It’s been raining for days, and today we all got a bit stir crazy. While the husband busied himself cleaning the garage, the tot and I sat down with an art book she had pulled off the shelf and looked at the colorful pages. When we found Robert Delaunay’s page, she couldn’t stop talking about all those shapes — and the colors! I asked if she’d be interested in making her own circle-filled artwork and she was so excited she started pulling out all the art supplies.
The artwork in question that caught my daughter’s attention was Hommage à Blériot, 1914, filled with repeated circles interrupted with diagonal and vertical lines. The painting is Delaunay’s abstract interpretation of the first flight across the English Channel by Louis Blériot and is playful and vibrant.
After my tot gave me her input on the painting, she was ready to get started.
I gathered several circular-shaped items, along with a sheet of paper and a pencil, for my tot to position and trace around for creating the outline for the creation. I helped with first two and then allowed her to continue to work on her own.
Next I offered a ruler for creating the long vertical and horizontal lines. She did a great job using the ruler to focus on drawing lines. If you’ve got an older tot, this is a great opportunity to discuss overlapping shapes and how to divide them with the lines to create an abstract design, just like Delaunay.
Next I offered my daughter a set of watercolors and encouraged her to paint within the lines — and fill the entire paper with color, just like the painting. I offered a bit of assistance, and lots of motivation, and she continued working until the creation was finished.
As soon as I removed the painting, she found another sheet of paper and started drawing circles for another creation…
This is a great art activity for encouraging fine motor skills and concentration, as well as introducing color theory and composition. Younger kids can explore the challenge of tracing around the circular objects while older ones can focus on creating an abstract artwork using circles and lines while balancing the color within the painting.
My tot is almost four and she spent just about an hour focused and entertained with the project.
It was awesome.
My child loves to invent, explore, and create and we’ve been doing fun activities together since she was just a wee tot. Now that she’s a little older, she is starting to experiment on her own. I love watching her make connections and try new things — and then taking pride in the results. But we sometimes get a bit stuck, searching for new adventures and activities to explore together.
If you’re not sure where to start or how to get the creative juices flowing (because it can totally be a challenge!), I have the book for you. Rachelle Doorley, the smart and super-talented mama over at Tinkerlab, shares everything you need in her new book, Tinkerlab: A Hands-On Guide for Little Inventors. And what I love about Doorley’s book is it’s so easy to read, motivating you to start creating right away.
Along with sharing ideas for exciting activities you can do with your child, Rachelle shares tips for starting the process, creating the right space for your child’s tinkering, and ideas for getting kids involved — even with the clean-up process. Doorley also includes interviews with experts, such as education professors and nursery school directors, sharing personal stories and experiences that add just the right touch of guidance and coaching throughout the book.
This book? It’s awesome. It’s motivating. It’s encouraging, smart, exciting, fun, silly, and also simple. Make your own paste and mix with paint for creating textured designs? Yes. Construct structures with gumdrops and toothpicks? Of course. Take apart an old computer? Sure! You don’t have to be an expert to do these activities with your child — just a willing participant in the journey of discovery. You might find yourself learning something new too.
Buy your copy here.
Just so you know, I wasn’t asked by anyone or compensated in any way to write this post. I purchased the book all on my own because I knew it would be beneficial — and read from cover to cover. OH and I knew I would USE the information in the book with my child. (And I have.)
While we were down south, there were a couple of days the weather wasn’t right for hitting the beach, so we explored the area for a few fun things to do. And we found ourselves heading to La Jolla for a stroll through the public exploration center for the world-renowned Scripps Institute of Oceanography at UC San Diego Birch Aquarium.
I enjoyed the informative guides lurking (well, not lurking, but roaming in the darkness of the aquarium) and ready to answer any questions or share fun tidbits of information. We all became quite intrigued with the eels in the above left photo, and were told all about their amazing lives together (yup, that’s a proud mama and papa), how they’ve produced hundreds of baby eels, and are often found nestled together in the tank. But the collection of jellyfish just about put my tot in a tizzy…
Located next to each tank are helpful plaques sharing facts about the fish and other sea life, perfect for us adults that have no clue what we’re looking and then can utterly amaze our not-yet-scholarly tots by reading (without them realizing it) bountiful information about the amazing sea creatures. And it’s great for older kids, allowing them the opportunity to learn more on their own. We loved this huge tank filled with coastal sea life.
And part of the aquarium is dedicated to educational and interactive learning about the sea and California coastline. Most of it was totally advanced for our daughter, but that didn’t stop her from putting her hands on everything.
