Monday, November 30, 2015

Beautiful Vegetables for the Holiday Table: Cooking with Kids

Exploring Vegetables and Cooking for the Holidays

We explored new vegetables and prepared two yummy and cute vegetable dishes for the holiday table. These activities were inspired by the book "Holey Moley" by Lois Ehlert.

Feasts around the World is the theme for November at Poppins Book Nook. You can find our previous Poppins Book Nook activities here: Fantastic Fall Forest Sculptures for Kids: The Thinker by Auguste Rodin.

Holey Moley

"Holey Moley" by Lois Ehlert is our book of the month. There is a bounty of vegetables to enjoy on the holiday table. Gardeners works hard to provide us with the yummy things. But what about that Mole in the garden? Is he a scary thief of all these colorful and delicious produce? No! Mole loves to help the gardener to protect veggies from bugs.

The picture glossary of worms, caterpillars, moths, and butterflies is provided for the eager Moles at heart. Of course, Mole loves his veggies! Now, happy and satisfied, he is ready for a long cozy snooze through the winter. Amazon affiliate link: Holey Moley.

Beautiful Vegetables for the Holiday Table: Brussels Sprouts and Butternut Squash

Preparing meals for the Thanksgiving table was exceptionally pleasant for me this time. Both of my kids were willing to help with cooking - that made our table super special and delicious for me. Great memories are made, and that's the only thing that matters! Of course, the above two sentences is what I kept telling them over and over for the next 2 days.

These vegetable exploration activities are the second session for my 4 year old. You can see our previous activities here: Our Fall Vegetable Soup for a Picky Eater. We started by observing the vegetables on the tables and reviewing the safety rules.

My Firefly had to wash her hands and vegetables. She had a real knife to cut vegetables this time. All children are different and accidents happen. As usual, please consider safety first when choosing activities for your child.

We prepared our vegetables (pictured below).
  • Brussels sprouts, the brown stem and 2-4 outer leaves removed, halved;
  • half a butternut squash, pealed, cut into cubes about the size of the Brussels sprout;
  • 2 apples, seeds removed, cut to the same size;
  • 1/2 cup roasted and salted pecans;
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries;
  • extra virgin olive oil.

Vinaigrette Salad Dressing:
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil;
  • 2 tbsp. cider vinegar;
  • 1 tbsp. mustard;
  • 2 tbsp. maple syrup
  • salt and pepper to taste.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Put Brussels sprouts and squash into the bowl, sprinkle with olive oil, toss to coat all the chunks with olive oil thoroughly. Coat the baking sheet with oil, spread vegetables evenly and roast for 25 min.

Remove from the oven, turn the veggies over, add coated apples and cranberries, roast for additional 10-15 min. until squash is soft and Brussels sprouts are starting to turn crunchy brown on the outer leaves.

Prepare the dressing (optional): add vinegar, syrup, and mustard to the half cup of extra virgin olive oil, add spices to taste.

Served best when freshly cooked.

Vegetable Explorations: Cucumbers, Radishes, and Green Onion

My Firefly enjoyed exploring the bright colors and textures of the vegetables. Cooking together supposedly encourage them to try new taste. Well, maybe not this time. This salad is delicious, smells like spring, and so healthy!

Equal parts of radishes and cucumbers, cut thinly;
green onion, roots removed, washed, cut into thin circles;
2-3 eggs, hard boiled, cut into small chunks.

Salad dressing: equal parts of mayonnaise and sour cream, 1 tbsp. of mustard. Salt to taste.

Feasts around the World Is the Theme for November at Poppins Book Nook

It's time for the Poppins Book Nook - a book club that goes live on the last Monday of each months.
You can find our previous Poppins Book Nook books and activities here:
 Poppins Book Nook.

Enchanted Homeschooling Mom - 3 Dinosaurs - ABC Creative Learning - As We Walk Along the Road - Brain Power Boy - Chestnut Grove Academy - Embracing Destiny - Every Bed of Roses - Farm Fresh Adventures - Growing in God's Grace - Kathys Cluttered Mind - My Bright Firefly - Peakle Pie - Preschool Powol Packets - Pray Species - SAHM I am - Stir The Wonder - Sunny Day Family - Sweet Silly Sara - Teach Beside Me - To the Moon and Back - Tots and Me - Tree Valley Academy - Witty Hoots

More Cooking with Kids Ideas from My Bright Firefly

Christmas Holiday Cookies: Decorate and Enjoy
Happy Valentine's Day, Mouse!
Fun with Vegetables: Touch, Smell, Taste, Make Soup Together

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Sunday, November 29, 2015

Easy Christmas Pop-up Card. Painting with Yarn.

