Thursday, March 31, 2011

Make A Simple Shaker!

(Photo credit: Mindy Upham Photography)

I'm privileged to watch this precious little one on Thursdays!  This is my six-month-old niece, and as you can imagine, I love snuggling her!  I also love playing with her.  You'll probably be seeing a few more baby activities around here!!

Last week when she visited, we made a simple little shaker.  My girls loved it, too!

Medicine bottle (I prefer to use a new one -- ask your pharmacist!)
Rice or beans

1)  Fill the bottle with a spoonful of rice or beans.  Close.  Shake!

How easy is that?!!  You can use any container, I just prefer the medicine bottle so I don't have to worry as much about the little ones getting it opened (supervision is still highly recommended)!


Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Reminder: Free Usborne Shipping Credit + Profits to Voice of the Martyrs

Just a reminder that through tomorrow you can shop through my Usborne Crazy site and get a FREE shipping credit (in the form of a reimbursement check).  Also, I've been moved to give any profits left (after the credits) to The Voice of the Martyrs.

If you are not familiar with The Voice of the Martyrs, they provide relief and help for persecuted Christians.  In January, the girls found a newsletter I had received with a photo of a woman whose face was badly burned during an attack.  While I would normally not show them such a graphic image, they were deeply moved by it and wondered how we could help (it also allowed us to have some really great conversation).  Anyway, this month, the newsletter gave us a way to encourage the woman by drawing her pictures and writing letters, so we decided to do it!

If you have older children (ages 5-13), there is a special online newsletter that shares about the persecuted church on a more "age-appropriate" level called Kids of Courage.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Cooking with Preschoolers: Simple Tips and Recipes!!

I'll be the first to admit, I'm just an average cook!  I do want my children to feel at home in the kitchen though, and I try to take time to teach them and include them in the cooking process!

Here are some simple tips for cooking with your preschoolers!

1)  Prepare to cook.

Before you begin, it doesn't hurt to remind your child of some basic safety tips.  Talk about staying away from the stove, handling silverware appropriately, staying away from knives, listening to mom, etc.

Before you make a recipe, make sure hands are washed (you may also want to pull back hair)!  Enlist your child's help in finding the necessary ingredients and supplies.  Also, consider buying a sturdy stepstool for the kitchen.  It's a wonderful way to involve your child (and somewhat safer than standing on a chair)! 

2)  Include them in age-appropriate tasks.

I know, I're thinking to yourself "But it's just easier to do it myself".  I'll admit, I've had that thought more than once -- but starting your little ones in the kitchen at an early age builds confidence...and skill!  It's an amazing opportunity for "hands-on" learning.

(Now, you're not just going to turn your child loose and see what happens -- well, you can, but I wouldn't recommend it!!) 

The very first thing to do is model.  For example, show your child how to wash a piece of fruit.  Then, train them.  Give them the fruit and help them.  After they've done it several times, you can step back and watch!

In general, I think children can do many more chores and activities in the kitchen then we think!  For example, when my daughters were two they began to help me unload the dishwasher and sort the utensils.  Again, it comes back to modeling and training (and supervising well)!

With help, two and three year olds can:
Wipe the table
Scrub fruits and vegetables
Stir dry mixtures
Stir wet mixtures
Dump ingredients in the bowl
Cut out biscuits and use cookie cutters
Fold napkins
Help set the table
Peel carrots
Unload the dishwasher
Put trash in the trash can

With help, four and five year olds can:
Do all of the above and...
Measure ingredients
Peel potatoes
Knead dough
Spread butter or peanut butter on bread
Pour liquid from a container with a lid (a small pitcher is a great training tool)
Scrape dishes and clear the table
Sweep the floor

Sort recyclables

Again, these tasks require help and supervision, but you will be amazed at what your child can do if given the opportunity!

3) Keep it fun!

Your attitude is key when cooking with your kids!  It's easy to lose your patience, because there will be messes.  It will take much longer than if you just did it yourself (make sure you allow more time than you think you'll need)!!  Give plenty of praise as they are learning and acquiring cooking skills!

I've found that a special apron is motivating and fun for my girls.  Also, we often turn on one of our classical (calm) music CDs just for "kitchen time"!  Step-by-step cookbooks for kids can be helpful, too!

