All posts by rightfromthestart

Had Enough of Snow? These Peanuts Snow Sculptures will Make you Smile.

After almost a week of snow in the Seattle area, many have had enough of snow and can’t wait to get back to normality. Personally, snow makes me smile. I love having my kids home and playing in the snow, because we can try out some really cool projects. As Peanuts fans, on our first snow day this week, we built a snow sculpture of Snoopy lying on his kennel.

snoopy snow sculpture

We used a brick mould to build the structure of the kennel and smoothed the sides to make the sloping roof. Then, sculpted snoopy lying down on top.

snoopy snow sculpture

His nose and ears were painted with watercolour block paint and we painted his name on the entrance to the kennel.

snow sculpture snoopy on kennel

Each day we have added a new Peanuts character.

Day 2 – Charlie Brown and Woodstock

The following night we had a lot of snowfall, so in the morning it was as if a Snoopy cartoon had come to life.

Thankfully the snow was soft and powdery so brushed off with little damage, other than some paint smudging and a slightly less defined Woodstock.

Day 3 – Lucy

lucy van pelt snow sculpture

Day 4 – Linus

This is my personal favourite. There had been some thawing overnight so there were a lot of pine needles in the snow; perfect for Linus’ hair.

Linus Van Pelt snow sculpture

For as long as the snow remains, we’re going to add a different character each day. I’ll be updating this post and my Instagram and Facebook page with pictures of the new additions. Who is your favourite Peanuts character?

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A Step by Step Guide to Making Ice Ornaments

It isn’t often we get a cold spell long enough to make ice ornaments, but with freezing temperatures set to last, we made a few batches to hang on our bushes. They look really beautiful, but also provide lots of opportunity to learn about ice, freezing and melting. A few years ago we made some and shared our learning story, as we watched them melt and freeze.

How to Make an Ice Ornament

You will need

  • Baking trays
  • Ribbon or string
  • Food colouring (optional)

Step 1.

valentine ice ornaments

Choose a baking /cup cake tray and fill each hole with cold water.

Step 2

Add a drop of food colouring – mix or leave to mix itself which can leave a marbled effect.

Step 3

ice ornaments

Snip pieces of ribbon or string and submerge one end in the water, making sure the other end is free. You could loop the string but I prefer to leave it as it makes it easier to tie to larger branches. I usually do this part outside to avoid spilling when you move them to freeze.

Step 4

Leave outside overnight to freeze (or put the tray in your freezer).

Step 5

ice ornaments

Hang on a bush or tree. If there is snow on the ground the food colouring will drip onto the snow as they melt. If there are prolonged freezing temperatures the ornaments will melt slightly and form icicles as they re-freeze.

I wasn’t sure how easily the hearts come out of the tins but they came out without any trouble. If they need a little help, bring them inside for a few minutes or run some warm water on the base of the tin. Alternatively, you could use a silicone mould.

The second batch also included owls and bears. We made half of the owls clear, to see how they would look without colour, but kept the colour in the bears, because my daughter thought they would look like gummy bears.

Picture Books to Add to Your Valentine’s Day Collection.

Do you share Valentine themed books with your class or kids at home? Some of the old favourites like Guess how much I Love You are great, but it’s always good to refresh your collection with new titles.

Have I Ever Told You by Shani Kin would make a perfect Valentine’s gift for a younger child. My children read it and said ‘ this is really lovely’. The book is full of the important messages a parent should share with their child;  messages of love, acceptance, tolerance and joy. I can imagine snuggling with my girls, reading the book together and talking about the messages within. Each message end with the phrase, ‘Have I ever told you that?’. Some of the messages are recognizable as things we say to our children, and some may be things we ought to say, but sometimes forget.

book for valentines day

The illustrations by Anna Horvath, are built around hands; multiracial hands, hands doing things, holding things and helping each other. Intertwined with the hands are objects and thoughts to represent each thing the parent tells their child. There is something strikingly beautiful about this; love expressed through hands as they create, bond, help, heal and touch. Holding and touching hands is perhaps the most sincere and secure expression of love there is.

If Have I Ever Told You were read in a classroom, it could inspire a Valentine themed writing project. The children could choose someone they love – a parent, sibling, friend or grandparent, and write something they want to tell them, ending with, ‘have I ever told you that?’ You could scribe for pre-writers and they could draw a picture or write it inside a hand print. Advanced writers could make a small book following the theme. Asking the children why they think hands were used in the illustrations, would also spark an interesting discussion.

Have I ever Told You would make a perfect Valentine’s gift.

Love Big by Kat Kronenberg follows a different theme, one of kindness and community.  In Love Big, Baboon watches the other animals being mean to one another and teaches them that through smiles, kindness, sharing and listening, we can build a happy community. 

