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Wednesday, September 2, 2015

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Cheerio Bird Feeders & Box Tops for Education!

All ages (preschoolers, toddlers, and older kids) love making these Cheerio Bird Feeders!  What makes them even better is how they can help your local schools too!

These bird feeders are super easy to make too!  All you need are CheeriosTM and pipe cleaners!  I considered using string, but decided to use the pipe cleaners instead so our 2-year old could participate.  And it worked out great!  She was able to manipulate them while my preschoolers and older kids focused on their designs.

To make your own Cheerio Bird Feeder, simply string Cheerios onto the pipe cleaner.  Leave a little extra room at each end of the pipe cleaner so you can twist together two or more.  For our youngest, I twisted one end of the pipe cleaner around a Cheerio so the other Cheerios did not all fall off.  Once you have strung two or more pipe cleaners with Cheerios, twist the ends together to make your own design.  Just make sure the Cheerios don't fall off!

Your children can create any design they want!

Our kiddos also wanted to make Cheerio bracelets!

Then take your bird feeder outside and hang it somewhere where you can watch for birds or other animals!

We might have been dressed like pirates when we made our Cheerio Bird Feeders!

Are you wondering how this fun little Cheerio Bird Feeder can help your local school?  It's easy!  See the Box Tops for Education label across the front of the Cheerios box?

The box top label at the top of the box represents 10 cents for your school--you just clip it and send it to school with your kiddos!  And the labels that say "5 box tops" like those Cheerio boxes above--they count as 5 box tops for your school!  (The Bonus Box Tops are only at Walmart.)  It's such a simple way to give back to your community.  And if you're homeschooling, you can still use the box tops!  A lot of homeschoolers are part of umbrella schools that use the Box Tops program.  We worked with one of these schools last year, and they used the Box Tops for Education money for scholarships!  If you're not affiliated with any of these schools, you can always put the clipped box tops in a zip lock baggie and give them to one of your neighborhood friends to take to school.  As a former teacher, I can tell you that every teacher I have ever known spends their own money to help their schools and students.  Any extra money you can help bring in to the school only blesses the school and community you live in!

And, it's a great way to make shopping more fun!  My kids had a blast hunting through Walmart for their favorite box top cereals in the cereal row, and kept acting like they'd won a prize whenever they found the "5 box tops" on a cereal we like!  They also love granola bars!

But the box tops program isn't just in the cereal row!  We also found box tops labels when we got taco supplies, tortillas, other snacks, and more!

You can even find box tops labels in the yogurt, zip-lock baggies, and toilet paper sections!  Here are the Box Top foods we picked up on our last trip to Walmart:

Be sure to come back tomorrow to see another fun way we used our box top goodies!!

Are you a box tops collector?  Do you send them with your own kids, or someone else's?  And have you ever made a Cheerio Bird Feeder?  I'd love to see a picture of it!!

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of General Mills®. The opinions and text are all mine.

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Tuesday, September 1, 2015

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Wild Things Scented Monster Play Dough!

Wild Things Scented Monster Play Dough is a fun sensory, fine motor, and creative experience!

Plus, it's the perfect way to use your slightly older play dough...you know the one: the batch where the colors are all starting to mix together a bit!

We made our Wild Things Scented Monster Play Dough to go with one of my all-time favorite books (and the theme for this month's Virtual Book Club!): Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak:

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I have loved this book since I was about six, and I introduced it to my kiddos several years ago.  It has now become a household favorite!  We decided to make scented monster play dough "wild things," and I cannot tell you how fun it was to watch everyone's little monsters and wild things come alive!

All my children, from two to eight years old, were super excited when they saw the supplies displayed in the middle of the table:

They quickly got to work creating their own little monster wild things!  It always amazes me how children know exactly what to do with the supplies for an open ended craft activity!

To set up your own Wild Things Scented Monster Play Dough activity, you will need these

Simple Supplies:

* play dough (used dough with the colors a little mixed works great!)
* essential oils (for scenting the play dough...optional!)
* eyes (monsters need to see!)
* other "wild thing" accessories (We used feathers, toothpicks, pipe cleaners, yarn, and toothy smiles)

Accessory Notes:

1- To make the toothy smiles, I just drew on a piece of egg carton and cut out a flap so the kids could insert the toothy smile into their play dough better:

2- We used feathers from CraftProjectIdeas.com.  I cut the feathers, pipe cleaners, and yarn to about three inches long.

