WEEKLY PICTURE EVENT CALENDAR FOR PRESCHOOLERS

“When do we go to the zoo?” “When is Nate’s birthday party?” “When, when, when” is the repetitive question of kids of all ages, but as a parent of preschoolers, it’s especially challenging to answer the “when” questions if eager kids don’t yet read, write or comprehend the days of the week.

That was a parenting challenge for 35-year-old neonatologist and mom of two, Dr. Anna Hedstrom. So, she recruited her mother-in-law, retired fourth-grade teacher Judy Hedstrom, to help her and her husband Karl develop a hands-on strategy for their 3-year-old son Parker to understand what’s up on their weekly schedule.

To create an event calendar, Judy organized family photos of familiar faces in Parker’s life, and found images of day-to-day routines and outings from free online photos. She used them to make easy-to-handle, Velcro-backed activity cards Parker could attach to color-coded days of the week.

It works! “The Parker’s Week calendar gets him involved in a playful way to understand when activities will take place,” say the parents. On Sundays, they talk about the coming week as he attaches cards representing routine events like school, as well as special activities such as going to the zoo. Now, six months later, he has figured out how to do the “regulars” himself.

Enjoy making one adapted to your family lifestyle with your preschooler.

Here’s the stuff you need:
–1 22-by-28-inch poster board cut in half widthwise
–cardstock sheets in different colors
–copied photos and images of people and activities in child’s life
–household glue
–self-stick Velcro
–magnets or art hooks for hanging

Here’s the fun:
1. For the header section of the activity calendar, print a title such as “EMILY’S WEEK” on a 12-by-4-inch strip of cardstock. Add a photo of the child next to it, and glue in place on the poster board.

2. On the short end of seven 3-by-11-inch tall colored strips of cardstock, print the days of the week. Line up strips vertically in a row, and glue under the title strip.

3. Cut 3-by-3-inch cards for representing routine activities and special events. Print photos and images of outings and glue to cards. Label each activity. For example: School, Library, Soccer, Haircut, Doctor visit, Birthday party, Dad off work, Surprise!

4. Laminate cards and entire calendar at a copy store (optional, but recommended).

5. Attach one half of Velcro pieces in a vertical line under days of the week, and attach the matching pieces on the backs of cards. Hang the calendar with magnets or art hooks at child’s height.
Store cards not in use in a box or file near the calendar.

SUMMER OUTDOOR FUN

Summertime invites all ages to experience a big dose of creativity, because you can enjoy so many artful, and sometimes messy, activities outdoors.

If you have a block party coming up in your neighborhood, a family reunion or a birthday party, here are classic ideas with clever twists to engage kids’ imaginations and show off their creative side.

The basics? A long portable table covered with newspaper and the supplies to draw everyone in.

FACE PAINTING

Set out hand mirrors for “selfie” face painting using watercolor pencils dipped in water, or use this face paint recipe. Hold a mirror in one hand while drawing with the other. Kids and adults also will have fun painting one another’s faces.

Face Paint Recipe:
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon water
1/2 teaspoon cold cream
Liquid food coloring in a variety of colors
Small paintbrush
Small recycled yogurt-style container for each color
Stir together cornstarch and cold cream in a container until blended. Add water and stir. Add coloring, one drop at a time, until you get desired color.
Paint on faces with a small paintbrush or use a cotton swab.

MAKE A GOOEY GOOP CONCOCTION

Kids enjoy just about anything that’s gooey, slithery and slimy. Here’s a crowd-pleaser.
8-ounce bottle of white household glue such as Elmer’s
8 ounces water
Liquid poster paint (optional)
Small and large mixing bowls
1 cup warm water
1 1/2 teaspoons borax powder
Stir together glue, 8 ounces water and a few drops of paint (optional) in large bowl. In small bowl, mix warm water and borax. Slowly pour the borax mixture into the glue mixture. Swirl mixture with your hands, and in seconds goop will form into gooey glops as it oozes from your grasp. Pick it up, squeeze it, and play.
Note: If it gets on clothing, wash out quickly with soap and water.

SALAD SPINNER ART

Remove the lid of an old salad spinner that you use for crafts, and set a round paper plate in the middle.

Fix it to the nodule at the center of the bottom of the spinner with a piece of clay.

