Thursday, May 31, 2012

Elementary Activities: Summer Reading Wall Charts {Summer Kick-Off}

By: Deborah Pace Rowley

One of the most important things children can do to keep from backsliding over the summer is to READ. Nothing encourages summer reading more than regular trips to the library and these fun wall charts and rewards.
Homemade versions of these wall charts originated with my mom during my own childhood. I remember writing each completed book title on a star or a footprint and then taping them to the wall to track my reading progress down our hallway in the basement. I was so proud of the ever expanding train and I loved earning the rewards my Mom and I had planned together. You can create your own reading wall with the free printable charts below.

Step 1: Decide on a wall where you want your reading chart to be. This can be a bedroom wall or a hallway wall or a wall in the kitchen. How much space you will need depends on how many books your child will read. I think the best way to orient the chart is horizontally so that your child can hang up the piece as soon as the book has been completed but if you don’t have much wall space, the chart can climb vertically and even cross the ceiling if needed.

Step 2: Once you have decided where to put your chart, choose a theme for each child. I have included the following seven themes: Cowboy, Space, Princess, Puppy, Race Car, Wizard and Bo-Peep. Each theme includes three different images. These images are in the public domain or come from If you haven’t checked out this great site for free clip art, you need to! The first page includes 6 copies of a simple image that will be used to record every completed book. For example, images include a crown for the princess set, a horseshoe for the cowboy set and a bone for the puppy set. Make as many copies of this page as you will need for your summer reading. Cut out one image and write your child’s name and START on that image and place it on the wall where you want the chart to begin. Cut apart the rest of the images and store them in a basket or bag somewhere accessible. You will have your child write down the book title and the date they completed the book on the image before they hang it on the wall. (Note: For a very reluctant reader you may choose to write every completed chapter on an image for more obtainable rewards.)

Step 3: Print out the second page of each theme which includes two larger images that will be used for rewards. For example, the puppy theme includes two images of a doghouse, the princess theme includes two castles, and the space theme includes two planets. You will choose what rewards to write on these images with your child. One reward should be earned approximately at the end of June. The second reward should be earned towards the end of the July. Some possible rewards include a visit to an ice cream parlor or McDonalds, a trip to the zoo or a favorite park, an outdoor movie night, a campfire in the mountains etc. Think of a few possible rewards that fit your budget or schedule and then let your child decide which reward he or she wants.

Step 4: Once you have decided on the rewards and written them on the images, you need to hang them on the wall the right distance from the start. To do this, decide how many books you would like your child to read in the month of June. Base this decision on your own child’s ability and interest in reading. This will vary from child to child. Some kids will devour 10 books a month. Some children will read 2 books. You want the reading goal to be realistic but still a little bit challenging. Depending on the age of your child, they will be reading picture books, early chapter books, or longer novels. This will also determine how many books you expect each child to read. If you want your child to read 5 books in June, place the reward down the wall the distance of 5 stars or bones etc. Use the images you have printed out as a guide. Then place your second reward further down the wall to illustrate how many books need to be read in July.

Step 5: Once you have placed your short term rewards on the wall, print out the final page which is a single large image of a cowboy or a spaceman or a princess etc. This large image is the finish line of your reading chart. It represents the final reward for a summer’s worth of reading. Write a larger reward on this image before placing it on the proper space on the wall to illustrate how many books need to be completed in August before school starts. This final reward can be the purchase of a toy or item that the child really wants or a special trip or outing to a water park or an amusement park. It can be a party with favorite foods and include special friends. You decide what will fit in your schedule and budget but make sure that this reward will be a highly motivating for your child. If you have several children participating in your summer reading program, you may want to have the short-term rewards unique to each child but then have the final reward the same for the entire family but only those children who complete their chart can participate.

Step 6: Now that you have set the stage, gather some great books and let the reading begin! Explore some new reading places with your child. How about reading in a tent on the back lawn or while lying on the trampoline or under the kitchen table covered with a blanket. How about reading in bed with a flashlight! Make sure you regularly point out to Dad, Grandma, Grandpa and even the babysitter how the reading chart is growing. You may want to use the dinner table celebration I wrote about here to celebrate when your child reaches a short-term reward. Find our recommendations for fantastic pictures books here and favorite novels here. Enjoy a summer of reading together!

