Sunday, March 31, 2013

Bonus Post: Easter Chicks

By Deborah Pace Rowley

I know that I have said that I don't like coloring Easter Eggs but when I was shopping at Walmart yesterday I found this kit for $1.99 and I couldn't resist.
Funnest Egg Decorating Project EVER!  And well worth $2.00. I thought our chicks turned out so cute.
Quiz: Can you tell which chick was created by my teenage son?

Yes, you guessed correctly! This is Sam.

Of course, Katie named each chick and gave them a personality.

Above are Joy and Tom. Not pictured are: Sam, Olivia, Charlotte, and Ricki. She was so proud that she had to show everyone in our house what we had done.

Happy Easter everyone!! Love, Olivia.

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Friday, March 29, 2013

Elementary Activities: Egg Head Comedians

by: Deborah Pace Rowley

My teenage daughter decorated these eggs about a month ago and made us all laugh when we found them in the refrigerator. (To be honest, I had a hard time breaking them and using them in my baking. They seemed a little too personified!)

I wanted to post these pictures just in time for Easter to inspire your egg decorating imaginations, especially if you find yourself in an egg decorating rut. I thought these guys and girls would look amazing if you first dyed them in bright colors. Adding sharpie features and quote bubbles then provide the perfect creative opportunity for your older elementary school kids and teenagers to show their style and sense of humor.

This little egg says, "Peep! Pretend to be a chick. Then they won't be able to eat you."

This egg says, "Oh no, someone is coming to eat me!!"

This comedian says, "Get me out of here. The guy next to me is an egghead!"

This evil egg says, "See if you can break me before I break you!"

What will your eggs have to say to you? Have fun creating these wise-cracking, egghead comedians!

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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Preschool Activities: Classic Easter Crafts

By Deborah Pace Rowley

I have been spending my spring break cleaning out our attic! It has been fun to discover some long-forgotten treasures from the past, including some classic Easter Crafts. Like this Rainbow Rabbit:
Or this bunny with a cute tissue paper egg.
I especially fell in love with this reversible bunny that doubles as a chick when you flip it over. How cool is that?

Here is the pattern in case you want to make one of your own.

My daughters loved getting new dresses and bonnets for Easter and they loved decorating their homemade paper dolls in fancy Easter clothes too. I simply traced the outline of a girl on a piece of a paper and then set out glue and scraps of fabric, scrapbooking paper, ribbon, and lace as well as googly eyes, crayons, doll hair and whatever else I could find.
My daughters would spend hours gluing on ribbon and lace to get their dolls ready for the big day. I even traced a bunny shape on paper for my son to dress up and he really enjoyed this project as well. Have fun with these Easter crafts from the past! Pin It

Monday, March 25, 2013

Toddler Activities: Painted Easter Egg Cookies

By Deborah Pace Rowley

I posted this painted cookie activity last year. This is my all-time favorite activity for Easter so I thought I would post it again.
I have a confession to make. I am not a fan of dying Easter Eggs. (Does that make me a bad mother?) The real problem is that I don’t like hard-boiled eggs. And eggs that have been died a greenish purple color and have been hidden in the dirt in our backyard are in a category all their own. Sugar cookies on the other hand!! I love this activity any time of year but Easter time is the perfect time to “paint” some egg-shaped sugar cookies.
First, buy some cheap paint brushes. It is best to do this activity with paint brushes that haven’t been used with real paint. Then make or buy some sugar cookie dough. I have included my favorite sugar cookie recipe below if you are looking for a good one. (Thanks Karen!)

Next, roll out the sugar cookie dough and cut it with an egg-shaped cookie cutter. You can just use a knife and create your own oval shapes if you don’t have the correctly shaped cookie cutter. DO NOT COOK THE DOUGH. Set the uncooked cookies on pieces of waxed paper around the table. In the center of the table set out bowls of “paint”. The paint is made with egg whites mixed with a little bit of water. This is to thin the goopy egg whites to a paintable consistency. Then it is dyed with food coloring. I dyed one bowl blue, one green, one orange, one yellow and one red. (The yellow and orange ended up indistinguishable once they were painted on the cookie so I think next time I will try some purple.) Set out some paper towels and some small bowls of water for washing the brushes.
Last, have the kids put on paint shirts or aprons and let the fun begin. IMPORTANT NOTE: Remind your kids not to eat the cookie dough or the egg whites before they are cooked.
Learning about patterns is an important part of readiness for math so I had the big kids paint patterns on their eggs for the little ones to copy. That was such a big hit that soon the little kids wanted to paint patterns for the big kids to copy. After passing our patterns around for a while, we turned the kids loose to create their own artistic creations.
When you have finished painting your cookie eggs, sprinkle the top with sugar. 
Transfer them to an ungreased cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes. With the sprinkling of sugar, the cookies are delicious without any added frosting. You wouldn’t want the frosting to cover up the art! I love how easy it is to put the unfrosted cookies in lunches and to stack and store them for future snacking. Trust me, it is much easier to get rid of all these decorated eggs than it is to find uses for the real hard-boiled ones!