Pick three liquid poster paints and drop puddles near the center of the plate.

Pop the top of the spinner back on and give the crank a whirl for 5-8 seconds. Let it wind down, and remove the top. See the explosion of color spread in all directions. If you wish, add more paint and a pinch of glitter, and spin again. Remove plate, let it dry and display when you get back home.

MAKE LAMPSHADE THAT’S OUT OF THIS WORLD

Have your summer outings taken your family to a planetarium or a space exhibit at a science museum, or did you take a trip to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida? Maybe you enjoyed camping at a state or national park under a starlit sky.

Whatever your adventure, capture the memory with a space-age craft that’s fun, practical and will keep your child’s curiosity about space alive. Decorate a plain, smooth lampshade you already have, or purchase an inexpensive version to create your night-sky theme. With just a few supplies from around the house, you and your kids can make an out-of-this-world shade to brighten a bedroom or family room.

Here’s the stuff you’ll need:
–Plain, standard smooth white lampshade
–Sheets of tissue paper in several colors (we used navy blue and shades of purple)
–Household white glue diluted with a few drops of water to create a milkshakelike consistency
–Paintbrush
–1-inch glow-in-the-dark adhesive-backed stars
–Darning needle
–Sturdy craft wire
–Medium and large buttons, beads, star-shaped charms and baubles with holes

Here’s the fun:

1. Tear tissue paper into 1-inch-by-1-inch pieces. This is a fun job for preschoolers. Older children might prefer cutting straight-sided squares or rectangles with scissors.

2. Set the lampshade on a newspaper-covered work surface. Paint an outside section with the glue-and-water mixture over the top of the tissue paper and smooth each piece out with your fingers. When the shade is covered, finish it off with a coating of glue and water. Let dry.

3. Attach glow-in-the dark stars here and there on the tissue-paper-covered exterior, then use the darning needle to poke about 6-8 holes evenly around the top edge of the shade.

4. Now it’s time to put planets and stars jutting outward in space, circling the shade. Start with a 10-inch length of wire. Poke and twist in place one end through the holes of a large flat button to represent a planet or the sun. Loop the opposite end of the wire through one of the holes in the shade.
Bend the wire outward so that it looks like it is suspended in space around the shade. Continue attaching a single charm, bead or button to additional pieces of cut wire to represent the International Space Station, the moon, stars and even a rocketship. Vary lengths. The sky’s the limit when it comes to expressing your creativity.

5. Attach the shade to your lamp base to light up a desk, night table or dresser.

THE ULTIMATE COLLECTION BOX

I’ve been doing an informal survey with friends, asking them to rate the most popular kids’ collectibles accumulating in their homes. The results?

Rocks rock!

Rocks were No. 1, followed by shells at a close No. 2 position. Leaves, sticks and pine cones trailed, tying for third place. Surprisingly, none of the top picks were toys, CDs or collectible trinkets from a fast-food kids’ meal.

Kids not only instinctively collect nature finds when they are outdoors, but they also love to tuck them away in special places like jacket pockets, egg cartons and empty shoe boxes.

Here’s a practical idea for storing and displaying growing collections all year round. Pick up a hardware storage box with rows of plastic drawers that slide in and out of the front side and are intended for screws, bolts and nails. Find a used box at a garage sale, or buy a new one at a hardware store — a nice gift idea for your collector’s summer birthday.

If you find a used box, spiff it up by covering the outside with colorful adhesive-backed paper. Glue travel stickers or postcards on the outside to decorate it.

To help your child categorize the drawers, use a paint pen to write the name of the contents. For example: Leaf Collection, Rock Collection, Bark Collection, etc.

Introduce your child to new collections, too. At a beach, fill a small plastic canister with sand. Label it with the name of the beach. Collect more as you travel, and store the bottles in the “sand collection” drawer when you return home.

Extra ideas:
–If your collection box has large drawers on the bottom, make mini dioramas with souvenirs. Glue a photo or postcard on the back of the drawer for a background, then glue small items to create a mini scene on the base of the drawer.
–To cover the drawers when not in use, tape a large piece of cardboard the size of the front of the box along the base of the box to resemble a hinged flap that
opens and closes. Poke a hole at the top of the cardboard so that you can loop a ribbon and bead through it and tie to a handle to keep it shut.

