Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A Kid's Tree: The Perfect Display For All Of Those Handmade Holiday Crafts

     11 Days! Only 11 days until Christmas! Can you believe it!?! I am getting so excited. B is nearly four years old now, and this year he is loving the holiday season. We have been been watching Christmas movies, singing carols and reading tons of holiday books. One of our favorite activities has been crafting. B has been making ornaments and decorations nonstop. By the end of the first week of December our home was overflowing with handmade holiday crafts. The entire family has enjoyed the daily additions to the holiday decor, but really, what are you supposed to do with all of those paper decorations? Well, you make a kid's tree of course!

     B had been asking for a real tree in addition to our traditionally decorated artificial tree which is safely tucked away (from little hands and wagging tails) in the foyer of our split level home. I was unsure if we should get one at first because what kid wants a tree that he can't decorate? And  what decorations are going to hold up against a very active (read "crazy at times") little boy and two spastic dogs (one of which is a smallish lab)? The only thought I had at first was plastic ornaments. We don't have any plastic ornaments. Then, I looked around our overly decorated living room and started smiling at the sight of all those oh-so-cute handmade paper decorations. PAPER DOESN'T SHATTER INTO A BILLION PIECES!!! A special Christmas tree just for B's crafts, how perfect!

     With a spot in the house in mind and a bundled up little boy snug in his car seat, we all headed down to the local Christmas tree farm. During the thirty minute ride B kept trying to convince us to tell him where we were going for his "special surprise."  As we pulled into the farm he was thrilled to discover row after row of beautiful Christmas trees. I wish I would have thought to video his recation when we arrived. It was priceless!

     After a nice hayride around the property we got down to the business at hand. B was off to find his tree. Since we were there on a Monday afternoon we had the entire place to ourselves. B was able to wonder though the trees looking for just the right one. We finally chose together and my little guy helped his daddy cut down a tree for the very first time.

     We had a wonderful time at the farm and have some amazing memories and photos from the day. And now B has his very own Christmas tree decorated with his own colorful crafts.

     I have enjoyed watching B admire his tree especially as he adds to it each day, and I know this will be a new holiday tradition for us. And who knows, maybe one day  (a very, very long time from now) I will sit back with a cup of hot coco and look on as B helps his own child decorate their own first "kid's tree."

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Happy Holidays!!!

The Letter Games

     Don't you just love watching your child learn through everyday play? I know I do! I was recently treated to an evening of playful learning with B when he decided to make a road out of his See & Spell word game puzzle. Although B often lines the individual puzzle bases end to end to form a road for his vehicles, I decided to make this time a bit more educational and fun.

     I sat down with my little guy and we worked together as a "word road construction crew." I handed B the puzzles and he laid them together. Then we dumped the letter pieces on the floor and filled in the "holes"  in the road to form words his trucks could ride over. As he was filling in each hole, B told me the sound the individual letter makes. After the road was completed we had a wonderful time driving emergency vehicles to the places they were needed (B is very interested in helping rescue those in need). Occasionally a letter would pop out of place and B would excitedly say which word had lost a letter and return the pieces to their correct locations.

     Before it was time to leave the playroom for the night I decided to try one more new game with B.  I asked him to dump all of his wooden letter pieces on the floor, which he happily did at once. It always amazes me how excited he gets when I ask him to make a mess! We worked together to flip all letters face up then B sat quietly listening for what I would say next. In my very best game show announcer voice I explained the rules of the "Quick Letter Find Word Building Game."

1)The announcer (that's mommy, of course) holds a word card up so that the player (that would be B) can not see the word.
2) The announcer lays the card puzzle in front of the player.
3) The player finds each letter needed to complete the word as quickly as possible and puts the letter pieces in the appropriate spots on the word card.
4) The player sounds out the word on the card before receiving well deserved applause from the announcer. Repeat steps 1-4 until all cards have been used or the player (and announce) needs a nap.

