Penguin Peg Dolls

Jax, my budding young ornithologist, loves birds–specifically owls, and because of his recent school study on penguins, they are high on his list, too.  When his teacher and I brainstormed a list of possible ways to extend his learning for enrichment, she came up with the idea of doing a diorama based on a species of penguin we saw at the New England Aquarium in February, one that he didn’t learn about in school and one he could share with his classmates.  Thus, penguin peg dolls were born.

Penguin Peg Dolls @ Rub Some Dirt On It

The kids and I took what felt like forever at JoAnn Fabrics, trying to come up with the best way to create a model penguin.  When we saw the wooden peg dolls, however, that we have used for so many crafts in the past, I knew we had found our medium.

I traced the outline between the black and white parts of their bodies on the peg dolls with pencil.  Then Jax colored them in.

Penguin Peg Dolls @ Rub Some Dirt On It Penguin Peg Dolls @ Rub Some Dirt On It

After finishing the bodies, we worked on the eyes, beaks, and wings.  We didn’t bother with feet.  They came out super cute in the end!

Penguin Peg Dolls @ Rub Some Dirt On It Penguin Peg Dolls @ Rub Some Dirt On It

Jax and Em had a lot of fun while she cut out an amazing house out of card stock and he was writing interesting facts on African penguins for his presentation.  These two always crack me up, and each other, apparently!

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I’m so proud of my little rockhopper!  We got to see his class’s presentation on penguins yesterday morning, complete with singing, dancing, and my little guy’s awesome emperor penguin, drawn to scale.  The kindergartners, second graders, parents and teachers were all there cheering them on, and then we walked around to hear the “experts” tell us all about their chosen penguin.  It was really impressive, especially all their enthusiasm.  I love when schoolwork ignites a fire inside a child’s imagination.  It certainly has in the case of Jax.

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And his sister, too, it looks like!  She looks so interested and proud!  Next year she’ll be the one in the penguin hat, and I bet she is counting every second!

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When The Sun Goes Down

Labor Day has come and gone and I can feel the days getting shorter, the mornings more tense as we all adjust to earlier wake-up calls, fewer snuggles and hurried breakfasts.  I already miss the lazier pace of summer, when the time after dinner wasn’t just a precursor to bed, but a wonderful and tantalizing window of opportunity for the day to continue.  I miss evenings at the beach in Maine, when the big kids and I could follow in Em’s footsteps from the year before and leap from rock to rock toward the end of the jetty at Drakes Island.

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It’s not often Em gets to show big brother the way, but that evening it was especially pleasant.

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Back on land, JDubbs and Little H were enjoying the summer evening, too.  I think he even found a bit of buried treasure!

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After we were reunited and as the tide continued to go out, tide pools emerged for some last minute nautical exploration.  Little H finally warmed up to them and all three kids happily searched for some new sea friends, something we hadn’t had much luck with all week.

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On the contrary, I–being the resident photographer–had had more than enough luck all week, and as the sun went down found more and more opportunities to capture life and light, two of my very favorite subjects.

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The kids kept moving along with the sun, and the challenges of shadows and reflections kept me thoroughly entranced until we all had to admit it was finally time to head home.

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While I’m missing the pace of the end of summer days, the adventures of this school year are already making themselves known!  As determined as I am to appreciate all ages and stages, I will always have a extra-fond place in my heart for summer nights.

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Family Photos Maine Montage

In an effort to move these Maine blog posts along–which I can’t skip because the memories and photos are precious to me but I’ll admit, there have been quite a few of them!–I’m going to combine three glorious days of Maine extended family fun into one gigantic family photo montage.  We loved sharing our vacation with our family, as did our kids, and were especially glad to celebrate our nephew’s Tommy’s birthday and to have everyone experience these locations that are so dear to our heart.  Therefore, enjoy!  Montage time!

Old Orchard Beach

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Kennebunkport, York, Wells

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Drakes Island at Sunset

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Ogunquit

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There are so many things I can say about how blessed we are to get to experience this precious life in such a glorious way, but I think the photos did it better than I ever could.  Much love to our family and thankful for these wonderful memories with them!

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Staying Cool (And Smart)

August is here, and with it some extreme temperatures that have taken our daily adventures to air conditioned or watery places.  One of our favorites is the Montshire Museum, not only because its ever-changing exhibits keep the whole family interested (praise the Lord), but also because its outdoor water play helps us beat this crazy summer heat.  What my kids don’t know is that while they are there, having a blast, their brains get slightly reactivated from their summer slumber and the learning cobwebs get shaken off just a bit.

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Something as simple as watching ping pong balls drift downriver, with various eddy pools and small elevation changes, is really fascinating for my kids.  They love running to the beginning of the stream, cranking out a new ball, and watching the process over and over again, noticing how small changes have big consequences.

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Em’s favorite part every year is tinkering with and assembling different sprinkler systems.  This year she and Jax worked together to solve their problem.  They actually worked cooperatively without fighting, probably because Em was on her own turf and who can complain when you’re “accidentally” soaking your sibling while having honest fun?

