Archive for February 2014

Lucky Leprechaun Coins: Alphabet Matching Game

Wednesday, February 26, 2014


I was walking around Michael's the other day when I came across some gold leprechaun coins.  I immediately thought of creating an alphabet matching game for the girls to play. 

If I had an  alphabet chart with only uppercase letters, I would have used that.  But I didn't. So, I created one using a large foam board and some poster letters that I also found at Michael's.  I added some leftover bulletin board border using sticky tabs to make it a bit prettier. :) 

I used a sharpie to print  a lowercase letter onto each coin.  Of course there were only 24 coins in one pack,  so I needed to buy two to get all 26 letters.  Since the shamrocks on the coins are raised, I had a bit of trouble printing the lowercase letters.  It's hard to see in the photos, but I had to print very small. I think I will pick up some alphabet stickers to use on the coins next time I'm out.

Then came the fun part...
Finding a hidden coin in the shopping cart

The girls work together to place the coins on the alphabet chart
I hid 4 lucky leprechaun coins at a time in the family room.  The girls raced around the room searching for a coin and then would bring it over to the alphabet chart to place it on the corresponding uppercase letter.  

Although they don't know all their lowercase letters, they still had fun finding the hidden coins and matching the ones they do know.  I'm there to help with the trickier ones.   I've noticed that the more we play, the more letters they are able to match.  :)
  
This game was very easy to make and a lot of fun.  Genevieve has asked to play "letters",as she calls it, at least three times a day since I introduced it to them. I think it's the coins that draw them in, but whatever it is I'm happy they are having fun while learning!  
Check back soon for more fun St. Patrick's Day activities.  

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A Color Game for Toddlers

Monday, February 24, 2014

This is a simple, easy to make color identification game that my girls love to play.  



Supplies:
1.  Small color squares cut from construction paper
2.  Special Bag (or a decorated brown paper lunch bag)
3.  Large Color Cards with objects* (see below for details)
4.  Extra Handmade Color Cards that you want to add**  


Directions:
1.  Put the small color squares inside the special bag.
2.  On the floor spread out the large color cards that you bought or made face-up.  To keep the game contained, I  keep the cards within a 4 feet by 4 feet area.
3.  Pull a small square out of the bag and hold it up to show your toddler. Either say the color or have her identify it. 
4. Then, she races to stand on the matching large color card.  Have her shout out the color and object she is standing on.  
For example, if I pull the small red card, my girls shout, "Red" and race to stand on top of the large red tomato card.  They then shout, "Red Tomato!"
5. After my girls stand on the matching card, they like to place the small card on top of the large one.  
6.  Repeat until all small color cards are gone. 

This game takes a few practices where you will need to model racing to the correct card and shouting out the color and object.  But before you know it, your little one will catch on and have fun playing a new game.  

To make introducing this game easier... 
I started by using only 3 or 4 different colors that my girls could easily identify.  Then, I added a few more cards each time we played.  


*The color cards I use are f DK My First Colors and Shapes (pictured above).  I ordered mine through Amazon.  
**I chose to add a few extra colors of my own that weren't included in this set.  You can add new colors at any time! 

I hope you and your little lovebugs have fun playing together! 

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My Twin Ladybugs: Easy Weeknight BBQ Chicken Pizza

Thursday, February 20, 2014

My Twin Ladybugs: Easy Weeknight BBQ Chicken Pizza: Making dinner isn't always an enjoyable task for me, as it once was pre-twins.  I used to love cooking healthy and fresh meals.  But now...

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Easy Weeknight BBQ Chicken Pizza

Making dinner isn't always an enjoyable task for me, as it once was pre-twins.  I used to love cooking healthy and fresh meals.  But now, some nights I need a menu with little prep work so that I can spend less time in the kitchen and more time playing Minnie Mouse or Hide-and-go-seek.  :)


On Valentine's day I thought it would be fun to create a heart shaped pizza for the family. Didn't have too much luck with the heart shape, but the pizza was so delicious and really easy to make.  This is one I will be sure to make again.

