DOUGH-ble the Fun!

As you can see, play dough has been a constant component in our home. Today, I would like to share two other simple recipes and activities you can do with your kids.

After learning about the Solar System and memorizing them, I wanted to teach Micah the different things that men use to explore the moon. When I first presented the lesson, I noticed he wanted nothing to do with it. He got bored pretty quickly and wanted to move on. This is very unlikely because he is usually engaged in concepts that are new to him. I thought about how I can make this exciting.

Again, the sensory bin came to life. The next day, I got him involved in making cloud dough for the moon surface. It is really easy and fun to do. As we knead and played with the dough inside the bin, I started introducing the different space objects once again. It sparked his interest and he paid full attention.

IMG_9262As we manipulated these objects around the bin, he quickly learned the names and their functions. This activity kept his attention for over an hour and by the end of the first 15 minutes, he was able to articulate the lesson back to me. I left him alone, busy with his new found interest in space objects for another hour or so while I got things done around the house.

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To reinforce the names of the objects, I created picture cards for each one and had him play a matching game with them the next day. I had him bury all the objects in the “moon sand” and placed all the cards face down. He then had to flip a card, name it, find the object that matched it, and place it on top of the card.

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Once he got the concept, he started playing the game by himself. I think he got it because he created his own rocket with his magnetiles during his afternoon play time. He excitedly showed me his creation and said, “Mama, this is the Saturn V Rocket!” I realized that going an extra mile to make learning more fun for your child goes a long way.

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Creating the dough and making it an exciting concept allowed him to not only enjoy learning but also encouraged him to correlate his knowledge with his imagination.

Cloud Dough Recipe Cloud Dough2 cups of flour

1 1/2 cups of oil

1. Pour the flour in a bowl.

2. Make a hole in the center of the flour.

3. Pour the oil into the hole.

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4. Mix the oil and flour together with your hands. The nice and smooth texture makes it fun to knead with your hands.

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Another fun activity we did was the volcano eruption and dinosaur sensory bin. We made the volcano with an herbal tea play dough recipe. It was the best smelling volcano I’ve ever seen erupt! As we read and learned about the dinosaurs, I saw a volcano in one of the pages and thought how fun it would be to teach him what a volcano can do.

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We quickly got our ingredients together and made ourselves a volcano. I placed some cloud dough in the sensory bin and used it as the land the dinosaurs played on. I added the volcano on the side and created a hole to represent the crater. I placed baking soda inside the hole and sprinkled a few on the outside to extend the “lava” explosion effect. As I taught him about volcanoes, I poured vinegar into the crater and kaboom! It exploded! I think it caught him off guard but his shock was overruled by amazement. The volcano erupted a couple more times after that before it was time for the dinosaurs to evacuate.

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The three of us were entertained with this experiment, even though we’ve done it multiple times. Some things just never get old! It was fun to see both of them so engaged and entertained by this simple activity. Of course, I couldn’t reuse the tea dough volcano after the eruption but since it was so easy to make, I think we will be having it around again really soon. Micah already wanted to make a new one right after that! It made our kitchen smell really good too!

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Don’t forget to clean up once you are all done. 🙂

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Tea Dough Recipe

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2 tea bags (the more bags you put, the more vibrant the color)
1 1/2-2 cups of water
1 cup of flour
1/4 cup of salt
2 tablespoons of cream of tartar
1 1/2 tablespoons of oil (you can add more if you want it to be softer)

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1. Boil the water and steep the tea bags for about 5-8 minutes.

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2. Remove the tea bags.

3. Add the flour, salt, cream of tartar and oil into the pot. (Have you child help you pre-measure the ingredients.)

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4.Cook and stir over medium heat for a couple of minutes or until it forms into a ball. You can add a little water or oil if you need to.

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5. Once your ball is in the center of the pot, take your dough out and place it on a lightly floured surface.
(Warning: It can be hot!)

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6. Squeeze out the extra water from the tea bags unto the dough, tear open the bag and knead the tea leaves into the dough to add more texture.

7. Have fun!

I used raspberry tea for my volcano and it smelled really good! I should have added more tea bags but I just used up what I had. I will try with another flavor for our next one and see how that turns out. Don’t forget to share yours with me, too! You can always bust out those cookie cutters and make fun creations! Get your hands kneading and have fun!

Dough it yourself!

Who doesn’t love play dough? Squishy, bright, fun, and cheap! Come and enjoy this homemade project with me!

What you need:

1 cup flour
1 cup water
1/4 cup salt
2 tablespoons oil (you can add a pinch or two more if you feel like it’s still a little too sticky)
1 tablespoon cream of tartar
1 package of sugar-free jello

1. Have your little one measure and mix all the ingredients together in a saucepan-even if takes a little longer and a little messier. Not only is it fun for them but it also encourages them to work on those motor skills! Whisking is can be challenging for their little hands but it’s a great way to exercise those muscles. Keep going until those lumps are gone!