     B had a great time finding the letters as fast as he could and he was so proud when he read each completed word to me. I was thrilled with the fact B was learning so much all while playing an exciting new game. He was working on his patience while sitting quietly waiting on each new card to be shown. Looking for the puzzle pieces was helping reinforce his letter recognition (he still stumbles with a few letters from time to time). While adding each letter to the word puzzle he was saying the letter's sound and then actually reading the word at the end. In addition to being fun and educational, this game also served as a wonderful self-confidence booster. B was so proud of himself for knowing the letters, reading the words and "winning" the game.

     We will definitely enjoy these games many times again in the near future. And, I will continue to search for new and exciting educational play activities for my little learner. I hope you have a great time learning and playing with your little one too!

As you can see from the pictures above, B really enjoys his Melissa & Doug "See and Spell Learning Game." I was not able to locate this product on the Melissa & Doug website, but if you are interested in purchasing it you can find it on Amazon by clicking HERE.

I happily linked with the following: 


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Happy Playful Learning!!!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Let The Children Craft

     With the holiday season in full swing, B and I have been busy crafting all sorts of fun Christmas and winter themed decorations, books and more.  We craft at home, library story times, and retail shops. I've discovered there is a nearly endless supply of holiday craft ideas out there. However, these ideas all require B and I to follow a structured set of directions. Don't get me wrong, I really appreciate the fact that I can go online and find a detailed post on most any subject. But, after yet another morning filled with structured crafts (this time at the local library) I decided B needed at little more freedom to let his creative juices flow.

     I wanted to stick with the Christmas theme but see where B's imagination took him. Out came the holiday art supplies. I filled a tray with red and green markers, crayons, glitter glue, paint dot markers, foam stickers and pom poms. I added a regular glue stick, scissors, Christmas stickers, greeting cards and cotton balls. I gave B colored paper, white paper plates, cardboard tubes, small paper bags and even a cardboard jar.

     B sat down at the table and got busy examining the supplies in front of him. Before long he had decided on a red sheet of paper and was covering it with whatever caught his eye.

     My little artist happily glued, stamped and colored for over forty-five minutes before I finally had to pull him away from the table (it was already past lunch time after all). He had a wonderful time creating and was so proud to show off his finished work for the camera!

     Although I love working with B on structured projects I am so happy he was excited to create on his own today. Sometimes between the worksheets, computer learning series, books and so on I forget to just let him learn by himself. B enjoyed his afternoon art session and I was actually able to clean the entire kitchen at one time while happily watching him work. All in all, I think this free-for-all activity will become a staple of our weekly routine.

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Happy Crafting!!!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Let Your Child See You Read: A Book Review Of An Amish Wedding By Beth Wiseman, Kathleen Fuller & Kelly Long

     I believe a child's love of learning, and reading, is most easily established in their very early years. Reading to your child helps promote their early reading skills and helps them form a life-long love of words and story. You can help foster their enthusiasm for the written word by setting a positive example. SHOW your child that reading is FUN! Let your child see you read to yourself at least once per week. It doesn't matter what you read. JUST READ! Here is a fun suggestion of reading material for you moms (and dads) who love Love. Happy Reading!!!

   An Amish Wedding by Beth Wiseman, Kathleen Fuller & Kelly Long

     An Amish Wedding is the wonderfully seamless gathering of three Amish novellas by best-selling authors Beth Wiseman, Kathleen Fuller and Kelly Long. This engaging work of fiction follows three possible brides on their separate paths as they come together for a traditional Amish wedding. 

       Kelly Long begins the journey in A Perfect Secret as Luke Lantz purposes marriage to the beautiful nineteen-year-old Rose Bender. The two have been close friends for most of their young lives and their union would be pleasing to both families. But is that really enough of a reason to marry? Could there be more to a happy life than what they currently have? As Rose ponders what path she shall take, she helps as her dear friend Priscilla prepares for her own marriage to Chester Lapp.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Melissa & Doug Cyber Monday Giveaway Event

Cyber Monday is Giveaway Monday on Melissa & Doug's Facebook Fan Page!

