Monday, November 21, 2011

More Hands on Play Ideas - Large Scale Coloring

This was such a hit at our house!  I had a huge roll of wrapping paper that got a little water damaged, so I laid out two big sheets upside down on the floor and taped the edges down.  Then we put the marker and crayon bin down in the middle of the paper and went to town.

I did a lot of drawing, while Megan scribbled and Amelia colored in my drawings.  This is one of those times where I wish I could draw more than just stick people and houses.  I still draw like I'm six years old.  We did get creative, and I drew out the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears and we told the story through pictures.  Oh, and this day, Amelia said she was being "favorite color girl" because she picked out a purple shirt, pink pants, and red socks.  Those are her favorite colors right now.

The next morning at breakfast, Molly started attacking the sheets of paper, and so we had to lay down a new piece and start again.  This time, Amelia asked if I would draw a street, so we ended up drawing our neighborhood with a fire station, apple orchard, pumpkin patch, ice cream store and park.  Then Amelia got out the cars, and the girls played with cars on the streets.  It was really cute.

Then Grandpa came and decided that the cars should go off-road!

And then Megan got sleepy:

Oh and Megan loves markers now.  By the end of the day, she had marker all over her face, neck, hands and clothes.  Good thing it's washable!  And Amelia had to wear her red shirt today, just for Grandpa, because she knows red is his favorite color!  And we picked out Megan's softy outfit especially for Grandpa, too.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Two Cousins being Silly

During breakfast this morning, Amelia and Natalie were saying "Tickle Fried Mouse!" and laughing like hyenas.  It was so funny.

I don't remember exactly how we got to this point of silliness, but just before it, Noah was poking Brian saying "Chicken Fried Mouse."  Just after this, I got out a chunk of chicken from our leftover bean soup, and gave it to Noah telling him it was mouse.  He wouldn't eat it.  Neither would Natalie or Amelia.  So Uncle Brian had to step up and eat the "mouse".  All the kids thought that was hilarious!

More Hands on Play Ideas - Sensory Bins

Another idea in the Hands on Play challenge was to introduce sensory bins.  In case you have never heard of a sensory bin, it is basically a tub full of stuff (you may call it junk) for kids to play with.  I have used sensory bins with Amelia before, and she will generally play with them for a long time.  A year ago I made her a Halloween sensory bin with black beans, candy corn pumpkins, little plastic pumpkin pots and purple pompoms, and she would play with it for at least a half hour, which was a long time for a 2 year old.

This time I put together a gardening sensory bin with things I found around the house (clearly I have way too much crafty stuff around the house:

Both Amelia and Megan liked playing with this.  Amelia filled the pots up with rocks and then planted flowers in them.  Megan tried to line the bugs up on the side of the bin (which was great for practicing small motor skills!).  I didn't get many pictures because I was busy playing with them, but you can see that they are playing together.

I also had a shape sensory bin, which was just a bin full of foam shapes and buckets from Target's dollar section.  We made towers and knocked them over, and filled buckets up with different shapes, and tried patterning.

Megan's favorite part was sitting in the bin:

If you make a sensory bin, I recommend putting some kind of utensil in.  My girls both love the utensils for scooping - I usually just get out kitchen spoons or scoops or tongs or something like that.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

More Hands on Play Ideas - Playdough

I love all the creative ideas at The Imagination Tree for playing with my kids.  We haven't been using their ideas every day, but we are all really enjoying the challenge to play with materials in unexpected ways.  Last week, Amelia and I made playdough using the following recipe:

2 cups flour
1 cup salt (buy salt at the Dollar Tree - 2 for $1, what a deal!)
2 tbsp oil
2 tbsp cream of tartar
1 1/2 cups boiling water
food color/flavor if desired

Mix with a sturdy spoon until combined (and not super hot) and then knead with your hands.  Once the dough is smooth, add the food coloring and/or flavor.

Amelia wanted to make red playdough, but try as we might, we couldn't get a good red color, even using the nice Wilton red food gel.  So we settled on pink playdough.  Then we added a splash of peppermint extract (and our playdough smells SO GOOD now!) and a generous shaking of glitter and we ended up with pink glittery delicious smelling playdough.  I keep it in the fridge, and it can last for months.  Becky says she has a tub that is 9 months old and still hasn't dried out; she wraps hers in plastic wrap and then puts it in a tub.  I will have to try that.

