Painting With Cars To Welcome Spring!

Spring is finally here!  Time to paint the house colorful, in an unusual way.

Painting With Cars @ Rub Some Dirt On It

Yes, I know that just because spring has officially sprung, it doesn’t mean that the sun will immediately come out and melt all our mounds of snow away.  But even if I only hear the birds chirping in my mad dash from my warm house to my warm car, I can still make it feel more festive and colorful inside!

In an attempt to change things up (and hopefully keep their attention longer), the girls and I pilfered some of Jax’s matchbox cars while he was at school and got ready to create some colorful art. We’ve done this before and it was a huge hit!  I got one car for every paint color and spread the paint out on butcher paper so the girls could drive the vehicles from the paint to the paper with very little reach and fuss.

Painting with cars @ Rub Some Dirt On It

The trickiest part is encouraging the kids to keep the paint separate so that you don’t end up with a brown muddy blob.  Then let them pick a color, drive their car through its matching paint blob, and drive a rainbow to their heart’s content!

Painting With Cars @ Rub Some Dirt On It

Painting with cars @ Rub Some Dirt On It

With all these color choices at her fingertips, it was no surprise what Em decided to paint.

Painting With Cars @ Rub Some Dirt On It Painting With Cars @ Rub Some Dirt On It

Little H was a little more abstract and mostly just thrilled to get her hands dirty.

Painting With Cars @ Rub Some Dirt On It Painting with cars @ Rub Some Dirt On It Painting With Cars @ Rub Some Dirt On It

Even Mommy made one. I couldn’t resist!

Painting With Cars @ Rub Some Dirt On It

And don’t forget about the added bonus–they get to wash the cars when all the artwork is done, taking this springtime craft to a fabulous new level!  Your house has new art, the mess is cleaned up, and everyone has had a ton of fun.  It’s spring!  Let’s celebrate!

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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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10 Quiet Activities To Help You Survive The Winter

A friend of mine recently asked me why my kids play so well without me.  How did I do it? she wanted to know, meaning, How did I train them to play independently?  What is the secret to getting my kids to leave me alone for five minutes?  Why don’t they go take one of their millions of toys that I’ve spent so much money on and GO PLAY?

Well, I’m no expert on this, but I do have two big kids who play really well alone and together, with just the slightest bit of prompting from me.  Without question, that little boost from mom is the key.  Every time I look up from my laptop to the sound of whiny little voices complaining they are so bored, I try to remember that it is not always their fault that they don’t know how to play independently.  It’s a skill that needs to be honed.  That’s why we still enforce quiet time where they play alone (not together) for at least 45 minutes every non-school day, why they must read independently every day, and why we really do have limits on screen time (I shoot for an hour on school days and no more than 2 hours on non-school days, trying to keep it at around 10 hours/week).  After all, how can they learn to use their imaginations if I never ask them to, and never show them how?

Of course, as I type this, Little H is next to me watching Super Why on JDubbs’s Kindle because she woke up early from her nap and I need to get this blog post finished.  So, of course I am a fan of screens and there is always an exception to every rule.  But paying attention to how often and how much your kid interacts with screens may help you in your quest to get your kids to play better on their own.

Well, enough of the lecture portion of this post.  What about practical help?  What do I do with my kids to get them to play nicely alone?  The thing is, although they end up on their own, they don’t start off that way.  In my experience, most kids need a little help getting started with prolonged independent play, and the longest activities tend to need a little parent guidance.  For example, instead of saying to your son, why don’t you play with your zillions of toy cars, help him create a race track on the floor of his bedroom to bring the fun to life.  With 5-10 minutes of prep time from you, you will receive huge returns on your investment while your kids play nicely that day and many days thereafter.  The key is helping them get started.

With that in mind, here are 10 great ideas that need just a little help from an adult on the front end, but can be put away for lots of independent play day after day thereafter. I promise they’ll be so excited to have you by their side at first, they will be all the more invested in the experience once you quietly sneak away.


10 Quiet Activities @ Rub Some Dirt On It

Starting in the left column and going down, then the second and third column, the blog posts are as follows:

1.  Rainbow Scavenger Hunt

2.  Puzzle Treasure Hunt

3.  Play with Popsicles & Play Dough

4.  Pom-Pom Race Through Duplo Maze

5.  Button & Pipe Cleaner Caterpillar

6.  Letters In Salt & Snipping Straws

7.  Pipe Cleaner & Pom Pom Fine Motor Fun

8.  Clothespin Literacy Fun

9.  Butcher Paper Town

10.  Pebble Art

 All of these activities need just a little help from an adult to gather materials or get the fun started, but once you do, the fun will continue on long after you excuse yourself to go get some work done, clean the house, or check your email!  And when your kids realize and are confident that they can have tons of imaginative play without you, they’ll stop coming to you with every problem or question–they’ll start solving them on their own.

 So by taking five minutes to begin the fun, you actually buy yourself much longer than that.  Just remember that imaginations need nurturing, too, and you’ll be amazed at how quickly your kids grow.

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Bubble Wrap Stomp Painting!

For those of you who are like me and have done a good deal of online shopping this holiday season, here’s a great activity for the kiddos who desperately want to hear the bubble wrap “pop” but aren’t quite coordinated enough to do it well.

bubble wrap stomp painting @ Rub Some Dirt On It

Bust out a piece of paper (for this we used our trusty butcher paper), wrap the kids’ feet in bubble wrap, and coat the bottoms in paint.

bubble wrap painting @ Rub Some Dirt On It

Then be sure to remind them that they have to be careful (stomping is much safer than skating), and ready, set, pop!

bubble wrap painting @ Rub Some Dirt On It

They thought this activity was hilarious and asked me to paint their feet again and again.  They wanted to paint every square inch of the butcher paper, and I finally just squirted dollops of paint directly on the paper in order to keep up with their demands.

bubble wrap painting @ Rub Some Dirt On It IMG_2271-2

In the end, I had big plans to cut out some kind of holiday shape out of the mural, like a Christmas tree, but it never came to be.  It was a beautiful work of art all on its own!