“LIKE” us on Facebook to be eligible to win! Answer the active giveaway’s question, to enter that giveaway. At least one random entrant will be chosen to win each giveaway.


We’ll be giving away terrific educational toys from 8am EST, right up until midnight!

Check out Melissa & Doug's Terrific Twenty Holiday Toys to see some of the great prizes we’ll be giving away!

Giveaway event ends midnight EST 11/28/11.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Homemade Gifts For The Holidays

     Over the past few years I have come across some wonderful blogs. Many blog posts are insightful while others are humorous. My favorite posts, however, are the ones that inspire me. They may suggest an activity, a book, travel tips, printable worksheets or crafts. I just love reading a post that leaves me thinking, "I can so do that!"
     Well, I've put that inspiration to good use this week. With the holidays fast approaching, I decided to pull out the craft supplies and buy a few inexpensive items to supplement my stash. I hit the web to find my favorite posts and then I just went for it. Here are a few of the Christmas gifts I have made for B so far.


     This super easy breakfast set (pancake, egg and bacon-I hope you can tell that is what these are) was inspired by the always creative Childhood 101. The entire meal cost only $0.80 to make!!!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

From Leaf To Man In A Child's Eyes

     Fall is such an exciting time of year. The leaves begin to change, there is a chill in the air, and it seems each day brings new surprises: festivals, catching a falling leaf, migrating birds, an early snow, etc. One of our favorite  pastimes this Fall has been our weekly story time at the local library. Mrs. C, our librarian, encourages the children to bring in Fall themed items to show the others. Often, the kids bring in pretty leaves of all shapes and sizes. B is always so excited to see the varying types of Fall foliage. So, when I came across the book Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert I was just thrilled!

     This sweet story follows Leaf Man as he floats through the air on the gentle breeze observing all sorts of wonderful sights. Page after page the reader is greeted by colorful leaf collages of everything from birds to fish. B was so captivated by this book I just had to extend the fun (and learning). We decide to go on a hunt for a leaf man of our very own.

     B and I headed outside to collect leaves in his handy-dandy shopping basket. As we explored our immediate environment we talked about what we saw, how various items felt, colors, and so forth. We counted leaves, tress and sticks. Okay, we also got side tracked and spent a lot of time playing with sticks- which is part of the fun!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Get a Melissa & Doug 25% Off Coupon When You Take the North "Poll"

Melissa & Doug want you to tell them which of their educational toys you think is the best! Just click on the image below to place your vote in the North "Poll!" You'll Get a Melissa & Doug 25% Off Coupon** to use at just for voting!


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Learning Along The Way With Fun Water Play

     I've said it before, and I'll say it again (just in case you missed it the first few times). Playtime IS learning time! Late last night I came across a wonderful play time challenge, 30 DAYS TO HANDS ON PLAY hosted by Hands On: As We Grow and The Imagination Tree. The idea is to spend at least 15 minutes of uninterrupted playtime with your child each day. The fabulous ladies behind this challenge issue a daily play idea but you are encouraged to add your own touches to really make it yours. 
     I made it to the play party a bit late, but better late than never, right? The day 8 challenge is "Water Play."  Oh how little drenched B loves his mommy tonight! We took today's challenge out on the deck and experimented with colored water. 
      We filled three clear containers with red, blue and yellow water. Then I gave B plastic bottles, funnels and scoopers and told him to "Have Fun!"  He looked at me a bit skeptically at first (note to self: remember to ease up on the directed play) but then he dove right in. After he apologized for the first big spill and I said "that's okay, that's why we are doing this outside," he was all smiles and bigger spills!
     I initially just sat there next to him and talked to him while he splashed, scooped and transferred the colorful water. To my surprise he started talking about how mixing two colors made a new color. He discovered this fact quite awhile ago, but he always seems excited to experiment with color himself. After a few minutes I asked if I could play too and he eagerly handed me a scooper and told me which container to use.
     For the next 20+ minutes we splashed and talked together happily. Although the challenge is meant to  encourage a relaxed and uninterrupted, engaged play session, I was happily surprised when B brought up the idea of colors and asked "why?" nearly a hundred times. Today my little guy made playtime learning time all by himself! 

