Friday, August 31, 2012

Parenting Tips: Interviews

By Deborah Pace Rowley

I was interviewed regularly by my dad when I was growing up. He was a busy doctor but he wanted to be very involved in my life. These interviews were a great time for us to connect one on one. He would ask me questions such as: How do you feel like school is going right now? Where are you thinking about going to college? Are you satisfied with your social life? How is work going? 

My husband and I have continued to interview our own children. One of our favorite questions to ask in an interview may surprise you. How do you feel like I am doing as a mother? or How could I be a better dad? You can ask this question in a formal interview setting or you can ask it on a casual drive to get a smoothie or some fries. Whenever you ask it, make sure you are open and convey to your child that you really want an honest response. You are sure to get some eye-opening and maybe even life-changing feedback. 

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Thursday, August 30, 2012

Elementary Activities: Measurement Fun

By Tiffany Rudd

One of my favorite math concepts to teach in 3rd grade was measurement. Length is an especially fun one to watch kids experiment with and learn. Recently, on a rainy day, I got out a my favorite picture books about measurement/length to read to the kids. After we read, the kids were super excited to get measuring on their own.

A great way to start exploring measurement is to try measuring using household objects. Cameron discovered that Brooklyn is 6 baby-phones long, 9 Anniston shoes long, and 7 Declan diapers long. 
This is a perfect lead-in for a discussion on standard measurement. The book How Big is a Foot by Rolf Myller is a fantastic book about where standard measurement came from and why we need it. 
These next three books are my favorites for inspiring kids to measure the world around them... 

How Tall, How Short, How Faraway by David Adler 
Measuring Penny by Loreen Leedy  
Hershey's Weights & Measures by Jerry Pallotta
So, next time it is rainy or cold and your kids are stuck inside, get out a ruler or measuring tape and let your child loose measuring everything in the house! :)

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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Preschool Activities: Learning to Write Your Name

By Tiffany Rudd

Learning to write your name is an important preschool skill. It's also a very fun one to practice. Here are some of my favorite tips and activities for helping your child learn to write his/her name.

  • Start with having your child trace her name. It's easy to make your own reusable tracing page. Just go to THIS website, choose which decoration you'd like, click on standard block print, enter your child's name and it will create a free printable tracer page for you! Once you print it, just slide it into a plastic page protector and have your child use a dry erase marker to trace. (I couldn't find my dry erase marker, so Brooklyn is using a washable marker. It doesn't work as well, but will do in a pinch.) When she is done, she can just wipe it off with a tissue and start again!
  • While your child traces her name, have her repeat the letters in a sing-song voice. B-R-O-O-K-L-Y-N. By the time she is proficient at tracing, she will also have this "song" and the spelling memorized. I still occasionally hear Cameron whisper his little song while writing his name.
  • Once your child has the tracing and spelling down, write the name multiple times on a page and have her copy the letters below yours. Make sure you write big, little hands aren't developed enough to form tiny letters.
  • Now that she has the letters down, it's time for some fun practice! Here are just a few ideas...
    1. Write your name 10 times on the driveway using sidewalk chalk for dad to see when he gets home.
    2. Cover the table in shaving cream and write your name in it. Then just rub it around to erase and start again.
    3. Create a beautiful drawing of your name using Rainbow Writing. Send it to grandma or grandpa. 

             4. Cover a colored piece of paper in white sugar or 
                 salt. Trace your name in the sugar and then just 
                 spread it around to start again.

What other fun and creative ways have you used to help your child practice his/her name? Share them in the comments below!