Our favorite recipes

Stone Soup
Easy as Apple Pie Snack

Strawberry Shortcake
Ice Cream in a Can
Caterpillar Pizza
Snack Bag Butterflies
Crockpot Yogurt

It isn't hard to include your children in the kitchen, but it does require being intentional and making time for it. 

Besides, once they've become proficient in the kitchen, they'll soon be making you breakfast in bed...well, I can dream, can't I?!!

What are your tips for cooking?  Do you have any recipes we should try?!!


Saturday, March 26, 2011

Swipe Dice Game for $3.99

Swipe Dice Game

Amazon has this Swipe Dice Game on special for $3.99 (regularly $9.99)!  It has great reviews...and looks like an easy game to take along to restaurants, doctors offices, and other places you may have to wait!

If you have a subscription to Amazon Mom, you can get this shipped for free!

*This post contains an affiliate link.  If you're wondering why I would use affiliate links, please see my disclosure!


Saturday Savings: $13.50 for a $30 Voucher to Klutz Books

I shared this deal at Motherhood on a Dime, but I thought this would also be a perfect deal for some of my teachers and moms out there!

You can get a $30 voucher to Klutz Books for just $15 from Mamapedia! The great thing about this deal is that the voucher will also apply towards shipping (at least that's how I'm reading it in the comments)! If you're new to Mamapedia, you can sign up here.

If you have used Mamapedia before, this is a national deal, so you can find it here.

Then, use the code SPRING10 at check-out to save an extra 10%! This should bring your final cost to $13.50!

This post contains a referral link and an affiliate link. It doesn't cost anything to click through the link (and you support this site)! If you don't feel comfortable with that, you can go directly to the website! For more information about why I use affiliate links, please read my disclosure.


Friday, March 25, 2011

Review Game: Letter Erase

Early in the week, I shared an easy letter review game to play outside.  This little review game is easily played inside! 

Whiteboard or chalkboard
Dry erase pen or chalk

1)  Write the letters to review on the board.

2)  Say the letter sound or name (whichever you're practicing).  Have your child find it and erase it!

This can be easily modified to include numbers, colors, shapes, sight words, etc.! 

It seems like such a simple idea...but my girls like it!  There is something about erasing that's fun, I guess!

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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Alphabet Review: Outdoor Bean Bag Toss

With the increase of beautiful days around here, we've been enjoying the outdoors!  Sometimes we'll do a simple learning activity, and this is one of them!  (Please excuse the photos - our pink chalk didn't show up very brightly!  I hope you can get the general idea!)

Sidewalk chalk
Beanbag (here's the one we made yesterday) or small rock

1)  With sidewalk chalk, draw a grid with the letters you'd like to practice.

2)  Toss the beanbag.  Wherever it lands, make the sound of that letter.  Repeat!

This idea can be easily adapted!  Use it to review numbers, colors, shapes, or spelling words!

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Alphabet Name Print Giveaway at Motherhood on a Dime

I've made several of these personalized name prints for family and friends, and I wanted to let you know I was offering one in a giveaway over at Motherhood on a Dime!  Feel free to head over and sign-up (giveaway ends tomorrow, March 23)!

Monday, March 21, 2011

FREE Shipping Credit on Usborne Books

I started selling books with Usborne Books and More, because I just loved the books and wanted to add some to my library.  I haven't done any shows lately (blogging is taking up quite a bit of time these days), but I wanted to share a special deal I came up with for my readers!

If you head over to my site Usborne Crazy, you can receive a FREE shipping credit on any order over $40 (before tax and shipping costs).  We're not too high-tech (unfortunately), so after you order, I'll send you a check to reimburse your shipping cost!  You must go through one of the links on this page, so I can track your order and make sure you get credit!

This offer is available through March 31, 2011.

Plastic Bag Bean Bag

Sometimes, there will be a game or activity that calls for a bean bag, and I don't have one!  This is an easy way to reuse a plastic bag to make your own!

Plastic Bag

1)  Fill a plastic bag with a scoop or two of beans.  Seal.  (You may want to consider double-bagging if you are using thinner bags).

2)  Settle the beans to one side of the bag.  Fold over the opposite edge and tape it together!


