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UNION

With the warmer temps beginning this week I am looking forward to getting outside! However, it can be a challenge to get my kids outside. Once they are outside they will play, but I typically have to set the stage for them first. As a mom I am totally baffled by this. When I was a kid you could not keep me inside the house. I was happiest sitting outside under a big tree watching the clouds going by, or racing up and down the neighborhood street. Not sure how I ended up with two kids who need to be prompted to be outside.

I have discovered if I set a craft up outside they are more motivated to join me in the back yard and will likely stay outside longer. It can be a simple craft, or an entire project, but it helps transition to spending time outside.

By now you all know the benefits to getting kids outside. But just in case, here are 5 more reasons:

  1. Kids who interact with nature tend to engage their imaginations more and invent their own games. This involves critical thinking and observation of what’s in their environment.
  2. When kids are more physically active they are building gross motor and fine motor skills.
  3. Kids who spend time outside more tend to develop a lifelong love of nature and see the need to preserve it.
  4. Kids tend to develop more visual and spacial skills when learning to navigate natural environments.
  5. Anyone who spends time outside feels less stressed.

You may have heard the benefits of kids crafting. I like to be thorough so again, here are 5 more benefits:

  1. Crafting benefits executive functioning. Having to plan a project or craft and lining up each step helps kids with focus and memory skills.
  2. Develops fine motor skills. This helps with handwriting and coordination.
  3. Helps kids recognize patterns and sequence recognition.
  4. Crafting builds on long term academic skills like math and reading.
  5. Teaches social interactions like learning to share and use manners when sharing.

Why not combine these benefits and craft outside? The bonus is you can make a mess outside and not worry about having to clean it up right away, or any of the materials staining your nice dining set.

Outside crafts to do with your kids

If you are tired of the old standby of bubbles and sidewalk chalk try these 5 things to amp up your outdoor craft time.

Make colorful bubble art. Simply pour some bubble mix into a shallow bowl and add food coloring. Mix well and use the bubble wand to soak up the mixture. Blow bubbles right in front of the paper or canvas to be sure they land and splatter on the surface. This will make a really unique print for your house. Or turn the paper into personalized stationary.

Paint some rocks. You can paint rocks to add some color to your back yard, or create a fun tick tack toe set by painting three similar rocks to look like lady bugs, and another three rocks a solid color. If you really want to make a fun project sign up to paint some Kindness Rocks to leave around your community, or for friends and family to find in your back yard.

Make your own fossils. This was fun when we did it with cookie dough, now I can’t wait to try it with baker’s clay. Simply roll a small piece of dough into a ball and press flat between your hands. Then press a leaf, or pine cone, or blades of grass into the clay to create a fossil imprint.

Design a paint brush from nature. Simply dip flowers into paint and press flat against your paper to make a pretty print. You can also dip leaves, feathers, a bundle of pine needles or stems into paint and use them like a paint brush.

Re-imagine your water table. When my kids were really little we used the water table for more than just water fun. We filled it with things like shaving cream, a bubble bath for dinosaurs and cornstarch with water (it creates a really fun solid that melts into your hand).

Crafting outside has long term benefits for kids, and the combined benefits create life long skills sets. You don’t need to wait for summer vacation to give any of these ideas a try. As soon as the weather is nice enough to be outside skip the chalk and do something a little different! Your kids will always remember the fun you have together, no matter the craft.

The Whatever Mom is a full-time wife and twin mama living on coffee and wine. She enjoys the pure rush of cleaning the BIG potty between loads of laundry. It is her dream that moms everywhere accept and embrace the Whatever Mom philosophy which can be found here. You can also find her musings and popular shares on Facebook and Twitter. Stay up to date with her creative ideas and outings on Pinterest. 

DIY let It Go Dough

Today we experienced the craziest snowstorm in our children’s lives! They watched out of the window for almost an hour with stunned looks on their faces as the snow fell. “Wow. Look at all that snow!” That hour gave me a little time to prep some fun things to do since we are now home-bound during the blizzard of 2017!

Last year I shared with you our favorite DIY Play Dough recipe. It is super simple to make and we make it smell great and get some really cool colors with Kool Aide. Well, this year we have discovered that our kids cannot tolerate artificial food coloring. Even though they aren’t eating the play dough (that I am aware of) the dye can still get in through the skin.