Anyway, to make our playdough experience a little different, Amelia and I collected different things throughout the house to add to our playdough.  I set out bins (ie cleaned out lunchmeat containers) and we filled them up with pipe cleaners, popsicle sticks, googly eyes (Dollar Tree), little plastic dinosaurs, sea shells, rocks, some leafy plastic greenery, dried spaghetti, colored noodles, and some plastic ladybugs.

The first day, we made islands for dinosaurs:

The pipe cleaner arches are doorways for the dinosaurs to enter the beach, and the noodles on the pipecleaners are flags.  Once they are on the beach, they can eat the green leafy trees, or they can make footprints in the pink glittery sand, or they can swim over by the seashells.


 The next day, we made porcupines:

Amelia said that the porcupine makes her have a grumpy face because he is so prickly.  I think he is really cute.

Disclaimer: Amelia picks out her own clothes, which is why she is wearing a red and white headband with a pink and brown shirt the first day, and a completely non-matching outfit the second day.  I love to see the combinations she comes up with!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Snow Day!

The weatherman was predicting snow on Wednesday, but I figured there was no chance we'd end up with any, because it never snows the first day it's predicted.  Right? 

Wrong!  As David said, well, we're living in Madison now and snow in November is to be expected.  I like snow, but I'm still in the mood for fall.

Amelia's still getting used to the idea that it's fall (she thinks that fall doesn't start until the leaves have all fallen from the trees, which means in her mind it's only been fall for a week).  Here was our conversation yesterday:

Me: Oh the weather outside is frightful.... Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.
Amelia: You can't sing that song now, because it's not winter.
Me: Look outside, it's snowing!
Amelia:  But it's still fall!
Me:  Yes, sometimes it snows in the fall.
Amelia: When is spring?
Me: After winter.
Amelia: Is it going to be spring soon?
Me: No.  <sigh>

But then she got excited about the snow and wanted to go outside and play in it.  By the time Ben was home from work, and Amelia was up from her nap, we had an inch or two on the ground, and it had stopped snowing.  So I found all the snow gear, got her bundled up, and we headed outside to play.  Megan was still sleeping, so she'll have to wait for the next snow to play (but as we were walking back to the car after dropping Amelia at preschool today, I asked her if she wanted to play in the snow, and she looked at it and shook her head vigorously NO.)

Here's Amelia after throwing snowballs at me.  She had the funniest little giggly face:

And here's Daddy dropping a big snowball right on her head.  No fair, Daddy!

But she was most excited about getting to eat the snow.  We found a clean spot off the ground and gave her a little bit to taste, then told her she'd have to wait for a bigger snow to have more.  Everyone is talking about how this year the weather people are predicting even more snow than last year.  So I'm sure we'll have a lot more opportunities for snow play!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A Messy Tea Party

Amelia and Megan had a tea party yesterday while I was talking on the phone and making pumpkin bread, and without me noticing, they somehow went through four teapots full of tea. 

"Wow", you must be thinking, "they must have been exceptionally thirsty!" 

No, no, the tea ended up on the plates, and on the tray, and on the tablecloth, and on their clothes, and on the floor.  I started wondering why Amelia kept coming over to refill the teapot, and I glanced over just in time to see Megan take the teapot, and deliberately pour it right onto the tray.  Not even aiming for the cup. 

But she's so cute, drinking her tea with her spoon!

And here you can see her four middle teeth.  She now has 9 teeth, so exciting!

Amelia helped me clean up the water.  Boy, she's a big help.

But they had fun!  I told them that we could have another tea party tomorrow, and that I would attend to make sure that Megan didn't make such a big mess.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Broiled Parmesan Tilapia

Yes, this is still Marcie's blog.  And yes, Marcie still does not like fish. 

BUT, this tilapia was delicious.

AND, it only has three ingredients.

AND, it only takes 10 minutes.