Saturday, March 19, 2011

Blogging Anniversary Giveaway Winners!!

I truly wish I could give something to every single person who entered the giveaway!  Maybe someday I'll be able to do that!!  I just want you to know I felt very blessed by your comments, and I thank you for taking time out of your busy day to enter the giveaway!

The winners are:

Winner of the $25 Gift Certificate is Julie!

Winner of the Alphabet Lotto game is Analog Girl!

Winner of the Complete Book of Farmyard Tales is Jennifer!

I will be contacting you by email with more details.  You'll have 48 hours to respond, and if I don't hear from you, I'll randomly choose another comment!


Final Call: Enter the Giveaway Before 5 PM!

Don't forget, you have until 5 PM (CST) to enter my One-Year Anniversary Giveaway!!  Head over here to sign-up!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Happy St. Patrick's Day: Round Rainbow

Happy St. Patrick's Day!  Celebrate with this easy-to-make rainbow!

Construction paper (in rainbow colors)
Compass or circle templates
1)  Trace circles onto construction paper starting with red.  Make red your largest circle with the colors after smaller and smaller circles (I used a compass).

2)  Cut out the circles.  Paste the orange circle in the middle of the red circle, the yellow circle in the middle of the orange circle, and so on.

3)  Draw a line across the middle of the circles.  Cut. 


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

It's My Blogging Anniversary!! (AND THREE GIVEAWAYS)!

One year ago today, I shared my first post here at The Amazing Mess!

I had no idea what I was getting myself into!  I just thought I'd share a few of my ideas with my mom and friends, but it's become much more than that!

I'm thankful every day for the friends I've made through blogging, and it amazes me that people across the globe read this silly little blog of mine!!

In celebration of the birthday of The Amazing Mess, I wanted to give away a few things!  I'll be giving away three items and entering below will make you eligible to win one of them! 

Up for grabs:

1)  $25 Gift Certificate to Usborne Books

Alphabet Lotto (Farmyard Tales Board Games)
2)  Alphabet Lotto

It's easy to enter:
~Leave a comment below.
~Follow me on Facebook or Twitter (leave another comment).
~Subscribe via RSS or E-Mail Subscription (leave another comment).
~Retweet or share this giveaway on Facebook (leave another comment)!

You could have a total of four entries!  This giveaway closes on Saturday, March 19th at 5 PM (CST)!  I'll pick the winners from the comments using


Monday, March 14, 2011

Butterfly Cupcakes

We made these simple butterfly cupcakes for my littlest girl's birthday!

Pretzels (mini)
Gummy worms
Starburst or Now-and-Later Candy

1)  Frost a cupcake and add sprinkles (we used green for grass!).  Poke two pretzels into the cupcake (or you can make a slit first and slide in the pretzel) for wings.  Put them side-by-side at a slight angle.
2)  Soften a Starburst or Now-and-Later candy in the microwave (just a few seconds).  Cut a small strip and form the antennae.

3)  Place a gummy worm in the middle of the pretzels and add the candy antennae!


Saturday, March 12, 2011

Take Time to Play (Happy Birthday, Sunshine!)

I can't believe it, but three years ago today, this sweet little baby girl was added to our family!  

I was thinking about how quickly time passes, and I found this little poem to share:

A Mother Who Takes Time
(Author Unknown)

I hope my children
Look back on today
And remember a mother
Who took time to play.
There will be time
For cleaning and cooking
But children grow up
While we aren't looking.

I hope this encourages you to spend some time playing with your child!! 

We are going to play this weekend!  I'm really looking forward to it and grateful to spend time with family.  I'm praying your weekend is blessed, too! 

Happy Birthday, Sunshine!!


Thursday, March 10, 2011

Simple Shamrock

I shared over at Motherhood on a Dime today how to make a simple shamrock!  You can see how easy it is here!


Rainbow Name Trace

This little activity offers tons of name-writing practice!

Crayons, markers, or colored-pencils

1.  Write your child's name with a yellow highlighter.  Trace the name with rainbow colors!  Decorate as desired.

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Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Coffee Filter Shamrock

I'm being completely lazy today -- it must be the rain and lack of sunshine!  Anyway, I'm reposting one of the first activities we did on this blog (back when just my mom was reading)!