Easy How To:

1- If you're scenting your play dough, add a couple drops of essential oil to the play dough and knead it in.  Brain research is showing that smells are tied to memories, so using sensory activities that include smell can actually help form memories!

2- Arrange all the supplies so that your kiddos can reach them easily.  I love these round trays, but you can just set them all in the middle of the table too!

3- Let your children get busy creating!

They will let you know when they are done!  I love how different each wild thing monster turned out, and yet I think they are all still super adorable!  Some of them even stand up!!

I am sharing this activity as a host for September's Virtual Book Club for kids!  I really hope you join with us each month in this easy way to celebrate and enjoy literacy with your little ones!  Each month the hosts will bring you more than a dozen activities related to one amazing book.  This month, the book is Where the Wild Things Are!

You can read more about the Virtual Book Club here, and join in the fun on the Virtual Book Club Facebook Page here!  Also, be sure to check out all the Where the Wild Things Are themed activities this month:

Name Crown Craft by The Pleasantest Thing (name activities)

Where the Wild Things Are Counting Game by Mom Inspired Life (counting activities)

Wild Things Scented Monster Play Dough! by The Preschool Powol Packets  (sensory activities)

Where the Wilds Things Are Sand Tray from Study at Home Mama (sensory activities)

Where the Wild Things Are Treats by I Can Teach My Child (cooking)

Where the Wild Things Are Monster Glyphs by Inspiration Laboratories (science activities)

Where the wild things are - Mapping our Backyard Habitats by Rainy Day Mum (science activities)

Where the Wild Things Are Color Tree Game by The Educators' Spin On It (color activities)

Where the Wild Things Are Action Word Rumpus by Growing Book by Book (movement activity)

Where the Wild Things Are Gross Motor by 3 Dinosaurs (movement activity)

Make a Wild Thing Shape Craft by Still Playing School (shape activities)

Have you shared Where the Wild Things Are with your kiddos?  Do they love it?  Have you done any activities with it?  I'd love to hear from you!!

Amazon Affiliate Links:

Disclosure: CraftProjectIdeas.com provided the feathers to us.  No other compensation was provided and all ideas and opinions are 100% mine!  I only recommend products I love!

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Monday, August 31, 2015

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Chocolate Chip Change: A {FREE} Counting, Numbers, & Colors Game!!

I am super excited to share Chocolate Chip Change with you today!  It's a preschool-friendly counting, numbers, and colors game!!

We've been reading Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory as a read aloud book recently, and everyone has loved it!  Last week I shared our chocolate sensory lesson and activity, and today I am sharing our new chocolate-y themed card game!

The number cards all have numbers printed and a corresponding number of chocolate chips on them.  This helps children associate the numbers with objects they represent, and helps ease the burden of differentiating between tricky numbers like a six and nine!  Additionally, the game requires color knowledge of red, green, blue, and yellow.  My experience has been that if children do not know the necessary colors when they want to play a game, they will learn them very quickly!

How to Play Chocolate Chip Change:

1- Deal each player seven cards and turn one card over in the middle to make a discard pile.  Place the rest of the cards face down in the middle for a draw pile.

2- On your turn, play a card in the discard pile by either matching the color of the previous card in the discard pile OR by playing the next number if you were counting.  For example, if the previous card in the discard pile were a Red 4, you could play any Red card or any 5 card. **

3- If you can't play, draw a card.  If you can play it, play it!  If you cannot play it, your turn is over.

4- To change the color, you must either have the correct number card OR a powerful color changing card!

5- Continue play until all the cards in your hand are played!  Or, declare the first player to use all his/her cards the winner!

** Variations:

1- If your kiddos are too young to count, you could let them match identical numbers.

2- Once your kids are pros at counting up, try playing a few rounds where you count backwards!

