Sunday, January 31, 2016

Lego Table Ideas for the Living Room

Lego Coffee Table in the Living Room and Pley

On the one hand, the benefits of construction and Lego play are wonderful! On the other hand, those pieces of brightly colored plastic are everywhere around the house. I gather, the situation is not unique to our house, and some pretty Lego play tables and train tables are available at the stores.

The thing is our Lego table has to be in the living room. Kids don't want to play alone upstairs. I don't want to go through the continuous process of picking up the newly built models and sneaky parts and transporting them back to where they belong.

So we compromised: I set up a Lego coffee table in the living room. Also, I love the idea of not spending any more money on Legos, but using Lego renting service at

Lego Table Ideas

I like this flexible set up (pictured above): it allows for an easy clean up and an option of storing toys away quickly for the toy rotation and when not in use. Here is a happy moment! There are almost no Lego bricks and building parts on the floor! How could that happen with my four year old?

Pictured above, it doesn't matter how large the surface of the Lego table is - there is never enough space for the display of the finished pieces, for a small world set up, and for the projects in progress.

To maximize the table top space, we added a foldable shelf with the castle on top. This old castle is the best feature now. The towers turn into the helicopter pads or landings for the space ships. It can house and display many finished models and people.

Pictured below, the area under the shelf is a safe spot for ongoing projects and the most used container with people and small accessories.

Based on our previous experience, storing Lego parts in zip lock bags or plastic containers, sorted by colors and sizes, or the initial store bought model doesn't work. Kids either don't see and use the parts, or just spill them out (to the floor). This time we used mismatched baskets. Different shapes and textures of containers helped with the sorting - and sorted by use.

Two oversized baskets have worked wonders for us (pictured below). The bottom one is filled to half full with the favorite building blocks. I noticed that the extra space in the basket helps to contain the pieces inside. The top basket contains plates, larger bricks, and special parts and wheels to build cars, space ships, and furniture (our current area of interest). This basket has plenty of room for easy digging!

The regular shaped bricks and such are stored under the table. That box is too boring to dig in, but easily accessible for getting extra parts as needed. The smallest bricks are stored out of sight (due to the age of this kid - she is not interested in those yet).

And here is our favorite little container that always stays on the table top. It has all the best treasured parts: lights, antennas, a couple of treasure boxes, and who-knows-what-else was brightly colored and caught the eye.

Lego Renting Service at Pley

Sponsored Pley blog campaign: all views and opinions with regard to Pley or the products they feature are my own and were not reviewed by the company prior to publishing. You can find our full disclosure here: Disclosure and Privacy Policy. You can also find our previous article here: Keeping Toys Fresh and Exciting During Winter.

My Firefly asks for new sets. Besides costing money, these new pretty kits are very specific. Once built, they are not taken apart, played with for a while, and in a week, they are around, collecting dust... until the new box.

I'd like to invite you to visit Pley at This service works in three easy steps:
  1. Choose your favorite toys (Lego, K'NEX, and more),
  2. Free Delivery to your door,
  3. Play, Return, Repeat.

  • 400+ Lego sets and popular robotics toys are available. The newest sets are added to the collection regularly.
  • It saves money. Gift cards are also available.
  • I love how this service helps reducing waste for the environment. Less purchases means the savings on plastic: at least 240 lbs. fewer CO2 emissions per annum per Pley member!
What are your favorite tips on learning with Lego and managing the clutter?

More Problem Solving and Building Ideas from My Bright Firefly

Problem Solving with Cubes and Craft Sticks

Water and Landforms for Kids: Create, Explore, and Save

Pattern Blocks Math

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Monday, January 25, 2016

A Trip to Paris, France with Diva and Flea. French Dog Outfit Pattern.

Paris through the Eyes of a Small Dog and a Big Cat

We had a beautiful trip to Paris, France with Mo Willems, a small dog, and a big cat; learned about the Eifel tower; and named our loved toy doggy Diva.  These activities were inspired by the book "The Story of Diva and Flea" by Mo Willems.

 Countries around the World is the theme for January at Poppins Book Nook. You can find our previous Poppins Book Nook activities here: Feasts around the World.

Diva and Flea around Paris, France

"Diva and Flea" by Mo Willems is our book of the month. We had an honor of reading this new book by Mo Willems as our very first read aloud chapter book.

Viewing Paris through the eyes of a small dog and a big cat was perfect! Engaging storyline, fun illustrations, Mo Willems' sense of humor, short chapters kept my preschooler's attention and gave her a wonderful first view of France.

The funny pair lives at 11avenue Le Play, of course :) They love to travel around Paris and discuss the matters. Flea, a great flaneur, tries to show Diva "the giant tower that can cut a cloud in half" (p. 28). Diva is only learning how to be a flaneur - she lives with her gardienne and has an important job of protecting the courtyard. And surely, this book has to end with Au Revoir.

Well, there is a downside. My Firefly now wants to visit Paris and learn how to be a flaneur too.