     Please check out the exciting 

Click on the following links to view these great facebook pages.


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Organize Costumes For Everyday Play

     A few weeks ago I came across a wonderful article explaining why costumed imagination play is good for children. Why Costumes Are Good for Kids by Melissa Bernstein, co-founder  and co-CEO of one of my favorite toy brands Melissa & Doug, helped me realize dress-up is actually an  IMPORTANT aspect of imagination play.

     Bernstein states "Role-play is a critical form of pretend play, and a crucial aspect of early childhood development.  It is also one of the best ways to help a child to develop an understanding of the world. When children are given the opportunity to choose a character they wish to portray, they are given the ability to explore the areas they are most interested in."

    Inspired by Berstein's ideas, I decided to better organize B's costumes. He has a number of fun dress-up options including everything from "A"stronaut to "Z"ebra and many in between. These role-play get-ups are dived into two groups, one for upstairs (our main living space) and downstairs (the playroom). I concentrated on the larger of the two groups, his playroom collection. Before the reorganization B's costumes and accessories were stored in box style containers he could easily access. However, B was not able to see the costumes without getting into the containers. I felt the easiest way to encourage his role-play was by arranging the outfits in a way he would see them daily.

     I had originally planned on getting a row of hooks to mount to the playroom wall, but during a quick trip to the local home improvement store I found the perfect hanging shelf. The shelf has a bar designed for clothes hangers and a small area we are using for hats. I was worried about B having to deal with hangers but he is doing well so far. And hopefully, before long he will be able to hang each of the costumes correctly himself (an added bonus!).

     The shelf seems very sturdy and is just the right size for our needs. It was even totally easy to install, I just said "Daddy will you hang the shelf thing up now?" and it was magically done. .... Okay so it was super simple for daddy too! In fact, it took longer to vacuum up the dust and debris from the screws going into the wall than it did to actually hang it.
    I have seen a huge jump in B's interest in role-play activities since the shelf brought his costumes out into view. So consider getting your kids role-play items out to eye level. Even if this is not a possibility in your space help encourage your little one(s) to dress up and have fun. Remember, it is more than just play, they are learning along the way!

Read Melissa Bernstein's article Why Costumes Are Good for Kids HERE.
You can find the wonderful hanging shelf HERE.

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Friday, November 4, 2011

Fun With Pumpkins

     Halloween is an exciting time of year, especially for the little ones. B had an amazingly fun two weeks leading up to the big trick-or-treating day. We had trips with daddy to the zoo and aquarium, trick-or-treating at local businesses, costume contests, themed library activities and more. I wanted Halloween day to really live up to all of the excitement B was feeling. Thus, mommy came up with a pumpkin filled, educational (Shhh! Don't tell B) day.
      We began our fun with a surprise breakfast of Vanilla Pumpkin Jack-O-Lantern Pancakes. B was absolutely thrilled when I set the plate in front of him.
     After we filled our bellies, and got lots of energy, it was time to finally carve the pumpkin. This was B's first experience making a jack-o-lantern. We took the fun, and mess, outdoors onto the deck. I wanted it to be B's pumpkin so he drew the face on with a marker.

     Once our little artist was satisfied with his drawing, daddy cut the stem away so B could remove the "guts." To our surprise B didn't really care for this part at first. In fact, mommy and daddy had to repeatedly tell him how cool and fun it was to touch the squishy insides of the pumpkin. He eventually came to enjoy the process. Yay!