Ingredients:
1 whole wheat pizza dough (16 oz package found in refrigerator section)
1T Olive Oil
Olive Oil Cooking Spray
BBQ Sauce (I used Trader Joe's All Natural BBQ Sauce--It's sweet with just a little kick, but choose one you like)
Cooked Chicken from the deli (I used Trader Joe's "Just Chicken"- 12 oz package that I chopped into smaller bite sized pieces that were more manageable for the girls)
Red onion-thinly sliced (appx. 1/3 cup)
1 1/2 cups shredded pizza blend cheese or a cheddar and mozzarella mix
Garlic Salt (optional)
Directions:

Preheat oven to 450F. 
In a skillet, saute the red onion slices in 1T of olive oil until soft and brown.  Add the chicken to warm and brown slightly. 
Stretch or roll the pizza dough onto pizza stone. 
Lightly spray the dough with olive oil. Sprinkle a little garlic salt on the crust, if you choose. 
Spread BBQ sauce on the dough in a circular motion.  I use the back of a spoon to spread.
Add the sauteed chicken and onions.
Top with the shredded cheese.
Bake at 450 for appx. 15-20 minutes.  

Serve with a green salad, Slice and Enjoy! 





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Winter One-derland Birthday Party: Food, Favors, and Games

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Earlier this week I shared my niece's Winter One-derland birthday party (click here to see) created by my talented sister, Melinda.

I wanted to add on to that previous post and share more with you today.

Food

Following the winter theme, my sister used a small snowflake cookie cutter to cut out snowflake shaped cucumbers and cantaloupe. 

She also created snowball marshmallows by dipping the marshmallow in melted blue candy melts and sprinkling snowflakes on top before the candy had completely cooled.  

There was also a lot of yummy food like buffalo chicken dip, mac and cheese, and a hot dog fixings bar with things like chili and cheese. 

This adorable cake was crated by a local baker in Hamilton, MD.  

Games/Craft


1. Snowman bowling made from Styrofoam cups.
2. Pin the pieces on the Snowman. 
3. Make your own snowman or arctic animals from Play-do. 

Favors


She created this sweet adoption center for all the kids to take home a little seal.  I know it's hard to see, but the sign says "Can you give one of my polar friends a home?  I know it would make them snow very happy!" 

One More Thing

She had hairbows made for her girls from Etsy shop SweetestBugBows.  
It was such a wonderful party! 

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Winter ONE-derland Party: Decorations

Monday, February 17, 2014

This weekend was my niece, Rylee's, first birthday party.  My sister, Melinda is incredibly creative and a talented graphic designer.  I asked her if I could share her party on my blog.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!



With the backdrop of about two feet of snow on the ground (that's a lot for us Marylanders), my sister created a sweet winter wonderland. 
In the photo above she filled tall clear vases with cotton balls to create snowman.  She then used glue dots to add eyes, mouths and noses that she had cut from construction paper.





My older niece, Olivia, created large pink and white snowflakes from a technique she learned at school. Here's a pretty good tutorial from Homewiththeboys.net. on how to make your own large snowflakes.  
Melinda created the smaller snowflakes by using a snowflake punch she got at Michael's and gluing little sparkle gems to the center of each flake.  
The food labels were created from scrapbook paper and a felt snowflake sticker that she also picked up at Michael's.  

The two garlands pictured above were created using more scrapbook paper and ribbon.  

That's all for today, but be sure to check back for more photos of the Winter One-derland Birthday Party, including games, food, and favors!



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More Stuck Inside Fun for Toddlers

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

We are definitely experiencing a cold and icy/snowy winter here in Maryland this year.

Being stuck inside isn't much fun for a two year old (or for their Mama).

Luckily, this Mama has a few tricks up her sleeve to help keep my twins entertained on days like this.

I thought I would share two of our new favorite games that require little prep work and supplies you probably have in your house.