Click on each theme below to print your reading chart

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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Preschool Activities: Summer Study Packet {Summer Kick-Off}

By Tiffany Rudd

As a parent and a teacher I always worry about my students over the summer. Without a little effort kids can suffer a serious brain drain. Check out these statistics from Ron Fairchild, Executive Director of the Johns Hopkins University Center for Summer Learning:
            *All students experience learning losses when they do not engage in educational activities during the summer.
            *On average, students lose approximately 2.6 months of grade level equivalency in mathematical computation skills during the summer months.
            *Low-income children and youth experience greater summer learning losses than their higher income peers.
With that in mind, I've been working on some fun Summer Study Packets for my kids. There are so many great resources out there for free printable worksheets and I've just been compiling my favorites to cover each subject. I'll share with you on Friday how I plan to use these packets with my kids and of course I'll share the files so you can use the packets in your own home. 

Today I am sharing the packet for students preparing to go to preschool in the fall. It includes pages to practice shapes, colors, counting, the alphabet, and some thinking skills. 

Next week I'll post my Kindergarten prep packet and 1st grade prep packet. I am still trying to decide if I have time to put some together for older grades. If you are hoping for a certain grade, just leave a comment letting me know and I could probably make it happen. :)

Click below to download and print my

*If the file doesn't automatically download click on the gray button that says Download This File

You can also find it HERE.

Thanks to 
for the great free worksheets! 
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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Toddler Activities: Toddler Fish Pond {Summer Kick-Off}

Go Fishing This Summer to Learn Shapes, Numbers & Colors
By: Deborah Pace Rowley
Here is an activity that you can use all summer long to teach your toddler shapes, numbers and colors.

Get Ready: Print out the three sets of fish below. Print them on card stock or laminate them for added durability. Attach a paper clip to the end of each fish’s tail. Then make a magnet wand or fishing pole.
The magnet wand is easier to manipulate for younger children 18 months to 2 ½ or 3 years old. I hot glued two magnets to each side of a ruler. With the magnet wand, your child doesn’t have to worry about the swinging fishing line which makes it more difficult to pick up fish.

For older toddlers 3 to 4 years old, make a fishing pole. I used a stick from my back yard but you can also use a dowel rod. I attached yarn for the fishing line and then hot glued two magnets to the end of the yarn. This makes fishing more challenging and more fun for older toddlers.
Play: Lay out the set of fish that you want to use on the floor or table. I usually begin with colors and then progress to shapes and save numbers for last. In the beginning, lay out the fish, facing up, an inch or so apart and have your child catch or pick up one fish with the wand. Then have your child repeat after you what color or shape or number they caught. With lots of repetition, your child will soon be able to tell you what color, shape or number they caught all by themselves!

For an added challenge, you can tell your child to catch the “red fish” or the “number 7” fish or the fish with the “triangle on his tummy”. You can also turn the fish upside down and let your child catch a “surprise fish” and turn it over to tell you what it is. Or they can keep fishing until they catch the “purple fish” or the “fish with the square on its tummy” or any other specific fish that you decided on at the beginning.

Another variation involves playing with the colored fish and the shape fish at the same time. Let your child catch the shape with the same color of the fish that you hold up. Or play like concentration where your child tries to match up a color and a shape when they are both facing upside down. You can even lay out four Swedish fish and have your child catch the matching fish with the number 4 on its tummy. Or lay out three goldfish crackers and let your child gobble them up if he catches the #3 fish correctly. There are so many ways to play! Come up with some on your own.
Click on each link below to print your own fish!

Thanks to Kristen at for her cute fish images. Check out her site for other free clip art designed for teachers. Happy Fishing!!
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Monday, May 28, 2012

Meal-Time Activities: Ziplock Bag Ice Cream {Summer Kick-Off}

Happy Summer! We decided to celebrate the end of the school year with a weeks worth of Summer Kick-Off posts. We're excited to get started sharing with you our favorite fun summer activities and ways you can help keep your kids from experiencing "summer brain-drain." 