I see all of these amazing recipes for colorful play dough and we just can’t create them at home, and the all natural food dyes you buy in the store are very expensive. Making our own dyes is an option, but it is too time consuming. I still can’t get some of the beautiful pastel colors from making dyes at home. So, I had to find some way to make our newest batch of play dough fun and pretty.

The Recipe (as found on Hello Giggles):

1 Cup Flour

½ Cup Salt

3 TBSP Cream of Tartar

1 TBSP Oil (canola, coconut or sunflower)

10-20 Drops Essential Oil

½ Cup Boiling Water

Add all dry ingredients to the bowl, add all oil ingredients and then add hot water and mix until solid.

If we skip the food coloring the dough doesn’t look so special. But I thought I’d mix a batch anyway so we have something fun to play with. Maybe I’ll add a little essential oil to jazz it up. At least if it doesn’t smell like homemade dough made from flour it won’t be so bland.

EO Dough 3

After I mixed it up in the bowl it sat there boring and blah. Until one of my daughters said to me, “Wow it’s white just like Elsa’s hair.” BINGO!! We have a winner!

EO Dough 2

I decided to add in my favorite essential oil blend called “stress less” to help us let it go, let it go (ha! My friends who love puns will enjoy that one). Then my girl remembered we have some, “frosty blue glitter like Elsa’s dress.” And of course we dumped in as much as we could! My girls are ALL-IN when it comes to glitter.

There ya go! Dye free and sparkly play dough that keeps the kids feeling stress free! Store it in a zip lock bag, or air tight container. Now if only cleaning up all this snow was as easy and stress free.

EO Dough 1

The Whatever Mom is a full-time wife and twin mama living on coffee and wine. She enjoys the pure rush of cleaning the BIG potty between loads of laundry. It is her dream that moms everywhere accept and embrace the Whatever Mom philosophy which can be found here. You can also find her musings and popular shares on Facebook and Twitter. Stay up to date with her creative ideas and outings on Pinterest. 

Homeschooling has grown dramatically in recent years.  Reasons to homeschool vary as widely as the families themselves.  The Hudson Valley features families homeschooling for so many fascinating reasons, worthy of sharing.  To the mainstream public school community, the secret life of homeschoolers may seem mysterious, but there’s no reason not to learn more.  I’ve been chatting up local homeschooling families willing to share their experiences with our readers.

Homeschooling Outside of the Norm

This week’s spotlight is on an Orthodox Jewish family with four children ages two through nine, originally from Brooklyn.  Mom shared, “We keep strictly kosher, [and observe] Shabbat, all holidays.  It was hard to make the decision [to homeschool]!”  Orthodox Jewish families traditionally send their children to religious private schools, so homeschooling can be stigmatized in their culture.  They feel the decision has not been accepted by their community, and have had to distance themselves from unsupportive friends and family.  Mom identified a turning point when her parents remarked, “Wow, I didn’t think this was a good idea, but your kids are so much more well-adjusted than our other grandchildren.”

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Although they live in the Hudson Valley, they travel to Long Island to find like-minded Jewish homeschool families.  They appreciate this opportunity, but are hopeful they will develop a network of local homeschoolers, regardless of religion.  They began homeschooling thinking it may be temporary, but now feel “it has been the best decision ever.”  Without the financial burden of sending their children to expensive private school, they were able to buy a home, adopt a dog, and travel, with funds leftover for field trips and activities in the community.  Their schooling is described as “part time structured learning, two to three days a week, the other days are more of an unschooling way of thinking. Trips to zoos, walk in the park, taking the pets to the vet, etc.”  They utilize www.time4learning.com and Melamed Academy (a Judaic curriculum) for their academics.   Mom likes to turn to outside sources for academic learning “so that the kids see me as their mother and guidance rather than the teacher.”