     We finished up the jack-o-lantern with mommy cutting out the face B had drawn. Its crocked little smile and asymmetrical eyes were so cute!
     After cleaning up the surprisingly small mess we had made, it was time for more pumpkin fun. Next up was Pumpkin Painting! B used the cut out portions of the pumpkin as paint stamps. The artwork came out cuter than I had imagined. Along with the pumpkin stamps, B used a small paint brush and of course his fingers.

     After a yummy lunch and quick nap, B was up and ready to trick-or-treat. Unfortunately, he still had a couple more hours to wait. To fill the time we decided to do one more pumpkin craft. I folded an orange piece of paper in half and cut out a pumpkin shape leaving the two sides connected at the stem. On the front of the paper I wrote "What is inside a pumpkin?" Daddy joined B again for this craft and helped him glue in some of the rinsed seeds from our jack-o-lantern and yarn (the stringy guts) to represent what one finds when cutting open a pumpkin.

           Daddy and B had a fun time working together and B was very proud of his finished project!
     Our pumpkin filled day was rounded out by lighting the candle inside the jack-o-lantern and enjoying an extremely fun, yet cold, night of costumed trick-or-treating. And after B was finally tucked in tight and headed off to dream land, mommy and daddy roasted the remaining pumpkin seeds which we have all been enjoying ever sense.

      It sure was a jam packed Halloween, but well worth the time and effort. B was able to explore his artistic side, discover what a pumpkin was made of, try new food and get plenty of exercise walking the neighborhood getting treats and interacting with other kids. Now, what to do for next year???

**Special thanks to Mom To 2 Posh Lil Divas for the inspiration for the "What's inside of a pumpkin?" craft!**

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Reading To Yourself To Help Your Child Learn

     Reading to your child every day is a wonderful way to introduce early reading skills. The child will begin to understand the correlation between the words printed on the page and the story you tell. He will begin to recognize letters and increase his vocabulary. However, this daily reading will be much more than educational. It will help your child form a life-long love of reading himself. Another wonderful (and enjoyable) way to help your child WANT to learn to read is by making sure he sees you reading to yourself. After all, if mommy likes to read why wouldn't he?
     So many new books are published each year that it would be nearly impossible not to find a book you would enjoy. Your local library and book store have so many titles to choose from. I recently decided to make a point to have B see me read to myself at least once per week. It isn't much, but at least he will begin to see that mommy likes reading for herself as much as I enjoy reading to him. I started this new experience with Invasion by Jon. S. Lewis.

          Thrill, suspense and flying motorcycles will captivate you while immersed in the pages of Invasion by Jon. S. Lewis. The first of the C.H.A.O.S. Trilogy, this exciting story delves into a world beyond our reach.
    After suffering through the traumatic loss of his parents, 16-year-old Colt McAlister is transplanted from sunny, ocean front San Diego to his childhood home of Arizona. McAlister must learn not only to live without his friends and frequent surfing trips, but with his grandfather and an amazing secret that is not his own to share with the world.
     Attending a new school, and having no car, are the challenges one would expect for McAlister to face. However, he is suddenly thrown into a life of comic book heroes, robotic assassins and shape shifting aliens. McAlister, along with a childhood friend and a new friend he hopes he can trust, must navigate a possibly fatal line between what he once considered truth and fiction. They are, after all, the only things standing between us and CHAOS.
     Somewhat reminiscent of Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis, Invasion is a wonderful story for a young science fiction fan. Although the dialogue can be a bit difficult to follow in the first few chapters, the overall flow is smooth. The constant suspense helps make this a quick and enjoyable read. 

**Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”**

A Book And A Snack

     One of B’s favorite daily activities is our story time. It doesn’t matter where we are or what we are reading. As long as we are snuggled up together with a good story B is a very happy little boy. On occasion we come across a book which inspires an activity. Recently, we read Monica Wellington’s Crepes by Suzette. 