This activity might get a little messy!  Make sure you have on paint clothes!

Coffee filter
Shamrock template
Yellow and blue fingerpaint

1)  Trace a shamrock onto a coffee filter.

2)  Use a dab of yellow finger paint with a dab of blue on top (this is also a good color mixing activity).  Finger paint away!
3)  Allow to dry (you can speed up the process with a hairdryer), cut-out, and hang in the window.

These really do look nice hanging in the window!


Monday, March 7, 2011

Learning Basket: Scissor Skills

One of our "learning bags" is dedicated to the skill of cutting!  This is an easy way to practice!

Old magazines or paper 
Plastic box or plastic bag

1)  Cut 1/2 to 1 inch strips from the pages of a magazine or other used paper.

2)  Show your child how to cut these strips into small pieces.  Allow them to practice!

I store the scraps in a plastic shoebox.  After they can easily cut across the strips, make thicker strips or have them cut around pictures/items in a magazine or grocery ad.


Saturday, March 5, 2011

Saturday Savings: Fancy Nancy and Pinkalicious Books from $2.99

Pinkalicious: Tickled Pink

We do most things pink around here -- pink shoes, pink clothes,! So, I love this deal over at Amazon: select Fancy Nancy books and select books from the Pinkaliciousseries are just $3.99. When you buy four of them in the same transaction, you'll get the fourth one free (make sure to put four eligible books in your cart to receive the discount).  This should bring your cost down to $2.99 each!

There are also many other books available as part of the 4-for-3 books promotion!


Saturday Savings: 1/2 Price Butterfly Garden

Insect Lore Live Butterfly Garden

I know I posted about this in January, but the price has dropped again!  This Insect Lore Live Butterfly Garden is now down to $12.34 (1/2 price). We bought this same one, and the girls found it fascinating!  Since many of you are teachers or homeschoolers, I thought I'd share it with you!!  Once you receive the kit, you send off a certificate for the larvae -- shipping costs are $3. 

Amazon offers free shipping on orders over $25, or you can sign up for the Amazon Mom program to receive free shipping for three months.


Thursday, March 3, 2011

Reading with Preschoolers: Part 2

I shared a few days ago some simple tips for getting your preschooler ready to read (if you missed it, check out Reading with Preschoolers:  Part 1).  Today, I have just a few more ideas!

4)  Get a library card!
Not only can you find an amazing variety of books at the library, you can also take advantage of story times, activities, and whatever else your library offers!  Visits to the library give your child a chance to see that reading is important -- not just to you -- but to many others, as well. 

Sometimes it can be overwhelming to figure out what books to check-out.  Your librarian is very knowledgeable in this area, so make sure to utilize his/her help (we love you, Mrs. Jo)!  I have also found these books helpful in selecting classics and picture books to encourage a love of literature:

Read for the Heart: Whole Books for WholeHearted FamiliesRead for the Heart: Whole Books for WholeHearted Families:  This is the newest book on my shelf, and I cannot say enough about it!  Not only does it share lists of books to read with your child -- it shares why and how you should read to your child.  Broken down into several categories, this book will guide you to noble, moral, and wonderfully written books based on age level.  Truly, you should definitely consider this book if you are overwhelmed by the choices out there or just want to make sure your child's reading material is more than "twaddle"!  It will inspire you!

Honey for a Child's HeartHoney for a Child's Heart by Gladys Hunt:  This book is also one of my go-to books when I'm wondering what we should check-out from the library next!  This book is broken down into a few more categories, and I especially appreciate the section for beginning readers.

5)  Teach lower-case letters first.
When you begin to do activities or read picture books about the alphabet, consider teaching lower-case letters first.  You will encounter a much higher percentage of lower-case letters than capitals in your reading! 

A nice set of lower-case magnets for the refrigerator or set of tactile letters is a good place to start.  You can also make your own.

6)  Worry more about letter sounds than names.
While it's great that your child can sing the alphabet song, it's not really that helpful!!  Let me clarify that a little bit more:  Eventually your child will need to know the names of the letters, but it is much more helpful to teach letter SOUNDS first.  When your child sees a B, you want him to say "Hey, look, a /b/" (letter sound) instead of "That's a b" (letter name). 