PLASTER CASTING ART AT A SANDY BEACH

Heading for the beach by the sea or a lake? Along with towels, sunscreen and flip flops, bring along a carton of plaster of Paris, a paper cup and an empty quart-size can or plastic recycled food container to make a unique piece of natural art that will last — and decorate your yard or deck when you get back home.

You can even make a terrific creation in your own backyard sandbox if you don’t live near the water. If your kids have made plaster handprints in school, they’ll be familiar with the following and easy how-tos.

To make a mold in damp sand, use your hands to scoop out a free-form design at least 2 inches deep. If you are at an ocean beach, just be sure the tide won’t be coming in for at least a couple of hours. You also may make a mold using toys such as a plastic fish or crab. Press the toy into the sand to make the shape, and then remove the toy. Any connecting areas in your design should be at least 2 inches wide to keep the final plaster project from breaking. To add interest, press some natural objects you collect on the beach into the base of the sand mold, such as shells, rocks, twigs and bark or driftwood.

Pour a cup or two of fresh or seawater into the disposable container. Add the powdered plaster according to directions on the box and stir with a stick. The mixture should be smooth and thick like a milkshake. Don’t overstir, however, as this causes the mixture to set up too quickly and weakens the final product. Immediately pour the mixture into your sand mold, spreading it evenly to all areas with a stick, if necessary.

To make a hanger for your art, poke a paper clip halfway into the plaster at the center top as the plaster thickens. If the project is large, you may wish to position two paper clips evenly spaced from each side.
Allow the plaster to harden for about an hour and a half, depending on the size of the mold, and then carefully remove the plaster souvenir from the sand. Dispose of leftover hard plaster in a trash can.

Take a picture of your pleased kids holding their creations before you head home. Wrap your art loosely with newspaper, and let it dry and harden completely. Glue on additional decorations, if you wish.

NOTE: Never pour liquid plaster down a drain.

RECOGNIZE PEOPLE AND PLACES WITH BOX PUZZLE PLAY

What’s on your summer calendar? Fourth of July celebrations, picnics at the park or a family reunion far from home? For your preschoolers, the friendly faces at these summertime gatherings of cousins, aunts, uncles and friends might seem puzzling at first. Who are all these people?

Here’s a playful way to prepare your child (and maybe even you!) for these special events before you go. Make fun and easy recycled cereal box puzzles featuring photos of the faces they will be seeing and places they’ll be visiting in coming weeks. Instead of asking, “Who’s that?” as Uncle Pete scoops ice cream at the reunion dessert bar, you might hear: “Hey, mommy — he’s the guy in my puzzle!”

Before you begin, scroll through your photo library and look for a group photo of people you’ll be seeing, and photos of homes or landmarks of places on your itinerary. You’ll be enlarging the images and cutting them into rectangular puzzle pieces to adapt to the size of the boxes.

Here’s the stuff you’ll need for one puzzle set of two images (one on the front and one on the back of the boxes):
–9 small, empty rectangular single-portion cereal boxes
–2 photocopied photographs of extended family members, and/or a place where you will be traveling (about 8-inches by 12-inches)
–paint, or wide colored tape
–scissors
–household glue or spray craft glue
–Empty grapefruit or orange net bag for storage (optional)
Here’s the fun:
1. Lay one photo or piece of art face down on a table. Line the boxes side by side on the backside of the photocopy in three vertical rows. Draw around each box with a pencil, and then cut out the pieces.
2. Cover the printing on the sides of the food boxes with paint or colored packing tape, then glue the paper photo pieces on the front of each box.
3. Turn the boxes over, and add another photo following the same instructions.
4. To play, mix up the boxes and start puzzling them on one side, then the other. Say the names of the people or places as you go. Tell your child how they are related, and share a story or two about individual people.
When done, I like to keep these puzzle pieces in empty net bags. If you weave a string through the tops, you can hang them on a hook for easy storage between play.
Extra idea: For a mini puzzle, use a set of same-size boxes in smaller sizes, such as single-portion raisin boxes. Adjust the dimensions of the enlarged photos to fit accordingly.