Sugar Cookies
2/3 cup shortening
¾ cup sugar
1 egg
4 Tablespoons milk
½ teaspoon vanilla
2 cups sifted flour
1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt

Blend wet ingredients well then add in dry ingredients. Chill the dough for at least one hour in the fridge or dough will be too soft to work with. Roll out the dough on a surface sprinkled with flour and cut into shapes as desired. Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 8-10 minutes or until the edges are slightly brown.
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Friday, March 22, 2013

Elementary Activities: Easter QR Code Treasure Hunt

By Deborah Pace Rowley

We had such a great response to our Leprechaun QR code treasure hunt for St. Patrick's Day that I knew that I needed to do one for Easter. This treasure hunt is based on my book The Easter Walk.

In the story, a grandfather takes two of his grandchildren on a treasure hunt for the real meaning of Easter. He gives them 6 clues of things they need to find in nature that relate to the Easter story.

Here is a beautiful illustration from the story where Grandpa asks them to find something made of wood. This is to represent the cross that Jesus carried. Tyler and Amy find a birdhouse made of wood to show Grandpa. The gorgeous illustrations were drawn by the talented artist Dan Burr. He has illustrated several of my books and I absolutely LOVE his work.

I have taken the idea in this picture book and adapted it to QR codes. Each of the six clue QR codes lead to a picture like the one below that tells your children what they should run and find.

I thought it would be fun to put the QR codes in eggs so that the kids would have to open each egg to retrieve the QR code.

Once they have scanned the QR code with a smart phone or tablet, they can run outside to retrieve the item. (*Note:  If you don't have a QR code reader on your smart phone, it is easy to download a free app that can read QR codes. I use Qrafter Pro but there are lots of good choices out there.) 

After they have found the item on the clue, the next QR code they would scan is the reward that goes with that clue. For Clue #1 the Reward QR code leads to this picture of the crown of thorns and a scripture that tells this part of the Easter story from the Bible. 

Here Anniston is holding the QR code for Clue #6.

It leads to this picture that tells her to find something alive. 

Then Reward Code #6 leads to this beautiful picture of the Resurrected Savior appearing to Mary Magdalene outside the open tomb. 

I hope that this treasure hunt will provide a unique way for you to tell the Easter Story to your children and share your faith in Jesus Christ. I have included all the QR codes below. 

Easter QR Code Treasure Hunt

The document below includes just the Treasure Hunt Clues without QR codes if you want to take an Easter Walk without a smart phone.

Easter Treasure Hunt Clues without QR Codes

Also, if you would like to order my book Easter Walk you can do that here.
Here's wishing you a meaningful, simple and peaceful Easter. Pin It

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Parenting Tips: Scaling Back the Holiday Madness

By Deborah Pace Rowley
Even though we have been known to jump on the holiday bandwagon here at Puddle Wonderful Learning, I couldn't help but repost this excellent article by Kristen Howerton at the Huffington Post. I couldn't agree more with what Kristen has to say. It is a great reminder to keep our holiday celebrations simple, cheap, easy and fun for everyone concerned, especially Mom! 

By: Kristen Howerton
This past Sunday was St. Patrick's Day, a holiday I had completely forgotten about until my oldest stumbled out of bed and into the living room at about 11:30 p.m. Saturday night while we were watching SNL.  "Can I help you guys hide the gold coins?" he asked. The WHAT?  "The gold coins. I know the leprechauns aren't real. I know it's you, like Santa. So I want to help you. I can make the leprechaun trap, too."
We told him to go to bed and then looked at each other with exasperation. Gold coins? A leprechaun trap? Is he serious?  When I was a kid we celebrated St. Patrick's Day by wearing something green. THE END. I had noticed that over the past few years, our kids were getting some grander ideas from school. But I didn't think that we needed to replicate these experiences at home.
Apparently, the children believed that we did.
All four of them woke up and came into our room like it was Christmas morning.
Did a leprechaun visit?
Can we search for him?
Did he leave a pot of gold?
Let's go find the gold coins!
I bet he left chocolate!
So. Many. Expectations.
All of which were dashed.
I had four seriously disappointed and grumpy kids on my hands. At one point my daughter went into full-blown meltdown mode, kicking random items in her room and yelling about what a LAME HOLIDAY this was.
And in my overly-tired impatient state, I might have yelled back, "YOU'RE RIGHT. This IS a lame holiday. It was never my favorite. All we did was wear green. That's all we're doing today. I'm sorry if you do more at school. That's not what we do here. I don't know where you are hearing this stuff but it's not happening here."
Fellow parents: St. Patrick's Day is supposed to be a "phone-it-in" holiday. Yes, I've turned into a bit of a grinch, but SERIOUSLY WITH THE HOLIDAY OVERKILL. It used to be Christmas was the main event, but now it's as if every holiday must be at a Level 10. And if Christmas wasn't already hard enough as a parent, someone also decided that we have to move an Elf around every day, into creative tableaus? And then someone else decided that the Advent Calendar was A Thing beyond a simple religious observation and now involves some kind of gift each day leading up to Christmas?
And about a month after having survived that whole mess, we've got Valentine's Day, which has became The New Halloween, because God forbid you send a simple store-bought card. You'd better include some candy or your child will be shunned. Shunned! One of my kids came home with not just a candy from each class, but a WHOLE FREAKING GOODIE BAG from each student.