I liked the message of the book and think it would be a good starting point for talking about classroom community.  I feel like it would be more effective if it were simplified, as in places it was a little wordy, especially in the parts where Baboon shares his message, which seem a little complex for small children. The book has a nice structure as it moves through a scenario where the animals behave in an unfriendly way and then are taught that they can be happier if they behave differently.  I personally disliked the repetitive Whoosh! Wham! In a flash of light before the phrases ‘We can be kind’, ‘We can share’, ‘We can listen’ and ‘We can care’  as they felt unnecessary and showy, but that is simply a personal preference. In some places, it felt like it was trying to do too much, for example it includes a song to the tune of twinkle, twinkle little star which felt a little out of place to me.

The illustrations by David Miles are bright, bold and cheerful. As the animals learn their lessons, the illustrations are placed in small vignettes and this makes a nice contrast with the bright, full page illustrations in the other parts of the book.

In the back of the book there are ideas for classroom activities to explore the books themes further and additional activities, fact sheets and videos can be found on Katkronenberg.com.

Disclaimer – this post contains Amazon affiliate links.


Book Review for Multicultural Book Day: Farmer Falgu goes to the Kumbh Mela

Multicultural book day was the brainchild of reading and play advocates Valarie Budayr and Mia Wenjen, to share awareness of multicultural books and to get more of them in libraries, homes and schools. As an advisor, I was often asked to suggest multicultural books for schools and it was difficult to find quality books about diverse cultures. A key part of the initiative is to send out books for review to build a huge database of multicultural books with reviews. The website also includes lots of free resources for teachers with booklists, activities and posters.

The book I received is Farmer Falgu Goes to the Kumbh Mela by Chitra Soundar and Kanika Nair. 

multicultural picture books

This is the 3rd book in the Farmer Falgu series. Farmer Falgu, visits Allahabad for the Kumbh Mela festival and has a list of things he wants to see and do. Along the way he helps people, but each time he misses the events he hoped to see. Farmer Falgu. though disappointed, shrugs it off with the repeated phrase ‘maybe next time’. In the end, a turn of fate leads him to experience all of the things on his list and he has an ‘unbelievable ‘ time.

The Hindu festival of Kumbh Mela wasn’t familiar to me or my children so we really enjoyed reading about it. It feels very authentic, as if you are looking into the heart of another culture, rather than a superficial book about a festival. The book follows a clear structure and has repetitive phrases that will appeal to young readers, making it a perfect introduction to this lesser known festival. The illustrations are full of vibrant colours and bold designs and I love the simple way the illustrator shows facial expression and character.

multicultural picture book

A description of the origins of Kumbh Mela can be found at the back of the book. This could be a springboard to further research on the festival. Sometimes, I feel picture books are overlooked as a springboard for learning with older elementary children. This book could spark a wonderful project for older children too.

Suggested activities

  • Find the story of Kumbh Mela in Hindu mythology. Read it, act it out, draw pictures. Read other Hindu Myths – older children could write their own story in the style of a Hindu myth.
  • Find Allahabad on a map. Research what Allahabad looks like. Find the other locations of Kumbh Mela on a map.
  • Watch videos of the Kumbh Mela celebrations. Talk about celebrations in their own culture that may be similar.
  • Taste and/or make jalebis and lassis.
  • Think about the video and the book – why did farmer Falgu stop to help people? What happens in crowded places? Have you ever been lost? What did it feel like? What should we do when we are lost? This could also be the basis of a story.
  • Role play area – a train and role play a crowded train journey, a festival stand selling jalebis.

The 4th book in the Farmer Falgu series, Farmer Falgu goes Kite Flying, is available in April.

What Did Girls Learn at School in the 1930’s?

There is currently a programme airing on the BBC called Back in time for school . The programme takes modern day children back in time to experience school life through seven eras.

When I was going through my grandfather’s things following his death, I found an exercise book from when my grandmother was at school in the 1934. She had kept it because it contained recipes. The subject was domestic subjects and inside is a treasure trove of information about domestic life in those times and what girls learned at school.

When I was at school in the 80’s, we were taught domestic science which was basically cookery. What my grandmother learned, was a complete guide to managing a 1930’s house. This may be because most women in the 1930’s were homemakers, or perhaps some girls were still going into service and needed to know how to do domestic tasks in a large household. The lessons contain really useful things about baking that I wish were still taught at school, like tips and tricks for making cakes and pastry. The remainder of lessons relate to laundry and domestic chores. Here is an example:-

Method for washing white cottons and linens

  1. First put the clothes to soak to loosen the dirt, if possible over night.
  2. Wash them in hot water with plenty of lather
  3. Rinse in boiling water and wring all the soap out.
  4. Mangle them to get the rest of the water out.
  5. Put them on the line to dry
  6. If they dry too much, sprinkle with water and roll them up
  7. Iron, fold edge to edge and then once more.

In other laundry lessons they learned about blueing clothes, washing and ironing prints, washing silks and starching clothes. No wonder they set aside a whole day for washing! It certainly makes you realise how easy domestic life is in the modern day.

Domestic tasks included how to scrub white wood, cleaning brushes and brooms and my personal favourite – daily work in the dining room.