Click here to download a {FREE} copy of Chocolate Chip Change: a counting, numbers, and colors card game!!  Please do not share the file, host it on other websites, or post it in groups.  Sharing a link to this blog post is always appreciated!  Encouraging other parents and teachers to download their own copy by clicking through this page allows me to continue to create {FREE} materials.  Thank you for sharing appropriately!!

We created these cards to go with our reading of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

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The timing is doubly perfect since this months's Poppins Book Nook theme is Books Made Into Movies!  We will probably finish reading it this week and watch the movie for our Friday Fun Night movie.

For more fun activities and learning ideas with books that have been turned into movies, be sure to check out these blogs:

And, if you have any related blog posts about books that became movies, feel free to add them to the linky below!  Also, be sure to stop by Enchanted Homeschooling Mom for a great giveaway!

I may share at any of these parties!

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Friday, August 28, 2015

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Chocolate Sensory Activity & Lesson!!

Chocolate, science, sensory, a great book...this activity/lesson has all the best parts of learning in it!!  And all our kiddos loved it...from two to eight years old!!

In anticipation of Roald Dahl's birthday coming up, I decided to read Charlie and and the Chocolate Factory aloud to our kiddos.  They are absolutely loving it!  It is so creative and bizarre that it is like candy for their imaginations, while at the same time it has a lovable main character that they all relate to.  An extra bonus is that each chapter only takes a couple minutes to read, so it is something my child with a short attention span can easily sit and listen to each day!  We haven't quite finished it, but it is safe to say that it is one of our new favorite read-alouds!

Since we've been reading about chocolate every day (and talking about it...can you imagine a life-time supply?!!), I decided to have a short lesson on where the chocolate they love so much comes from.  When I used to teach high school students, another teacher once commented to me that they love to learn about things tied to their tummies.  Well, preschoolers are no different!  When I told them we were learning about chocolate, they were thrilled!

Chocolate comes from a cacao tree (scientific name: Theobroma Cacao) that only grows near the equator in hot, rainy tropical forests.  They are not the tallest trees--most are between 20 and 40 feet high--but they can live over 200 years!

Pods about a foot long grow on the tree's branches and main trunk.  Inside the pods are about 50-60 cacao seeds or, as we nicknamed them, chocolate beans!  Check out the pods:

The pods and beans are harvested by hand, often using machetes or other long knives and mallets.  The chocolate beans are so bitter no animals will eat them!  The beans are then processed in several steps:

1- They are scooped into piles, covered with banana leaves, and left to ferment for 2-8 days.  They get very hot and experience chemical changes that help break down some of the bitter enzymes (though my kids will tell you they are still very bitter)!  The seeds also change from purple to dark brown.

2- The seeds are spread out in mats and trays so they can dry out in the sun.

3- Broken seeds and trash are removed.

4- The final chocolate beans are packaged in burlap bags weighing up to 200 pounds and shipped around the world!

You can buy unsweetened baking chocolate (100% cacao) in most grocery stores.  My kids associate chocolate with sweetness, so I wanted to let them taste what it's like before it is drowned in sugar!  I picked up some unsweetened powdered cocoa and a bar of unsweetened 100% cacao last time I was shopping.

We were especially delighted when we opened the Ghiradelli bar and saw...a golden wrapper (just like Charlie found a golden ticket)!!  (Note: this is not a sponsored post...we just happened to use the Ghiradelli bar and it worked out wonderfully.  You can use any brand you want!)

Break off a piece of pure chocolate for each of your kids!!  This is the fun, tasting, sensory part!  Ask them what they expect it to taste like, let them taste it, and then see what they think.

I love the Ghiradelli's bar!  Unsweetened chocolatey goodness!  My kids thought it needed sugar!  Desperately!  

They also thought the powdered cocoa needed sugar.
We ended with some (sweetened) chocolate chips.  They thought those were wonderful!

During the next few days, we made a couple treats with chocolate...and, of course, they were all sweetened.  :)  It was a fun way to tie in a few chocolate activities to an awesome book!

Have you ever tasted unsweetened chocolate?  Have your kiddos?  How did they react?  I'd love to know!

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AND, here are some more great ideas to want to celebrate Roald Dahl's birthday with more book related activities:  

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