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Little H loved going here for the first time as a two-year-old.  Watching her experiment with cause and effect was particularly gratifying, with a little help from Em and Grammy.  She was so content to pull and push levers to watch how the water level changed, and if she got big sister wet in the process, well, that was just a bonus.

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Of course my kids can never go two hours without a significant meal, so after they had had their fill of water fun, it was time for lunch in the shade, away from the crowds where we could talk and maybe make some new itty bitty friends.

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At this point, the kids had pretty much dried off, so Grammy and I managed to wrangle them inside for a different kind of fun.  One of the things I love about museums is that they don’t even realize they are absorbing anything educational; they’re just having a great time.

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Keeping cool (and smart!) is the only way to go this summer!

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Mad Scientists

You know how family members always ask, What does Johnny want for his next birthday?  Or What is Suzie asking Santa for this year? Well, if your kids are elementary school-aged, I have a gift for you: a present you can give your kids that is just plain awesome.

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 I am not getting paid for this, nor do I have any affiliate links.  I really love this primary science kit (and the measuring kit that goes with it) and want to spread the word because it’s summertime and we’re all in this survival thing together.  If your kid has an inquisitive mind, do yourself a favor and invest in these sets that come with experiments made with household items, like the traditional vinegar and baking soda eruptions that every kid loves.  Because, really, all kid deserve to be mad scientists every once in a while.  Complete with safety goggles.

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In the past, we have taken our experiments to the next level by writing down or hypotheses and observations in our handy dandy journals, but, hey it’s summer!  We do experiments in our pajamas and to hell with the scientific method.  We keep it low-key so they hardly know they’re learning.  Everyone wins. IMG_4446

Speaking of learning, even I was surprised by this experiment where you put raisins in a glass with clear soda and watch them float up and down on carbonation bubbles.  It was really cool, even to me! #nerdalert

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So if the summer is stretching before you is a little daunting, invest in some toys that will keep them engaged and using their brains for countless hours to come!  There are worse things than being mad scientists; after all, as Alice in Wonderland says to the Mad Hatter, “You’re entirely bonkers. But I’ll tell you a secret. All the best people are.”

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Simply Busy Sensory Play

I love spring, and I love the rain.  I even went running in the rain yesterday afternoon–how refreshing!  But day 3 of rain with kids who are just starting to savor the pleasure of being outdoors everyday is a bit…mind-numbing.  So I pulled out an old favorite for the first time with Little H, just to see how it goes: sensory play with beans and dried peas.  Did she love it!

Simply Busy Sensory Play @ Rub Some Dirt On It

As I look back, the last time I did this we did it outside to minimize the mess (which may be wise) but this time we had no choice but to give it a go on the kitchen floor.  I was hoping for ten uninterrupted minutes of work while I sent out emails, so I brought out a cookie sheet, various plastic containers, a spoon and a few miniature CAT vehicles.  I dumped three bags of beans and peas onto the cookie sheet, gave the spoon to Little H and told her to have fun.  No helicoptering, no instruction.  Just explore and investigate and experiment!

Sensory Play @ Rub Some Dirt On It-2 Sensory Play @ Rub Some Dirt On It-2 Sensory Play @ Rub Some Dirt On It

Like I said, I was hoping for ten minutes; well, she played by herself for ten minutes before big sister joined in and then they played together for 23 more!  I sat at the table and supervised from afar because even though Little H isn’t putting things in her mouth anymore, Em was constantly introducing new kitchenware into the equation to extend the fun.  Some things were good–measuring cups! spatulas! rubber brushes! the bottom of a turkey baster!–others were not so good–No, Em, let’s not use the cheese grater.  So even though this is a delightful simply busy activity (one that keeps your kids quiet and happy for a bit so you can get something accomplished–find more here), you still need to have your Mommy eyes and ears on to make sure no one gets into mischief.

Sensory Play @ Rub Some Dirt On It Sensory Play @ Rub Some Dirt On It Sensory Play @ Rub Some Dirt On It

When they finally looked like they were about to quit, I grabbed them and reminded them it was time to clean up.  While I put away the accessories, they attempted to scoop beans into a plastic container where they will live until the next rainy day.  Then it was a battle over who would sweep, with everyone getting a turn to “help” and Mommy finally finishing the job.

This was an awesome way to keep the kids engaged while I finished some work that couldn’t wait until after lunch.  Next time you’re at the grocery store, grab an extra bag of pasta, beans, rice, or peas!  They are worth their weight in Busy Children gold!

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15 Literacy Activities To Create Reading Rockstars

My kids are reading rockstars.  I know it sounds like I’m bragging, but it’s true, and I love it.  Jax falls asleep every night under a mountain of books that he just had to read before bed, and this past year Em’s reading has really flourished.  I think it has something to do with being the big sister in her bedroom and wanting to read Little H bedtime stories.  She always wants to read the Piggy parts in our beloved Mo Willems “Piggy and Gerald” books, and tries so hard to decode even the toughest word.  She is going to be so confident when she walks into kindergarten next year, knowing that the world of letters and words are her allies, not daunting strangers.  And how did my kids become so passionate about reading?  Well, our house is very conducive to encouraging Reading Rockstars, but mostly we all just love to read and have a lot of fun doing it!