Becky picked tilapia for our next food challenge, and so I decided I needed to give it a try again.  I got the idea from this recipe at, but I didn't follow it at all because I don't like mayonnaise.  Instead, I picked up a tub of Philadelphia Italian Cheese & Herb Cooking Creme, and used that as the sauce.  Plus, I have plenty of cooking creme left over to use for dinner tomorrow night.  Ben and I both liked this so much that we agreed we would eat it every week, if it didn't cost $9/lb.  Amelia did not want to try it, but then took a bite and said with a big smile on her face "This tastes just like chicken!" (no prompting!) and then ate three more bites.  Megan took one look at the tilapia on her plate, and pushed the plate onto the table saying she was done.  Oh well, all she ate yesterday anyway was french toast sticks, a banana and a string cheese.

Broiled Parmesan Tilapia
serves 2

2 large tilapia filets (about 0.8 lbs)
2 tbsp Philadelphia Italian Cheese & Herb Cooking Creme
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat broiler on high.  Line a pan with aluminum foil and spray with cooking spray.  Place tilapia on the pan.  Broil for 4 minutes.  Flip tilapia over.  Broil another 4 minutes.  (My broiler maybe runs a little low, because most people on allrecipes said they only needed to cook their tilapia 2 or 3 minutes on each side.)

Meanwhile, mix cooking creme and parmesan cheese.  Add a little lemon juice if it is too thick.  Spread on tilapia once tilapia is cooked through.  Place under broiler for 1 minute, until cheese sauce is bubbly.  Do not overcook sauce or it will burn (but if you do overcook it, you can scrape the burned layer off very neatly, not that I know from personal experience.)  Serve.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Hands on Play Challenge

Now that it's getting cold and we're stuck inside most of the time, I need to find new ideas for playing with what we have in the house.  That sounds silly, because obviously the girls know how to play very well themselves, but I'm the one who needs help.  I get a little bored playing "let's have a picnic" every day, and I also tend to get distracted by housework or cooking or a phonecall or a book or email or whatever.  So, one of the blogs I read has a challenge in November to spend 15 minutes a day actively playing with your kids, and they give you a different idea of a fun way to play each day.  I like that they focus on play-based learning and child-led activities, and that everything you need to play is something that we already have in our house.  Check it out at The Imagination Tree.

Oh, and I should add that I think it's also good for Ben, because I've noticed that he interacts best with the girls during playtime if he has a specific goal in mind.  If I say "Here's your challenge: let's see who can build the biggest block tower!" he and the girls all get into the spirit and end up having a lot of fun.

The first challenge was to build a fort.  Not a problem in our house!  That day I had brought home a parachute from Amelia's preschool so that I could reinforce the handles that were coming apart, and so we used the parachute to make a huge fort in our playroom.  Once we had the fort built, Amelia decided that she wanted to play with stickers, so she and Megan both put stickers on paper (thank goodness for Joanns which has 600 stickers for $1 because Amelia probably used 80 stickers on her page).  I helped Megan a lot because the stickers had a tendency to get stuck on her fingers, but I did pull out the camera to snap just a quick photo or two.  Here is Amelia telling me that she is too busy playing with stickers to get her picture taken:

The second challenge was to build block towers.  Amelia is a great tower builder but Megan just wanted to knock the towers over.  You would think that would make for a good team, but Amelia got upset when Megan would knock her towers over before she was done building them.

After we had made towers using all different kinds of blocks, I challenged Amelia to build a tower with the squishy plastic blocks using only her teeth!

 Then she challenged me to build a tower using books.  Challenge accepted!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Amelia's Artwork

Guess what Amelia has learned to do? 

She can write her name!  We've been practicing writing the letter A at home for a while now, but she surprised me yesterday by being able to write all the other letters by herself.  Her preschool teacher said they worked on writing names a little yesterday, but she was surprised Amelia could do it all by herself, too.

And as you can see, she is now adding stick bodies to her smiley faces.  The stick person on the right is Amelia and the person on the left is me.  Amelia told me that we are sitting with our legs spread out wide and we are shaking hands.  She also said the the dot on the top of her head is her forehead, the dot under it is her nose, the dot just under that is her philtrum (that's your word of the day - philtrum: the midline groove in the upper lip that runs from the top of the lip to the nose), and the dot under her mouth is her chin.