Pop-up Christmas Card Craft for Kids

This Christmas card craft came out adorable and was easy enough for my preschooler to make with minimal assistance. Painting straw using yellow tempera paint and yarn was awesome fun, but My Firefly was even more happy to make this special baby for her Christmas card.

The Christmas Story: The Very Special Baby in the Straw

Pictured above, we played with the light-up baby in the straw: built a shed for him and discussed the Christmas story while at it. The discussion led to many questions. Why was this very special baby in the straw? How did the three wise men find the baby? etc.

The whole family got involved into this discussion to add their favorite details. This wonderful discussion became an inspiration for My Firefly's Christmas card.

Painting with Yarn

We chose purple construction paper for the dark Christmas night. My Firefly used yellow tempera paint and a piece of yarn to paint straw for the baby. She dipped her yarn into the paint, then positioned it onto the paper and lifted it right up to make random lines of straw in all directions.

This is her second painting using yarn. This painting technique is fun sensory play! You can find our previous painting with yarn here: Go Away, Big Green Monster!

  • My Firefly loved painting the baby! We used white construction paper for this part. With blue tempera paint, she painted a smaller circle for the face and a bigger oval for the blanket, painted the blanket blue leaving inside the circle blank.
  • When the blue paint was still wet, I offered her to draw lines on it in a circular motion using a clean brush - to resemble the folds of fabric.
  • She painted the baby's face pink.
  • We left both paintings to dry.
  • While the paint was drying, we decorated the front cover of the Christmas card.

The three wise men are walking towards the star. We used the sturdier yellow cardstock paper folded in two. The word "believe" is stamped with white glue using letter stamps and sprinkled over with purple glitter. The picture is a cut out (source unknown) positioned diagonally towards the sticker star.

The star is fixed to the inside corner of the paper so that one can follow the star, open the Christmas card - and find the baby.

To make the manger pop-up, purple paper was folded in two. Three cuts are made starting in the middle, each next one is under the previous and shorter. About half an inch is cut off the 3 sides of the folded paper to make it smaller than the yellow card and leave yellow margins around the purple paper. Open the purple paper and form the pop-up manger by making the folds on both sides of the manger with the center folded in the opposite direction. Add details to the baby's face.

Pictured below, cut the baby out and insert him into the manger by about an inch or two. We made a dot of glue on the underside of about baby's face. The rest of the cut out is not glued to make a 3-D effect of the baby surrounded by straw.

More Christmas Painting Ideas from My Bright Firefly

Christmas Lights Art Project: Short Brush Stroke Painting, Lights and Colors
Process Art: Christmas Handprint and Glitter Wreath
Kiss under the Mistletoe

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Wonderful Christmas Card ideas!
Develop Fine Motor Skills with a Homemade Christmas Card from Sugar Aunts. Hole punch is one of kids' favorite tool. It is great for preparing hand muscles for writing! Such a neat Christmas card here!
Washi Tape Christmas Cards from Mama Smiles. These lovely kid made stickers are simple and adorable!
Christmas Cards for Kids: Washi Tape Baubles from Crafty Kids at Home. Brightly colored baubles make for cheerful Christmas Cards!
Penguin Christmas Card from Adventures of Adam. Love this mess free painting technique using some cling film. Such an adorable Christmas card!
Merry & Bright Christmas Cards from Books and Giggles. Printing with aluminum foil allows for creative and mess free painting. Plus making Christmas cards is an inspiration for fun literacy activities!
Gingerbread Man with a Candy Cane from The Gingerbread House. A candy cane addition is a wonderful idea for the fun Christmas cards to friends!
Marbled Homemade Christmas Card from Fun-A-Day. These beautiful Christmas cards are painted using shaving cream: so fun!
A Beautiful Hanging Star Card from Witty Hoots.

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Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Christmas Lights Art Project: Short Brush Stroke Painting, Lights and Colors

Christmas Lights Art Appreciation Activity and Playing with Lights

My Firefly loves Christmas lights! For this art project, we tried short brush strokes when painting a Christmas tree, observed and discussed beautiful lights and reflections, and painted our own using the new tempera paint sticks.

Under the Christmas Tree by Franz Skarbina

A girl in a white dress is showing her dolls the nativity scene under the Christmas lights. This beautiful painting, "Under the Christmas Tree" by Franz Skarbina, might get kids interested.

Kids find nativity scenes very special. This one lit by the miracle Christmas lights is fun to observe for this girl and her dollies. Kids can notice the special effects of the lights on the girl's white dress and the table cloth, on the objects and walls. The artist made his painting magical with the play of the lights and colors!