And then, I think I've got a break for a month BUT NO. Surprise! We've got 100 Days of School to celebrate. And by "celebrate" I mean the kids sticking 100 things on a hat. And by "the kids" I mean me.

And suddenly Pi Day is a thing? My children expect to be served pie because someone at school told them so?
And Dr. Seuss's birthday? Sure it's a great event for school, but my kids are now asking what we're doing to celebrate that at home, too.
And do not even get me started on what Easter has become. When I was a kid my mom went to the store and bought us a new dress and a pre-made plastic Easter basket for $8.99.  THE END. There was candy and we loved it. Maybe we would die some eggs from a kit sitting in the check-out lane at Target. They would look like crap.
Now we've got to leave footprints from the Easter Bunny and make artful, Pinterest-worthy eggs with stencils and ikat prints and probably some that are ombre. AIN'T NOBODY GOT TIME FOR THAT.
I don't like the feeling of disappointing my kids. But I refuse to give into this holiday overkill. I'm overwhelmed enough as it is. Today I gave all of my kids a bath. We read with each of them for the recommended 20 minutes. We reviewed our math facts. We practiced guitar. We sat together at the table and ate a meal that was NOT procured at a drive-thru.  We played outside. Most days, I'm struggling to achieve all these things. I can't have these haphazard, once-monthly overblown holidays take over my life.  I can go big for Christmas and Easter. That's all I can handle.
But I can't do this alone. Fellow parents... teachers... sunday school workers... I beseech you. BRING IT DOWN A NOTCH.  Ya'll are setting up expectations that I just can't maintain. Wouldn't we all be just a little happier if we returned to the slacker days of store-bought valentines and kit-dyed eggs and JUST WEARING A GREEN SHIRT AND CALLING IT A DAY?
For the sake of overwhelmed parents like me, I beg you. Stop the madness.

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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Preschool Activities: Letter of the Week {Mm}

By Tiffany Rudd
Snack Ideas:
      * Marshmallow Mix: This S'mores Trail Mix looks super yummy! I might just have to make some for me. :) 
Favorite Books:
      * If You Give a Moose a Muffin by Laura Numeroff

      * The Mitten by Jan Brett
      * Marshmallow by Claire Newberry
      * M&M Paint: I posted about this fun art project last month and my preschoolers are still talking about it! Definitely give this one a try. Click on the photo to read the whole post.
      * Monster Prints: This simple idea from Snails and Puppy Dog Tails is so cute! Even a young preschooler could do and enjoy this one.
      * Marshmallow Creations: I love this idea from Mrs. Karen's Preschool Ideas. All you need are some toothpicks and marshmallows for some super fun 3D art!
      * M&M Sorting, Graphing, & Patterns: As always, Confessions of a Homeschooler has some fantastic resources. This printable M&M Pattern Activity and these super cute M&M puzzles are my favorites!
      * Roll a Monster Game: This activity from Happy Brown House would be a huge hit with my preschooler. It's definitely on my to do list!
      * Click on the photos below to print out your Mm Flash Card and Writing Practice Worksheet.
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Monday, March 18, 2013

Toddler Activities: DIY Cheap & Easy Toddler Train

By Deborah Pace Rowley


Toddlers love trains! In fact, you just might have a train fanatic in your house. I love all the cool Brio style trains and train tables out there. But if you are like me, I could never afford those expensive sets. 
That doesn't mean that you can't provide a train for your toddler to link, unlink, load and pull around the house. This fun DIY train is simple, cheap and easy to make. I started with 5 dollar store plastic soap holders with a top and a bottom. (They were travel set that you could use to take your soap on vacation.)  I added a set of baby links that I also purchased that the dollar store. The ten brightly colored links were also $1. So the total train set cost $6.00. It comes with ten cars once I separated the top and the bottom of each soap dish.  I was so proud of myself for drilling the holes in each side. I even found a drill bit big enough so that the links could fit through the holes. Girl Power! 
Toddlers will simply love loading the train with all their little animals and toys. You could add a pull string by tying some yarn or kite string to the end of the last link and your toddler could pull the train around the house. For older toddlers and preschoolers you could make this train educational as well. 
In the picture below, you can see that I added a colored square to the bottom of each car and Brooklyn tried to find an animal that matched each color. 
Here Brooklyn tried to put the correct number of raisins in each car. You could have your child load the cars with pretzel stick "logs" or gold fish or cereal or anything you have on hand.
Here I added an alphabet letter to the bottom of each car and Brooklyn is trying to find something to put in each car that starts with each letter. There are so many fun variations for playing with this toddler train. You could put one letter from your child's name in the bottom of each car and have your child rearrange the cars to spell his or her name correctly. You could put beginning sight words in each car and your child could link them up to make a sentence.
All aboard for lots of fun! Pin It
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