Of course there is no better way to celebrate summer than with a big bowl of homemade ICE CREAM!
And this is by far the funnest way to make it. 

You'll Need:
Half & Half*, Sugar, Vanilla Extract, Rock Salt, Ice, Gallon-Size Ziplock Bags, and Quart-Size Ziplock Bags. 

*You may notice that this time we used whipping cream.  My husband accidentally grabbed that instead of half and half so I just mixed it with some skim milk and it worked fine. I've also been told that whole milk works too.   

1. In each small ziplock bag, mix together 1 cup half and half, 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract, and 2 tablespoons sugar. I usually tape the top of this bag shut with packing tape just to make sure the salt water doesn't get it. This is a great hidden opportunity for learning too. Have your kids read the recipe, measure, and mix their own ingredients.

2. Fill the large ziplock bags about half full of ice and add 1/2 cup rock salt to each. 

3. Place the sealed smaller bag inside the larger bag and then seal it as well. Get out as much air as you can, the closer the ingredients and the ice stay to each other the firmer your ice cream will be. 
4. Shake the bags until the mixture hardens. It has always taken between 5-10 minutes for us. If you are going to have your child shake it by hand, you'll need to wrap it in a blanket or have him/her wear gloves. Or, if you have a trampoline you can try it our summer kick-off way...jump it! We just set all the bags in the middle of the trampoline and had the kids jump for about 7 minutes. They loved it!
5. Take the smaller bag out, add mix-ins, and enjoy! We've even eaten it right out the bag before which is awesome for cleanup. 


*We've found that freezer bags work best. If the inside bag gets a hole in it you are left with some seriously nasty salty ice cream. 

* I put the small bags inside a cup so that the kids could measure and pour their own ingredients without a huge mess. 

*This ice cream is surprisingly yummy. Even my husband who is a self-proclaimed ice cream connoisseur loves it. Make a bag for yourself too so you don't end up sneaking multiple bites from each of the kids. Not that I've ever done that. :)
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Friday, May 25, 2012

Parenting Tips: Sibling Rivalry

By: Deborah Pace Rowley
One chapter in the book Nurture Shock by Po Bronson and Ashley Merriman is entitled Sibling Rivalry. As the mother of five, this is a topic I know well. Or I thought it did. I was fascinated to learn that I had been wrong in assuming that children resent their siblings because of parental attention. I was also wrong in thinking siblings learn to play with each other and then apply what they have learned in outside social settings. According to the latest research, the opposite is true. “Older siblings train on their friends, and then apply what they know to their little brothers and sisters” (pg 129). So it is important to help each child learn skills of shared play, cooperation and conflict resolution in play dates with friends.     

The most valuable information that I gained from this chapter was that our most important task is helping our children learn to enjoy playing together. We need to be less concerned about the episodes of fighting and conflict and more concerned about the moments of fun in sibling relationships. “In many sibling relationships, the rate of conflict can be high, but the fun times in the backyard and in the basement more than balance it out. This net-positive is what predicts a good relationship later in life” (pg 122). Siblings that ignore each other have less fighting but their relationship stays cold and distant long term. So the goal isn’t no fighting, but engagement. The bottom line is that parents should spend less time in conflict resolution, and more time in helping their children play together. Hopefully, the ideas on Puddle Wonderful Learning will help to achieve this goal!  
(A moment of sibling fun. Sisters can be friends :)
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Thursday, May 24, 2012

Elementary Activities: Eye Bombing

By: Deborah Pace Rowley
Have you heard of “eye bombing”? As soon as I heard of this fun activity, I knew we had to try it. The idea was inspired by the picture books by Saxton Freyman including How are you Peeling? 
Share one of these fun books with your kids and then try creating some funny faces of your own. You can use fruits and vegetables the way Freyman has done. Or you can take a set of googly eyes outside and discover some outlandish nature faces of your own. I brought along some sticky tack so we could secure the eyes long enough to take our photos before we removed the eyes again. I thought this was a great idea for families with multiple-age children. Preschool kids want to spend all the day at the park, but older elementary kids are quickly bored by the swing set and slides. “Eye bombing” gives older kids something fun to do while the whole family enjoys a day at the park together.