Oil on canvas, Stiftung Stadtmuseum, Berlin
Some questions we discussed:
  • What can we see in this picture?
  • What do you think this girl is doing?
  • How does she feel? What do you think she could say at that moment?
  • What color is the girl's dress? The toys? The walls?
  • I can see a lot of pink and blue! Which is your favorite color here?

Christmas Lights Art Project

Evergreen Trees: Nature Walk Activities for Kids from My Bright Firefly: Before painting our Christmas tree, we went to the nature walk to find and observe the trees in the neighborhood.

We painted the trunk and branches first using brown paint.

I showed how to apply green paint in short strokes. Mastering the short brush stroke painting is a challenge. The tree was a fun opportunity to play with the brush. Covering the branches to make a nice festive tree was so joyful that My Firefly painted three trees before she stopped. Nice!

Pictured above, we used one of her trees to make this year's Advent Calendar found here:
Winter Snowflakes Advent Calendar: Countdown to Christmas Surprises.

Lights and Colors: Kwik Stix

My Firefly had a great time painting Christmas lights, adding moon, stars, snow and snowflakes to her trees using Kwik Stix. Amazon affiliate link: The Pencil Grip Kwik Stix Solid Tempera Paint, Super Quick Drying, 12 Pack (TPG-602). Product review: Kwik Stix Solid Tempera Paint. This product was sent to us for free.  All views and opinions with regard to Kwik Stix are my own and were not reviewed by the company prior to publishing.

Painting projects are usually messy. This Christmas Lights art would usually require me to set up for painting twice: painting a tree, waiting for it to dry, then set up for all the fun touches.

Using Kwik Stix made my job so much easier! These tempera paint sticks are truly mess free. Pictured above, My Firefly happily used 2 colors of paint at a time to create her patterns of lights.

My favorite is the white paint stick. It allowed for quick final touches of snow on the tree. The snow has a natural paint-like finish and took a couple of seconds to paint. It is dry to touch in seconds!

The lights on the tree, gifts and snow is painted with our set of 12 colors. The colors are vibrant and My Firefly loved painting using the sticks. The brightly colored boxes under the tree are something to look forward to!

Kwik Stix are easy to use and completely dry in 90 seconds. They are not to replace the regular paint and brushes, but a fun alternative to the usual art supplies - in an engaging playful way that encourages creativity.

More Art Appreciation Activity Ideas from My Bright Firefly

Kiss under the Mistletoe
Swan Lake Painting and Hand Print Art
Bubbles Art Project Using Oil Pastels and Paint

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Sunday, November 22, 2015

Winter Snowflakes Advent Calendar: Countdown to Christmas Surprises

A Christmas Tree on the Cork Board Advent Calendar

This simple, child's artwork Christmas tree advent calendar reveals a surprise after surprise. I can't wait for my family to start enjoying it! This easy DIY calendar is set on a cork board using simple hand made envelopes and pins. Our favorite winter scene and fun activity prompts will be revealed every day up until Christmas.

Our Fun Countdown to Christmas

This advent calendar consists of 25 hand made envelopes. We measured and cut blue construction paper to size and folded each piece in three, glued together to create easy envelops.

Painting our beautiful Christmas tree with lights from My Bright Firefly:
I taped envelopes together and onto the easel. My Firefly enjoyed painting a special Christmas tree scenery for the Christmas countdown. This will be her first advent calendar since she can count to 25. So I wanted it to feature her art work.

After the paint was dry, I cut the envelopes apart and set them on the cork board.

The other side of this Christmas calendar features our favorite winter scenery. This is a store bought poster (I found it at Michael's) trimmed to the size of the cork board. Three large objects on the poster allow for a nice 25-piece picture puzzle. The puzzle pieces were glued to the envelopes following the order of the Christmas tree on the other side.

According to our Winter Snowflakes theme, we decorated the existing white frame with the snowflakes Christmas garland. The numbers are written on snowflakes and pinned to the board with pins.

Each envelope will contain a card with a family activity prompt. Some examples:
  • Our Christmas elf has arrived! Find and greet him: he can't wait to see you!
  • It's time to bake cookies!
  • Let's read a Christmas book: (title).
  • A family movie night is today! Which Christmas movie would we want to watch?
  • Breakfast with Santa is today! Let's get ready!

I will make some of these cards in advance, but the others will be filled as soon as I'll know the dates.

One envelope a day will be turned over and pinned back to the board to reveal our family fun surprises and a piece of the Winter Snowflakes puzzle (pictured below).