RECYCLE A PLASTIC BOTTLE INTO A SHARK-THEMED PLANTER FOR SUCCULENTS


A few years ago, a friend inspired me to pot a succulent container garden. I discovered that trendy jade, aeonium and echeveria are the most forgiving, low-maintenance sun-loving plants I could ever grow on our deck in the summer and indoors during Minnesota’s winter chill. And they are easy to propagate. Break off an offshoot from a larger plant, stick it in the soil, and a new plant will root and grow.

No matter the season, why not encourage your young child to grow his own succulents and plant them in a container he is familiar with: a plastic soda or water bottle? It’s a fun craft project to upcycle a liter size into a planter, and decorate it to enhance bedroom or family room decor. If he’s fascinated with sea life, how about a shark?

Here’s the stuff you’ll need to make a fish-themed planter:
–1 empty liter size soda or water bottle with lid, label removed
–markers
–craft foam sheets in 3-4 colors
–non-toxic craft glue
–craft paint and brush (optional)
–fast-draining soil, like cactus potting mix
–pebbles
–3 small succulent plants

Here’s the fun:
Set the bottle on its side. Let your child measure and draw a 2-inch-by-6-inch rectangle lengthwise where the label was removed. An adult should cut out the rectangle. (Tip: use a pushpin to poke a few holes in the plastic on a line for ease in getting the cutting started.) The opening will be the top of the planter.
Use the craft foam to decorate the outside of the bottle to look like a shark. The spout with lid already looks like a fish mouth. Refer to a picture or photo of a shark in a book or online to sketch and cut out shapes resembling a shark’s mouth, eyes, gills, fins and tail. Glue cutouts to the bottle. Add details with craft paint, if you wish. Let dry.
Scoop a half-inch layer of pebbles into the bottle and about 1 1/2 inches of damp potting soil. Plant succulents, sprinkle more pebbles around them and display in a sunny spot.

Let your child care for the plants by giving them a drink of water when the soil is thoroughly dried out.

PAINT AND CRAFT A BIRD FEEDER FROM RECYCLED MILK JUG

Swish! Swish! Swish! The chubby brush goes in all directions on a big sheet of easel paper. “Jameson loves to paint,” says  my niece, 34-year-old mom and athletic trainer Natalie Whitfield. I want to encourage his love for art, so it was time to find something to paint on that isn’t just paper (or potentially our house),” she says with an “I know where this joy of painting could lead” kind of expression.
“How about making and painting a bird feeder?” she thought — and do it the recycling way with plastic milk jug. She and her 3-year-old made a plan for their first big craft project, and went to a store to choose paint and shiny stickers. Supplies for the “roof” became a second outing — a nature-walk adventure to collect twigs. Just the right ones.
The project was a success. “He had a great time painting and decorating, so we decided to make two more for Mother’s Day gifts for his grandmothers,” she said.
Are you looking for simple outdoor projects to enjoy with your kids this summer? A feeder for fine feathered friends is a good starter craft, and together with your child’s creative flourishes, it makes a unique Father’s Day gift, too. (Or, assemble all the supplies to make the feeder, put them in a box and wrap it up with a bow for a gift Dad or Grandfather can enjoy making together with your child.)
Here’s the stuff you’ll need:
–1 clean, gallon recycled plastic juice or milk jug with label removed and cap on
— standard coffee mug for a pattern
–scissors
–thick wire or heavy twine for hanging
–nontoxic acrylic paint and paintbrush
–waterproof adhesive decorations (optional)
–3-inch sticks
–glue or outdoor Mod Podge
–birdseed
Here’s the fun:
1. Place the mug upside down in the middle of one side of the jug about 1 1/2 inches from the base. Trace the semicircle shape. An adult should cut out the shape with scissors. Repeat on opposite, or all sides.
2. For hanging, an adult should poke two holes opposite each other on the top near the cap. Loop wire or twine through holes.
3. Paint and let dry.
4. Decorate with stickers and glue on sticks for a “roof.” Let dry.
5. If you wish, add perches by poking holes under the “windows” and inserting sticks.
6. Scoop birdseed inside. Hang from a tree or bird feeder stand. As birds come, identify them, take pictures and talk about your sightings.
                                                                

MAKE A PICTURE-PERFECT STORYBOOK FOR A PRESCHOOLER

 

               

Many parents of toddlers and preschoolers wonder, “How can I teach my child to read?” I like to shift the question a bit to: “How can I help prepare my young child to read?” While decoding, recognizing and translating symbols is an essential part to reading, developing comprehension skills is key to understanding what words really mean. Good readers don’t just name and pronounce words, they grasp the meaning and nuances behind them.

