Why Mums and Dads Shouldn’t be Camera Shy.

A few months ago a Facebook post asking dads to take more pictures of their partners went viral.  The post is re-surfacing this week.   I recently wrote a piece about it that had a lot of favourable comments if you would like to check it out.

Messy Hair and No Make-Up, the One Reason we Should Stay in Front of the Camera Anyway.

 

 

 

Minion Themed Party

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It was party time again recently and this time my six-year-old chose a Minion theme. On arrival they were given a Minion hat made from a builders hat with a pair of cardboard goggles attached.

Food

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Minions love bananas, so they had to be on the menu. My eight-year-old decorated each banana to look like a Minion.

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My six-year-old did the same with the cheese sticks.

I found Minion shaped fruit snacks and we had a selection of fruits and snacks.

It was all topped off with a Minion beach party cake.

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Crafts

Whilst we were waiting for guests to arrive, I printed colouring sheets for the children.  My daughter had requested cookie decorating, so we decorated mandolins ( a perfect shape for a minion) with blue and yellow icing, black icing to add detail and edible eyes to make a Minion cookie.

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I laid out pictures of Minions and gave each child a piece of yellow and blue polymer clay to make Minions. They added black and white for the eyes.  I love how they turned out and that they were all so different.

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Games

Pin the hat on the Minion

This was a pre-bought game and acted as a good time filler while I laid out the food.

Pass the parcel

A Minion themed gift was wrapped and then covered in multiple layers.  The parcel is passed around a circle to music and each time the music stops a layer is unwrapped.  In previous parcels we had an activity to complete in each layer but this time I simple placed a lollipop in each layer.  The person to unwrap the last layer, gets to keep the gift.

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Musical bananas

A variation of musical chairs. Lay out the same number of laminated pictures of bananas on the floor as there are children.  The children dance and move around the room and one banana is taken away.  When the music stops everyone runs to collect a banana and the child left without one is out (but gets a treat as consolation). The last child left in wins a prize.

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Races

Balance a banana on your head and walk to the other side of the room. Complete it successfully and win a prize. This was a big favourite. We ran out of time for more games but below are a few more banana games you may like to try.

  • Race to peel a banana wearing a pair of gloves
  • Hide bananas for a banana themed treasure hunt.
  • Stick pictures of bananas to a blow up palm tree and hold it high.  Jump up and pick as many bananas as you can in a given time frame.

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links

Art Project for Kids: Oil Pastel Still Life Inspired by Georgia O’Keefe

img_0664December’s Art project with Kindergarten and 2nd Grade was a still life Poinsettia using oil pastel.  The Kindergarteners had only used chalk pastel up until now, so our first lesson introduced them to oil pastel techniques.

The children were given a selection of oil pastels and a piece of paper and asked to try them out and think about how they might be different to the chalk pastels we used in the previous session.

Here are some of their observations.

The colours are brighter and you can press harder.

When you press hard it gets softer and easier to mix

They are like crayons

It didn’t blend across the colours like the chalk pastels but it worked when you put one colour on top of another.

You can blend chalk pastel with your finger. You can still blend with oil pastel but it is harder.

I can add white to blue to make light blue.

I showed them how to blend the pastels using baby oil and a Q-tip/cotton bud. the children practised making pictures using the blending technique.

I can colour just a little bit with oil pastel  and then use the oil on my Q tip to fill in the rest – it makes a lighter color.

It looks like paint when we add oil to the pastels, it makes it smoother

 You can use the Q tip like a paint brush

If you use too much oil it rubs the color away.  You need just a little bit to blend.

I gave them another piece of paper and they drew around their hand using pencil.  They then coloured the hand in stripes using the oil pastels.  The colours were blended using oil. We painted the background with liquid water-colour. They thought it was very cool that the pastels repelled the paint.

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Still Life

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For the follow-up session and with the 2nd Graders who are familiar with oil pastels, I chose a still life drawing of a Poinsettia.  The Kindergartners haven’t followed a project inspired by an artist, so I asked for suggestions of still life oil pastel artists on a Reggio-inspired Facebook group. After a bit of research, I decided upon Georgia O’Keefe.  I liked the way that O’Keefe draws flowers but doesn’t always focus on the whole plant. I felt that if we looked at examples of her work as inspiration, the children could choose to zoom in on one part of the flower,if they didn’t feel confident enough to tackle the whole thing.

I limited the  oil pastel colours to shades of red and green, black for shade and yellow and white for highlights.  The children drew the picture with the pastels and then blended using oil.  The final touch was painting the background with liquid watercolour.

Since the children hadn’t done anything like this before, I was aware that they may find it challenging.  To start the lesson we read ‘Ish’ by Peter Reynolds. This is the story of a boy who gives up drawing in frustration because his pictures do not look like the real thing.  His sister persuades him to look at his pictures in a new light, as tree-ish, afternoon-ish and vase-ish .  I wanted the children to understand that this was not an exercise in replicating exactly the plant in front of them because each of us view it differently.  My aim was for the children to study the plant and replicate it in their own way.  I think we achieved that aim perfectly.