The number snowflakes are glued to ribbons and pinned to the board together with the envelopes. We used Snowflakes themed wired Christmas ribbon.

The 3-D effect of the snow falling over the Christmas tree
scene is nice! Snowflakes are twirling in the air, over our special Christmas tree, and slowly falling down - bringing us the numbers for counting down to Christmas.

Each translucent and sparkly, wired ribbon was curled and pinned to hang with both ends of the ribbon off the board.

I think, My Firefly will enjoy playing with the Winter Snowflakes puzzles and numbers after Christmas too!

More Countdown to Christmas Ideas from My Bright Firefly

Quick and Easy Elf on the Shelf
30+ Merry and Bright Paintings and Paints
10 Fun and Easy Christmas Activities

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Wonderful Advent Calendar and Countdown to Christmas Ideas!

Snowmen Advent Calendar from Rainy Day Mum. These cute snowmen pegs hanging on a ribbon are so easy to make and will let the family smile every day in December.

Free Countdown to Christmas with Numbers & Math from 3 Dinosaurs. Free printable: elves will bring kids these cute pages, one page a day to countdown to Christmas.

Advent Acts of Kindness from The Mad House. Free printable: the beautiful Christmas stockings bring some great ideas for the acts of kindness and help discovering the true magic of Christmas.

Creative Christmas Calendar from The Creative Pair. Free printable: design your own little pictures and messages using Christmas Calendar coloring pages.

DIY Christmas Tree Advent Calendars from Crafty Kids at Home. Kids made a lovely Christmas tree decorated with secret messages and pictures for each other.

Homemade Christmas Countdown from Gingerbread House. Fun Christmas papers and pegs are all that is needed for this wonderful Christmas calendar!

Family Activities Advent Calendar from Creative Family Fun. Free printable: pretty printable cards featuring 36 activities and 12 blank cards for the Advent Calendar.

How to Make a Fun and Easy Countdown Card from Peakle Pie. 24 buttons, sequins, and stars in a bag are waiting to start counting down to Christmas. Such a fun card!

Advent Elf Houses from Sun Hats and Wellie Boots. Cute numbered houses for elves make for a wonderful small world countdown.

Christmas Cookie Advent Calendar from Kitchen Counter Chronicles. A sweet twist to the countdown and a cookie recipe are here!

Christ Centered Advent for Preschoolers from Tales of Beauty for Ashes. There are wonderful ideas for the family activities, books, and crafts for the meaningful countdown to Christmas.

Christmas Carol Advent Calendar from Mama Smiles. Free printable: these beautiful cards feature images on the front and the names of carols on the back.

Advent Calendar Organizer: Easy and Fun from Books and Giggles. Free printable: blank Advent calendar planner and worksheets can be helpful in planning for the season!

Advent Calendar for Preschoolers from Fun-A-Day. Free printable: this printable calendar features fun activities to celebrate each day counting down to Christmas.

Christmas Jokes Kids love 25 Days Countdown Calendar Advent from Little Bins for Little Hands. Free printable: kids will love a new joke each day of this Advent calendar.

A Very Merry Occupational Therapy Christmas from Sugar Aunts. Free printable: an Advent calendar for kids with sensory or developmental needs. Some wonderful ways for the families to connect and cope this holiday season.

Farmhouse Style Advent Calendar & Card Holder from Teach Me Mommy. Aw, so pretty, Pottery Barn style decorated old trellis!

Christmas and the Seven Principles of Kwanzaa from Tiny Tots Adventure. This fun collaborative project got all the family together in a preparation for the holiday season.

The Easy Advent Calendar from Freshly Planted. Free printable: versatile and pretty calendar with no focus on activities.

Advent Wreath of Christmas Words from Witty Hoots. Free printable: advent words cards. This Christmas wreath looks beautiful and is so easy to make!

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Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Evergreen Trees: Nature Walk Activities for Kids

Christmas Trees Nature Hunt

November nature walk: kids' recent experience with autumn leaves allows for a great opportunity to observe and find the evergreen trees. Our Christmas Tree hunt was a success. We found the trees and shrubs that loose leaves or stay green, learned the word "evergreen", found out that not all evergreens are trees, and not all of them have cones.

Hunting for Evergreens in the Neighborhood

For this activity we needed:
Warm cloths, a bicycle, a camera, a basket for the found treasures, a clipper.
Some kids might find fresh cones or branches "sticky - yucky" and baby wipes helpful.

The goal for our Evergreens Hunt was to find the trees that are green and are going to keep their leaves through the winter. This might not be as easy for preschoolers as it sounds.