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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Teen Activities: When to Introduce Make-Up

By Deborah Pace Rowley

When do you let your daughter wear make-up? This is a big concern for many moms I know. When is too soon? When is too late? We don't want to let her grow up too fast but we also don't want to be the old-fashioned and mean mother on the block. I certainly don't have the perfect answer to this question. I will have to leave it up to you to figure that out on your own. I can share one thing that we did with one of my daughters that turned out really fun. 
The rule in our family is that girls can wear make-up as soon as they turn 14. (A light lip gloss is okay before that.) On my daughters' 14th birthday we planned a fun "spa" night for her and all of her friends. Before the party started, I had decorated a cake with an outline of a girl's face. Then I provided lots of tubes of frosting and decorating gel so the girls could finish the cake by applying "make-up" to our beauty queen.
After the cake was complete, the birthday girl and her friends sat down with Aunt Tiff who was a Mary Kay consultant at the time. She had them wash their faces and taught them how to care for their skin. She then taught them how to apply a subtle, fresh and light layer of make-up that would bring out the natural beauty in each girl. After the make-up class, the girls painted each other's nails and experimented with each other's hair. When the party ended I sent each girl home with her own make-up bag filled with samples of the products they had tried. *I had approved this with all the girl's moms beforehand.

The party was fun and the instruction was great. I never had to complain that this daughter looked like a  clown when she came out of the bathroom in the morning. Now that my girls are almost grown up, it seems like I am always going to them to borrow products and learn techniques to help me look my best! Good luck in navigating this fun and exciting time in your daughter's life.

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Monday, August 27, 2012

Meal-Time Activities: Homemade Root Beer

By Deborah Pace Rowley
If you haven’t made homemade root beer with your kids, you simply must! No childhood is complete without watching dry ice transform an ordinary drink into a bubbling magic potion at least once! And it is so much easier and cheaper than you think that it would be. Recently we made a 5 gallon batch of creme soda for around $7.50. I was so excited to find the creme soda extract right next to the root beer extract on the shelf at my grocery store. (My kids have decided that homemade creme soda tastes almost like the butter beer that we had at Harry Potter World. All it needs is the thick layer of carmel whipped cream. We are going to figure out how to add that next! Yum!) The bottle cost about $2.50. Then I bought a 5 lb. block of dry ice for around $5 dollars. 
All you need to do is mix the extract with sugar and water according to the package directions. Then throw in some dry ice and watch the wonder on your kids faces. Remember not to screw on the container lid or the pressure can cause the container to explode. (Thanks for the reminder, honey! ) Also do not touch dry ice with your bare hands. And use the dry ice quickly after purchasing it. It will evaporate completely, even in the freezer, in less than 24 hours. We emptied a pitcher full of the creme soda out of our 5 gallon jug before adding the dry ice so that creme soda wouldn’t bubble and froth all over our back deck. It seemed too full otherwise. Then we added it back in after the dry ice had worked its magic and the bubbling had slowed. I would recommend doing this outside on your deck or patio or you might end up with a sticky kitchen. This is the perfect activity to do while you are grilling some hamburgers on the backyard BBQ. Enjoy!

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Friday, August 24, 2012

Parenting Tips: Take a Yearly Photo {Back-To-School Week!}

By Tiffany Rudd

Since we see our kids every day, we often don't notice how much they have grown until we look back at pictures taken not that long ago. As a teacher, I always take pictures of each student on the first and last days of school. It is amazing to see how much they change in just those 9 months. Don't forget to capture your children on the first day of school (or close to it) this year. You'll be amazed to see how much they change!
1st Day of 1st Grade!
 1st Day of Kindergarten
Thanks to Pinterest I added the sign each year. :)
1st Day of Preschool
4 Years Old
1st Day of Preschool
3 Years Old
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Thursday, August 23, 2012

Elementary Activities: Make Your Own Cozy Homework Concentration Corner {Back-To-School Week!}

By Tiffany Rudd
Since we are living in a fairly small space right now, there isn't a separate room where Cameron can go to do homework. I don't mind it, because he is often working while I cook dinner and I can be close by to keep an eye on him and help when I am needed. He, on the other hand, can often have a hard time concentrating with so much activity going on around him. So, this year I decided to try making him his own "Homework Corner." Hopefully, using this divider to create his own space and keep the rest of us out of his line of vision will make homework time more productive.
This was a super simple project made from an empty diaper box. I simply cut off the top, bottom, and one side of the box and used white duct tape to finish the edge. Then I just glued/taped on a pocket folder to hold work that needs to be done and a zipper pocket for his supplies. A few big binder clips make it so papers, reward stickers, or even site word books can clip to the sides. 

