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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Roll-A-Rainbow Game!

When Jax and Em were the same age as Em and Little H are now, I came across a really “sweet” game that helped them learn their numbers as well as colors, plus kept in the whole rainbow theme I like to celebrate in March.  Rainbows help me see the light at the end of this wintery tunnel, and to remember that March signifies the beginning of spring, no matter how much snow covers our sleeping flower beds!  So imagine my delight when I discovered that I had saved the “game board” from three years ago and had everything I needed to play with my three!

Roll-A-Rainbow Game @ Rub Some Dirt On It

You can see my detailed instructions for making the game board here, but I basically traced quarters on a piece of card stock in a “rainbow” formation (as best I could).  Then I colored them in rainbow order. I also made a list of which color matched a corresponding number which will be rolled by the kids on dice.

Roll-A-Rainbow @ Rub Some Dirt On It

If they roll a 1, they get to put a red M & M on one of the red circles.  If they roll a 2, an orange, etc.  6 means you can put a color of your choice on the rainbow (helps if one color is dominating) or, if the kids can’t handle the delayed gratification, they can eat a color of their choice!

Next, I took M & Ms (skittles, conversation hearts, Froot Loops, etc. would all work, too) and organized them by color.

Roll-A-Rainbow @ Rub Some Dirt On It

The kids, at this point, were chomping at the bit and literally salivating.

Roll-A-Rainbow @ Rub Some Dirt On It

Finally! You are ready to play!  Give the kids each some dice (be careful of the choking hazard) and let the good times roll!

Roll-A-Rainbow @ Rub Some Dirt On It Roll-A-Rainbow @ Rub Some Dirt On It Roll-A-Rainbow @ Rub Some Dirt On It Roll-A-Rainbow @ Rub Some Dirt On It

I love getting ready for spring this way!  Lots of colors, high spirits, and fun for everyone.  Life is sweet!

And if you like rainbow art and activities, too, there are lots more where that came from!

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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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Coffee Filter Snowflakes & Snowmen

As if we don’t have enough snow around here, the kids wanted to add some more, just for fun!  I didn’t think cutting snowflakes out of coffee filters would be so completely engaging for Jax and Em, but they literally made dozens of them.  So many, in fact, that we sent them along to family with their Valentines!  Spreading Vermont snow near and far!

Coffee Filter Snowflakes @ Rub Some Dirt On It

The kids had tried to make snowflakes out of paper before, but grew frustrated easily when they had difficulty cutting through folded paper.  With the coffee filters, it was so much easier!  We folded the paper various ways, but three folds seemed to be the perfect size for them to manipulate.

Coffee Filter Snowflakes @ Rub Some Dirt On It

Then I gave them a large bowl for the scraps and some safety scissors and they went to work.  Nicely.  Quietly.  No arguing.  Why don’t I do this every day?

Coffee Filter Snowflakes @ Rub Some Dirt On It Coffee Filter Snowflakes @ Rub Some Dirt On It Coffee Filter Snowflakes @ Rub Some Dirt On It Coffee Filter Snowflakes @ Rub Some Dirt On It

Before I knew it, our home was a winter wonderland, inside and out!

And Em had a great idea all on her own.  She turned three coffee filters into a snowman, with a few construction paper accessories to add realism.  I was so proud of her for coming up with a unique project by herself.  She is definitely my little artist.

Coffee Filter Snowman @ Rub Some Dirt On It

Making the most out of our many snowy days!

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We Heart Buttons!

I can’t believe it was three years ago that we first made these awesome button Valentine hearts to decorate our home for Valentine’s Day.  They are so festive and fun–Little H loves looking up at them, yelling colors and who decorated them.  “Oooh! A purple one!  Jax!  Em!  Me!”  I always love decorating for Valentine’s Day–it helps the coldest days of the year feel a little brighter.  So if you need a pick-me-up this winter or have another snow day due to a snowpocalypse, here is a simple, heartfelt craft with your name on it.

Button Valentine Hearts @ Rub Some Dirt On It

Materials:  construction paper or cardstock, glue, buttons and scissors

First you cut out big heart shapes out of colorful paper, then let the kids make designs across the heart in glue.  Little H couldn’t decide if she want pink or purple paper, so I used the leftover paper from Em’s heart to make a kind of frame.  It looked so cute, and really helped her stay within the confines of the heart (and not make a complete and utter mess)!  I kind of wish I had done the same for the big kids.

Button Valentine Hearts @ Rub Some Dirt On It

Then let the kids place buttons on the wet glue.  Instant Valentine’s decor!

Button Valentine Hearts @ Rub Some Dirt On It

If I had paid more attention to the fact that we were inevitably having a snow day this week, I might have stocked up on the more traditional-colored buttons.  Em loves putting things in a pattern and probably would have done pink-red-white to her heart’s content.  However, that forethought was not to be, so we settled for all the buttons left in our crafting box, so it was more of a rainbow smorgasbord.  It’s nice to think outside the box a little, and who says traditional is always best?

Button Valentine Hearts @ Rub Some Dirt On It

Jax wanted his heart to look like it had an arrow through it like Cupid’s (look what half a year of kindergarten will get you! Such a cute idea!).  I let him do his own gluing, which was a bit of a mistake because it became a sort of Elmer’s glue quagmire, but his heart (excuse the pun) was in the right place.

Button Valentine Hearts @ Rub Some Dirt On It Button Valentine Hearts @ Rub Some Dirt On It Button Valentine Hearts @ Rub Some Dirt On It

These beautiful hearts are cheering up our kitchen, and are helping to remind us to show each other love every day.  I’ve been telling the kids to show love, not just say it, and when I look at these awesome crafts, my heart smiles.

Button Valentine Hearts @ Rub Some Dirt On It

Spreading love!

If you heart Valentine’s Day, too, check out tons of great Valentine’s Day and button crafts on my Rub Some Dirt On It Pinterest board here!

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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 TO HELP YOUR KIDS PLAY INDEPENDENTLY

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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Scissor Skills Pumpkins

I’ve been looking for a fun Halloween craft that wouldn’t be too messy or labor intensive for my afternoon exhausted big kids.  As usual, Nurture Store had just the thing.  Scissor Skills Pumpkins!

Scissor Skills Pumpkins

I loved these because they are cute and the kids could do them in the living room with no real mess or fuss.  While they were watching TV I made dotted lines down orange paper to help Jax and Em cut the paper into strips.  Then I asked them to cut down the dotted lines (dotted so they were less likely to show up with any inevitable errors in the cutting).  Em gave this project her full attention; Jax did not.  Typical.

Scissor Skills Pumpkins @ Rub Some Dirt On It

Hence Jax’s strips are a little…shall we say…asymmetrical.  And this was after I helped clean them up a bit.  Again I say, typical Jax.

Scissor Skills Pumpkins @ Rub Some Dirt On It

Then you take all your strips and put them in a star shape with the help of a brass brad to hold them together.  Then you cut out a little green stem out of green paper and have your little helpers curve the strips to create a spherical shape pumpkin.  Secure the top with another brad.  Make sure the paper stem is on top.

Scissor Skills Pumpkins @ Rub Some Dirt On It

Finally, let your kids make jack-o-lantern faces and voila!  A festive decoration that they didn’t even realize was helping improve their fine motor skills.  And cooperation skills, too, because this was definitely a group effort.

Scissor Skills Pumpkins @ Rub Some Dirt On It Scissor Skills Pumpkins @ Rub Some Dirt On It

Well done, my little pumpkins!

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