Note from Tiffany: If you don't have any googly eyes, I highly recommend getting a pack. They make any little project more fun and you can find them for super cheap. HERE is a set on Oriental Trading that includes 500 eyes in different sizes for only $5.25. 
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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Preschool Activities: Pretzel Letters

By: Deborah Pace Rowley

Preschool kids and fun foods go together like peanut butter and jelly! I love to make soft pretzels as an easy snack. When you let your preschooler shape them into alphabet letters, they are twice as fun. Make the simple dough using the recipe listed below. You don’t need to let them rise. As soon as the dough is finished, spray the counter with PAM and give your child a piece of dough just smaller than a golf ball. Let your child roll it out onto the counter with their hands until it makes a long snake. Decide what alphabet letter you want to shape together. Your child can spell out his name or the first letter of every family member or a sight word you are working on together. Once your child has made a letter, transfer it to a greased cookie sheet. Brush with water and sprinkle with kosher salt. Then bake at 425 degrees for about 15 minutes until lightly browned. Dip in melted cheese or ranch dressing or a jam or peanut butter dip. Yum!
Soft Pretzels
1 package dry yeast (2 ¼ teaspoons)
1 ½ cup warm water
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
3 ½ to 4 cups flour
Dissolve yeast in warm water in a large bowl. Stir in the salt, sugar and two cups flour. Beat till smooth. Stir in enough of the remaining flour to make the dough easy to handle. Shape. Then brush lightly with water and sprinkle with kosher salt. Bake at 425 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes. 
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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Toddler Activities: Bubble Fun

By Tiffany Rudd
This easy bubble activity is one that was invented out of desperation one evening while I was trying to make dinner without stepping on one of my little ones. You know how it is, right? As soon as you have something important to do they all “need” attention from you. Right now. 
Anyway, this activity is a great one for while you are working in the kitchen. That way you can be close to interact and supervise, but still get dinner on the table. 
Read these instructions carefully, this is a tricky one. :)
1. Stop up the kitchen sink. 
2. Use the sprayer from your faucet and dish soap to create as many bubbles as you can. If you don’t have a sprayer just put a little water and dish soap in the sink and use your hand to mix and create the bubbles. 
3. Drain the water.
4. Add hidden treasures like toys, blocks, or even measuring spoons to the sink. 
5. Set your child on a chair/stool by the sink and let him/her dig for treasure, and enjoy some bubble fun! (This is why this is a great activity to do while you are working in the kitchen. Don’t leave your child unattended.) 
6. Ask your child to tell you about each treasure he/she finds. 
7. Smile and enjoy actually being able to get dinner made without a child screaming “mommy” at your feet. Oh, and if your child happens to taste the bubbles...make sure you take a picture before helping him wash out the nasty flavor. :)
One of the greatest things about this age is that toddlers learn by playing with and experiencing new things. It doesn't take fancy toys or the latest computer program/educational video. Just giving them chances to experience the wonder of the world around them is all they need. 
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Monday, May 21, 2012

Meal-Time Activities: Topic Mobile

By: Deborah Pace Rowley

Dinnertime is the perfect time to discuss topics you want to share with your family. Fix a delicious meal and you have a captive audience because no one will leave. Last night, I hung a topic mobile from the light above our kitchen table. Included on the mobile were 7 pictures related to Civil Rights. I wanted the opportunity to openly discuss my feelings about discrimination and racism with my children.

First I asked each family member to tell me what the pictures had in common. It wasn’t easy to identify one topic that every picture shared. I had a picture of the letter K and a drinking fountain and a school bus. At first the kids thought the topic had to do with school. But the mobile also included a black panther, a picture of Martin Luther King Jr. and a noose. The K actually stood for the KKK. The bus stood for Rosa Parks. The drinking fountain stood for the segregation that existed in every aspect of society. Once the family identified the topic of civil rights, we talked about how the black panther represented Malcolm X and his group of Black Panthers who were willing to accept violence to bring about change. We talked about how this view contrasted with Martin Luther King Jr and his peaceful protests. Then we talked about how ironic it was that both men were assassinated for their beliefs.