Now Cameron's teacher just needs to bring on the homework so he can test out his fun new homework corner! :)

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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Preschool Activities: The Kissing Hand {Back-To-School Week!}

By Tiffany Rudd
The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn is a Back-To-School tradition in our family and I always start the school year out by reading it to my Preschoolers. It is such a sweet story and it helps create such a fun bond between parent and child.

Everyday for the first month of school last year Cameron would pause before getting out of the car to get a kiss on his palm. I loved sending him off to school knowing that he could always feel my love no matter what happened. This year, I've been putting a few Hershey Kisses in his lunch each day as a little reminder. 

I hope you'll buy a copy of this book for your family, or check out a copy from the library to read with your kids this year. Then you can start your own Kissing Hand traditions.

On the first day of preschool each year we bake hand shaped sugar cookies with a chocolate kiss in the middle.
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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Teen Activities: How To Support Your High Schooler {Back-To-School Week!}

By Tiffany Rudd
Four of Deborah's kids off to Hogwarts of course! :)

Even though it feels like just yesterday, it's been quite a few years since I was in high school. And, it will be quite a few more before my kids are in high school. So, I turned to Deborah and her awesome girls (my gorgeous nieces) to hear their advice on how parents can support their high school students. They had some great ideas.

  1. Make sure they get enough sleep. Deb and both of the girls said this one first thing. Kids need sleep to be able to physically and emotionally handle the demands of school. Making getting to bed at a decent hour a priority in your home will make the school year go much better.
  2. Make them eat a healthy breakfast. Shannon said she probably wouldn't ever eat breakfast if not for her mom. She also said that anytime she skipped it she was hungry and had a hard time concentrating long before lunch.
  3. Be aware of grades, but don't make them too big of a deal. Both girls said that they like that their parents check online and are aware of their grades and assignments. They also said they are glad their parents don't freak out when they don't get perfect grades. They've definitely found a great balance in their family.
  4. No computers in their bedrooms. It's too hard for kids to concentrate on homework with facebook, emails and messaging with friends to tempt them. 
  5. Help them find balance. There are so many great options for extra curricular activities, but between homework, sports, clubs and jobs kids can quickly become way over-scheduled. We want out kids to be successful and well-rounded, but sometimes part of being a good parent is knowing when your child needs to cut back. It's okay for you and for them to say it's too much.
  6. Let them make choices and live with the consequences. My cute nephew pointed out that it's important to teach your kids right and wrong and then let them make their own choices. I have a feeling this one is going to be hard for me. :)
I hope their great advice helps you parents who are supporting high school students. I'm already nervous for when my little ones become teenagers. Luckily they have fantastic cousins to set a great example. 
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Monday, August 20, 2012

Meal-Time Activities: Back-To-School Dinner Party {Back-To-School Week!}

By Tiffany Rudd

Welcome to BACK-TO-SCHOOL WEEK on the blog! I'm excited to share some of my favorite back-to-school ideas with you. 

In our area, tomorrow is the first day of school. Cameron will be starting 1st Grade and then in September Brooklyn will be a part of my preschool class. If you can't tell, they are thrilled! 
Last year I started a new family tradition of having a dinner party the night before school starts. I decorated with a festive table cloth and school supplies, we made brownies with fun school themed toothpicks, and our soon-to-be Kindergartener got to choose the meal. I told him I'd cook him any meal he wanted, so of course he chose McDonald's. :)
After dinner we sat together and read a collection of books about going back to school. It was a fun way to celebrate the new year and discuss any concerns he had about his first day. I'm excited to continue the tradition tonight. Luckily this time the kids chose homemade Macaroni & Cheese. 
My Favorite Back-To-School Books:
The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn
A Pocket Full of Kisses by Audrey Penn
Thanks You, Mr. Falker by Patricia Polacco
Just The Way You Are by Marcus Pfister
The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister
Smile A Lot by Nancy Carlson