But the seahorses stole the show. We were all impressed and amazed by these little creatures. A whole wing is dedicated to educating the public about the lives of seahorses, sharing how the aquarium is helping to nurture and build their numbers, and showcasing the amazing beauty of the cool sea animal.
And we had such a great time, we ended up walking (well, running) through the aquarium one last time at the tot’s insistence to see it all over again. Along with the indoor tanks, the Birch Aquarium has outdoor interactive tide pools, a shark tank (not interactive), and some really cool solar activities for the kids to check out. Perfect for kids of all ages, the aquarium has something for everyone, is easy to navigate, has a small outdoor snack bar on site, a gift shop, and wonderfully friendly staff. If you’re in the La Jolla/San Diego area, it’s a fun way to spend an overcast day.
*If you’re not from the area, please, PLEASE, make sure to have directions before you head out to La Jolla. No joke, every time we go to La Jolla from the north, we get lost. It’s really not crazy difficult or anything, there are just a few twists and turns that can catch you by surprise.
We decided long ago that we would take a vacation this week. I prepped by finding the perfect person to hang with our cats (so we wouldn’t be constantly worried about them and not relaxing), I put in extra time last week so most of my work would be done, and I planned our return so we’d have one full day to recoup before revisiting the real world. And then, at the last minute, we put a crazy spin on things by leaving a day early, driving the seven hour trek in the afternoon instead of waking up in the wee hours to make the jaunt.
It was totally worth it.
We got here.
And guess what?
The internet connection sucks.
I found a cafe that I can head to in the early mornings to catch 20-minutes of work while sipping my vacation mocha before the sun gets warm and the beach is calling, but the rest of the hullabaloo is off.
There’s no Twitter.
At first my fingers were twitching — I started freaking that there would be something missed, an urgent email let go, a pin that needed instant repining, a TWEET THAT WAS AWESOME, FACEBOOK, EMAIL, TWITTER, AAAAAAHHHHHH!
I’m unplugging for the week.
I think it’s worth it.
See ya later.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve got a drawer that’s always overflowing with my tot’s artwork. I save her creations from preschool, the fun doodles she makes on her own at home, and the exciting artworks we create together. She sometimes selects ones to display on the fridge and I stash others to show her when she’s all grown up. The other day the drawer was so full it wouldn’t close, meaning it was time to go weed through the creations. It’s hard trashing your child’s art, but before making the final cut, we used a stack for creating thank you cards to send to friends and family thanking them for all the wonderful holiday gifts.
This is a great activity to do with tots just starting to figure out how to cut, which results in funky shapes and designs. Children as little as two can wield scissors with adult supervision, and cutting boosts your child’s budding fine motor skills. Older kids can enjoy cutting shapes for creating cards with patterns or representational forms. Right now my daughter is still figuring out the whole “cutting” thing, but has mastered the open-mouthed concentration while working…
After you have a nice stack of shapes and funky forms, offer your child some glue to coat the cut paper and press onto the front of blank cards, which you can find at your local craft store.
To personalize the cards, offer your child a thank you stamp to press on the front of cards. Older kids can use letter stamps to press “thank you” on the cards or even write the letters themselves.
We had a few other fun graphic stamps that my tot pressed around her cards, along with in the inside as her signature. We sat together and talked about the gifts she had received, and who they had come from, while I wrote short notes from what she shared in the cards.
After addressing the cards and sticking on stamps, we popped them in the mailbox and waited for our mail lady to come and whisk them away. At first my daughter was a little sad they were being taken but then we talked about how the mail works and how everyone was going to love opening her special thank you cards.
Along with being a great art activity, this is a really fun way of introducing the mail system to your child. Since creating her cards, we’ve set up our own post office and she’s wonderfully busy making cards, folding them into envelopes, and addressing and stamping them herself.
Now that the holidays are over and everything is getting back to normal after all the crazed present opening, it’s interesting to see which items hold the tot’s interest. She still loves all the plastic animals and dinosaurs, and playing the matching game in her own special way, but the one thing that she’s still reaching for is her new camera. A few months ago I did a post for LilSugar sharing cameras fit for little hands and had focused on suggestions from friends and good reviews when I put the collection together. So when I decided to get one for the tot as a special birthday gift (her special day is right after the holidays), I already had one in mind.
And then I went with something totally different.