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A family willing to step outside of the traditionally accepted educational standard for their culture demonstrates the power and benefits of homeschooling.  For them, homeschooling offers peace of mind.  “We know where and how our children get their knowledge, and we get to be involved and watch them grow up.” They are certainly not the traditional homeschooling family, yet they have found a way to incorporate their faith into their ideal educational environment for their children. Their photos show engaged, active children who enjoy varied learning both at home and in the community.  The combination of homeschooling with Orthodox Judiasm results in an unusual blend that works well for this local family, and offers inspiration to others wanting to give this a try.  Mom sums up, “We are a religious Jewish family living in a religious area, but living outside the box of ‘normal.’” Much appreciation to Mom for her candor in sharing her family’s experiences with Hudson Valley Parent. Please join us over the next few weeks as we continue to learn about unique and exciting families who engage in everything from Shakespeare to BMX biking to fulfill their children’s dreams and academic potential.

basten-house

Did you know about this adorable, family friendly Teddy Bear museum in Marbletown? During a fall open house, my family and I visited the Den which is set back from the road on 209. The Den of Marbletown is simply adorable and perfect for any teddy bear fanatic! There are a ton of different bears displayed and opportunities to learn the history of the teddy bear, the Steiff Company and the museum location.

The Basten family farm house was converted to a bed and breakfast and has expanded to include a teddy bear collection museum. The original collection belongs to the owner’s mother and many of the temporary exhibits include her personal favorites.

The Steiff Company has been around since 1880 and has been delighting children and adults of all ages and stages with stuffed animals. From plush baby safe cuddle blankets to luxurious fiber collectible bears for adults.

When we arrived my girls could hardly contain their excitement. They were surrounded by thousands of stuffed loves all in need of a good hug (according to the six year olds, not the store staff). After touring the gift shop we took the self-guided tour to learn more about the history of the museum and the teddy bear. We wound our way through each room filled with displays of adorably staged stuffed animals.  And just when we thought we were at the end we found the upstairs portion of this old Farm House was also converted to hold exhibits. Each room in The Den has a theme and is filled with adorable dioramas of teddy bear hijinks.

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There is an overload of teddy bears and stuffed animals throughout the museum, but in a small converted closet in one upstairs room there are plenty of old school Barbie Dolls and Madame Alexander Dolls. Across the hall from that exhibit, there is a special room called the, “Mama Bear Lounge.” This room was designed with working moms in mind. Moms are encourage to grab a coffee and their lap top and let the little ones play. Or, meet up with other moms for play dates. There is a toy box filled with blocks and other toys and a soft carpeted area for kids to play. There is free Wi-Fi where moms can get a little work done, or take a break and scroll through Facebook. The small room behind the mama bear lounge is the “kids cub cave.” It’s a small room where the kids can climb in and out of a faux cave, or grab a game or coloring page from the shelves to play at the table.

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One unique feature we did not experience is renting a guest room to spend a night at the museum. This would be an incredible birthday experience for any kid age 6 or older to sleep that close to so many squeezable bears. There is also a café and snack area inside, as well as picnic area just outside. The website boasts a picnics to go service, local fresh baked goods and a marvelous closet filled with extra amenities.

You can tell the folks in charge really put a lot of thought into the details. This museum is perfect for your teddy bear enthusiast age six and older. There are many exhibits behind glass, or under display boxes, but still many places they can hold a stuffed animal.  More active kids will love the mama bear lounge area.

Keep an eye on the Den News section on the website to check out some of the fun events planned at the house. Some previous events include a teddy bear tea, cookie decorating, jewelry making and art workshops.  The admission price to the museum is really affordable at $2.00 per adult, and $1.00 for kids to age 17 (under 1 are free) and a family rate of just $5.00. Pack a lunch and make this an affordable fun day out learning a little history and enjoying the bears!

Photo credit: The Den of Marbletown website.

The Whatever Mom is a full-time wife and twin mama living on coffee and wine. She enjoys the pure rush of cleaning the BIG potty between loads of laundry. It is her dream that moms everywhere accept and embrace the Whatever Mom philosophy which can be found here. You can also find her musings and popular shares on Facebook and Twitter. Stay up to date with her creative ideas and outings on Pinterest. 

5-presidents-day-activities

So far we have had a dreary couple of days of crazy winter weather. The temps have been up and down. We have had rain, snow, sleet and ice. It doesn’t feel like a really colorful time of year. Thankfully February brings some fun colorful activities into our world.  We do a lot to celebrate Valentine’s Day at home, like making gifts for our friends, but we often overlook President’s Day. It isn’t as sweet as Valentine’s Day so I am always stuck on fun things to do with my kids. This year I’m feeling (a little) more prepared.

My kids are in school and I am sure their teachers are doing a fantastic job teaching them about our country’s presidents and what it means to be the president of the United States of America. Maybe your kids aren’t in school just yet, or maybe you homeschool, or you simply want a few fun things to do on your extra day off with the kids. So here are some fun things to do!

