Tuesday, May 31, 2011

When All Else Fails, Just Add Water!

We talk about the weather around here a lot. It of course, impacts the way we do things and it changes a lot. They have a saying here in the U.P. (Upper Peninsula) of Michigan, "If you don't like the weather... wait five minutes, it will change."  Over our long weekend, we have intermittent thunder storms and rain. Today, it is 85, hot and muggy, with a prediction that tomorrow's high will be 62. When it comes to predicting the weather, your guess is as good as any, and be prepared for rapid changes.

We don't tend to let the weather get in our way.  When it snows, we pile on the clothes, when it gets hot we wear less. When it rains, we stomp in the puddles.... and when we have a nice hot day, we just add water! The children were a bit on the cranky side with the heat and humidity, until the hose came out!
Buckets of water for splashing and carrying....
A sprinkle of water to run through to cool off, and then a nice pile of cool mud in the mud pie kitchen :).

Pails of water to run down the sand and water wall......

(I didn't get any photos as we ran through the sprinkler or when we "made rain".... I was too busy manning the hose!)
A nice wet "water slide", a few buckets poured over our own heads..... 
and at last, we were comfortable again!

Back at play with our moveable parts...
Who knows what tomorrow will bring...... 

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Playing Favorites from "the archives"

I don't have anything new prepared to share with you tonight, so... I thought I would share with you some of my "playing" favorites that we have done.  If you would like some insight into other people's ideas that I find interesting and enjoy, I encourage you to hop on over to www.childcentralstation.tumblr.com where I save all of the great inspirational ideas I find around the web. 

For tonight's post I'm going to pick 5 "favorites" from my archives - I'm taking this to mean that they are from sometime in 2010. (Ask me tomorrow and you would probably get a different five).  In no particular order.....

I love how the children created their own stage and started their own band. I have to add that on this day, all of the songs were original! (those are always the best!) 

This catapult creation was really only the beginning of our adventures with catapults. The children can't seem to get enough. We have launched water balloons, sponges dipped in paint (for the snow), and a wide array of objects that the children have wanted to test. The ogre has found a permanent home in our outdoor classroom.

With the recent arrival of a dump truck full of sand, I was reminded of this wonderful time when we moved all of the toys out of the sandbox and the children created their own play area. We made giant volcanoes and stomped around in our bare feet.  (Some of the children went home with pockets and shoes filled with sand... It was a great couple of days!)

This was a great "gravity works" lesson with paints!It was great messy fun. Not only did the children enjoy using the droppers to drip paint down the page, they also had a great time climbing up and down on the chair.  I hope we can work out a Pictured Rocks Cruise as part of our summer field trips this year so they can see the rocks in person instead of just through photos.

This is always a hit! Shaving cream is a great medium for marbling. The children love to make the prints and then play in the shaving cream after. We also made t-shirts using this same technique and acrylic paints. they turned out GREAT!

Well, I hope you enjoyed a bit of the archives tonight, enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Mud Pie Kitchen Renovation

 (Our mud pie kitchen, in the very beginning)

Ever since Jenny over at Let the Children Play posted about Mud Pie Kitchens (almost a year ago), we have had the "madness" The mud-pie kitchen madness that is :). I immediately found a few things and spiffed up a section of the yard into our very own mud pie kitchen.  Like all things in an indoor or outdoor classroom, the play and space has continued to evolve.  Over the last week, we have done a little "renovation" in the kitchen. 

Look what I found for FREE at a yard sale!!!! You can't beat a free shelving unit for your kitchen renovation! The more free and inexpensive things you can find the better ;).

With the new sand filling in our sandbox, it was the perfect time to do a little bit of rearranging, and stocking.

The hanging baskets received a fresh helping of long grass, and the bins have been collecting every rock we find mixed in with the sand.
We put a few more hooks on the fence to hang our pots and pans, and we added a number of "spice" containers to the new shelf. They are from Parmesan cheese and are currently filled were filled with pink sand. We are still using wooden cookies as our stove top burners, and they double as plates when the children choose to use them in that way.
We are going to be adding a beverage container with a spout this week to help insure we have enough water. (We have been using buckets, but I think the spout it going to be more fun!)

If you saw our original kitchen, you will notice that we removed the plastic picnic table and replaced it with a great wooden spool table! We were able to find our spool at a do it yourself/hardware store for just a couple of dollars! (It isn't something they usually "sell" but some of the tubing and wiring they do sell comes on the spool, so they were happy to sell us a couple to have them moved out of the lumber yard!)