Amazon affiliate link: The Story of Diva and Flea

French Dog Outfit Pattern

Pictured above, stuffed animals are measuring differently. I had to make a personalized sawing pattern for our Diva's bodice which I found not that difficult to make. The bodice is sleeveless and loose fitting - very forgiving of mistakes.

Diva had the measurements taken first. The four main ones are pictured above. The pink ribbon is placed at the bottom of the future bodice. Measure body circumference following the pink ribbon or at the broadest part , and add 1" for the overlap to close and ease.

The three blue ribbons (vertical lines):
  • from the base of the neck to the desired length of the bodice: that's the center back fold area (pictured below),
  • from the side of the chest to the desired length: the line from the neckline shoulder slope,
  • from the base of the front paw: the side seam.

The second part pictured above is the front. Measure from the base of the neck to the desired length of the bodice. This is the area under the chest and belly: the straight midline with the Velcro closure (our Velcro is 6'' by 0.75"). Cut out two of those.

Diva's dress is made from My Firefly's well loved pieces: a stripy short for Diva's bodice and a rectangle cut out of jeans for the half skirt.

We added a red scarf to complete the French dog outfit. Now Diva lives behind the dining table, which is called "France". Other animals love visiting her and having some small talks!

Countries around the World Is the Theme for January 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:

Countries around the world book fun below!

Poppins Book Nook: Canada from Growing in God's Grace. "Canada" by Julie Murray.

Exploring the World with Traveling Toys from Sunny Day Family. "Richard Scarry's Busy, Busy World (50th Anniversary Edition)" by Richard Scarry.

Postcard from Italy from Tree Valley Academy. "The Day the Crayons Came Home" by Drew Daywalt.

New Zealand Volcano from Preschool Powol Packets. "Welcome to New Zealand: A Nature Journal" by Sandra Morris.

Building Eiffel Tower from 3 Dinosaurs. "Madeline" by Ludwig Bemelmans.

A First Grade Geography Class for Co-Op from Chestnut Grove Academy. "Children Just Like Me" by Anabel Kindersley and Barnabas Kindersley.

More Fun Geography for Preschoolers Ideas from My Bright Firefly

Invitation to Explore Land, Air, and Water
5 Fun Geography Activities for Preschoolers
Russian Princess: Swan Lake Painting and Hand Print Art.

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Saturday, January 23, 2016

A Simple Valentine's Heart Featuring Those First Precious Doodles

Valentine Card Ideas for Preschool and Kindergarten

Oil pastels on read or pink cardstock paper, wavy lines and family portraits, cookie cutters stamping, using glitter glue and a brush - we played with different media and techniques to find the special ones this child wants to use for her Valentine cards this year. Foxy in Love was our inspiration for this activity.

Foxy in Love

"Foxy in Love" by Emma Dodd is a beautiful story about the two best friends, a girl named Emily and a foxy named Foxy. Emily has to make her special Valentine card with all the things she loves in it. It is not an easy task. Only Foxy with his magic tail, funny rhymes, and selfless nature can help Emily to find the true meaning of Valentine's Day.

Amazon affiliate link: Foxy in Love.

First Precious Doodles for the Valentine Card to a Family Member

For our card we used a bright pink cardstock paper folded in two. Oil pastels is our medium of choice for drawing on a colored paper.

We needed to find and review the shades of red, pink, and purple; and to practice drawing wavy lines. We used oil pastels to draw a special back drop for our picture.

The next step was to draw the special people and things. My Firefly chose markers for her doodles. Of course, she had to use glitter glue and a thin brush to decorate her scenery.

A Simple Valentine's Heart

At this point, there are all kinds of stories to go along with the pictures. This is a precious moment of bonding with your child through some time together and art. My Firefly wanted to draw her people inside the house and told me a sweet story about how happy of a family they are.

She was willing to trace letters and learn how to draw a heart for the "I love your" message at the end.

The next day we decided to pull our Valentine's cookie cutters. My Firefly enjoyed making pink by mixing white and red tempera paint. She stamped hearts and learned how to make the word "love" using cookie cutter letters.

Our cookie cutters came from a Wilton 101 cookie cutters set. Amazon affiliate link: Wilton 2304-1104 101 Piece Cookie Cutter Set.

After the paint dried, I cut our hearts on the cover for a peek-a-boo view of the Valentine's doodles underneath. I hope My Firefly's Granny will be happy to have her Valentine card!

 More Valentine's Ideas from My Bright Firefly

Our Top Ten Valentine's Books for Preschoolers
Happy Valentine's Day, Mouse! Fun Valentine's Cookies.
Montessori Inspired Valentine's Day Activities

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Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Our Top Ten Valentine's Books for Preschoolers

These Love books are tender and caring. They teach kids to recognize and respect feeling and emotions of theirs and of people around them. Today we are sharing our top ten Valentine's books our 3-4 year olds liked to listen to this year.

What is Valentine's Day? What is love? Does my Mom love me to the moon and back? How does that make me feel? What are my friends' feelings and what can I do about it? I just love to read books for the Valentine's Day!

