists of Brooklyn and I separating the cards into piles of matching colors. When we're both done with our piles, I shuffle the cards and we start the second round, which is separating the cards into shape piles. Then we shuffle again and start the last round, which is separating the cards by the number of objects on them.

Brooklyn LOVES the one-on-one time we get with this game and she is getting REALLY good at quickly identifying the number of things she is looking at. I am amazed at how quickly she picked up on the game and how easily she started using the skills she learned into her every day life.

Anyway, the point of this post is not to make you run out to the store and immediately buy these things, but instead, to show you that teaching your children can be inexpensive, and that you can use things already lying around your house to aid you. Take a look through your old books and games and see what you can use to teach your preschooler about this crazy world we live in. Your children will love it, and it might even get you started on your Spring Cleaning! Good Luck!

(And in case you were wondering, it was REALLY cold in our house the day I took these pictures, so Brooklyn wouldn't take off her coat. Also, sorry you had to look at my disgusting apartment carpets! Ewww!)

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Jammit Doll!

So, I guess you could say that when I was growing up I was a bit sickly due to an immune system glitch that was rolling around in my genes. A consequence of that was that I had to have IV treatments every two weeks for 5 years, which meant a TON of shots! At some point of my childhood illness, a woman (who's name I sadly don't remember) brought me a "Jammit Doll" to help me deal with all the needles.

Basically, a Jammit doll is just a simple stuffed creature who has legs you can grasp firmly as you smack it against things and beat out your frustrations. Anyway, a few days ago a good friend of mine was having a VERY bad day (or series of days really) and it reminded me of my little punching bag friend. Naturally, I hopped on to the internet to see if I could find instructions of how to make a little Jammit doll. Turns out that the wonderful lady who brought me mine had edited the doll a bit to make it child friendly and I extended the same courtesy to my friend :) You can see the instructions that I based my dolls off of at THIS website.

I whipped mine up real quick but underestimated how skinny I had made them. Luckily, they still turned out pretty cute. The little one was actually an accident, but I liked him so much I decided to write him into the original poem that comes with the dolls. The parts I added or edited are in blue and the poem goes like this:


When you want to climb the wall,
And stand right up and shout.
There's a little Jammit doll
You cannot do without.

Just grasp it firmly by the legs,
And find a place to slam it.
And as you whack the stuffing out
Yell Jammit, Jammit, Jammit!

If Jammit's not a word you say
Then twist its little neck
And grumble out repeatedly
Oh Heck, Oh Heck, Oh Heck!

And if you're not the hitting type
We've got your problem solved!
Just take the smaller Jammit doll
And throw him at the wall!

And once your done abusing them
Just sit them on the shelf.
But hug them first, as I'd hug you
If I were there myself.

Because my friend's week was exceptionally bad, I also decided to have my husband attach the poem with a noose (morbid, I know... but it got a good laugh!) The point is, you can really make them however you want, its really just the thought that counts. Mine were noticeably handmade and hopelessly flawed, but they cheered up my friend and that is exactly what I was going for!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Activity Calendar for April 2011

I just finished putting together our calendar for April and thought I would put it out for you all to see. Obviously, you won't be copying it day by day, but hopefully it will give you some good ideas when you are feeling a little stumped!

You should be able to click on the calendar to enlarge it and then click it one more time for easier viewing.

A few things you might notice are that a.) I put personal things on the calendar for my own purposes. I don't want to print several calendars each month so I just added things like birthdays, trips, and holidays, to this one. b.) I will be going on a vacation the latter part of the month that will continue on into May. What does that mean to you? Well, nothing really, except that you can expect a GIANT lag in posting around that time. And c.) The first weekend of the month is only labeled with the words "General Conference". If you want to learn more about what that is, just click HERE.

Anyway, best of luck in April! Play hard, craft hard, teach hard, and work that mommy magic! Oh yeah! and as always, if you see something on the calendar that you want to try but don't quite understand, just tell me about it in the comment section and I will do my best to clarify things for you.

Lunch Time Ideas

Last week I put out a post asking for lunch time meal ideas. Because there was hardly a response, I'm guessing many of you are riding the same Macaroni and Cheese Train that I'm on! So, I decided to share the two comments I DID get with all of you in post form. Hopefully the ideas that my fantastic Mom and Sister-in-law gave will help the rest of you out as much as they helped me! Here they are:

  1. Pigs in a blanket (Crescent roll with a hot dog rolled up inside. You can add a slice of cheese too.)
  2. Tuna Melt (Tuna on toast with a slice of cheese melted on top)
  3. Grilled cheese sandwiches with tomato soup
  4. Fish sticks, tater tots, and carrot sticks (Kids LOVE a meal they can DIP!)
  5. Butter noodles with broccoli
  6. Bologna sandwiches with chips, and celery with peanut butter and raisins on top
  7. Tortilla pizza (Flour tortilla with leftover spaghetti sauce, cheese and whatever toppings you want)
  8. You can also do mini pizzas on English muffins
  9. Tuna in a pita
  10. Hard-boiled eggs or egg salad sandwiches
  11. Quesadillas
  12. Plain cheese and butter on bread (un-melted)
  13. Peanut butter and banana sandwich or just straight up
  14. Peanut butter and honey sandwiches
  15. Pasta with butter and parmesan cheese
  16. Leftovers from dinner

Well, there you have it! I hope this gives you some great ideas when you're making lunch for your little ones. And THANK YOU again to Cindy Uda and Natalie Hanks for your terrific lunch ideas.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Outdoor Adventures: A Trip to the Nursery by Erin Uda

With the recent snow everywhere (in Utah), I wasn’t sure if the weather would cooperate this week. So I’ve devised a fun field trip that should combat your nature cravings while keeping your little one occupied. (You may want to enlist a friend if you have more than two little ones.)