Do you have a mud pie kitchen? I've been collecting inspiration from all over the web. I'd love to see your kitchen! Feel free to link it up below :). 

Friday, May 27, 2011

Bird and Critter Watching

In addition to some of the purchased feeders we have around, we made a couple of our own this spring with recyclable items.
We found the idea for this one made from a laundry detergent bottle here.
 (It is decorated with flashy duct tape)
This handy hanging feeder from a juice carton was inspired by this post from another blogger.. I'm so sorry, but I lost track of exactly where that post was! (If it was you, please let me know so I can link to you!)

Then, after making the first two, we used a crystal light container and an old plate to put this one together.

We have been using our handy field guide:
to identify a number of our visitors. Some of them have been very easy to identify and "shoot" a photo of, while others have been extremely camera shy!

The front feeders have been attracting some starlings. 
The juice feeder has been frequented by a number of chickadees.

We've seen quite a few Robins in the backyard.
The sparrows have really enjoyed our feeders made from oranges, peanut butter, and seed.
We have also seen a blue jay and a number of small yellowish birds (I'm guessing finches) that have been way too quick and camera shy to get a good look!
 We've also seen a few other critters in the yard:

We have also seen some great birds while we have been out and about......

Like this pair of mallard ducks when we were looking for frogs.

These Canadian geese visiting the pond at the cemetery:
And, this woodpecker that very same day:

Mr.Allan, Dane, and I also saw a pair of bald eagles as we were driving
home from the U.P. Early Childhood Conference:

We are looking forward to continuing to watch and identify the birds and critters in our yard.  
What kind of birds have you seen?

Thursday, May 26, 2011

More Sand!!!!!

We have a substantial sized sandpit/sandbox in our yard. When we first built it, the dump truck delivered 19 tons of sand.  I know it sounds like a lot, and it is, but not nearly as much as it sounds.

(This photos was from 2009, you can see that it takes up a large part of our yard.) 

Considering that the sand was delivered to us quite a few years ago, coupled with the fact that we installed a new play structure, it was time to have another load delivered to top off the box. I know that our little ones take sand home with them by the shoe full on a daily basis! (Well, when the sandbox isn't covered in snow!)

The children had a great time moving sand around in anticipation of the big truck's arrival. There was a lot of buzz. I wonder what color the truck will be? Will it be able to fit on the driveway? How much sand can fit in a dump truck? Will there be a mountain in the yard? 

Finally, the truck arrived (quite a bit later than anticipated). It was a long red dump truck. Last time we had sand delivered, the truck drove through the neighbor's yard and dumped the sand right in the spot where we needed it. This time, we were unable to do that because we have a fabulous new fence and fantastic music area where the truck would have had to drive though. So, instead, the truck dumped the sand in our driveway. We will have to use our wheel barrow, wagons, and toy dump trucks to move the sand where it needs to go.
19 tons of sand sure makes a great hill! "It is kind of like a mountain of sand!" "Look at all that sand!"
If you're coming to visit anytime soon, bring a shovel! You know what we will be doing :). 

Then, the truck drove away.

To be continued.... (after we have our afternoon naps.)

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

What Would You Do With It Wednesday..... Milk Jugs

Welcome to this week's edition of What Would You Do With It? Wednesday. This week we are featuring plastic milk jugs! (I decided to jump all of the items I was behind and go to the scheduled item for the week. Don't worry, at the end, I'll go back to all of those things I missed!)

We made these fabulous milk jug skeletons like the one pictured here from Family Fun Magazine:

(The photo isn't the greatest, but you get the idea. 
I know we have photos of this project somewhere, but I'm not sure where at the moment!)

Another idea from Family Fun Magazine that we tried are these spirit lanterns. You can make them in a wide variety of spirits, jack-o-lanterns, and/or critters:
 (Photo from Family Fun)

We have been collecting milk jugs since last fall to create one of these amazing milk jug igloos. I first heard about them as part of a discussion at Teach Preschool on Facebook. We have great plans for our igloo. It will be outside and incorporates another idea as well. (I bet you can't wait to see and hear all about it.... hopefully the suspense isn't killing you! I"ll tell you more when we start putting it together over the next couple of weeks.)

I also have this wonderful idea on my to do list from Creative Star Learning Company 
(Photo from Little Eyes on Nature)
 (Photo from Little Eyes on Nature)

Perhaps we will knock a few more things off the to do list this upcoming 3-day weekend.....