This led to a great discussion of The Help, a movie we had watched together. We also talked about the tragedy of Emmett Till, a story one of my children has been studying in school. I asked my children if Martin Luther King’s dream has been realized in their lives. “Not yet,” most of my children responded, so I ended our discussion with this question, “What are you going to do about it?”

Now I think I will leave the mobile up for a few days in the hopes that we will continue our conversation. I might ask my children to find different pictures to add to our mobile and expand on this theme. If you want to make a mobile for your dinner table, any topic will work. Just do a computer image search for 4 or more pictures on your topic that you can hang from a hanger or tape to some string dangling from the light above your kitchen table. Then let the discussion begin. If you are interested in using the pictures related to Civil Rights that I used on my topic mobile, you will find them on the link below.

Click HERE to print the Civil Rights Pictures
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Saturday, May 19, 2012

Summer Fun!

 For our local (Utah County) readers, don't forget we offer super fun Summer Camps and Young Writers Workshops!

Our first Summer Camp - Science & Math starts on June 4th. Two full weeks of experimenting and creating for only $75! We no longer have space in our afternoon session, but we do have some available in the morning.

Register now so you don't miss out!

Now is also the perfect time to register and prepare for Preschool in the fall. I'm excited to be teaching a 3 & 4 year old class on Tuesdays and Thursdays for only $50/month.
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Giveaway Winners!

We can't thank you all enough for your support, your great suggestions for future posts, and your kind comments! Thanks a ton for sharing Puddle Wonderful Learning with your friends and family! We hope you'll keep coming back and sharing your favorite ideas on facebook and pinterest. And now for the big announcement...
On the video you can see we did a drawing the old fashioned way with your names on strips of paper in a bowl. My cute kiddos Cameron and Brooklyn were excited to choose the winners!

Girl Book Set Winner: Katie Holley
Katie has two little girls and is expecting twin girls! I have a feeling these girlie books will get a lot of use in her house! :)

Boy Book Set Winner: Amy Ambler

Thanks again everyone!
Katie and Amy, expect an email soon and we'll get you your books.
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Thanks for entering and helping spread the word! :)

We are loving sharing our favorite learning ideas with you and we hope you are finding plenty of "quick,  cheap, easy, and fun" activities to do with your kids! So today, we wanted to thank you for reading and ask for your help spreading the word with a GIVEAWAY!
Here's your chance to HELP us & WIN some FREE stuff! :)
And of course, what else would two teachers/moms/bookworms giveaway but BOOKS?!

Up to three chances to win!

1st Comment (required): Leave a comment telling us which book set you would like to win (boy or girl - see below) and something you would like to see us post about on Puddle Wonderful Learning. 
(Don't forget to leave your email address)

2nd Comment: Like us on facebook and share Puddle Wonderful Learning on your facebook wall. Leave a comment telling us you did. 

3rd Comment: Follow us on Pinterest and pin one of your favorite posts from the blog. Leave a comment telling us you did. 

THANK YOU so much for helping us & GOOD LUCK!
Winners will be announced on Saturday, May 19th

 Dinosaur Bites (Comes with dinosaur figurines!)
Up-Close and Gross (Includes a bug inspecting microscope!)
Curious George Boxed Set (6 early readers, stickers, and a certificate)
Build a Book (Everything you need to create a book)
Mouse Went Out to Get a Snack 
Chicken Little (I love these illustrations!)
Total Value = $62.00

Pinkalicious: The Princess of Pink Treasury (5 stories, 1 CD, and games/activities!)
Wipe-Clean Animals: Letter Learning Fun (Comes with a dry-erase marker and activity cards) 
My Little Pony: Play Scene (Includes markers & stickers)
My Uncle Martin's Big Heart
Build a Book (Everything you need to create a book)
Total Value = $66