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Friday, August 17, 2012

Parenting Tips: Nail Biting & Thumb Sucking

By Tiffany Rudd
Cameron started sucking his thumb when he was a tiny. In fact, we have an ultrasound picture that shows he started before he was even born! It was pretty cute and really didn't bother me when he was a baby. However, as he got older and continued to suck his thumb it started to drive me crazy. I worried about the effect his thumb sucking would have on his teeth and his speech, but most of all the germaphobe in me was grossed out by his dirty thumb always being in his mouth. He was sick a lot and I was positive it was because every germ in Walmart or on the McDonald's PlayPlace went right into his mouth. Ugh. I still shudder just thinking about it.

So, when he turned 3, I decided it was time to help him quit this bad habit. First we bought the gross tasting nail polish. He didn't like it, but he just continued to suck until the bad taste went away. We tried a little tobacco on the tip of his finger, and he loved it! I had to get rid of the bottle because he started requesting it. I was even excited when we went to Utah on vacation and his thumb cracked and bled because of the dry climate. We covered it with Neosporin and a bandage and he didn't suck his thumb for two weeks. Unfortunately, once we got home and it healed it went right back into his mouth.

Anyway, the point is, we tried everything! Finally, one day in my search for a solution I found a Berenstain Bears book call The Bad Habit. In the book Sister Bear bites her nails. So, they come up with a plan to help her stop. At the beginning of each day they put 10 pennies in a jar. Each time Sister bites her nails, they take a penny out. Any pennies left at the end of the day she gets to keep.
So, I read the book with Cameron and we started his own jar of pennies. Each time he sucked his thumb a penny came out of the jar. Pretty soon he had earned enough pennies to trade for a quarter to buy a gum ball at the grocery store. Then, he had earned a dollar to ride the ferris wheel at the mall. Within a month he had saved enough for a new toy (with a little help from dad) and he had completely stopped sucking his thumb!

I'm convinced there is a Berenstain Bears book to solve any problem. :)

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Thursday, August 16, 2012

Elementary Activities: Math Catch

By Tiffany Rudd
One beginning math skill they teach in Kindergarten is being able to quickly name what is one more or one less than any number 1-20. In the spring when we met with Cameron's teacher she told us that he needed some practice with this particular skill. 

I, of course, immediately started trying to think of games and activities I could create to help him practice this skill. Before I even had a chance I went out in the yard the next evening to find my husband playing a game of catch with Cameron. When one of them caught the ball they added a point. When they dropped it, a point was taken away. So, there was Cameron quickly announcing with each throw one more or one less than their previous score. Once they reached 20, the game was won and they started another round. 

With this simple, zero prep activity the two of them practiced an important math skill each evening for over a week. It was even a favorite for the two of them to play together this summer. Thank goodness for husbands to remind us that simpler is usually better. (Just don't tell him I said that! ;)

This simple activity can be adapted to practice a bunch of beginning math skills. Here are just a few I can think of...

    • Count by 2's, 5's, or 10's with each catch. 
    • Call out multiplication facts for you child to answer with each throw.
    • Call out a number with each throw. If the ball is caught, add that number to your score. If it is dropped, subtract that number.
    • Skip count by any number you choose. 
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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Preschool Activities: Water Color Body Art

By Deborah Pace Rowley

Summer is almost over. I have to admit that I am looking forward to the start of school. But that feeling is bitter sweet and I know I need to savor these last days of summer as much as possible. Today’s activity is perfect for a day at the beach or the lake or even the last day running through the sprinklers or jumping in the kiddie pool in the backyard.

All you need is a tray of water colors, a paint brush and a cup of water. The canvas for all this painting fun? Your preschooler’s arms, legs, hands, feet and face. Turn your miniature Picasso lose or decorate your favorite clown yourself as he or she tries not to laugh. The paint will quickly wash off as soon as your preschooler dunks in the water.  

