October 22, 2014

Kids Thanksgiving Table

Simple but special is what I aim for when prepping for occasions. I've thought of just a couple ideas I thought would be cute and add a little something to the kiddie table at Thanksgiving this year, and I thought I'd share them here this week. I know we haven't even hit Halloween yet, but my kids' costumes are just about done, so I'm kind of feeling really on top of it! (10 days ahead of schedule. What?!)

I'm feeling kind of a clean tribal look, so tomorrow I'll be back with some cute and supremely easy wood-slice place cards.

And since it's always so tough counting down the minutes before all that delicious goodness is served, I've got a little printable game that kids (or the kid-at-heart) can use to keep their minds off the wait. 

And while we're at it, here's a quick tip: Why not have a black, butcher paper table-covering with chalk available for lots of cute hand turkeys?

See you back here tomorrow for more of the simple details.

Are you following The Elephant of Surprise on Pinterest? Be sure to check out some of my favorites on my Halloween and Thanksgiving boards!

October 17, 2014

Library Picks: October

What would we do without our amazing community libraries?! Are you and your kids regulars at yours, too? If not, seriously. Check. It. Out. (no pun intended). Our library offers many free story times for different ages, classes, and other fun special events. I'm sure yours does, too. My boys could spend hours thumbing through books, and no matter how many times we've been they find tons of new ones every time. With such little effort on my part, I feel like I'm doing something so great for my kids when I see them cozied up on a comfy chair, completely engrossed in a new book at the library.

So anyway, with that spiel as an intro, I thought it would be fun to share some of our library finds once in a while. I usually give my kids a set number of books they can each pick, and then I choose a few for them, too. Sometimes I'm looking for something in particular, and sometimes I'm not. Since we've been planning "moon lessons" lately, I thought it would be helpful to pick out a few space books for some background. These are three we found that were lots of fun.

Our Solar System by Seymour Simon 
This Smithsonian book is obviously non-fiction, and laid out as you would expect a science ref book for kids to be. It is straightforward, but has lots of cool photos, all the info you would want to share with young children (and then some for older ones), and it's current. (Some of these books can be so ancient.) We won't sit and read it multiple times as a bedtime story, but it was great to show pictures and present info. My 4-year old had lots of good questions.

Fly Guy Presents Space by Tedd Arnold
Have you read any Fly Guy books before? There are TONS, and they are really cute "starter chapter books" for little boys. I've read bunches to my 4-year old, and he gets a kick out of them. This one isn't a chapter book, but obviously features the same characters, and has a cute little story line to go along with the info it presents. It was a fave.

Sun Up, Sun Down, The Story of Day and Night by Jacqui Bailey and Matthew Lilly
At first I thought this one was a little cheesy, but then I realized it's probably the closest to how I would actually teach my boys about the sun, the moon, and our planet in my own words if I had no resources and was as familiar with the info. It has cute illustrations, is written in words kids can easily understand, but has PLENTY of information. What I like most about it is how it presents the relationship between the sun, moon and our earth. It helps paint a picture of why all this really cool info is actually really significant to us, too.

So there are our three favorite space books from our most recent library trip. Are there any others you would recommend on the topic? Any others NOT on the topic that you've just loved lately?

If you've missed the two Moon Posts leading up to this one, check them out here:

October 16, 2014

Chart the Moon Calendar for Kids

Hey, everyone! I'm back with another moon activity for you and your kiddos. If you didn't catch my last post with the Phases of the Moon lesson, check it out here. Once you've made your little Oreo Moon Chart, you are set to start looking at the moon each night and recording what phase it's in. 

Take your kiddos outside with their chart and look up at the sky. Ask them which "Oreo" the moon looks most like that night, and then use this handy dandy calendar to have them draw a picture of it each night.  We used a white gel pen to draw the moon. Chalk pens would work great.  

Talk about whether the moon is "waxing," "waning," and after a few days of drawing the moon, you can ask your kids to guess what they think the moon will look like before they go outside. Older kids can write the moon phase in each day's square, too if you'd like. If you're wondering what you can expect the moon to look like during the month you're recording it, you can check out this site, but don't show your kids--it's more fun that way!

And one more time, here's the link to the free downloadable calendar. It prints on a regular 8 1/2 by 11 page and can be used for any month of the year. Don't feel like you have to start charting on the first of the month either. Start with whatever day it is, and you can simply do it for 30 days! Enjoy.