The links bellow are Amazon affiliate links.

"There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Rose!" by Lucille Colandro. The book introduces the items related to Valentine's Day in the most fun and engaging way. My Firefly was in love with all things red, pink, and glitter by the end of the book. Happy Valentine's Day! There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Rose!

"Happy Valentine's Day, Curious George!" by N. Di Angelo. Curious George is always fun. This lift-the-flap book is filled with Valentine's Day party surprises! Happy Valentine's Day, Curious George

"Love from The Very Hungry Caterpillar" by Eric Carle. The author's beautiful illustrations help to explain why I love you - "why someone special makes the world a better and brighter place". Love from The Very Hungry Caterpillar

"Minnie's Valentine" by Sheila Sweeny Higginson and Disney Book Group. Minnie uses a disguise to teach Mickey what to get her for Valentine's Day. Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Minnie's Valentine

"My Huggy Valentine" by Sheila Sweeny Higginson and Disney Book Group. Doc brings a new toy to the Valentine's Day party. It's a huggy and sweet stuffed heart named Val. This breaks Lambie's heart when she realizes that Doc might not love her any more! Will Doc be able to treat a case of Split-heart-itis? Doc McStuffins My Huggy Valentine

"I Love It When You Smile" by Sam McBratney. We had to read this book many times: it gives a nice opportunity to discuss the baby kangaroo's and his mother's feelings. There is an unexpected turn to the events at the end! You can find our kangaroo craft inspired by the book here: One Adventurous Day in the Kangaroo Family Life. Amazon affiliate link: I Love It When You Smile

"Happy Valentines Day, Mouse!" by Laura Numeroff and Felicia Bond. This time Mouse is deciding why he loves each of his friends and making valentines for them accordingly. At the end, his friends are coming to Mouse with lots of cookies in their hands. Way too cute! You can find our Valentine's cookies inspired by this book here: Happy Valentine's Day, Mouse! Read and Play. Amazon affiliate link: Happy Valentine's Day, Mouse! (If You Give...)

"The Runaway Bunny" by Margaret Wise Brown. The famous bunny travels through all the exciting places with his mother chasing him. "I will always find you because I love you!" You can find our sight word games inspired by this book here: Bunny Books and Sight Word Games. Amazon affiliate link: The Runaway Bunny

"Foxy in Love" by Emma Dodd. Foxy is Emily's best friend. When Emily is in trouble, Foxy always comes to the rescue with his magic tale because he loves her. But what does Emily love? Is it balloons, or raccoons? There are some fun adventures and rhymes here. You can find our Valentine card inspired by this book and featuring a peek-a-boo view of the first precious doodles here: First Precious Doodles for the Valentine Card to a Family Member. Amazon affiliate link: Foxy in Love

"Pete the Cat: Valentine's Day is Cool" by James Dean. Pete has to have many special cats in his life, doesn't he? Ooops, and he is forgetting the very special one! Pete the Cat: Valentine's Day Is Cool

More Our Top Ten Books Ideas from My Bright Firefly

Our Top Ten Dinosaur Books for Preschoolers
Our Top Ten Pirate Books for Preschoolers
Our Top 10 Farm Animal Books

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Thursday, January 14, 2016

Polar Bears in the Arctic Small World Play for Preschoolers

Polar Bears with Kinetic Sand and 3-D Shapes

We explored the Arctic hands-on. Our kinetic sand small world is "an icy desert" according to the beautiful book that was an inspiration for this preschool activity. Only polar bears and arctic foxes are allowed in this world. "Well, maybe people too if they can live in this cold," said my 4 year old and proceeded covering her person in a snowy igloo.

New on the market: Mac &Mia
Mac &Mia (affiliate link below): Saves time for busy parents.
They hand pick stylish children's clothing and ship them to you. You choose the best for you and pay for what you keep.

North: The Amazing Story of Arctic Migration

"North: The Amazing Story of Arctic Migration" by Nick Dowson was the beautiful inspiring book we've read. Wonderful illustrations helped imagining the icy desert and held attention.

But the Arctic will change comes spring. We went on the exciting adventure through the world and to the top of the world with various animals. My Firefly didn't know some of those. So the story telling illustrations were a must and helped a lot!

Amazon affiliate link: North: The Amazing Story of Arctic Migration

Arctic Small World Play for Preschoolers

To build our Arctic small world we used:
We discussed the possible shapes of the icebergs and named geometric solids we used. We noticed polar bears white fur against the snow. My Firefly found it funny to see bears' noses sticking out from the snow. They need to catch some fish from the icy waters of the Arctic!

It is always fun to decorate people with play dough. This time people got decorated with igloos. One has to stay warm in the winter tundra.

What are your favorite indoor activities this winter?

More Geometric Shapes Exploration Ideas from My Bright Firefly

Exploring the Sun: Sunset and Sunrise. Northern Lights.
Play Dough Penguin Craft for Kids
Geometric Solids: Engineering in Action

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