There is a great link to make dinosaurs from milk jugs here, and a piggy bank one here.

Aren't you just ready to cozy on up to the campfire?

For the full list of previously posted items and upcoming challenges, visit the What Would You Do With It? Wednesdays Page. (I don't know how accurate this is going to be for the future, but there is a great big list of things to try to reuse!)

On to this week's link up! Milk Jugs- It's your turn!

Do you have a great idea or post that you can share using Milk Jugs? If so, please join in linking up!

Here are the rules:

1) The post MUST use milk jugs

2) The post MUST be family friendly.

There are no other requirements. If you would like, I would love if you linked back to his linky party, but it is not required. I would hope that you will investigate the links shared and visit some of the  other blogs, but I'm not imposing any "blog hop/linky" rules.  Please, if  you do find great ideas and photos... Give credit where  credit is due  :).

If you have been featured and feel inclined, my featured button is available to grab from the sidebar. Next week I will be looking for ideas to recycle markers, hope to see you there!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Super Stove Top Slime Off!!!

If you remember, awhile back we opted to test out a couple of slime recipes to determine which one we liked best. (If you missed it, you can read about it here: The Great Slime Off). Today, we decided to test a few stove top slime recipes to decide which one makes the best slime.

Contestant/Slime Number One: Fiber Slime

6 c water
6 tsp Metamucil Fiber

Mix ingredients in a large saucepan. Cook on high heat, bring to a rolling boil. Boil for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and place in a bowl. Stir occasionally as the slime cools. Cool completely prior to children's use. 

Contestant/Slime Number Two: Super Sweet Slime 
I found this great recipe over at Habeebee Homeschooling.

1- 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
1 TBSP cornstarch
10-15 drops of food coloring

Mix the sweetened condensed milk and cornstarch in a saucepan. Stirring constantly, cook on low heat. The mixture will thin as it is heated and then begin to thicken again. When it begins to thicken remove from heat. (Make sure that you are diligent in your stirring, sweetened condensed milk will burn easily!) Add your food coloring, cool completely and play!

Contestant/Slime Number 3: Kool-Aid Slime
(You knew this was coming, didn't you??? 
I mean, can we honestly do anything without Kool-Aid around here?)

2 quarts of water
1 c sugar
1 pkg unsweetened powdered Kool-Aid
food coloring - optional
1 c corn starch
1 1/2 c cold water

Mix the Kool-Aid, sugar, and 2 quarts of water in a large saucepan. Bring to a rapid boil. In a separate container mix the corn starch and cold water. Slowly add this mixture to the boiling Kool-Aid. Stirring constantly, boil for 15-20 minutes. The mixture will be quite cloudy to begin with. You will know when it is time to remove from heat as it begins to thicken and become more translucent. Pour into a shallow pan or bowl, continue to stir occasionally as it cools. Add food coloring as desired to reach optimal color. (This mixture will thicken as it cools. If your slime is too thin, return it to the saucepan, add a little more cornstarch and water, bring to a boil and allow to thicken again.)     Don't have Kool-Aid? Well, try this recipe with apple juice instead! Boil your applejuice and add the corn starch and 1 1/2 c cold water. 

 What we decided today...

Slime Number One:  looks like mustard, feels like jello, it feels like melted chocolate on your hands, it is orange, it is really awesome! It is really slimy!

Slime Number Two: It is so sticky! I can squish it like ketchup and mustard. It's like frosting, Oh my gosh this is sticky! You've gotta try this!

Slime Number Three: Runny like water, This slime is so cold. Boy is this slimey! It is like frosting, It is gooey.

End result.... Unanamously- the Super Sticky Slime was the favorite among the children. Personally, I liked the Kool-Aid slime. The sticky slime was very sticky and required some serious rubbing and scrubbing to clean off. 

All of our stove top slimes are much more fluid than the polymer slimes we created. I have a feeling that we are far from finished with our slime explorations!

If you are fortunate enough to live in an area where you can purchase soap flakes, I would definitely recommend testing out this great slime recipe from Irresistible Ideas for Playbased Learning. (If you can't find soap flakes, try grating some bar soap to make your own!)

Do you have a great slime recipe to share? Or a post about one of the recipes mentioned? Feel free to link it up!

My friend died

 I learned a hell of a lot from Dan Hodgins.  He was mentor, a friend, and a "bone shaker" for many of us in the field of Early Ch...