Sunshine On My Shoulders Makes Me Happy

Spring appears to have finally arrived in our corner of Vermont, just in time for a lovely, low-key vacation wrap up.  Sunshine has two possible effects on me: complete and utter laziness or a compulsion to get out and explore.  This weekend we had a little bit of both.

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I finally found the motivation to get out for a run (see the good effects the warm weather has on me?), and when I came back, all I wanted to do was bask in the sun’s rays.  The kids thought that was the perfect way to spend some quiet time, so first we pulled out a blanket and a basket of books for some independent reading time, and then moved on to “cooler” activities.
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A bowl full of water that they get to refill with the hose, some paint brushes and a dry deck as their canvas.  Instant art with no clean up!  Plus I was still able to supervise in the sunshine.  Ah, glorious spring!

The next morning we had a bit more motivation.  I had run the day before past Dewey’s Pond and by the scene of one of my kids’ muddiest adventure and thought it was a good excuse for the kids and I to get out and explore.  I loved listening to their words and observations, and it was clear that they have learned so much in school about the world around them.  Jax was comparing the ripples the rocks thrown in the pond to “sonic waves” and they both were looking for signs of springs and animals.  It was a slow walk, stopping to look and consider and explore, but it wasn’t about cardio that day.  We were all about being out in the world in the sun.

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One thing I couldn’t help but notice about my little Em was her constant climbing! She climbed every rock and tree, even in her new dress! I think it has a lot to do with her forest classroom where she spends one day per week.  She is definitely not timid about being outside and testing her limits!  I was really proud to see my almost six-year-old blooming.

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Don’t let this guy fool you, either, though.  He had plenty to say and share–he loved looking for birds, and even insisted on calling Papa to figure out what species of bird was all around us.  Of course, Papa knew–red-winged black birds!  They followed us along on our walk.

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That afternoon was spent grilling dinner at Lake Pinneo, spending our first day of the year at the beach.  Even though we knew the water was going to be freezing with snow runoff, I brought bathing suits, just in case.  Good thing I did because the kids couldn’t resist the call of the water, and we made it home just in time for baths and bed to recuperate from a busy week!

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What a weekend!  What a week!  What a summer we will have!

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A Rainbow Scavenger Hunt

March is here, and as the days get longer and warmer, the kids and I start to look for signs of spring.  One of those signs is inevitably the arrival of tchotchke St. Patrick’s Day and Easter trinkets in the stores, but these colorful signs of spring help ease the last few weeks of winter.  So it’s time to take down our coffee filter snowflakes and start embracing rainbows.  There’s nothing like an infusion of color to brighten even the muddiest March day!

Rainbow Scavenger Hunt @ Rub Some Dirt On It

To do this yourself, take a large piece of paper and write the names of colors across the top in columns.  When I’ve done this before, I assembled a big bucket of colorful items from around the house, but in an effort to get this activity to last longer (and because I know she can sort colors too easily), I made Little H hunt them down herself.  The result was hilariously typical of my little girl–every color can be attributed to a Transformer Rescue Bot, so that is where she headed straight away.

Rainbow Collage @ Rub Some Dirt On It Rainbow Collage @ Rub Some Dirt On It Rainbow Collage @ Rub Some Dirt On It

Oh, she makes me laugh with her tomboy tendencies!  She drove all the vehicles over to our paper and aligned them at attention.  In her travels, sometimes she stumbled upon other colorful objects, but if left to her own devices, this would have been a Rainbow Rescue Bot sorting game, not a scavenger hunt!

Here are her final treasures, sorted in rainbow order.

Rainbow Scavenger Hunt @ Rub Some Dirt On It Rainbow Scavenger Hunt @ Rub Some Dirt On It

please note: a touch of big sister’s influence here as well!

You can take it a step further and count your items, align the objects by size within their group, or label your items with the correct color marker. There are so many ways to extend this activity, but the best part is the sneaky learning that is going on, without your kids even knowing it.

Bring on the rainbows!  Come on, spring!

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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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Clothespin Literacy Games

Oh, clothespins with letters written on them.  How I have taken advantage of you!  And now with three kids, the benefits of these nifty little letters are that much more impressive–teamwork, literacy, fine motor skills–but most of all, watching the big kids help Little H and all of them having to work together to build words and share (since there is only one clothespin per letter).  I think I’m going to start giving packages of alphabet clothespins and flashcards to friends as baby shower gifts–seriously.  It’s a gift that keeps on giving!

So without further ado, watch my kids have a blast clipping letters to flashcards, sounding out words and unknowingly working on their phonemic awareness as they go!  If you need some ideas on how to make a set of your own and what to do with them, just click here and check out some of our past clothespin fun!  There is even a set of spring sight words just waiting to be printed out.

Clothespin Literacy Fun @ Rub Some Dirt On It Clothespin Literacy Fun @ Rub Some Dirt On It Clothespin Literacy Fun @ Rub Some Dirt On It

My favorite part was watching Little H as these letters that she knows and loves to point out to me literally came together to form words before her eyes.  She was so excited to participate (so thrilled, in fact, she may have broken a clothespin or two).  It’s okay, Little H.  I get overexcited about reading, too.

Clothespin Literacy Fun @ Rub Some Dirt On It Clothespin Literacy Fun @ Rub Some Dirt On It Clothespin Literacy Fun @ Rub Some Dirt On It Clothespin Literacy Fun @ Rub Some Dirt On It

And even though we have done this a dozen times, Jax and Em never tire of it either.  I think it’s because every time they are more confident about their power to read (to quote Super Why) and they can step into the role of teacher (Jax to Em and Em to Little H).  You can never underestimate the power of confidence, especially in a burgeoning reader.

Clothespin Literacy Fun @ Rub Some Dirt On It IMG_9982

And the power of an activity that keeps kids happy, busy, and learning! Everybody wins!

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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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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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