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Friday, May 18, 2012

Parenting Tips: Refill Mom’s Jar

By Tiffany Rudd
In my opinion discipline is one of the hardest parts of being a parent. I took multiple classes in college on discipline, I’ve read too many books on the subject to even count, and I still find myself in situations with my children where I just don’t know what to do. What is the right consequence? Am I using rewards (i.e. bribery) too often? And my favorite...NOTHING is working, what the heck do I do now? :)
I recently found myself in this situation with my 6 year old and thought I would share with you the solution that finally worked. I can’t guarantee it will work for you since every child and every situation is different (no wonder discipline is so blasted hard!), but it may be worth a try. Especially since it means help with chores! 
So, here’s the story. I’m a little embarrassed to admit that after Cameron started Kindergarten he started calling me names. Super mean, naughty, hurtful names. I was so not okay with it, but seriously could not get it to stop. We tried timeout, losing fun activities, working toward fun activities, and even eventually spanking. Nothing worked. I felt so drained by the end of each day spent serving my child who continued to call me names. 
I was telling my husband one night how emotionally drained I felt when I had the idea for the “mom jar.” The next morning I filled a small jar with marbles and went to talk to Cameron. I talked to him about how moms have feelings too. About how much it hurt and drained me to be called names. Then we brainstormed together things that could help “refill” me when I am feeling that way. Dishes, help with laundry, cleaning mirrors, and vacuuming are a few that we came up with.

Starting that morning, each time Cameron called me a name a marble came out of the jar. Before the end of the day he had to do a chore for each marble to be put back in the jar. Not one chore for all the marbles, one chore for each. I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that he did 12 chores for me that first day. TWELVE. It was a hard day for both of us. But, I continued pulling marbles each time he called me a name and thanking him each time he worked to refill my jar. My favorite part of this system is that it doesn’t involve so much negative talk on my part. All I did was frown and pull out a marble. Once he calmed down he even usually came up with the chores himself. 
It took a few days, but eventually marbles were being pulled out less often and now I can’t even remember the last time he called me a nasty name. Whew. 
Now the mom jar gets drained by fighting. Either arguing with mom/dad or fighting with siblings. It has definitely helped. It doesn’t mean there is never any fighting in our house, but when there is I just frown and pull a marble. No more yelling and, most importantly, no more feeling emotionally drained at the end of every day. 

Today is the last day of our GIVEAWAY!
Click HERE to enter!

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Thursday, May 17, 2012

Elementary Activities: Rhyming Flowers

By Tiffany Rudd
Rhyming is an important part of learning to read. It’s also a fun skill to practice. You can call out words for your child to rhyme while washing the dishes, driving in the car, or even while you do his/her hair. I thought this rhyming flower activity would be a fun one for Spring. This is also a great activity to help beginning readers learn how to not only hear rhyming words, but also recognize them in print. 

1. Print and cut out your rhyming flowers (see link below). If your child is old enough you can allow him/her to color and cut out the flowers. I also included a page of blank flowers so you can add your own rhyming words. My printer is out of ink so this time I cut my flowers out of construction paper. It took longer than just printing them would have, but what can you do? 
2. Tape or glue your flowers to popsicle sticks. If you don’t have popsicle sticks you could improvise with straws, plastic spoons, or even sticks from a tree in your yard. 
3. Find a few small containers and tape the word cards (included in the download below) to the front. 
4. Have you child place each rhyming flower in its matching container. 
Even my 4 year old was able to participate in this activity. Once her older brother had done it a few times she asked if she could try. He read the words to her and she put them in the right place. I love to see them working together. 

Click HERE to download and print the Rhyming Flowers
*If the file does not download automatically click on the gray box that says "Download This File"

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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Preschool Activities: Rainbow Writing

By Tiffany Rudd

Sometimes the best way for a child to learn a skill is repetition. The problem is, repetition can be super boring. RAINBOW WRITING is a great trick for turning repetitive writing into a fun art project. 
First, write the word or letter you want your child to practice in pencil. Then have her trace over the word using a crayon. Have her choose a new color and trace over the word again. Then a new color and trace over the word again. Then a new color . . . anyway, you get the idea. :) Let her trace as many times as she wants to create a beautiful rainbow word. She wont even know she is really practicing her writing over and over again! 
This is a great way to have your child learn and practice his/her name. While Brooklyn was rainbow writing her name I also had her call out each letter. That way she wasn’t just practicing her letters, she was memorizing the order of the letters in her name. 