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2. Now it’s ready to hit the stove!

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3. Get those muscles moving! Cook it over medium heat, stir continuously until it thickens to a ball of dough.  This step takes a while, so be patient and keep stirring until it doesn’t stick to your fingers.

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4. Once it is done cooking, place it on a mat to let it cool for about 20 minutes and you are set for hours of fun! Once you are done, store the dough in an air tight container. If it starts to get sticky, just add a little more flour.

5. HAVE FUN! There’s a whole lot of squishing, rolling, kneading, cutting, and endless exploring with this simple and fun sensory activity. 🙂 You can even use cookie cutters to make shapes! Check out my other post for how I used these for our lesson on land and water and on fine motor skills activities.

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If you haven’t tried this, I highly recommend it! I think my husband does too!He even made himself some taro ice cream!

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Sensory Bin Success!

My interest sure has shifted from tiaras and tutus to trucks and trains after having a little boy. I’ve driven by construction sites countless of times but it has never caught my eye. I never even stopped for a glance. Heck! It wasn’t even on my radar! But having boys has definitely diverted my attention. Now, I would spot it from a distance!

After I saw how much he loved his construction book “Goodnight Goodnight Construction Site” (great book by the way!) I thought it would be fun to make it come alive by allowing him to have his own little construction site. A couple of weeks ago, we were also fortunate enough to get up close to a real bulldozer when we saw the tow truck drop it off onto the site. I asked permission from the driver if we could get close and take a picture with it. Micah was “truck-struck.” He couldn’t believe how gigantic the machine was. It never looked that big in the pictures!

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Thumbs up indeed!

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I gotta admit, that was pretty cool even for my husband and I!

 

We built our own construction site sensory bin. A sensory bin is a small container with a variety of materials placed together to stimulate the senses. Sensory bins give your child opportunities to assume the role of a scientist and explorer as he handles, manipulates, sorts, and examine the items in the bin. They also increase your child’s ability to be attentive. The potpourri of items in your bin will give him the ability to make decisions on how he may want to use them. Creativity and imagination are given a free reign. Self-discoveries allow for new concepts to form such as new vocabulary, sorting, and integrating old and new knowledge. You are also giving your child the opportunity to develop the essential sensitive period of refining his senses. For those of you who have a couple of children, it gives them a chance to work together. As an added bonus, did I mention that it is so much fun?

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Micah enjoyed these sensory bins so much so that not only did it occupy him for 1.5-2 hours in the morning, he asked to do it again after he woke up from his nap. It fostered lot of independent work, exploration and self-entertainment. I observed how he worked with his materials and used his imagination. Phrases, sounds, and memorized paragraphs of books that contained those items were being recited. He even got the books that he associated those items with and integrated them to his activity. He also cleaned them all in the sink after he was done because the coffee beans made them a little sticky. 

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He even asked to wear his crane truck pjs to match his work for the day!

 

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He was reciting the lines he memorized from each page as he matched each truck.

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Clean those trucks!

After seeing how much he enjoyed the trucks, I decided to do it with dinosaurs too. I was able to find a book that included the dinosaurs and had information about them (which made it so much easier for me since I don’t know what they are called). He had a blast and I did, too! It brought me joy to see that such simple things can bring such delight to him. Best of all, we used everything we had at home and incorporated them into the activity.

Materials:

Construction Site: plastic bin, Toy State Caterpillar Construction Mini Machine 5-Pack Target about $5.89 (vs Amazon $15), old Folgers coffee, pearl barley


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Can you see what I picked up? The bulldozer, excavator and the dump truck all had their share of fun…now it’s your turn!

 

Jurassic Park: plastic bin, Junior Groovies dinosaur book with dinosaurs inside, small container with vinegar (as lake/”bath tub”) with a drop of vanilla extract, blue food coloring (to make it look like a lake), baking soda, marbles, trees collection from Safari Ltd.

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Check out both their smiles! These two are such eager learners!

Micah loved being in his Jurassic Park dream world. My original thoughts were, the baking soda would be the ground, the vinegar would be the lake and the marbles as the rocks. But he had a completely different idea in mind. He pretended that it was a dinosaur bath party! The baking soda was the soap that he covered the dinosaurs in and he gave them a bath in the vinegar tub. The fizzle effect caused by the reaction of the vinegar and the baking soda really entertained him. I would hear him say words like dinosaurs take turns, wait in line, and “Yehey! Bath time!” It was fun to see and hear him use his imagination and get creative. I changed the vinegar every 20 minutes when it stopped fizzling. Towards the end, Micah asked for two containers with different colors, he used it to sort out the marbles from the dinosaurs.

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Concentration and fascination at its finest!

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Vinegar + Baking soda bubble bath was a real dinosaur treat!

I hope you’ll get inspired and create your own little spaces for your little ones to enjoy. Feel free do share your ideas here, too!