It was pink, I liked the square shape, and although it didn’t get great reviews on image quality, the camera sounded like it was indestructible. Hey, I’m not looking for museum-quality prints, I want a camera that isn’t going to break the first time it gets dropped.
And it was on sale.
Today I wrangled the camera out of my daughter’s hands and downloaded the pictures (SIDE NOTE – the camera does NOT come with a USB cable, but does work with a standard siz. If you’re not PC (like me) you can’t download the funky photo editing stuff, but, hey, my tot wouldn’t have a clue how to use it.) and was surprised and impressed with what she’d taken pictures of and the quality of the camera. My daughter loved seeing her pictures and helped me select a few favorites:
Here’s a picture of the hubs and I,
her new tent,
the decorations from her birthday party,
Sid the Science Kid,
our cat by the fire,
her spot on the couch,
and a self portrait.
So, yeah, she’s not great on standing still while snapping, but she’s dropped the camera, bashed it into walls, been walking while taking a picture and fallen down with it, and I think it even took a tumble down the stairs the other day.
Still works wonderfully.
The picture files aren’t big (640 by 480 pixels), but prints good quality 4 by 6-inch pictures. The camera also makes slightly annoying noises when in use but does turn off on it’s own so you don’t burn through batteries. Equipped with an easy to use zoom (which my daughter totally doesn’t get) my husband enjoys taking pictures with it too.
I love that she is still excited about taking pictures and is learning to look at things in a new and interesting way. I’m planning on printing out her favorites and creating a gallery wall in her room. I’ll keep you posted…
After the holidays there always seems to be a large amount of cardboard hanging around my house. From packages sent, to boxes that held toys, I never want to just toss it in the recycling. So the other day I decided to have a little fun with the tot and get creative. There’s nothing like presenting your child with various materials and letting her explore, but I decided to offer a bit of assistance.
Victor Vasarely is recognized as one of the foremost artists of the Op Art movement of the 20th century. With his pulsating geometric designs that move the eye, his artworks are vibrant and fun — perfect for introducing to little ones. I figured we could create our own unique creation based on Vasarely’s style, with the help of all that cardboard. Instead of creating a flat artwork that looked like it was jumping out at you, we could use the cardboard to layer and build a three-dimensional project. And this art activity is wonderful for encouraging shape and color recognition.
We took a closer look at one of Vasarely’s artworks (Pal-Ket 1973-4), talking about the shapes and colors we saw…
I helped by cutting the larger pieces into smaller interesting shapes and then offered my daughter the pieces. Before I had even offered her the glue, she was busy arranging her shapes.
Now your child can glue the shapes onto the cardboard base in an interesting unique design or use one of Vasarely’s artworks as inspiration. Encourage your child to use the whole area of the cardboard base and to overlap shapes, building a really fun creation.
Once the glue was dry, we got out the paints and had a great time finishing the creation using the colors from the original artwork.
Display your child’s finished creation in a special spot for everyone to enjoy.
My tot is in love with the color red. She had to have red shoes, only uses red paint when getting creative, and wants us to paint freshly painted white walls of her room red. So I wasn’t at all surprised when she decided we just HAD to make RED cookies to share with all her friends for Christermax. Sure, I could’ve added red food coloring to basic sugar cookie dough, but wanted to make something not-so sweet that also had a nice holiday flavor. We mixed together a lovely red velvet base, added sparkling red sprinkles, and created a delectably crisp and balanced holiday cookie that’s perfect for making with your little ones. And these cookies aren’t too sweet, or filled with too much butter, making them a healthier option than that cookie dough you can pick up the in refrigerator section.
1/2 cup room temperature butter
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar (or white vinegar)
1 tablespoon (plus) red food coloring
1/4 cup cocoa
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 cups flour
Preheat your oven to 375F and gather the ingredients for making the cookies. Red velvet cake is a seriously yummy combination of vanilla, chocolate, a bit of tang, and a whole lot of red. I absolutely love red velvet cake, and with it’s vibrant red color, figured this cookie rendition would be perfect for celebrating the season.
Invite your child to help measure and add the butter, oil, sugar, and vanilla to a mixing bowl. Use a hand blender to mix everything together until it’s nice and smooth. I even let my tot use the blender for a brief moment (while holding with one hand AND attempting to take a picture) but quickly realized that toddlers and hand blenders might not be such a good idea. We’ll try again when she’s a bit older…
Now add the egg, milk, and the vanilla, giving things another mix. Hold off on adding the vinegar, because if you add it at this point, the milk will separate and things will look really gross (your cookies will still taste good – don’t worry).
