Monday, May 21, 2012

2012 Annular Eclipse

Today we learned that looking at an eclipse is fun!
Of course you need to be careful, which we were, but we also had fun too.
Fun glasses - these are designed specifically to protect you eyes when looking at the sun. 

The pin hole viewer... a great idea, especially for little kids who shouldn't be starting at the sun!

The half a circle is the shadow of the moon moving in front of the sun. 

 Our first picture - through the glasses

As we reached the peak... 

The ring of fire - the main event!

Tonight's bedtime story... There's No Place Like Space: All About Our Solar System (Cat in the Hat's Learning Library)

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Eclipse Prep

Zilla is 4 years old
Mega is 1 yr. 9 months old
On May 22nd we are going to have an eclipse to look at in the early morning hours.  It is going to occur just before our day gets going so hopefully, with no rain or clouds in the sky, we will be able to enjoy it.
In an effort to help the kids understand what will happen we are taking time to learn about the solar system.  Here are some of the kids favorites:
Space Toob (small plastic models)
The Magic School Bus Lost in the Solar System
DK Eyewitness Astronomy
Berenstein Bears On The Moon

After reading a few books Zilla asked about making a solar system model. I would love a big school-style one but it isn't practical for our home.  I found the Bubble Guppies Solar System Mobile on the Nick Jr. website which matches the Moon Rocks episode which we downloaded in iTunes.  There is a Solar Chart Poster too which I think will make a fun matching activity.  It is great to have preschool level activities!

We discovered a space game on the Magic School Bus homepage which goes along with the book.  Zilla is really good at the game as he pays a lot of attention to what we read!

Of course no study of space would be complete without many visits to the NASA homepage.  They even have a specific Solar System page.  The NASA app is on the iPad and I have introduced Zilla to the NASA podcasts as well since they explain things so much better than I can!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Travel Activities

Zilla is 4 years old
Mega is 19 months old

There are a couple of previous posts on here with ideas for activities for kids while traveling.  The Toddler Bag Activities and Plane/Train Entertainment for Toddlers are two posts that I look to when packing for a trip.  It is interesting each time to see which activities go over well and which are overlooked. Here are a few favorite (in addition to ones from the previous posts!) from our most recent long-haul journey:

 These books when paired with a dry erase marker or two work well for preschoolers. Zilla likes them so much he asks to do them even at home.

Sesame Street Play-n-learn Mazes Tall Spiral Write on Wipe Off

Zilla is using the books from the abbove post and Mega is practicing putting pegs in holes with a game from the $1 store.  This game has small pieces which make it not ideal for in a vehicle but it would be useful at a table in a hotel room, etc.

50 Things To Do On A Plane is a set of cards with various activities that can be done with a dry erase marker. There is a good range of activities.  Some are partner games - perfect for playing with a parent or sibling.  We only made it through the first 10 or so on our 13 hour flight as Zilla found an activity card he loved and kept doing it over and over again. Definitely taking this along the next time we travel!
I highly recommend having a bag to keep the marker, eraser and cards together.

 An old favorite - stickers and paper.  

Different stickers, just as much fun. 

Interactive cloth books 

ABC stickers and stencils with more paper :-) 

 Fireknife Boy and Hula Girl - great fun for a couple of kids who love Hawaiians!

Magnet book of vehicles 

Another classic - lacing cards cut from cardboard with yarn tied on.

reusable sticker books 

Finger puppet circus from Ikea 

And, last but not least, the activity bag of planes...
Zilla was really interested in this combo as it helped him to understand the things we saw and did at the airports and on the planes.

Rainy Day Indoor Play

Zilla is 4 years old
Mega is 1 year 9 months old

This time of year we often have a string of rainy days.  It is not the rainy season yet but I feel like we always need some good ideas of how to fill the rainy hours!

We googled "newspaper sailor hat" and fount many designs to try. 

 Even our shark wanted a custom hat.

Sister Bear got one too. 

 There are hats and then there are HATS!  
A bit of 4 year old styling can remake a sailor hat into something original.  We also discovered that full page color advertisements in the newspaper can be turned into interesting themed hats.  We made a hot and spicy Tabasco one for Daddy!

One of my "tricks" is to only put out a few toys at a time.  On rainy days we will cycle through "new" toy boxes - things which have been in the closet for a little while - as a way to keep their attention focused on positive things.  Usually the kids find a groove with a toy and will play with that one for a long time.
On the last rainy day the Calico Critters school bus and yochien (preschool/kinder) set is what they got hooked on.  It was so great to see them playing nicely together!  They were roll playing parts of their daily lives as well as expanding it into the realm of imagination.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Cutting Veggies

Zilla is 4 years old

One of Zilla's recent interests is helping out with cooking.  He can be a very good helper when he's in the right mindset.
 We recently acquired a plastic knife - the kind used for cutting lettuce - which Zilla has claimed as his.  The texture of mushrooms is perfect for him to practice safe chopping!

Rather than chop up all the veggies I sometimes "make" work for him by having him use cookie cutters to cut shapes out of veggie slices.  Daikon sliced thin works really well.

After a while Zilla wanted to try cutting using the cookie cutter with 2-3 slices at a time.  He quickly figured out how tough that was so with a plate over the cutter and a bit of elbow grease he made it work!

More Yochien Things

It seems that there is a great number of things Zilla needs for yochien (preschool/kinder) which means there are many things that I have to keep track of.  We now have a dresser drawer dedicated to all the bits and pieces!

 This is a head covering to be used in the event of a disaster.  The things folds up into a nice square to become the kid's seat cushion.  Once a month or so it gets sent home so we can wash the outside of the cushion and the kids and practice putting on the inside part.

Here is one to the two exercise uniforms.   

This is the other excercise uniform.  It goes over the shorts set.  
There are specific days when they are asked to wear this to school so I have to keep track of those... as well as which days are hot lunch, which are bring a bento... which are full days of school, which have early dismissal... and a million other things!

Saturday, May 5, 2012


Zilla is 4 years old
Mega is 1 yr. 9 mo. old

I enjoy doing art/craft projects.  However, I have very little patience when it comes to doing them with kids.  The mess... the possibilities they miss... the short attention span... you get the picture.  
Out of all the art forms perhaps my least favorite to do with kids is painting.  Since we live in a small space and don't own the place I am very hesitant to do major painting projects indoors.  Also, putting paint into the hands of a 1 yr old is just asking for trouble!

Here is the first page.  Things were pretty simple as they started out. 

After a while of brush painting we shifted to shaped sponges.  They quickly figured out that the same sponge stamped in the same place but with 2 different colors looks pretty cool! 

 Zilla has been curious about color mixing for a while.  He was very serious about intentionally making additional colors.

 Mix master at work

 We all enjoyed the custom colors.

A video of Zilla's instructions for painting a snail

Work complete!
We painted until we ran out of paint!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

When TV is Off...

Beware... or Be Aware...
This is what happens when you turn off the TV...