1.  The Cover Up Your Name Game:
This "game" is really a preschool learning activity in disguise!
I wrote each girl's name on a sentence strip (you can use any paper, I just had some strips handy) careful to leave lots of space between each letter (little hands need room to maneuver and you don't want a frustration tantrum because every time she places one letter down she accidentally swipes another letter out of place).
Next, I wrote the name again on a separate sentence strip, cutting apart each letter.  The girls had so much fun matching the cut up letters to the ones in their name.
The activity provided a great opportunity for us to talk about the letters we were using and how we can use the letters to make names.   After a while, they decided to switch up and spell each other's name.  Next time, I plan to add Mama, Papa, and Camden (our cat) to the mix.

The Teacher In Me Note:  This is a great age to begin sharing that everything has a name and we can speak, read, and write that name.  

2. The Scooping and Pouring Game:
Sorry these names are so lame.  I guess I need to work on that!
This game is exactly what it sounds like.  I gave the girls some containers and a scoop.  I poured red lentils (happened to have extra in my pantry, but you can use any kind of bean or legume) into one of those containers and stood back letting the girls have fun scooping and pouring.  During the activity, we talked about which container had more lentils and which had none.  More, less, and none are big concepts to practice with toddlers.
While sweeping up little red lentils after the game was finished, I realized I should have laid out the shower curtain that I use under our easel to make clean up easier.  Oh well, next time!

I hope you have fun trying out these games with your little ones.

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Ladybug Valentines with Free Printable

Monday, February 10, 2014

I wanted to share with my girls the tradition of handing out Valentines. 
I know they are only 2! But, it's never too early to feel the joy in giving someone an unexpected treat.



Having just thrown a Ladybug Birthday Party, I had some leftover supplies to use up!

I know how busy life can be and that holidays can sneak up on you too quickly, so I wanted to include the simple printable I created.  Just click on this link Ladybug Valentine and the pdf will open as a google doc.  

One printable page will make two cards. 
*I made this Valentine to be given out by my twins.  If this card will be from one person be sure to change "We" to "I".  You can also add your kids' names or have them sign the card.  

After printing, I cut on the dotted lines and folded each card in half.  For a cute touch, I added two ladybug stickers that I had picked up from Michael's.   

For the goodies inside the bag, I used leftover ladybug mints that I found at Party City.  I also added a few chocolate kisses.  Still trying to use up those leftover supplies, I decided to put ladybug and heart stickers on the bottom of the kisses.  Below is a picture of the sticker book I used.  I found it at Michael's just after Christmas.   

The bag is a simple snack sized sandwich baggie about 6 1/2" wide.   

When the treat bag was ready, I stapled my folded card on top.  That's it!  Now we are ready to hand out our Valentines to family and friends. 

Hope you enjoy!

Happy Valentine's Day! 

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Free Place to Play: BCPL Storyville in Woodlawn, MD

Thursday, February 6, 2014

I'm always looking for places nearby to take the girls.  Especially in the winter when we are stuck inside most days.

Baltimore County Public Library offers a FREE interactive place to learn and play called Storyville. There are two locations, one in Woodlawn, MD and the other is in Rosedale, MD.


Storyville is open 7 days a week, hours vary so check out their website for more info.

It can get really crowded on weekday mornings.  Earlier this week I took my girls to the Woodlawn location. It was our second time visiting. On both visits, we have arrived between 10-10:30 and have gotten right in. However, this week a wait list started minutes after we entered.  It's no fun having to wait, but it keeps the play areas from getting too crowded and unsafe.

I've never been to the Rosedale location, so from here on out I'll just be talking about Woodlawn.

Arriving

There is a separate entrance to Storyville from the main library entrance.  Upon arriving you check in and all adults receive a badge.  You do not need a library card to visit.  There is an area to hang coats and park strollers, as well as two family bathrooms.  You then enter through a gate.  It's well designed to keep little ones from accidentally wandering out of the play area.

So Much To Do

There are different rooms and areas set up to encourage interactive and creative play.  There's a tree house, a train filled with puzzles, and a building under construction complete with magnetic blueprints and legos.
You'll also find a store, a theater where little ones can dress up and climb on a tiny stage to sing and play instruments.
There's a two-story house with a kitchen stocked with play food, utensils and a few baby dolls. There is also a library area that's perfect for cuddling up with a good book.  Towards the entrance you will find a gated area just for non-walkers and their caregivers.  It's designed to look like a park.
photo taken from BCPL Storyville website  

Really there is so much to do, I can't even begin to list it all.