5 fun activities to celebrate President’s Day:

Exercise your right to vote. Let your kids vote on breakfast. Pick two breakfast foods and hand out ballots to cast their votes.  Anyone who is eating breakfast gets a vote and the most popular vote wins. It is a quick and easy activity, but it gives young kids a taste of the election process. (Pun totally intended).

Help your child imagine a better world. Ask your kids to write down their answers to this question, “If I were President I would …” Not only will it be fun to hear their answers, but this can help kids imagine the good things they can do in this world.

Take a trip to the library. I know this is my go-to answer for everything. If we are bored we head to the library. But that’s because there is so much to learn and do there! If your child is old enough to read check out a couple of age appropriate books that describe the presidential process or a biography on a specific president. Check the library calendar there may even be some fun President’s Day themed activities happening right there.

Always stop for a snack. Anything you can think of that can represent the red, white and blue of the American flag is easiest. For example: a berry and yogurt parfait, or a bagel with cream cheese and fresh berries. If you are feeling ambitious make some cupcakes together, use white frosting with blue and red sprinkles. I like to use whatever we have on hand. Pull out some ingredients and let your kids get creative.

Show them the money. Take out any cash you have on hand and Google some facts about the president you see. My kids love when we get to ask the phone some questions. It is pretty amazing to me that we can speak a question into this little piece of technology and have answers in seconds. When I was the same age as my kids I’d have to walk across town, enter a building, pull open a drawer in the card catalog and find directions to a book hidden somewhere on a shelf. That was like half a day! Kids today … they don’t know how good they have it.

I like to keep things simple, yet celebratory. This isn’t one of those holidays you need to go completely elaborate with. Choosing any of these activities adds just a little fun and acknowledges the day.

The Whatever Mom is a full-time wife and twin mama living on coffee and wine. She enjoys the pure rush of cleaning the BIG potty between loads of laundry. It is her dream that moms everywhere accept and embrace the Whatever Mom philosophy which can be found here. You can also find her musings and popular shares on Facebook and Twitter. Stay up to date with her creative ideas and outings on Pinterest. 

A day of homeschooling is like a box of chocolates- you never know what you’re gonna get.  Not only do our activities vary from day to day and week to week, but the children offer more surprises than the schedule.  As their personalities develop and knowledge broadens, we engage in on-going discussions of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  I kept track of a recent Monday, marveling at the variety of moments that made up a “typical” day.

Late Wake-Ups

After a busy weekend, my sleepyheads slept later than usual.  My younger daughter woke up around 8, grabbed the laptop, and began her math.  (Math done willingly and independently, you ask?  Follow the link, you’ll understand).  My older daughter woke up an hour later, which meant she needed to get straight to work since we had a class in the afternoon.  Even though my kids are no longer little, I still maintain “never wake a sleeping baby.”  My older daughter began her math test, and the morning was underway.

The Sewing Box

I’m not sure how working on vocabulary in the dining room led to my little one finding herself in the closet downstairs, but suddenly, there she was.  She came upstairs with my grandmother’s sewing case, and sat on the floor to comb through it.  My grandma passed away a few months ago at age 94, and embodied values and skills that are no longer the norm.  Her sewing box was a perfect example of this- full of zippers, claps, snaps, antique buttons, and all kinds of sundries used for making one’s own clothing.  Even though the sewing box distracted us from school, what a neat historical lesson on then vs. now resulted.  We all agreed that Great-Grandma lived in the “Olden Days,” and I was relieved when my kids generously decided that my age qualified me as “from now.”

Lunch

Meal prep frequently serves as an educational activity.  Today’s lunch was brown rice wraps filled with rice, beans, and cheese, steamed mixed vegetables, and clementines.  As a quick interlude to seat work, my kids took turns heating their wraps on the stove, shredding cheese, and spooning the rice and beans onto their plates.  We discussed nutrition and the importance of including protein, fruits, and vegetables in our meal.  Then they cleaned up after themselves and emptied the dishwasher.  Life skills, hooray!