Talking, singing, rhyming and sharing stories with babies and toddlers throughout the day builds a background for reading comprehension. As the child grows, daily reading from picture books provides pleasurable learning moments, too.

And when the book is all about the child and chock full of photos with printed descriptions of their everyday activities, the marks on paper come to life.

When family friend Frida Mork turned 3, her Uncle John expanded her library with “THE FRIDA BOOK.” A real page-turner, the personalized homemade publication was created with photos of Frida doing everyday things. Accompanying the photos are questions with clues in the photos designed to:

–stimulate memories: “What are you making in the kitchen with Mommy? Cupcakes!”

–build vocabulary: “Who’s that grilling tasty bratwurst?”

–develop learning skills: “Count to three” with One, Two, Three photos of Frida.

Now as Frida approaches her 4th birthday, the book is still happily clutched in her hands and “read” over and over again. (Thanks to sheets of clear contact paper covering pages, peanut butter and other sticky stuff are easily removed with a damp cloth.)

Here’s how to make a personalized “My First Book.”

You’ll need:

–eight 9-by-12-inch sheets of heavy colored construction paper

–photos of the child with people, places and pets

–stickers

–scissors

–glue

–markers

–clear adhesive-backed paper, cut in eight 9-by-12-inch pieces

–paper punch

–2 loose-leaf book rings or ribbon

Here’s the fun:

Fold each of the eight sheets of construction paper in half widthwise. Stack them one on top of the other with their folds lined up on the right side. The front of the top folded sheet will be the book’s cover. The back of the bottom sheet will be the back of the book.

Glue a photo of the child on the cover, and add a title. Attach additional photos and write text with markers on the remaining 14 pages. Add stickers, if you wish.

Protect the pages by folding a sheet of adhesive-backed paper around the folded right edge of each sheet of construction paper.

Bind the book by punching two equidistant holes along the left side of the pages and attach with the metal rings. (Add additional pages of new experiences as the child grows.)

“A TASTE OF HOME” GRADUATION GIFT

  

               

Pre-addressed, stamped postcards sent by college students from around the country find their way back to Nancy Cripe’s kitchen in Minnesota throughout the school year. Even an old and tattered postcard recently arrived from a UCLA graduate student with the three-word message, “Is this expired?”

“Cookie cards never expire,” replied the high-school biology and human anatomy and physiology teacher at Minnehaha Academy in Minneapolis.

Nancy’s “cookie cards” have become her unique high-school graduation gift-giving tradition.

At the end of each academic year, she receives numerous invitations to her science students’ graduation open-house parties. A few years ago, she decided to change up how she honored their achievement, by giving something personal that is a little taste from home when they feel far away — in the form of home-baked chocolate chip cookies.Like a monetary gift card with dollar amounts for purchases at stores and restaurants, her cookie postcard can be redeemed for one dozen home-baked cookies. “Not surprisingly, that’s usually during their final exam week,” she says.

It’s a gift that keeps on giving. “Hearing back from students when they send me the postcard is a personal way to stay in touch, and baking for them gives me a chance to think about them individually, and what they are experiencing and working toward.”

This personalized gift idea can work for a graduating grandchild, friend, niece or nephew, too. You even might wish to give several cookie-card postcards to be redeemed quarterly or monthly.

Here’s how she does it:

She designs the postcards with images and words of blessing and inspiration printed on one side. On the left half of the reverse side, she prints this message in the high school’s colors:

“Congratulations on your Graduation! When you’re away at college and need some extra inspiration to help you study (especially science!), just send me this postcard and homemade cookies will soon be on their way to you!”

Below the message are four lines where the student writes his or her college address, along with a space for jotting a note to her. On the right half, she prints her home address and adds a postage stamp.

The postcard is tucked inside a graduation card.

When she receives the postcard, she bakes the cookies (she has a large quantity of cookie dough shaped into balls and frozen to bake a dozen on a moment’s notice) and packs them carefully in a plastic bag wrapped with bubble wrap to fit the smallest U.S. mail flat rate box. She includes a handwritten greeting, and sends it off.