My Firefly found all kids of plants.
  • There were trees with no leaves,
  • trees with some leaves that changed colors,
  • trees with some green leaves left, but not evergreens (this was the tricky one),
  • evergreen trees with needles and cones,
  • evergreen trees with scales and no cones,
  • evergreens that are not trees, but shrubs,
  • the small evergreens that are trees.

Typing this makes me smile: we had to sort through a lot in 20 minutes of our regular bicycle ride.

Pictured below, these are evergreens. We discovered that they are shrubs, but they don't have prickly needles. There were no cones found and a picture taken.

Evergreen trees do loose their needles or scales, only gradually, not at once. We found lots of brown scales inside these shrubs, or brown needles on the ground.

Observing Evergreen Trees on a Nature Walk

My Firefly discovered many "miracles" when observing Christmas trees. We compared the size of the trees, the length of the needles and if they are too prickly or OK, the size of the cones. She noticed the cones on the tree and on the ground. The color of the trees is still a challenge to compare: light green vs. dark green.

It was fun to hunt under the trees. Some cones, brown needles, rocks, a fallen branch were found and collected. We used clippers to get a sample of the fallen branch and talked about protecting and not hurting life trees.

Pictured below, our "treasures" are ready for the observations on the nature table inside.

Experiencing the trees and connecting with the nature (even for a short while) is wonderful!

More Winter Science Ideas from My Bright Firefly

P is for Pinecone Parrot. Invitation to Play: Compare and Contrast.
Play with Light at Home: Northern Lights
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Monday, November 16, 2015

STEM Gift Ideas for Preschoolers

STEM Educational Toys for Happy and Creative Play

Preschoolers love exploring and creating! We are featuring a small collection of ideas for the first exciting STEM activities.

This post includes Amazon affiliate links.

Pictured below, Step2 Sandy Shores Sand & Water Table Toy. I am starting with this one because we use it for 12 months a year, inside or outside. It has 2 compartments with the road built in around and over the bridge and the island.Step2 Sandy Shores Sand & Water Table Toy

This Fabulous Shopping Mall from Fisher Price is a nice set up for Math activities at the food court, snack shack, or beauty salon. There are several cool features built in to make it exciting.
Fisher-Price - Disney Minnie Mouse - Fabulous Shopping Mall

My Firefly and her friends love playing with the Zoo animals from Fisher Price. Using these manipulatives, we explored animals and their habitats, and love using them as the Math counters. Our first introduction to graphing can be found here: Introduction to Graphing for Preschoolers.
Fisher-Price Little People Zoo Animal Friends

Primary Science Lab Set from Learning Resources is used heavily by kids. We explored water, soil, plants, air, snow using this kit. And, of course, used it for the art activities (lol). Our snow explorations can be found here: Snow: Create and Explore.

Learning Resources Primary Science Lab Set

Everything Doc McStuffins is exciting for kids. But for the doctor and vet pretend play, kids used this Pretend & Play Set from Learning Resources. Several tools work with batteries, all feature a cool function. I like the quality of this set and the storage case.

Learning Resources Pretend & Play Doctor Set

Primary Bucket Balance from Learning Resources is nice for introduction to measuring. It features a small drawer to store mini manipulatives and spacious bowls for objects or liquids.

Learning Resources Primary Bucket Balance

Alphabet Puzzle Block Set from Fisher Price includes 30 jumbo wooden cubes with the capital and small letters, and a farm puzzle. Nice basic cubes for some steady construction jobs: Problem Solving with Cubes and Craft Sticks.

Fisher-Price ABC Alphabet Puzzle Block Set (Little People), 30-Piece

Kids love working with Lego Duplo (for ages 2-5). The set below is the basic set that would add some extra parts to the sets they have.

LEGO DUPLO Creative Play 10571 All-in-One-Pink-Box-of-Fun

My Firefly and her friends love any Playmobil sets! Featured below, Playmobil Advent Calendar Fire Rescue Operation Set.

PLAYMOBIL Advent Calendar "Fire Rescue Operation" Set with Card Game

This Snap Circuits Discovery Kit is on our wish list: a wonderful introduction to electronics, a toy that will grow with the child.

Snap Circuits Jr. SC-100 Electronics Discovery Kit

Marble Runs and Marble Races are great for engineering and physics explorations!

Imaginarium Deluxe Marble Race

For more (much more!) Christmas gift ideas
from some of the best Kid Blogs visit this great resource at KC Edventures:

Wishing everyone
a happy and successful shopping experience
this holiday season!

More Winter Play Ideas from My Bright Firefly

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