Fine Motor Skill Activities that Your Kids Will Enjoy

Fine Motor Skill Activities that Your Kids Will Enjoy

Almost every parent feels the pressure to make their children write right now. But teaching your child how to write isn’t as easy as putting a pencil in his hand and showing him the alphabet. Children greatly benefit from experiences that support the development of fine motor skills in their hands and fingers.

They should have strength and dexterity before being asked to manipulate a pencil on paper. Working on this first can eliminate the development of an inappropriate pencil grasp. This happens when children get engaged in writing experiences before their hands are really ready. The following activities involve the use of practical life materials that will support your child’s fine motor development and help build the strength and dexterity necessary to hold a pencil appropriately in the future.

All these items can be found either at home or purchase from the dollar store or at Ikea. They have child-size items that will make it easier for the child to handle. These simple practical life activities may seem “easy” for us but it goes a long way with your child. These are indirect preparations that help in the coordination of your child’s movements and development of concentration.

Friendly Reminders:

1. Demonstrate how to do these activities next to your child so they can see what you are doing. Usually, you have your child sit first and you sit to the child’s right.

2. Name the objects you will use before you start.

3. Try to use as minimal words as you can and let your movements do the talking.

4. Make sure he/she is watching how you manipulate the items you are using.

5. Your goal is to demonstrate these actions clearly so the child can repeat the activity successfully and independently.

6. These activities aim to develop his/her coordination, concentration, gracefulness, and independence.

7. Repetition is important. If your child wants to do it over and over, encourage him/her to do so. It helps your child master the skill involved and allows your little one to gain more confidence in himself/herself as well.

8. Make sure to watch out for these important skills: concentration, hand-eye coordination, patience, and hand control.

9. Don’t forget to have your child clean up!

10. HAVE FUN!

Now let’s look at some easy activities:

SPOONING GRAINS:

Materials: Tray, 2 identical bowls, spoon/ scooper, grains (in this case, I used expired popcorn)

STEPS:

a. Wrap your three right fingers around the handle and firmly grip the handle.

b. Make sure the child sees you positioning the oval mouth of the spoon in the center of the bowl, so the grains fall into the bowl and not onto the tray.

c. If the grain falls, show the child how to remove the bowls and pinch the grains one at a time and replace into the bowl.

Variation: You can use jars to practice pouring grains, too.

Spooning Kernels with a Scooper

Spooning Kernels with a Scooper

Spooning Grains with a Spoon

Spooning Grains with a Spoon

POURING WATER:

Materials: Tray, 2 identical glass cups, sponge/towel to wipe off the spills, apron

STEPS:

a. Pouring water from the right hand jug into the left-hand jug then from left jug into right jug.

b. A cloth is to be used to wipe the spills.

Pouring Water Variation: You can have different size jars, some may even need a funnel.

Pouting Water

Pouting Water

SQUEEZING WATER FROM A BASTER:

STEPS:

a. Show your child how to hold the baster by the bulb to draw up the water by squeezing it and releasing the pressure on the bulb.

b. Move the full baster over to the second container and squeeze the water out.

c. REPEAT!

This was a little tricky especially with learning how to manipulate the baster so it took him a few rounds of spills and practice before getting the concept of releasing it after he puts it over the other jar. Micah also realized that it was easier for him after he held the bottle in place by moving it to edge so it wouldn’t move while he squeezed the water out. A towel close by is very handy because this takes a while to get used to. You can use a medicine dropper too. But because of the size of the baster, it makes it easier for their little hands to start with.

Squeeze me Baster!

Squeeze me Baster!

SPONGING:

(See the smile? He loved this!)

Materials: 2 buckets or 2 different containers (mixing bowls are good for these too)

STEPS:

a. Take the sponge and dip it in the water.

b. WAIT a few seconds for the sponge to absorb the water.

c. Pick it up and move your hands with the sponge over the other container.

d. Squeeze the sponge with both hands over the other container.

SPONGING!

SPONGING!

PLAY DOUGH:

We made homemade Jello Play Dough! They smelled so good and I wasn’t too worried if he tried to eat it. (Thank God he didn’t! haha) Squishing, squeezing, stretching and moulding play dough helps to build muscle strength in the fingers and hands.

Providing small items like buttons, sequins, pasta, pebbles and shells with the play dough will also encourage the child to use his/her hands when picking up and placing these objects in the dough. Put out some shape cutters, a grater, blunt plastic knives and tweezers which can all be used to mould and transform the play dough.

In our picture, we used the Melissa and Doug set I found at Ross for $5. Rolling pins foster the development of the precision muscles of the hands. The precision muscles of the hands are the muscles that support the pencil grasp and teaches the child how to adjust the amount of pressure when holding a pencil.

Mold & Make Me Something!

Mold & Make Me Something!

These are just some of the many things that your toddler can do to exercise his/her fine motor skills. Show excitement and delight when your child accomplishes these tasks! Encourage them to continue doing it. As parents, be in the moment and pay full attention to your child. Developing motor skills is the first step to writing without stressing your child and yourself, too!