Daily work in the dining room

  1. Open the window
  2. Take out the rugs and flowers. Shake the rugs and change the water in the flowers
  3. Put the table chairs and cushions into the corner of the room and cover with a dust sheet
  4. Put down the hearth cloth and attend to the grate in the following order, Take out the ashes, keep the large to light the fire and empty the small ones into the ash bin. Clean and polish the grate. Lay the fire using newspaper, sticks, ashes and coal, then light it.
  5. Sweep the floor
  6. Remove the dust sheets and dust all the furniture
  7. Polish the floor
  8. Bring back the rugs and flowers and put everything in its proper place
  9. Lay the table

I’m not really sure if this one is meant for any household, or for those in service, I suspect the latter. It explains a little about how clean and tidy my grandmother was and how she always had a particular way of doing things. It uses to drive us nuts when we were kids and we used to think she was too fussy. As much as I may decry the teaching of such things to girls, sometimes it would be useful to have a system to follow to avoid the overwhelm.

Reclaim Those Mom Jeans

I have waited 25 years or more for this day.

In my student days, these were my favourite pair of jeans.

They were second-hand, distressed, men’s 501’s, I bought from some trendy, independent clothes shop in the Cardiff arcades. They were too big on the waist, so I synched them in with a wide, brown suede belt but they were the perfect length for my short legs. I wore them with brogues or red leather baseball boots and they became my college uniform.

During my late teens, I never wore jeans or trousers, I was strictly a dress and skirts girl. I liked to feel feminine and also found jeans restrictive and uncomfortable. That is, until I discovered the soft, loose quality of these amazing jeans. I wore them until holes appeared and then hand embroidered cross stitch patches to repair them.

I don’t remember when I let them go. Most likely holes appeared in places I could no longer patch or perhaps they went out of fashion? Since the early 90’s, I have never found another pair of jeans that I loved so much. The boot cut, low-rise, that came into fashion next were fine for my pre-motherhood flat stomach and the low slung combat jeans were a close second but not quite as comfy as those 501’s.

Then there were skinny jeans – great with boots and long sweaters but even with extensive lycra, never really felt comfortable to me. A few weeks ago, I was shopping with my teenage daughter and the shop assistant was wearing a pair of jeans that looked just like my old faithful’s. I complemented her and told her how much they reminded me of my jeans from my student days. My daughter told me they were called ‘mom jeans’ and were really fashionable.

Mom jeans are high-waisted, with a baggy fit around the zipper and legs. The name was coined from jeans your mom wore in the 80’s and early 90’s and were originally seen as unflattering and unfashionable. But somehow, teenage girls have realised how amazingly comfortable and flattering these jeans are and brought them back.

I was overcome with excitement! I could finally find a comfortable pair of jeans, where my middle-aged belly wouldn’t creep over the top and I could sit down in all day without feeling I had been cut in two. But then the dilemma – they are not called mom jeans because they are for moms but because they used to be worn by moms. Is it okay for a woman in her late 40’s to wear the jeans a teenager would wear?

My teen seemed to think it was, so I bit the bullet and bought them. I love them, they are comfortable, they make my waist look small and they are the perfect length for my little legs. They have a few too many rips for my liking, as a sensible mother, I feel they may wear in too quickly and I don’t want to give them up!

I’ve had to adapt my wardrobe slightly with some shorter tops and a pair of shoes (they really don’t work with boots). I love them, perhaps because they are nostalgic, perhaps because they are comfortable. Either way, I urge all middle-aged women to reclaim those mom jeans. Why should the teenagers have all the fun? Although maybe if we all start wearing them, they will quickly go out of fashion. Perhaps I should stockpile them while I still can.

Wintery Art Project to Teach Value

Value in artist’s terms is the darkness or lightness of a colour It gives objects form on the page or in simple terms for young children, it makes a flat shape look 3D.

The goal of this art project for 2nd grade, was to show them how to shade a circle to make it look like a sphere. Since winter is upon us and the class have been reading a lot of books about snow, I chose a snowball.

Introduction

chalk pastel value

I showed an example drawing and asked them how I had made the circle stand out. They talked about the way I had placed it into the mittens and how I had shaded it. I explained that the darkest shading shoukd be opposite the light source and would gradually get lighter. If they left a spot without shading, it would show how the light was shining on it.

Step 1

Draw around your hand with fingers closed and thumb extended. Decorate using patterns and cut out.

Step 2

Draw the sun using shades of yellow, red and orange chalk pastel. Draw different coloured circles and blend to make a sun. Choose a round sun, a semi-circle or draw it in the corner of the paper.

Step 3

Place the mittens on the centre of the paper and place the snowball under the thumbs. Follow your finger in a diaganol line from the sun to the circle and shade the outer edge where your finger meets in a dark shade of blue. Continue, getting lighter with each layer and stop after four shades have been used.

Step 4

Blend with finger and cut out.

Step 5.

Glue the mittens and snowball onto the paper and add snowflakes.

The example used a chalk pastel background but I used blue paper for the class to make the snowflakes stand out more.

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