Kindergarten Class

 

Interestingly the Kindergartners were less anxious about the task than the 2nd graders, who found it hard to decide which part to draw and spent a lot of time considering how to make the shapes. A few children needed a lot of encouragement and support to make their own marks on the paper.

2nd Grade Class

I love how different they all are. The Kindergartners really focused on the shapes of the leaves and the 2nd graders paid more attention to the details in the leaves and petals and were more abstract with their use of colour. I’m really impressed with the finished results and it was a really valuable exercise to see how differently we all see things.

 

 

 

Home-Made Teacher Gift: Reindeer and Chocolate Sleigh

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At Christmas time I always like my teacher gift to be home-made to add a personal touch.  This is a simple gift we made last year.

 

The reindeer were made from wine corks, with tooth picks for legs and pipe cleaner antlers.

Push the toothpicks into the corks at an angle to make legs and cut them to an equal length.

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We joined the necks to the body using craft wire. It is Easier if you push holes into the cork using  a skewer or knife before adding the wire. Add the Antlers and draw a face adding a pom pom nose if desired.

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To make the sleigh, tape bars of chocolate together with two candy canes taped to the base.  Wrap the sleigh in gift ribbon and attach to the reindeer.

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A simple inexpensive gift for a teacher, neighbour of friend.

Clay Cup Cake Pots, Inspired by Wayne Thiebaud

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Wayne Thiebaud is an American artist, known for his paintings of everyday objects.  These include many works depicting food; in particular, cakes, pies and pastries.  For our second grade clay project, we used Thiebaud’s cupcake paintings as inspiration for teaching two basic techniques for making pots.

The base of the pot was a simple thumb pot and the lid a coil pot.

Preparation

Each child was given two pieces of clay, a selection of clay tools and a damp sponge in a pot, all laid on a slightly damp cloth.

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Step 1.

Take one of the balls of clay and knead it to get rid of any air bubbles.  Then press thumbs into the centre to make a hole.

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Step 2

Push thumbs outwards to make a pot shape.

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Step 3

Smooth fingers around the top edge to make it flat and even.

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Step 4

Carve patterns into the bowl.  Some children made lines to make it look like a cupcake case and others chose their own designs or carved names into the sides.

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The coil pot lid

The base was put to one side and the second piece of clay kneaded to make the lid. The lid was coiled to look like frosting.

Step one

Shape the clay into a cylinder with your hands and roll it on the mat until it makes a large sausage shape to equal the length of the mat.

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Keep moving hands along the length of the clay to avoid thin parts that will break off.  The paper moved around a bit so it was helpful to have their partner hold their mat down whilst they rolled.

Step 2

Measure the sausage around the top of the thumb pot.  Keep coiling, sloping the sides inwards until it closes at the top. Add a  clay cherry, if desired.

Step 3

Dampen the inside of the coil pot with a sponge and rub your fingers over the joins on the inside, until the surface is smooth.  This will stop it collapsing and falling apart.

Fire in the kiln

 Session 2 :The Glaze

I showed the children pictures of Thiebaud’s cupcakes for inspiration.cupcakes

The glaze colours were selected to match those used in Thiebaud’s paintings. Pastel shades, along with red for the cherries and brown for chocolate.

Each table had a paper plate with a selection of glaze colours on it and every child was given a fine and a thick paintbrush, a pot of water and a paper towel.

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They applied two layers of glaze, being careful not to leave white spaces.

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The finished results were pale and matt. I explained that the colours would become vibrant and glossy once they had been fired.

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The Finished Results

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The glazed pots are placed on stilts when fired in the kiln, so they don’t stick to the shelves.

I love the results. I think they will make a perfect Christmas gift.

 

 

8 New Picture Books to Add to Your Christmas List

At this time of the year I love to add books to my children’s wish list, but it often takes a lot of research to find new books that I know we will all love. I have received a large number of books to consider for review during 2016, so to help those of you who are seeking inspiration, I compiled a list of some of my favourites.

The Barefoot Book of Children

The Barefoot Book of Children is an absolute joy of a book and a clear favourite.  I would urge any parent or teacher to add it to their collection.  This non-fiction title is a celebration of our common humanity and helps facilitate discussions about race, diversity and inclusion. It looks at how other children live, how we are different and most importantly how we are alike.  The book is full of questions that provoke discussion , “How do you share your love? ”  “What would you like to do if you had a chance?” “Do you have a special place?” As a teacher, I would share a few pages each day to lead a discussion or topic.  Detailed descriptions of the illustrations can be found in the reference materials at back of the book. Children who love facts, can find out about the cultures depicted in the book including names of houses, meanings of names, special celebrations or cultural foods. This section has further talking points, to develop the thinking of slightly older children.  My youngest daughters shared this book together and were completely absorbed by discovering new things and discussing the questions together.