If you haven't already, click HERE to enter our GIVEAWAY!

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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Toddler Activities: Contact Paper Art

By Tiffany Rudd

This easy, no mess art project has been a favorite in our house since Cameron was a toddler. I can’t take credit for it though. For Cameron’s 1st Birthday his Aunt Deborah gave him a kit full of fun craft activities and this was one of them. She always gives the best/most creative gifts. Darn oldest children are always the best at everything. Don’t worry Deb, I love you anyway. :)
The only thing you need to purchase for this project is a roll of contact paper. On Discount School Supply it is called Con-Tact Cover. You can order it there for $3.29 for a  9ft roll or I’m sure you could find it at a craft supply store or even Walmart. A roll of this stuff lasts a good long time so I haven’t bought any for a while.  
Once you have your contact paper, all you need to do is gather a bowl/baggie of “stuff.” Really, it can be just about anything. Feathers, sequins, scraps of wrapping paper and ribbon, or pictures cut out of a magazine. We’ve even done nature themed projects where we gathered grass, flowers, and leaves. Enlist your child to help you find fun little items. You can use anything that is small and thin enough to stick between two pieces of contact paper. 
Then, peel the backing off the contact paper and tape it to a wall or cupboard at a height your child can reach. Just make sure you tape it with the sticky side facing out. :)
Your toddler will love choosing items to stick to this fun art paper! And, you’ll love that when the project is finished, covering it with a 2nd piece of contact paper means it will last forever. We’ve even added a paper frame for a fun grandma gift.  

If you haven't already, click HERE to enter our GIVEAWAY!
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Monday, May 14, 2012

Meal-Time Activities: Build a Healthy Plate

by Tiffany Rudd
Eating healthy has always been important to me. Those of you that know me well...stop laughing. I didn’t say I actually eat healthy, just that it’s important to me. :)  
Seriously though, one of the things I would like my children to learn growing up is how to care for their bodies and make healthy choices. So, I did some research on the new guidelines and pyramid and created a quick meal-time lesson. 
It took just a few minutes before we started to eat and as we dished out our food, but I think it is a lesson that will stay with them. 
1. Print out enough Healthy Plate graphics for your family and have your kids cut out each pie shaped piece. You can find a link to the graphics at the bottom of this post and can print in color or grayscale.
2. Have you kids arrange the pie-shaped pieces on their plate and discuss what each piece represents. 
3. I also printed this list of “10 tips to a great plate” from to talk about some other healthy eating tips. 
4. As you are dishing dinner onto each plate, put each part of them meal in it’s designated area. Have the kids help check that portion sizes match the “Healthy Plate” pieces. 
My main goal was for my kids to see what foods we should be eating the most of and what foods we should eat less of or eat less often. The pie-shaped pieces made an easy to understand visual, even for my 4 year old. We may not always eat perfectly around here, but at least I can feel good knowing I am trying to teach my children about healthy choices.
Print the Healthy Plate Graphics HERE
If you haven't already, click HERE to enter our GIVEAWAY!
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Spiritual Learning

Today will be the last day that we will post about our spiritual learning activities here on Puddle Wonderful Learning, but don't worry you can still find them each Monday on the blog Noah's Rusty Boat! So bookmark that blog and check back for new weekly lessons and activities!

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Friday, May 11, 2012

Parenting Tips: Memorize a Poem for Me for Mother’s Day

By: Deborah Pace Rowley
All three of “my” holidays fall within a few weeks of each other. My anniversary is April 27th. Mother’s Day is the second week of May, closely followed by my birthday on May 28th. To make matters worse, I am not an easy person to buy gifts for. I am sure this is frustrating for my husband and kids. Then I came across the perfect solution.

Last year, I asked each of my children and my husband to memorize a poem for me for Mother’s Day. I gave them several weeks to prepare. There was only one rule. The poem could be long or short, rhyming or free verse, but every person had to choose a poem on their own. When Mother’s Day came, I sat in a place of honor as each of my family members stood in front of me to recite their poems. I knew they had worked hard on the memorization. I had overheard whispered chanting behind closed doors for days. I knew they had thought about their gifts. They had given of their time and their hearts. They were learning and stretching their brains in the process. All the money in the world couldn’t have bought a more priceless gift.  