I don’t think Tiff would want me to point out that she is the cute teenager in this photo! Sorry Sis!

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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Toddler Activities: Build a Face

By Tiffany Rudd
Anniston is 18 months old now! This is one of my favorite ages because it seems like she learns 100 new things every day. It is so much fun to teach her new concepts and watch how quickly she picks up new skills.

One of Anniston's cutest new skills is naming and pointing out her body parts. She knows the basics like eyes, nose and ears. But the kids have also taught her to lift up her shirt for a tickle when asked where her tummy is and squish her cute chubby face when asked where her cheeks are.

This activity was one I designed for her to practice her new body part knowledge. All I did was print the girl face and features on cardstock, add a little color, and cut out each of the parts. I also put the complete face in a plastic page protector so it would be reusable.
Then we worked together to stick all of the features where they belong. Since Anniston is still a little young I just had her match the parts to the completed face, but for an older child you can use the blank face. She then had a blast pointing to each feature on her and on the face we created.
You can click on the pictures/descriptions below to print your own girl or boy face and features to use with your toddler. Credit for drawing these cute faces goes to Deborah. Thank goodness one of us has some artistic talent! :)

 Anniston kissing her new friend! :)

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Monday, August 13, 2012

Meal-Time Activities: Family Love Fruit Salad

By Tiffany Rudd
I absolutely love summer produce. My fridge and counter are overflowing with tons of yummy fruits and veggies. I also love that having all this fruit around makes it easy to create a quick, fresh and healthy dessert.

A few days ago my kids were having an especially hard time getting along. By the end of the day there was definitely not a happy and loving feeling in our home. So, I had the idea to turn our dessert into a little object lesson.

I set out little bowls of fruit and each of us chose our favorite. Then, as each family member dumped their fruit into a bigger bowl we took turns naming one thing we love and appreciate about that person. The kids talked about how much they love that their dad takes time to wrestle with them, how they love  hugs and kisses from Anniston, and how much they love getting a turn to hold baby brother. My favorite was listening to Cameron and Brooklyn talk about how much they love playing and laughing together.

Then, when all the fruit was in the bowl, we mixed it together and added some homemade Whipped Coconut Cream. The resulting fruit salad, that we named "Family Love Fruit Salad" was delicious.
As we enjoyed our dessert we reminded the kids how lucky we are to be a family, and how even though we are all good alone, we are fantastic when we stick together. This Family Love Fruit Salad is definitely a dessert we'll be having again and again! :)

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Saturday, August 11, 2012

Back-To-School GIVEAWAY!

It's time for another GIVEAWAY!

Your help spreading the word about our blog means the world to us. So once again, here's your chance to HELP us & WIN some FREE stuff! :) 

Anyone want to guess what we are giving away again? ;)
We LOVE 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, August 25th

 Fourth Grade Rats by Jerry Spinelli
Diary of a Wimpy Kid Do-It-Yourself Book
Magic Tree House #43 - Leprechaun in Late Winter
Wooden Teeth & Jelly Beans - The Tupperman Files
How Whales Walked Into the Sea 
Teeth (Awesome Non-Fiction)
2030 - A Day in the Life of Tomorrow's Kids
Total Value = $58.00

Krazy Kitty Journal
The Truth About My Name (Book & Jewelry Making Kit!)
Mythlopedia - A Girls Guide to Greek Mythology
Kittylicious (Comes with a charm bracelet)
Just Between Friends
Camp Rock - Rockstar Recipes
Total Value = $78
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Friday, August 10, 2012

Parenting Tips: Teaching Your Kids To Listen

By: Tiffany Rudd
A few weeks ago I was feeling extremely frustrated with Cameron and Brooklyn's reaction to my requests. It went something like this almost every time I asked them to do something...