A fun way to get the kids moving while stuck inside this winter!

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Butcher Paper Map

My little guy has a BIG imagination.  There is really nothing that I enjoy more than listening to Jax narrate his Playmobil battles, superhero conquests, or construction at the Hess vehicle work site.  One thing that can make him lose interest, though, is his lack of setting–while he’s comfortable helping his imaginary comrades have lengthy conversations, he often lacks spontaneity in the turn-this-table-into-a-battleship arena.  He’d rather me just buy him a battleship, and Mommy isn’t always in the mood to drag castles and whatnot up and downstairs.  So sometimes I need to orchestrate a little playspace to let his imagination run wild–and to help his independent play last a little longer!

Butcher Paper Town @ Rub Some Dirt On IT

So this time I used our trusty butcher paper–which has given us so many hours of fantastic play–and we made a map of our town.  Just the major landmarks and thoroughfares, with friends’ houses and ours clearly marked so that we could better coordinate the troops, who were apparently preparing for some sort of invasion.  The two of us did it together, which was a very cool conversation about what goes where and eventually I hope soon he’ll be able to write the words himself.

Butcher Paper Town @ Rub Some Dirt On IT

He had the most hilarious ideas–and requests!–determining that the best place to house the troops was the local elementary school, the rendezvous point should be the town square,  and of course he determined that the best place to trap bad guys was on the ski lift of the local ski hill.  One bad guy per lift, then he would trap them all up in the air.  A keen strategist, that Jax.


Butcher Paper Town @ Rub Some Dirt On IT

He even knew when to call in the cavalry.


Finally, after he exhausted all his creative fun, I simply folded the butcher paper town and stored it away for another day, another battle.  I saved myself a little time and energy for next time, and Jax and I had a lot of fun working and talking together.  Reason #3870 why every house needs a roll of butcher paper for hours of creative fun, and yet another opportunity to listen to my boy and his always entertaining narrations!

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Our Gratitude Tree

Gratitude Tree @ Rub Some Dirt On It 2

Last year, the kids and I made Gratitude Turkey Treat jars, which were a nice, simple way to introduce the idea of thankfulness to them.  This year they understand the concept more clearly so I decide to take it up a notch and make a Gratitude Tree, where we can write down all the things we are grateful for, once a day for the month of November on leaves.

Remembering a fabulous Cocktails & Crafts held by my friend Heather, I wrote the words “Give” and “Thanks” on pieces of white paper in white crayon.  Then the kids painted over them in watercolors, at which point the words reappeared.  They were totally enthralled to see the word “appear” out of nowhere!  I used my trusty butcher paper to cover the floor and the big kids had a grand time together, painting away.


2 Then I cut a tree out of more butcher paper and hung the signs above it.  Using some foam leaves I bought at JoAnn Fabrics on clearance, the kids alternate telling me what they are grateful for every other day.  So far, Jax has been grateful for his birthday presents and Em for her princess puzzles.  What’s nice is that there’s 30 days worth of gratitude, so hopefully they kids will have an opportunity to realize there is more to life to be grateful for than toys!


There’s plenty of time left to make a Gratitude Tree of your own!  It’ll brighten up your home and keep the spirit of the Thanksgiving season in mind.  I’ll put an updated picture up at the end of month to show all our gratitude.

Gratitude Tree @ Rub Some Dirt On It

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Butcher Paper Town

I was recently inspired to buy a $10 roll of building paper at Home Depot because I could see its limitless potential.  The kids have been in  a bit of a playtime rut lately, facilitated by the fact that I keep buying them the same kind of toys (aka superheroes and princesses) and they aren’t being as spontaneous as they have in the past.  Less open-ended, more thinking inside the box, and I wasn’t liking it.  I want the kids to revert back to their unscripted, original playtime ways, but I found the storylines sounding the same every day.  Until today, when I unleashed the power of the butcher paper and the kids and I built a kickass town!

Create a butcher paper town with Rub Some Dirt On It

Designing a town with a three- and four-year-old is fascinating and insightful.  What do they think is important to a community, how do they like to play, what do they recognize as attributes of their own town?  Our town has a lake so that was the first thing Jax and Em thought of as a requirement, followed by our home, a school, a post office, and a “food store” (grocery store or restaurant, who knows?).  Then they let their toys dictate some of their ideas–a castle with a moat, a quarry complete with rocks and construction vehicles, an airport, a fire station, a shop, a jail.  They would come running back into the kitchen with a new toy that had to be part of our town.  So we added more and more until they felt satisfied, labeling all the areas for a touch of literacy.


And one of the best parts?  There were no princesses or superheroes in sight, unless you count the McDonald’s toy Ninja Turtles who guarded the jail.  They even had me climb into the back of our coat closet and unearth vehicles that I had put away as potential yard sale fodder.  Old toys unearthed and loved all over again.

PicMonkey Collage


The quarry was definitely their favorite.  Mine, too!

They have been playing with their town for over an hour and a half now, with no sign of stopping!  So happy that this is how we decided to spend our afternoon, and glad we seem to have dusted off our imaginations for (hopefully) the rest of the summer!

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