I was so touched by each selection. I heard a favorite passage of scripture, a tribute to mothers, a parable about the power of teachers, a Shakespeare love sonnet, an ode to chocolate, and even a funny Shel Silverstein piece. I loved thinking about why they had chosen the poems that they did. Throughout the recitation, I laughed and cried and cheered with delight. It became my favorite Mother’s Day of all time. I have already decided what gift I would like this year.  Poems, anyone? 
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Thursday, May 10, 2012

Elementary Activities: Woodland Homes

By: Deborah Pace Rowley
We enjoy camping and spending time in the mountains as a family. If you ever come to a campsite that the Rowleys have recently abandoned, look around for a woodland home somewhere in the vicinity. Over the years, we have created countless natural homes for critters and fairies alike to inhabit. We aren’t picky about who comes to stay; we just hope they enjoy the structure for as long as it lasts.
(A squirrel checking out our woodland home.)
There are only a few rules for creating a woodland home. First, nothing in the structure is glued or nailed in place or in any other way made permanent. We just stack and prop our creations next to a tree or large rock. Second, only natural items can be used in the creation of a woodland home. We don’t add anything man-made that would detract from the beauty of the woods around it.
Be creative and see what you can come up with. We have made tables and chairs, complete with acorn cap bowls and flower petal centerpieces. We have made soft beds of leaves and stone walkways. We have used everything from sticks, pine needles, bark, leaves and grass that we find on the ground around us. Sometimes our woodland homes take us 15 minutes to build; some elaborate creations have taken several days to finish. It is something everyone in the family can work on and enjoy together. 
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Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Preschool Activities: Shaving Dad

By: Deborah Pace Rowley
One of my children’s favorite things to do when they were young was to shave their dad! You can do this activity with a patient dad. (See included photos) Or you can do this activity with the printable page found at the link below. If you use the picture of the dad, please laminate it or put it in a page protector before use.
The only other things you need for this activity are a can of shaving cream and a Popsicle stick or larger craft stick. To play, spread shaving cream all over Dad’s face and then use the craft stick to gently shave the shaving cream off his cheeks. A small bowl of water and a towel can be used to help clean the “razor” each time. Now is a great time to introduce the simple differences between boys and girls. For another activity, put your kids in swim suits and let them sit in an empty tub to shave their legs just like Mom!

You can find a printable "dad" HERE
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Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Meal-Time Activities: Poetry Placemat “A Dream Deferred”

by: Deborah Pace Rowley
One of my favorite poems is “A Dream Deferred” by Langston Hughes.

What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up 
like a raisin in the sun? 
Or fester like a sore-- 
And then run? 
Does it stink like rotten meat? 
Or crust and sugar over-- 
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags 
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?

Because the poem is short and contains such vivid images it is a perfect poem to introduce to kids. For this mealtime activity, all you need to do is copy enough placemats for each member of your family using the link below. Then set out some crayons and let family members illustrate the poem during dinner or while you are finishing up preparations for the meal. Family members can illustrate the placemat with pictures that go along with the poem or they can illustrate the placemat with pictures of their own dreams. First, explain what the word “deferred” means. This word means to put off or delay, to set aside for a later date or time.
Here are some discussion questions that you can use as you talk about this poem at the dinner table. What does it mean to defer our dreams? Does the poet think it is a good idea to put off accomplishing our dreams?  What do you think happens when you set aside your dreams? What image would you use to describe a dream that has been set aside? What are some of the dreams that you have right now? What can you do to accomplish your dreams?  How do we keep believing in our dreams even if they take awhile to come true? Would it change your understanding of this poem to know that the poet was black? Langston Hughes lived during a time in the United States when black people did not have many rights. How do you think this affected his writing of the poem? Should only rich people have dreams? Should only white people have dreams? How does God feel about our dreams?

You can print a copy of this Poetry Placemat HERE
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