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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Button & Pipe Cleaner Caterpillars

This was one of those activities for when Em chooses the absolutely worst moment–when I’m changing a poopy diaper, in the midst of a mountain of laundry, trying to work some culinary magic out of leftovers–to ask me to do a craft.  I always feel badly when I tell her I’m too busy, especially since she’s four and with very little preparation can do the rest herself.  So I set her down a bowl of buttons and a pipe cleaner and asked her to string them.  I turned one end up at a right angle so she wouldn’t keep pushing them all the way off.

Button Caterpillar @ Rub Some Dirt On It

If I had been helping her with this, I would have discussed things like color, size, and pattern with her.  That wasn’t in the cards for this day, so the only adjustment I made was asking her to put a larger button on the end for a face.

So before you get to your very last button, cut a small piece of pipe cleaner off and twist it into a V shape for antennae.

Button Caterpillar @ Rub Some Dirt On It Button Caterpillar @ Rub Some Dirt On It

When you add the final button, loop the pipe cleaner back through for a nose, if you will.

Button Caterpillar @ Rub Some Dirt On It

Then add some googly eyes and you have a pocket-sized pet!

Button Caterpillar @ Rub Some Dirt On It

Button Caterpillar @ Rub Some Dirt On It

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Coin Sorting Fun

One of my fondest memories as a child on Easter was the chaotic egg hunts we used to have in my Nana’s backyard.  There were usually at least ten cousins on hand, and it was a cross between good-natured fun and survival of the fittest.  Picture the Cornucopia scene in the Hunger Games with Easter bonnets and you get the idea.  Why was it such a competition?  Because those eggs were not full of chocolate–they were full of money: spare change, really, but there was one egg with at least a five dollar bill, if not more.  So while we understood Easter was about Jesus rising from the dead, we also knew that we better scuff up those brand new white mary janes so that we wouldn’t have a disadvantage against our cousins on Easter morning for a chance to have the most cash for penny candy.

As dysfunctional as all that sounds, it was FUN and thus I pass along this quirky tradition to my kids every year.  There is nothing that they love more than sorting coins and putting them in their piggy bank.  My dad and Jax have a game they like to play where they check out the dates of coins and sort them by year, giving certain ones “birthday parties.”  Jax eats it up and it’s one of his favorite parts about visiting Grammy and Grampy’s.  Sometimes he brings the change home with him, and on those occasions, we have to pull out everyone’s piggy banks to add to them, but really they just want to pull all their change out and sort them by size and color.  Is that weird?

Coin Sorting Math Fun @ Rub Some Dirt On It

So all you need to do is, using a big piece of paper, draw big circles where kids can put their dimes, quarters, pennies, and nickels separately.  I wrote the symbol and word above each circle so that could get used to recognizing both.  I started them off by putting one of each different coins in the circles so they could compare the colors and sizes as they went along, but really, they were content to do this on their own quietly and for a really long time, figuring out what belonged where and helping each other out.

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Little H woke up and joined the fun, and before my mom has a heart attack about the baby swallowing pennies, I promise she was only allowed to stay as long as she had her binkie in her mouth!

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She loves the sound of the change clanging inside the piggy bank as much as the others!

The kids noticed some cool things while doing this–like how some quarters have eagles and some have states.  They found a bunch of random “special” coins (money from other countries, pennies that have been flattened in those tourist machines) and they decided those needed a circle of their own.

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And finally we talked about what would be the fastest way to count all the money.  I gave a quick explanation of multiplication, and although they definitely didn’t get it, they were at least impressed with how quickly I could figure out the totals!

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Paint Chip Reading Fun

Paint Chip Reading Fun @ Rub Some Dirt On It

Paint Chip Literacy Fun @ Rub Some Dirt On It

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Unfortunately I didn’t count on something she loves much more than reading–snipping!  As I’ve said before, Em love to cut, so those beautiful white lines were just calling her name, and it wasn’t long before she had cut all my paint chips to pieces.  Oh, well, just another way to play with her fine motor skills!  At least we could talk about what sounds the letters make as she went along!