Science

We’re in the middle of a lesson on plant reproduction and life cycle.  Did you know that on a rainy day, the sperm cells of a fern plant swim down the stem to the egg?  I didn’t either, and frankly, would not have believed this if I had not read it with my own two eyes.  A few days ago a cable guy was repairing wires at our house while we were discussing how the sperm and egg of plants work similarly to humans.  I can only imagine what this poor guy must’ve been thinking as he overheard my kids asking questions about this process.

Stereotypes and the Portrayal of Women in the Media

What?  Yes, this came up today.  Over the weekend, my girls and their friend watched Clueless, the 1995 coming-of-age film about California-bred Cher and her gal pals.  After watching the movie, the girls had a realization- girls and boys are often portrayed in stereotypical ways.  In a nutshell, they wondered why girls are shown with messy hair and sweatpants, sadly eating ice cream out of the carton just because “a boy broke up with them.”  They couldn’t figure out– why don’t girls in media utilize social support?  Why should a girl feel devastated just because a boy broke up with her, and why can’t the girl be the one who ends things?  Why wouldn’t girls derive their worth from other aspects of their life?  They also noticed the girl trifecta- the smart girl, the pretty-but-dumb friend, and the follower.  They wondered why the athletic boys always coveted the “popular” girl, but that in the end, the shy, geeky guy often won her over.  Every time we watch a movie, I capitalize on the themes present, jumping on teachable moments.  Imagine my surprise when this time it was my kids initiating the discussion.

The Afternoon

After lunch, we attended a STEAM class at a local library.  In the car on the way there, my girls read geography lessons aloud, then we listened to a book on CD.  At the library, they built marble runs and interacted with other kids.  Back at home, they finished up school (practicing piano, working on a project due for a homeschool class on Wednesday, reviewed spelling words) then did their chores and helped me start dinner.  All in all, a successful day.

What is fine motor skills anyway? Basically fine motor functions include the muscle groups needed for handwriting and hand eye coordination. Focusing on crafts and art activities that require kids to use small and coordinated movements helps build on those skills and develop those muscles.

My kids are still young and working hard on those fine motor skills. So we tend to focus on projects that help us work those small muscle groups and flex those fingers. When I found this project I thought it looks fun and like a great way for us to work some skills without it feeling like work.

heart-collage

Materials:

Paper plates

Hole punch

String or yarn

Scissors

Exacto knife

First you will need to cut out a heart shaped template. You can cheat (like I did) and print a heart shape to cut out, or simply fold a paper in half and cut out a heart. Next you trace around the heart shape, and last use the exacto knife to score (or cut depending on how thick your plates are) the shape. I did this part for the kids, but they used the scissors to cut out. If your knife does not cut all the way through use the scissors to cut the shape out of the plate.

heart-template

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After you cut the shape, use the hole punch to punch individual holes around the outside of the heart (go through the inside of the heart).

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We taped one edge of the string to the back of the plate so we could push the other end through the holes. Zig-zag your stitches to allow for a more unique design. If the ends fray a bit, just wrap in tape to give it a sturdier end, or if you have a kid friendly sewing needle you can use that to guide the string through.

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When you are complete this will make a really unique Valentines’ day decoration, or a fun piece of art to hang in your window to admire. How easy is this? You are done in ten minutes, no mess and your kids just worked on hand eye coordination.

My kids discovered this bonus craft. Punch holes around the outside of the heart shape you cut out of the plate. Attach a piece of string to the back and use it to lace around the outside edge. Viola! A homemade lacing card! It’s amazing what your kids will think of when you get them creating!

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The Whatever Mom is a full-time wife and twin mama living on coffee and wine. She enjoys the pure rush of cleaning the BIG potty between loads of laundry. It is her dream that moms everywhere accept and embrace the Whatever Mom philosophy which can be found here. You can also find her musings and popular shares on Facebook and Twitter. Stay up to date with her creative ideas and outings on Pinterest. 

I receive the gamut of responses when sharing that I homeschool my kids.  Everything from, “Wow, that’s amazing, I could never do that,” to “My kids would never listen to me, yours must be saints,” to “You think you’re better than the teachers?  Do you even have a teaching degree?”  Many people ask questions, which I think is great, but others seem to think I’m either judging them for not homeschooling, or they judge me for whatever kind of freak I must be.