Is It Clean?

For a free and public facility I would say, YES.  I've taken the girls to various play centers that charge upwards of $10/kid and I can say that Storyville has been as clean or cleaner than those facilities. I noticed that the librarians regularly walk around picking up toys and helping to keep the place organized.  No food or drink is allowed, so that probably helps keep it clean.  I have never used the restrooms, so I can't comment on those. 

Parking?

There is a parking lot.  It is It's probably about 100 yards from the entrance.  So mommies of multiples, I would recommend a stroller unless your little ones are good walkers.  My girls are 24 months and did fine with the walk.

Well, that's all for today.  I hope you get a chance to visit Storyville and check it at for yourself. It really is a great place for you and your little ones to learn and play.   

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Counting on Hearts: Valentine Counting Activity/ Decoration

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Here's a quick Valentine themed activity to help little ones with counting objects.  



To make this activity, I wrote the numbers 1-5 on paper hearts.  I then drew corresponding circles on each heart.  For example one circle on the number 1 heart, two on the 2 heart, etc...

I used little clothespins that I found in the Target dollar bins last year to attach the hearts in sequential order to a piece of ribbon.  That way I could hang the activity as a decoration when we weren't using it.  

Then, the girls and I worked together counting poms while placing them on the little circles on each heart.  

After a few tries together, they had fun counting on their own.  

*Trying to put small objects on small circles is really challenging for a 24 month old. So,in order to keep frustration levels down, I made sure to demonstrate that the poms didn't have to be perfectly in the circle.  My purpose for this activity was working on one-to-one correspondence(counting in sequence while touching or placing objects), the fine motor practice was just an added benefit:) 

As a classroom teacher, I learned a valuable lesson early in my career.  In order to keep kids interested in repeating an activity, try changing it up a bit.  Just enough to make it fun again.  So, if you used poms to count this time, try using stickers, cereal, or little toys in the future.  

Have fun counting!




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My Twin Ladybugs Birthday Party

Saturday, February 1, 2014

For my girls' second birthday, I went with a ladybug theme. Here is a glimpse of my twin ladybugs' birthday party.
The food table (partially set)
1.  Ladybug banner and tablecloth- Party City online.  I also found cute beverage napkins and cake plates from the same Party City link.  I decided to use large red plates and black napkins for dinner.


2.  Ladybug Cutouts- I used a large circular punch to cut out red and black circles from leftover scrapbooking paper.  I then cut the red paper in half and used 2 glue dots to attach the red wings to the black body.  I used a black Sharpie to add a few small black dots to the wings and Viola!  Ladybugs.  I made a about two dozen and hung them all over the house.  *I am turning these cutouts into Thank You notes by writing on the back using a fine point metallic marker. 


3.  Food Labels- I found these on How To Nest For Less (She has a whole set of adorable ladybug printables!)



4. Ladybug appetizer- This recipe here on Taste of Home turned out really cute.  In addition to these appetizers we served things like veggies and dip, fruit, hot spinach and artichoke dip, slow cooked pulled BBQ chicken, cheesy potatoes, and Mac and Cheese.  
I don't have a good picture, but I also set out a few small mason jars filled with easy to grab finger food like yogurt puffs and organic bunnies for our younger friends.   


In the beverage station, we had Ladybug Lemonade (raspberry lemonade), water, iced- t (not pictured) and a few adult beverage options.  
For the cups, I stuck black stickers (the same ones we used on our ladybug party hat craft) onto red solo cups. Super easy! 
I created these table decorations by adding Easter grass (the paper kind) to small mason jars. I leaned a few twigs up against the glass and added  ladybug stickers that I found at Michael's. 

We had a delicious Snickerdoodle cake created by Fresh Bakery.  I also ordered two individual cupcakes (not shown) for the girls.  I feel it's important to sing to each of them separately. Even though they shared this party, I wanted to make sure they each had a chance to be recognized individually:) .

Be sure to check out the girls' sweet ladybug outfits from my previous post.  

That's all I have for today, but I hope you enjoyed our ladybug party!  

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