So since this is a passion of mine, I cannot keep all these awesome literacy ideas to myself. I figured I’d put some of my favorites in one place where you can access them easily and see that there are so many ways to engage kids in reading and letters.  If you make it fun, they will join in eagerly!

So here are 15 of my favorite ways to create Rockstar Readers.  Enjoy, and  don’t forget to pin away!

1.  Have a reading picnic!  Grab a blanket, some snacks, a big box of books and a spot in the shade or in front of the fireplace.  A great way to promote literacy for the entire family!

15 Literacy Ideas to help turn your child into a reading rockstar!

2.  Organize an ABC Scavenger Hunt.  Draw up a map of your home and hide the letters to your child’s name.  By numbering the locations on the map you can help kids who don’t know how to spell their name yet put their letters in the correct order, or just star the locations and let them assemble the word themselves!

15 Literacy Ideas to help turn your child into a reading rockstar!

3.  Paint Chip Reading Fun.  Kids can help develop their rhyming skills and identify words families with this colorful way to decode words!

15 great literacy ideas to help your child become a reading rockstar! Paint Chip Reading Fun @ Rub Some Dirt On It

4.  Draw letters in salt or flour.  Awesome for fine motor skills and letter recognition!

15 great literacy ideas to help your child become a reading rockstar! Tracing letters and words in salt or flour!

5.  Build letters and words with toothpicks and marshmallows!  And when you’re done, they’re good enough to eat!

15 great literacy ideas to help your child become a reading rockstar! Building With Marshmallows @ Rub Some Dirt On It

6.  Give them a journal and help them write stories or do science experiments together.  The act of putting words in some kind of book will help give their ideas significance.  And they will love to go back and reread them over and over!

  15 great literacy ideas to help your child become a reading rockstar!  Oh so many amazing things to do with a journal!

7.  Create a butcher paper map.  We have made maps of our town, maps of zoos, maps of castles and a kingdom, maps for military exercises (G.I. Joe came up with that one).  You name it, we’ve drawn it, and with all the labeling that comes with maps, your kids are going to be able to read words like “school,” “street,” and “bridge” faster than you can write them!

15 great literacy ideas to help your child become a reading rockstar! butcher paper maps have so many possibilities!

8.  Spelling Puzzles!  Flip over a puzzle and build some simple words.  The trick is being able to reassemble it using the letters on the back!  Highlight the words to decrease difficulty.

15 great literacy ideas to help your child become a reading rockstar! Spelling Puzzles @ Rub Some Dirt On It

9.  Make a game of it with Sight Words Mix-Up Cups.  It’s one part learning, one part game!  Who can resist those odds?

15 great literacy ideas to help your child become a reading rockstar!  Sight Words Mix-Up Cups to turn reading into a game!

10.  Match upper and lower letters (or build compound words) with plastic Easter eggs!  One set of eggs, two great ideas!

15 great literacy ideas to help your child become a reading rockstar! Match upper and lower case letters using plastic Easter Eggs!

15 great literacy ideas to help your child become a reading rockstar!  Build compound words using plastic Easter Eggs!

11.  Get those winter wiggles out with a rousing game of Word Slam!  Tape words to a wall and when you call one out, the kids get to SLAM them with a ball!  Jax loved this!

15 great literacy ideas to help your child become a reading rockstar! Word Slam with Rub Some Dirt On It

12.  Write the alphabet on clothespins and kids will spend hours matching them to their appropriate letters on flashcards.  Make it more difficult by writing in upper case on one set, and lower case on another!  Lots of different ways to use them on this link!

15 great literacy ideas to help your child become a reading rockstar! Clothespin Spelling @ Rub Some Dirt On It

13.  Go on a Spelling Treasure Hunt!  Help your kid spell a word, then they have to go on a hunt through the house to find an example!  Keep them moving and interested!

15 great literacy ideas to help your child become a reading rockstar!  Go on a spelling scavenger hunt!

14.  Follow the link to learn all about the Word Family Driving Game, where vehicles and reading collide!  You could do the same thing with just letters if your child is too young for reading but is crazy about all things that go!

15 great literacy ideas to help your child become a reading rockstar! Word Family Driving Game @ Rub Some Dirt On It for all kids who love things that go!

On the same post you can learn how to reuse those hearts and create a game to get kids hopping, skipping and jumping while they read!  They’ll never know they’re learning–they’ll be so busy having fun!  Two great ideas for the price of one post!

15 great literacy ideas to help your child become a reading rockstar!  Learn Spelling and Sounds with Movement!

15.  ABC’s: Animal Style!  It’s simple!  Match the animals to the first letter of their name!

15 great literacy ideas to help your child become a reading rockstar!  Match animals to their letters!

Phew!  So many great ideas, so little time!  You’re on your way to helping your kids love to read, and to enjoy learning, too!  Be sure to pin all these ideas for later so you don’t forget any!  I can’t wait to revisit some of them myself later today!

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