     It is a cute story of a woman named Suzette who sells crepes from her street cart throughout the city of Paris, France. The beautiful artwork and illustrations throughout the book are reminiscent of well known paintings and sculptures. As well, many city landmarks can be spotted within the colorful pages. 
     At the conclusion of the book is Suzette’s Crepe Recipe. I very much enjoy crepes, and after reading how simple the recipe is I just had to give it a try…. Well, B gave it a try that is. I measured the ingredients with his help and read the instructions aloud. My excited little chef mixed up the batter all by himself. (He is becoming such a big boy!)

  Once the mixture was perfect, I cooked the crepes and filled them with strawberries, blueberries and apple butter. Yum! 

     We even saved some of the batter and made chocolate chip crepes for desert with daddy the following evening. B had a wonderful time being a crepe chef just like Suzette, and I enjoyed watching him get so excited. He was SO PROUD of himself, as was I. It is truly amazing how a book can sometimes inspire a child to do something that makes them feel so great.  I highly recommend this book and the crepes too! 

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Playtime Is Learning Time

     Learning is something we take very seriously, and at our house PLAYTIME IS LEARNING TIME! Of course, children can learn in numerous ways, but playing seems to be the most FUN method of learning for us. While playing with his market and kitchen set little “B” talks about the colors and shapes of his toy food. He explores textures and sizes while cooking a pretend meal for his stuffed animals. And, he exercises his early reading skills by pointing out letters on his cardboard food boxes.

     I truly believe most anything can be taught through play if you just think about it creatively. Parents and children can count wooden blocks while making a tower. You can even discuss the concept of erosion while playing in the backyard sandbox. Build a beautiful castle or sand fort and watch as it slowly washes away as water is gently poured at the edges. You can even discuss gravity (and the concept of zero gravity) while dropping soft, break resistant toys off of a deck or the top of the stairs. 

     So remember, next time you are rolling around on the floor with your little one laughing from all of the tickles and jokes, grab a toy and make this wonderfully fun playtime an exciting (and still totally fun) learning experience. Happy learning!!!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

And So It Begins

       Being a good parent is a lot of hard work, but so very rewarding! The seemingly small, everyday sweet gestures and activities of your child are the things worth remembering. At least that’s the way it is around our house. Unfortunately as I reminisce over the past 3½ years, I find these normal, daily occurrences of sweet phrases like “I just love you mommy,” squiggly art work and amazing block tower demolitions are not the easiest of moments to remember. The first time meeting Santa, the first emergency room visit, the 101st grocery store meltdown, and the daily battles to “STOP RUNNING IN THE HOUSE!!!!”… That is what is easiest for me to remember. Well, no more! I want to ensure I remember (with a little digital help) the everyday moments I share with my little guy. Thus, Learn Mommy Learn is formed.
    Learn Mommy Learn is just my way of archiving my many moments with my son, "B." Hopefully by sharing some of these moments I will also help inspire you to try a new activity, read a new book, try a new product I trust or to just make a point to spend an extra moment with a child you love. My little "B" is 3 1/2 and he LOVES learning. He seems the happiest once he has begun to understand a new concept or has come up with YET ANOTHER question to ask. One of my main hopes for him is that he will always have a joy for learning something new. I hope to foster his current love of learning into a lifetime passion that he can one day share with his own children.  
    What qualifications do I have to host a blog about education? I am a mom, therefore I am a teacher. I DO NOT have a background in education nor a teaching certificate of any kind. I did graduate from college majoring in I like to talk (or type) a lot. You will soon discover I do not follow any particular standard teaching methodology. My teaching philosophy for “B” is broad based, incorporating many methods. I realize children are unique and different activities will appeal to different children on varying levels. I hope that you may find at least one activity, book, product, etc on this site that will be beneficial to you and your little one(s).
      In the following days/weeks/months I hope to post many of our favorite things to the blog. You can expect to see crafts, outside activities, books, recipes, products, websites, etc. As the blog matures, and hopefully gains a few followers, I hope to expand the topics covered. Thank you for taking the time to stop by Learn Mommy Learn! I would love to read any comments or suggestions you may have. Please feel free to come back soon!