Sift (or mix) together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and cocoa and then add about one-fourth of the dry ingredients to the batter. Give things a stir until incorporated and then add the vinegar and a good amount of red food coloring. If you want the cookies on the darker side, add another few drops of the food coloring.
Continue adding the dry ingredients until all incorporated. As you can see, my daughter really took stirring seriously.
Cover a sheet tray with parchment and invite your tot to drop spoonfuls of batter on the pan, allowing an inch or two between cookies. Now your child can douse the cookies with the red sprinkles.
Offer your child a clean glass to gently press on the cookies creating sprinkled rounds of dough. Yeah, they aren’t going to be perfect, but that’s how it goes when you’re cooking with little ones. It’s about the experience, not the super pretty outcome — but it’s sure a plus when things taste good!
Pop the cookies in the oven for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the tops are cracked. If you prefer a chewy-er cookie, leave in for 9 minutes or so. But these are really good nice and crisp with a tender center, which is what we discovered after about 12 minutes of baking. Remove from the oven and top with more sprinkles or even a dusting of powdered sugar before serving.
I’d normally be sharing pictures and recipes from my Thanksgiving feast right about now, but this year we are postponing our turkey making until the weekend. Instead we acted like today was just like any other day, which didn’t stop us from being seriously thankful. It turned out to be a glorious day, making a trip to the beach the perfect way to spend the day together as a family. Kehoe Beach is tucked away in West Marin past Olema and through some of the most glorious cow fields I’ve ever seen — and I’m from Wisconsin.
After walking a short trail, flanked by some of those seriously happy cows, you come over a ridge to spectacular stretch of beach that seems endless, and it is also dog friendly. This was the first time we’d taken the tot on a “hike” and she loved every minute of it. We checked out worms on the trail, barnacles on the beach rocks, inspected the various footprints in the sand, and determined the water was way too cold for any swimming…
Happy Thanksgiving — I hope you all had a wonderful day!
(Get ready for turkey pictures on Sunday…)
*And thanks to the husband for the awesome pictures.
There’s nothing like a dinner that makes the whole family happy, which is harder to pull off than you might think. My tot isn’t excited about this or the husband isn’t in the mood for that. So the other night, when I tossed together this seriously simple dinner, I was amazed when everyone asked for seconds — and thirds.
Along with being healthy and a go-to weeknight dinner, this dish also cooks in one pan, making it fitting with this month’s Shine Supper Club Challenge. With tasty one-pot dishes as the focus, I knew my twist on chicken pot pie would be perfect. With a little help from pre-made cornbread mix, a can of beans, fresh veggies, and my new Calphalon 3-quart sauté pan, this spicy twist on the traditional recipe is a fun dinner and makes enough for lunch the next day. With Thanksgiving right around the corner, you could also swap the chicken for shredded leftover turkey, which would also be seriously delish.
1/2 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 pound skinless boneless chicken
1 small onion
2 ribs celery
1 clove garlic
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon oregano
1 15-ounce can pinto beans
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup salsa
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon flour
1/2 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1 8.5-ounce box cornbread mix
1/3 cup milk
Place a 3-quart sauté pan over medium heat and drizzle with vegetable oil. Chop the onion, carrot, and celery and add to the pan, giving a stir.
Once the vegetables have cooked for four to five minutes, chop and add the garlic as well as the chicken. Give things a stir and then sprinkle with the salt, paprika, and oregano. Allow the ingredients to simmer together for around five minutes, or until the chicken starts to brown.
Deglaze the pan with the apple cider vinegar then strain and add the beans. Go ahead and add the salsa and water, creating a nice bubbling pan of goodness. Let the mixture simmer while you grate the cheese and make the cornbread muffin batter.
Preheat your oven to 425F. Follow the directions on the cornbread muffin box, mixing with the milk and egg. Don’t forget to grate the cheese, and you could totally use cheddar instead of Monterey Jack, which would be tasty too.
Stir the chicken and then turn off the heat. Sprinkle with the flour and mix together until it’s incorporated. The flour will help pull the liquid together, creating a really flavorful sauce. You can also add a few dashes of hot sauce if you like things nice and spicy.
Sprinkle the cheese over the mixture and then cover with the cornbread mix, using a spoon to spread the batter evenly around the pan.
Pop the spicy chicken pot pie in the oven and bake for 20-minutes or until the top is golden brown.
Serve with extra salsa, a dollop of sour cream, a fresh salad — or all on its own for a delicious weeknight dinner.