The Barefoot Book of Children is not available until the Spring in the UK but is currently available in the US.

The Branch by Mireille Messier illustrated by Pierre Pratt

The Branch is a charming story book featuring a little girl, who has a favourite branch on her tree where she likes to play and watch the world go by.  One stormy night, she is devastated to find her branch laying on the ground. Her mother agrees that she can keep the broken branch, for a while. Mr Frank, her neighbour understands the little girls sadness and seeing  potential in every piece of wood, he crafts the perfect gift from her favourite branch.The relationships in this book are portrayed beautifully through the text and illustrations.  I particularly love the sequence where the old man and the little girl, work together in the workshop to create something special. The Branch is a perfect book for children like mine, who love to climb trees.

The Littlest Family’s Big Day by Emily Winfield Martin

The Littlest Family’s Big Day is about moving to a new home and is perfect for younger readers.  The simple text will keep their interest and the beautiful, detailed illustrations have plenty for children to explore. This would make a wonderful bedtime book as you snuggle together and point out all the tiny details of this woodland world.

A Squiggly Story by Andrew Larsen and Mike Lowery

A Squiggly Story is the tale of a little boy who wants to write stories like his big sister, but hasn’t yet learned to write words.  His sister encourages him to tell his story, using individual letters and shapes. He tells the story to his class at school, who contribute more ideas.  This is a great read aloud  book for pre-school or kindergarten teachers, perfect for showing children that you can tell a story even if you can’t write words.  It would also make a lovely gift for an older sibling to give to a younger sibling practicing emergent writing.

Lily the Fancipoo and Piper was Afraid

These books come in gift sets, complete with a soft dog and adorable little mouse. The toys are of excellent quality and are totally irresistible.  I didn’t get chance to review Lily the Fancipoo as it was held up in transit, but we received Piper was Afraid. Piper was Afraid, is about a big dog who misses out on all kinds of fun because he is afraid.  The book had two features that made it an instant hit with my kids – the added bonus of the cuddly toys and an interactive element where you find the mouse hidden on every page.  Either book would make a perfect gift for young children.

Leonard’s Beard by Nancy Cote

Leonard’s Beard, is a comical story about a writer who becomes so absorbed in his stories, he forgets about the outside world. His beard grows and grows until one day  during a storm, Leonard realises how out of control it has become. He cuts his beard, revealing all manner of interesting objects. As he removes them, he discovers that being absorbed in writing has stopped him having his own adventures. This would be a good book to encourage children to get outside more or move away from a screen.

This or That: A Busy Morning by Wendy Kronick

A perfect book for babies and toddlers.  It follows the RIE parenting model , offering choices  to the child as he moves through his day. This is a lovely, interactive book to share with a young child.  At transitions during the day the toddler is presented with two options, “the bib keeps your clothes dry and clean, which will you wear, the red or the green?” Simple rhyming text will appeal to small children and it is perfect for promoting early social, emotional and communication skills.

Mr Matisse and his Cutouts by Annemarie Van Haeringen

Mr Matisse and his Cutouts is an ideal book for teachers or parents wishing to inspire art projects.  The story focuses on the latter part of Matisse’s life, when due to cancer he was no longer able to create art as he had done before.  Matisse found new ways to create, by cutting shapes from paper and displaying them around the room.  I’m looking forward to using this one in my art lessons next year.

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links.  I recieved review copies of the books featured in either digital or traditional format.

Leavenworth in Winter

 

 

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Last year was our first trip to Leavenworth during the Winter.  We have visited a number of times in the summer and had heard great things about the Christmas lights, so decided to take a trip. The Christmas lighting festival takes place during the first three weeks of December. There are plenty of activities at the festival and the girls loved seeing Santa and Mrs Christmas.

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It gets very busy, so parking can be difficult.  If you prefer to go when it is quieter,the lights remain lit until February. We took another trip with guests after Christmas, which personally I preferred as it wasn’t so crowded.

Leavenworth is the perfect place to find snow. Take your sledges with you and go down the hill in the town centre.  It is pretty bumpy so your sledge may not survive evidenced by the pile of broken plastic sledges at the bottom of the hill at the end of the evening. Surprisingly, the sledges we brought over from the UK survived, but the ones we bought here cracked.sledging in leavenworth

On our first visit we weren’t quite prepared for how cold it would be. We took our dog , who shivered the whole time and since we arrived in the evening for the lights, we really needed an extra layer of clothing.  On our next visit we came fully prepared with our ski gear and left the dog at home.

Ski hill was the perfect place for my eldest to try out her snow board for the first time. Our guest skied on the larger slope and the younger ones tried out tubing.

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The view was spectacular too. When we had all had too much cold, we had hot drinks at the lodge on the hill and warmed ourselves by the fire.

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I think if I were to go again, I would book early for an overnight stay.  A day trip is fine in the Summer but I think a warm fire, hot drink and comfortable bed nearby would top off the day perfectly.

Play, Early Education and more…

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