We’ve been homeschooling for almost five years, and you know what, perhaps I am a freak.  Day after day I’m living a Jekyll and Hyde kind of experience.  Some days represent our ideal learning—peaceful, passionate, excited, efficient.  Other days end in a chaotic jumble of disorganization and frustration.  I view homeschooling as an extension of parenting.  It has always been my mission to choose the best foods,  activities, and experiences for my kids, and as a homeschooler, their education falls under this umbrella as well.

As for the “I could never do it” response I often hear, the truth is, you don’t know until you’ve tried.  Homeschooling is not for everyone, and I’m not implying otherwise.  Many parents find themselves successful despite initial doubts and insecurities.  I look at the ability to homeschool as a muscle.  At first, it’s weak.  It’s easy to doubt yourself, and hard to believe you will do a good job.  As the homeschooling journey begins, there are lots of opportunities to practice and strengthen this “muscle.”  Eventually, you become a homeschooling athlete, completing a triathlon with confidence and skill.

So who is the homeschooling mom?  She’s kind of like the mom of little kids, but years later.  Moms of infants and toddlers rarely get a break- the intensity and needs of young children tend not to let up.  Homeschooling shares similarities.  While the children mature and their needs change, at the end of the day, you’re still meeting needs all day long. Homeschooling and parenting become blurred.  Sometimes mom serves as the teacher and other times, the teacher also has to be the mom.

The homeschooling mom cannot imagine what parents whose kids go to school do all.day.long.  (I know, you guys are busy, just a different kind of busy).  When she enrolls her kids in a two hour class, she fantasizes about the many, many things she will do in that time.  Grocery shopping!  Clean the house!  Nap!  Read!  Exercise!  Catch up on emails, phone calls, and paperwork!  Coffee with a friend!  Lunch date with the husband! Somehow, though, those two hours fly by and it ends up not being enough time. Exercising will have to wait for later (um, tomorrow), texting can suffice instead of calls, and we’ll see the husband during dinner, which will be made from what was already in the house, thank you very much.  The homeschooling mom won’t have her hair or nails done, because, when? She’ll be wearing yoga pants or jeans, because, why not?  She may stay in her pajamas on the rare day when no one has anywhere to be, and she’ll probably consent to reading and snuggles on the couch on a rainy afternoon.  She’ll have the kids cook lunch and count it as “culinary arts,” and realize that playing outside can count toward P.E.  She doesn’t get snow days, or sick days, or days off, but she also doesn’t have to say goodbye every morning, or make her hair presentable for afternoon pick-up.  She forgets to start dinner, leaves the laundry in the dryer (whoops), and brings the kids rollerblading at 10 am for “recess” because everyone needs a break.

In other words, she’s a mom.  Whether homeschooling or not, she parents the best that she can, makes mistakes, tries harder, reaches out for support, and hugs her babies tight. She may look a little more harried since she’s with the kids from morning to bedtime, but we’re all working in one way or another, whether we get paid or not.  No, homeschooling parents don’t have teaching degrees, but may have teaching backgrounds.  Their kids are not saints, but they know how to make all kinds of learning work.  They might just be amazing, but aren’t all moms?

After sharing about our wonderful experience at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art I signed up to follow along on the museum’s Facebook page. I am glad I did because I found this tutorial video on their page! How cute are these bookmarks? They are easier to make than they look!

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I very rarely make a craft I find in a viral video. I always feel mislead by the hype of an easy craft. These are pro-crafters and everything they make is going to look amazing. Besides isn’t it edited to look like anyone can do it? But I got caught up in making these because they are so different and I am a sucker for a kid made bookmark.

The first one or two tries produced some wonky results. The third time was the charm because we finally found our folding groove. Nothing has to be measured precisely, you simply trace. You do have to be sure the heart lines are cut equally for them to align nicely.

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I used the template accompanying the video. However, I did have to make a few adjustments in a photo editor to eliminate all the unnecessary previews. Colored ink is a precious resource around here and I am not wasting a drop on printing extra stuff I don’t need. Once I printed what we needed I cut it out and traced several copies to the back side of large sized scrap book paper.

After we folded where appropriate, and connected the hearts, we were able to decorate and personalize our little book marks. The template also included smaller hearts to trace and cut out. Once you glue the embellishments it will secure the bookmark and keep the hearts in place. After making a few of these I think stickers work so much easier!

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My girls are about to start a read-a-thon at school and with Valentine’s Day coming up I think these will make really unique and fun gifts for their classmates. It’s a simple enough project that we can make a few of them each day. Plus, these last a lot longer than lollipops and pink candies; and they can be recycled when no longer wanted.