Some children are able to memorize the name and sound at the same time, but it is too much information for others!  It may feel a little strange at first to read through your favorite alphabet book identifying each letter by sound, but I believe it makes so much more sense!

Once your child knows her letter sounds, I recommend the book Mommy, Teach Me to Read: A Complete and Easy-to-Use Home Reading Program

7) Don't push too hard.
Especially with your first child, you probably have a tendency too push a little more (I'm guilty sometimes!), but your child doesn't have to read by the time he is three....or four...or five..or even six.  Each little one has his own time table.  My oldest knew her letter sounds when she was four, but I didn't push her to start to read.  We started some phonics and easy readers when she was five, and she was reading about grade level.  She turned six and in a span of about two months, she went from reading on a first grade level to a fifth grade level. 

Why am I telling you this?  I want you to see that your child doesn't have to read when they are three!  Don't get hung up on what the other kids your child's age are doing.  Trust yourself a little bit more -- you know your child!  Sure, if they show readiness signs, I'm all for it.  But if not, just let them play -- and build -- and sing -- and play some more!!

While I'm grateful that my daughter is reading well, it actually causes some trouble!  There are many times when I would be quite happy if she wasn't reading!!  For instance, public bathroom walls cause a lot of discussion!!  Picking out books that are challenging for her reading level but appropriate for her age and emotional development is tough.  So, I'm just cautioning you to consider these things -- I certainly didn't!

Though these tips may seem basic, I hope they have inspired you and will help you in your journey to raise a reader!!  I truly believe you can teach your child to read!


Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Reading with Preschoolers: Part 1

As tomorrow is Read Across America, I thought I'd share a few thoughts about teaching your child to read. 

If you've followed this blog very long, you've likely realized that I don't offer many printables or worksheets.  I've had some readers question this, and I've also missed out on some opportunities to promote my blog because I don't have these things! 

(Really, it comes down to my educational philosophy, I guess.  I suppose I should write more about that -- maybe another day!!)

Now, don't get me wrong:  I am not saying worksheets are bad -- I just don't think they are necessary for little ones!  I like to see preschoolers building with blocks, playing outside, using their imaginations, and thumbing through books rather than filling out a worksheet!

And so, the ideas I'm going to share about teaching your child to read have nothing to do with worksheets or pages of phonics (although I do believe phonics are necessary for a balanced approach to reading)!

I'm probably preaching to the choir here, but I believe these components are absolutely essential to build proficient and avid readers!

(My little reader!!)

1)  Read aloud to your child.  Often.
Probably not what you expected for my top idea, huh?  However, this is absolutely the most crucial part of teaching your child to read.  They must be immersed in books!  And it needs to be often throughout the day!  A token book before bed is not what I'm talking about here (although I'm guilty of this sometimes)!  Chunks of time devoted to reading aloud throughout the day are going to make reading come alive for your child (you should even read to your babies and toddlers -- I used to read to the girls while they were in their high chairs)!  

One of my favorite books about how and why you should read aloud to your child is The Read-Aloud Handbook from Jim Trelease.  Equally inspiring is Reading Magic: Why Reading Aloud to Our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever by Mem Fox.

2)  Read beside your child.
Do your children see you reading?  You can't expect them to embrace something you don't model!!  Even if it is just 10 or 15 minutes reading a chapter from a book, your children can see that reading is important to you. They are watching you!

Here's how we do it:  our Bible time in the morning consists of me reading my Bible and the girls "reading" their Bibles right alongside me.  We also have a quiet time in the afternoon where we all read our own books. 
Also, I really want to encourage dads here!  Please, read in front of your children.  Little boys especially NEED to see you reading and to hear you read aloud to them! 
3)  Fill your home with print.
A "print-rich" environment is correlated with academic success, so fill your home with books, magazines, and newpapers!  Even when my girls were babies, I had a basket of board books in the living room and baskets of books in their bedrooms.  Now, each girl has her own bookshelf filled with books! 

You may not have a lot of room, but even just a box of books under the bed is an excellent start!  If money is an issue, look at garage sales, used bookstores, or an online service like Paperback Swap

On Thursday, I'll share a few more tips to help your little one become a reader in Part 2 of this series!!