This week we’re going to visit a local nursery (or garden center if you don’t have a nursery nearby). On the way there, explain to your children where you are going and what they can expect to see. It always helps to build a bit of anticipation – they know what to expect and their attention span may even last a bit longer if you prep them right. I would recommend going over the following diagrams as you drive; answering their questions as they look at the pictures.

This diagram is best for younger children...

...but if you have older children, you might want to use this diagram that can be found at this Link.

When you get there, take time to explore each area of the nursery. I recommend starting in the tree/bush section. As you walk, encourage your children to gently touch the plants in front of them. Talk about the different textures, colors and sizes of the plants. Try to point out any plants that may be familiar, or that you have near your home. Keep walking, finding the produce section. Talk about how plants grow a lot of the food we eat; take the time to locate each child’s favorite vegetable or fruit. Wander over to the flower area. Let your child explore the different colors, shapes and sizes on display. Answer any questions that come up as best you can, and don’t forget to use the staff as a resource if your children stump you!

If there is a section for seedlings, take out your ‘Parts of a Plant’ and ‘Equation for Growing a Seed’ diagrams and help your children identify each part of the plants you see. Talk about how seeds can grow using just water and dirt, and how, once they sprout, they use the light from the sun to make their own food.

(Image found at

Once you’ve visited all the areas of the nursery, go back to your favorite area and ask a few questions, or do it along the way: Why do we need both plants that give us food and plants that are just pretty to look at (i.e. – feed our soul)? What keeps the plants growing straight and tall? Where do they get their food? How do plants make food that we can eat? What is your favorite plant? Why? As you walk and talk, let your children see your love for the plants.

If you can, splurge and bring something home (like a pack of easy-to-grow seeds). If not, take some pictures, or draw pictures of what you saw when you get back to the house. Be sure to display them somewhere once your children are finished.

And don’t forget to plant those seeds you brought home! It may be snowing still, but it’s the perfect time to start your seedlings inside. If you didn’t purchase any at the nursery, Target typically has a few options in their dollar section.

**For older children, begin the tour by asking them to find plants they would like to have in their own garden. When you get home, have them draw up a garden plan using the plants they found at the nursery or others they love. If you have the yard for it, plant your children's garden. If not, help them color their designs and put them on display. Ask them the following questions as you walk through the nursery, adding your own as well: What would you plant in your garden? Why? Would you have all flowers? All produce? Why or why not?

Use the following links as resources if desired:

Square Foot Gardening:

Garden Plans:

Interactive Garden Design Tool:

**I love reinforcing experiences with books. Here are some of my favorites about gardens and plants:

  • Weslandia – Paul Fleischman (ISBN: 978-0763610524; Call #: P Fleischman)
  • Something is Growing – Walter Lyon Krudop (ISBN: 9780689319402; Call #: P Krudop)
  • Jack and the Meanstalk – Brian Wildsmith (ISBN: 9780192723130; Call #: P Wildsmith)
  • Planting a Rainbow – Lois Ehlert (ISBN: 9780152063047; Call # P Ehlert)
  • The Tiny Seed – Eric Carle (ISBN: 9781416979173; Call #: Board Book/P Carle/582.0467 C192)

Visit your local library and check out the general areas of Call # 630-635 for more books on gardening and Call # 582 for more books on seeds!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Stretching Dollars: Don't get rid of those "SKINNY" jeans!!

So, I was thinking about the excellent post that Erin put up about taking your kids on nature walks when I suddenly remembered going to a Pow-Wow as a young child and making bags out of old jeans (random, I know). Anyway, Brooklyn loves bags in any form, so I decided rather than using a brown paper bag on our nature scavenger hunt, I would make her a very special "nature bag"!

Just grab an old pair of jeans that you've been hoping to wear again (but secretly know you never will after delivering an 8 pound baby) and cut off the leg. You can make several bags out of one pair of jeans, or just save the rest for another project.

Next, turn the leg inside out and sew up the end that you cut.

Now turn it right side out and you have a bag! Everything else from this point on is personal preference and just for fun.

We pulled out some pink scraps I had from some dresses I just finished and some pink flowers that Grandma Uda gave us. (Brooklyn really loves pink.)

The material scraps were from the straps of a dress and were already sewn in strips. I just cut V's in the ends and glued them together. Then I added a flower and a button and we were good to go!

I thought about sewing the flower on, but then I got over it. I whipped out my hot glue gun instead and glued that sucker on tight!

Then I cut a 4 inch wide strip of my pink fabric (45 inches long) to make the strap.

I ironed it in half, opened it up, and then folded the right side to the crease and ironed. Then I did the same thing on the left side. Next, I folded it back in half and ironed again. (I really hate ironing but it makes a HUGE difference when you are sewing!)

Now its time to sew down all four sides to keep the fabric together, and to keep your strap strong.

I picked an easy place for my strap to go on and gave it a few good stitches. I didn't worry about hiding the end because I'm lazy...

...instead I glued another flower with a gem in the middle over my seam! No one will ever know. :)

This is what we ended up with! A cute bag to collect nature in, our printed scavenger list, and an old iPod case to showcase Brooklyn's great finds!

Now all we need is a little warm weather so we can head outdoors and get our scavenger hunt on! Woohoo!

Oh! And if you're wondering what to do with all those other pairs of jeans that you can't wear... here is what I did. I simply couldn't stand the idea of never fitting into my jeans again so I cut them into squares and sewed this baby blanket for my little nephew. It turned out great and I've never regretted getting those jeans out of my closet. :)