Me: Cameron and Brooklyn, I just heard the timer beep so Wii time is over. Turn it off please.
. . .
Me: Cameron and Brooklyn, listen please, it's time to turn it off.
. . .
Me: Cameron and Brooklyn, turn the Wii off right now.
. . .
Me: Turn it off NOW!!!

Honestly, it reached a point where it seemed like they didn't even register the sound of my voice until I was practically yelling! Please tell me I'm not the only mother who has felt this way.

One particularly frustrating morning I had a seriously depressing though. As I raised my voice again to get them to listen I thought, "I've trained my kids to only listen when I'm loud. This is my fault." 

Maybe that was a little harsh, but in a way I think it is true. Our children live up to the expectations we have of them. I was repeating my requests 4 times, I was raising my voice, I was allowing their behavior. 

So, that afternoon on my grocery run I picked up a bag skittles and the next morning we started "Listening Training!" I told the kids that for a few days they were going to be rewarded for listening the first time. I know, bribery and sugar, maybe not the best parenting tools, but desperate times call for desperate measures. :) 

For the next 3 days I made sure to use a quiet and calm voice for all my requests. I put two plastic cups on the counter with their names written on the side and a jar full of skittles next to them.

If they listened and followed instructions the first time I asked, I put two skittles in their cup.

If they listened the second time, I put one skittle in. 

If they listened the third time, no skittles.

If I had to ask a fourth time, I got to take one skittle out of their cup and eat it. 

Not long into the first day they were listening better, our house was quieter and I was much happier. Each evening after dinner they ate the skittles out of their cups and we talked about the improvements in their listening skills.

We only used the skittles for our 3 day training, but so far the results seem to be lasting. Those 3 days helped mix things up and hopefully break a bad habit I had allowed them to form. They still don't always listen the first time, but things have gotten much better. Every once in a while some good sugar and bribery are mom's best friends. :)

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Thursday, August 9, 2012

Elementary Activities: 3-D Art

By: Tiffany & Cameron Rudd

Yesterday I shared with you the story of the construction paper craft I had planned the other day. I gathered supplies, called my two oldest to the table, and then was pulled away by the baby...and my toddler...and the phone ringing...

Luckily, my fantastic kids are independent and creative and came up with their own projects while I was away! Brooklyn turned her paper into jewelry (no surprise from my girly-girl). Check out her finished project HERE.

Cameron turned his paper strips into a 3D drawing of our house and pond. Super cool.
Here are the instructions in his own words...

STEP ONE: Decide what picture you want to make.

STEP TWO: Rip, glue, tape and staple the paper where you want it.

STEP THREE: It is even cooler if you can make the paper stick out and feel bumpy or curly.

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Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Preschool Activities: Construction Paper Jewelry

By Tiffany & Brooklyn Rudd

In my opinion, there is just something magical about construction paper. Something about the bright colors and thicker texture always seems to bring out the creativity in my kids (and in me)!
Just the other day I had a craft idea I wanted to try with my kids. So I gathered a bunch of colors of construction paper and cut them into 1/2 inch strips. I grabbed glue sticks, tape, and a stapler and called my two oldest to the kitchen table.

Then my baby started to cry...

And my toddler needed a diaper change...

And my mom called with a quick question...

Finally, 10 or 15 minutes later, I was back to tell my kids how to do the craft project I had planned. The fun thing is, they had gone ahead without me! My plans went out the window as they involved me in the super creative ideas THEY had come up with on their own.
Today Brooklyn will be sharing her craft idea, Construction Paper Jewelry! Are you ready for her detailed instructions? Here they are in her exact words...

STEP 1: You cut it, fold it, glue it, and tape it to make pretty stuff you can wear. Mom does the staple thing. They can poke you.

STEP 2: You go show the cousins how cute you look.
These last two pictures were just too funny not to share! This girl seriously cracks me up! :)

So, get out your pack of construction paper and create your own custom line of jewelry today. Or, better yet, let your child direct craft time and watch the magic unfold! Tomorrow I'll let Cameron share his construction paper craft with you. In his own words, "It's pretty cool!"

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