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Tracking Animals (In Play-Doh)

My kids are so full of questions, I’ve started writing them down so we can remember to answer them all.  With so much snow on the ground, we started talking about deer and where they sleep and how they survive the winter.  Lord knows I have no clue, but Jason (the outdoorsman) went snowshoeing in our backyard and found tons of deer tracks which led to a little deer sanctuary–if only the snow weren’t literally two feet deep, I would love to bring the kids up there so we could explore nature together!  Unfortunately, there seems to be no spring thaw in sight, so I considered an indoor (and less freezing cold) activity that the kids absolutely loved and also kept the science conversations going.

Tracking Animals in Play-DohI pulled out our awesome bucket o’ Shleich animals, which has proven so valuable over the years, until I found a diverse group of animals that we could analyze and compare.  Here’s the all star team.

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Then the kids got to push, roll, and flatten Play-Doh until we had a great surface for leaving footprints.

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One kid closed his/her eyes while the other walked our animals through, which was super interesting to watch!  They were meticulous and tried so hard to get it right.  They LOVED stamping the animal feet in the Play-Doh!  It would be worthwhile just to have that as an option while playing with any sort of clay.  Then the other kid would guess which of the animals made the tracks.  They were allowed to analyze the animals’ feet/hooves/paws to find distinguishing characteristics, which was totally up Jax’s alley.

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Tracking Animals in Play Doh @ Rub Some Dirt On It

This led to some pretty interesting discussions about which animals have hooves, which animals have paws.  Why do they have pads on their feet?  Why are some hooves solid and some cloven?

After a while, we switched up the animals, and Jax, trying to be tricky, threw in a surprise guest to see if Em knew her Rescue Bots as well as she pretends.

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She nailed it.  Better luck next time, Heatwave.

Lastly, they wrote down their findings in their journals.  Basically, they traced the animal feet and I helped label them.  Those journals are worth their weight in gold–they just love any opportunity to write in them, and Jax loves anything scientific that he can record.

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Building With Toothpicks & Marshmallows

Today we are building structures, shapes, and letters with toothpicks and marshmallows!

Building With Marshmallows @ Rub Some Dirt On It

This activity has no rules and no guidelines.  Just make sure you have plenty of supplies because somehow they seemed to disappear every time I turned my back…

Em started making letters right off the bat, spelling her name, and to my surprise and delight, mine!

Building With Marshmallows @ Rub Some Dirt On It Building With Marshmallows @ Rub Some Dirt On It

Jax was a bit more abstract.  He called his creations Mr. Crazy and Mr. Messy.

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After a bit I helped them create shaped structures…

Marshmallow Shapes @ Rub Some Dirt On It

…and Jax made a giraffe.

Building With Marshmallows @ Rub Some Dirt On It

This kept them busy for such a long time, got their creative juices flowing, helped them thinking logically and randomly, and helped their fine motor skills.  Oh, and did I mention, they are tasty, too?  I couldn’t ask more for my crazy kiddos!

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Popsicles & Play Dough

February vacation is here, the snow is falling like crazy, and I have had enough of my kids literally climbing all over me and telling me they’re bored.  It’s only been 2 days!  So I pulled out an old simply busy standby that we did when Em was first learning her numbers, with an added degree of difficulty for Jax: Popsicles & Play Dough!

Popsicles & Play Dough @ Rub Some Dirt On It

Basically have the kids knead and roll some play dough into a long line, then give them a bunch of Popsicle sticks numbered 1-20.  Em got 1-10 and Jax 1-20.  Then ask them to put them in order, standing upright in the play dough.

This is great for numeral recognition but also fine motor skills.  The kids learned that they had to pinch the play dough around the sticks to get them to stand up.  Then we added some extra challenges–numbers 11-20 and putting them in color order (by writing the colors on the back)–and I introduced Jax to the concepts of odds and evens by writing an O or E at the bottom of the sticks.  Differentiated fun for everyone!

Popsicles & Play Dough Fun @ Rub Some Dirt On It

Of course when this was done they continued to play with the play dough, which I don’t usually love, but on a snowy day when they have had little more to say than I’m Bored! I was glad for some simple, quiet fun!  Only 5 more days of vacation to go!

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