What do you think? Would your little reader love making these personalized bookmarks?

The Whatever Mom is a full-time wife and twin mama living on coffee and wine. She enjoys the pure rush of cleaning the BIG potty between loads of laundry. It is her dream that moms everywhere accept and embrace the Whatever Mom philosophy which can be found here. You can also find her musings and popular shares on Facebook and Twitter. Stay up to date with her creative ideas and outings on Pinterest. 

visit-eric-carle

A few months ago we decided not to throw our kids a birthday party. I know, how horrible. Instead we took a week-long vacation in the Berkshires. I get that sounds all pretentious but I swear we are average folks. I smuggle my peanut butter jelly sandwiches into places just like every other mom. But we decided for the cost of a two hour party we could give our kids some really fun experiences they will always remember.

We visited a lot of great places and enjoyed trips to several museums where we found science, art and history exhibits. We even saw a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle exhibit which made me and hubby feel a little old. Not only do we remember the first time we watched the original movie (which was playing on a continuous loop), but we remember playing a Nintendo game unit like the one now old enough to be on display as a “classic.”

I digress.

One of our favorite stops was the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art. My kids loved making art in the art studio, reading and relaxing in the library and seeing art work from their favorite authors on display.

Here is what we enjoyed!

ecarle-collage

The art studio is a large sunlit room bursting with creativity. The resident artists select a craft project each day to share with visitors to the studio. All the materials and instruction are free. There are convenient drying wracks just outside the studio entrance where you can leave your creations while you tour the rest of the building. If you have kids of different ages and stages there are fun hands on play stations for your little ones to enjoy.

The galleries offer a look at original art work created by Eric Carle and other renowned picture book artists. Our favorite by far was the Brown Bear 50th Anniversary exhibit. We could see different versions of the way the animals were drawn. We immediately found the reading area which provided books and comfy brown bear cushions to cozy up to while reading. There are a variety of ways kids can interact with the art and games to help them talk about what they see. Each of the gallery rooms is minimal with plenty of room to navigate a stroller or wheel chair through. But no pictures are allowed for this exhibit.

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The library was the big hit for my kids. Not only did they have access to kids’ books, but they were obsessed with the giant stuffed versions of the book characters they love. Brown Bear was carried around by just about every kid that came in. There are also lots of learning toys like latch puzzles, magnet puzzles and coloring pages. Hubby and I enjoyed getting to sit down and relax a bit while our kids had a safe place to roam. There are kids story times and other events taking place so be sure to check the schedule before you travel!

The Auditorium offers concerts and educational films. We arrived between movie viewings so we did not get to check out the auditorium. But you can check online to see what film or concert is being offered on the day you visit.

The Bookshop is filled with a lot of fun games, stuffed animals and unique gift ideas. We found some great post cards featuring art from our favorite Eric Carle books. I bought extras to frame when we return home.

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Everything about this museum is designed with families in mind. You can request extra diapering supplies from the front desk, borrow a stroller or wheel chair and the coat room has individual lockers with a key to stash your diaper bag and extra stuff you don’t want to carry. There are activity kits to borrow to help your kids have a more interactive experience (I didn’t see those until we were on our way out). The museum admission price is also family friendly $22.50 covers a family of two adults and two kids.

Since our visit was in November it was a little too chilly to check out the art sprinkled along the walking trails and museum grounds. You can also find picnic tables outside to enjoy that homemade peanut butter sandwich right out in the open.  Or you can stay inside and enjoy a non-smuggled lunch right in The Carle Café where they offer free coffee and organic/natural vending machine fare.

The museum is located in Amherst, MA which is approximately 2 hours from where we are in Ulster County. This is a great place to take your young art lover and little reader. It is a perfect day trip for families and especially accommodating for every age group. Older kids can read and learn details about the art exhibits, create art and there is plenty to keep their younger siblings busy and engaged.

The Whatever Mom is a full-time wife and twin mama living on coffee and wine. She enjoys the pure rush of cleaning the BIG potty between loads of laundry. It is her dream that moms everywhere accept and embrace the Whatever Mom philosophy which can be found here. You can also find her musings and popular shares on Facebook and Twitter. Stay up to date with her creative ideas and outings on Pinterest. 

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