October 15, 2014

Phases of the Moon Lesson for Kids

We usually think of summer as the time for star gazing, but now that it's getting darker earlier, it's the perfect time for our little ones to take a glimpse up at space before bed. Also, at my house I've got a little alien and a little astronaut coming out for Halloween, so I thought it might be nice to run with it and incorporate a little science while we're at it!

Did you ever use Oreos to create the moon phases when you were in elementary school? It's easy to do. You'll need 8 Oreo halves carefully split. Then, using a diagram like this as a guide and a butter knife, cut the creme to create the different moons. 

After all the moons have been made, we hot-glued them on a plate and labeled them. Now, when my boys go out and look at the moon each night, they can look at their Oreo guide and see if it's "full," "waxing" or "waning" etc. On Thursday, I'll have a fun printable calendar to go along with this guide.

Here's a screen shot of what you'll see over at that site. It's AWESOME! Games, photos, and info galore. 

October 9, 2014

Shop Your House for Fall Decor

Halloween is right around the corner now. AHH! I have tons of costume creating to do, and my 4-year old never lets me forget about it. Maybe you have Halloween on the brain, too? Or maybe you want to take a break from black and orange and spooky and just enjoy something pretty for fall. I looked around my house a few days ago for some "non-Halloween" items I could whip into some pretty fall vignettes. You can do the same thing, and you'll probably be surprised what you come up with! 

Last year I picked up some foam craft leaves from Target. Some were already glittered, and the plain ones got a coat of paint and a layer of sparkles from my craft stash. I love them. You can find something similar and string them with fishing line to hang somewhere, or just nestle them into little spots on a bookshelf or mantle. I also rounded up some wood log slices, white dishes, jars, and a few other decorations I saw laying around that seemed to match. Here are the different options I came up with.

I love me some glitter, but maybe all white is my very favorite. Are your eyes wandering around your house now to see what you've got? Think about things you can find outside too, like twigs, pine cones, maybe a branch with some remnant leaves.

Pull a little vignette together, make yourself some spiced cider, and sit back and enjoy. For a few minutes before you have to get back to costumes, laundry, or whatever else!

October 7, 2014

More Itsy Bitsy Spider Activities

Watching kids "bob for donuts" has to be one of the most entertaining things on the planet. This is quickly becoming a Halloween tradition because the kids love it, and like I said, I LOVE to watch. My youngest was howling with laughter over this. I added 4 pipe cleaners to the string at the top of the donut so we could pretend their donut was a spider hanging from the web. Then, as the rules go, players are trying to eat the donut without using their hands. My boys couldn't eat a whole donut, and they would probably get sick if they tried. You could use a smaller donut, or have them save the rest for later after a certain point.

Another activity that is always fun and SUPER simple is an estimation jar. I put a package of spider rings in a jar and wrapped it with bakers twine. It looked cute on the table, and it's fun for kids and adults alike to try and guess how many are inside.

Keeping things really simple for this play date, you don't have to add a whole lot of extra decor, but a few special touches are fun. My trusty spider rings make another appearance here on these polka dotted paper straws. I simply stuck a glue dot on the straw where I wanted the spider to be and stuck the spider right on. It worked like a charm. 

I hope you've liked these easy little ideas for your littlest Halloween-goers. What other themes would be fun and toddler friendly?

October 6, 2014

Itsy Bitsy Spider Party Activities

With preschoolers, just a few games will do the trick. These spider themed activities are not only fun, but will give your kids a little dose of coordination practice, too.

For this Spider Web Weaving activity you will need black paper plates, a hole punch, a piece of yarn about 2 feet long, tape, a chalk pen and plastic spider rings.

Punch holes around the rim of the paper plate and tape one end of the yarn to the back of the plate. To make it easier for kids to weave through the holes, wrap the other end of the yarn in tape as well.

Now let your little ones go to town weaving the web in and out of the holes for their little spider. At one point, they can string the yarn through the spider ring. To make things even more interesting for the older kids, you could assign each hole a number for them to weave in order. OR, you could write capital and lower case letters for them to match. 

Last year I made this Spider Web Untangle game for my little ones. For this Itsy Bisty Spider party, I thought a party sized version would be perfect. On a poster board draw as many spiders as you have guests. Draw a weaving line from each spider to the bottom of the poster where it attaches to a treat. Each child chooses a spider, a colored marker, and must trace the line all the way from the spider to the treat they get!

Great coordination practice, right?! And the kids have a blast!

On Friday, I'll be back with one more classic Halloween game, but with a spider twist. Plus, I'll have a few more fun spider touches to wrap things up. Don't miss it!

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