The Gruffalo

Fabulous book! Did you want more details than that? 🙂 Ed actually discovered The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson when he was TDY in England last year and it quickly became a family favorite.

In it a mouse tries to take a stroll through the deep, dark wood but keeps getting interrupted by animals–a fox, owl, and snake–who invite him home for a meal (with the mouse being the meal).  To get away from each of them, the mouse says he already has plans to eat with an imaginary beast, the gruffalo.  Unfortunately the gruffalo isn’t imaginary and the mouse is his favorite food.  But the clever mouse is able to trick the gruffalo just like he tricked the other animals.

While the premise might sound frightening, the story really isn’t scary.  Donaldson handles it all with such humor.  And the book is very lyrical with a great rhythm to it.  The girls love it and we love doing all the different voices.  (In honor of Donaldson’s homeland and Ed’s trip, I give the mouse a British accent).

We have also really enjoyed the sequel, The Gruffalo’s Child.  It is especially hilarious if you are familiar with the first book because this time the story follows the gruffalo’s child who is afraid of the big, bad mouse.  The fox, owl, and snake all make an appearance again and the mouse uses a different trick this time on the baby gruffalo.

And since we are so obsessed with The Gruffalo we also have the animated movie, which I highly recommend (after you’ve read the book a few hundred times, of course).  Helena Bonham Carter and Robbie Coltrane (Hagrid from Harry Potter) are in it.  It adds on the story but really captures the spirit and uses some of the same repetition in the book.  I really like how you can really tell that the mouse is making up the description of the gruffalo on the spot.

Finally, if your children are like mine and are playing hide’n’seek with imaginary gruffalos, you might want to check out the official website with coloring pages, crafts, recipes, and info about other books by Julia Donaldson.  It’s aptly named www.gruffalo.com.

Egg-stra Easy Egg-tivities

I know it’s a silly title, but I just couldn’t resist.  With Easter fast approaching we had some fun with eggs and the letter E.  And these are really easy activities that you can do with things around the house.  Also, while it’s not listed on here, there is no reason why you need to wait until Easter to hunt for eggs around the house. Have mini-egg hunts without the candy.

Skills: letter recognition, math, visual discrimination, music, arts’n’crafts,
Prep: low

Chick & Egg Craft

The chick popping out of the egg is an oldie but a goodie.  We decorated the eggs with fun foamies–since I wanted it to just be designs and not little animals or pictures this time, I used the Art Deco fun foam pack I found at Walmart. For the chick I actually used a coloring page picture that I printed on cardstock and cut out.  To make it even easier, you could print out the chick on yellow paper.

We were just going to color the chick with marker but then I remembered I had some yellow feathers.  The girls got carried away with gluing on the feathers so then I added googly eyes and a beak.  The beak is made out of an orange pipe cleaner about 2 inches long.  I folded it like a figure eight and then folded it in half.  The girls have loved playing peek-a-boo with them!

Egg template from desmond.imageshack.us
Chick template from activity-sheets.com

The girls also enjoyed this basket of eggs gluing activity you can find here.

Letter E

My plan is to make one of these for every letter.  Today we did Ee and decorated them with eggs, well, Easter eggs to be exact.  We used stickers from Michaels (one of their $1 packs) but you could even cut out your own eggs to glue on.  We also did some other E printables–coloring them, tracing the Es with our fingers, and practicing the sounds it made.

Letter E template
Large sized Ee printable
Tracing Ee’s printable

Edible Nest

I’m not really crafty in the kitchen so I was pretty proud of myself for coming up with this one.  It’s super simple but Mia and Zoe thought it was cute.  I grated carrot for the nest and used grape tomatoes for the eggs (but any round veggie would work).  I included a dollop of Ranch dressing in the center for dipping sauce.  I’m not sure if it was the novelty of it or the thinner pieces, but the girls ate far more carrots today than usual. 🙂

Egg Race

I was trying to get lunch made and the girls were getting cranky.  Then I saw the hard boiled eggs and remembered egg races from picnics–you know when you would race with an egg on a spoon (or maybe just I did that).  Because the girls are little, I used utensils I had for serving pasta that have more of a spoon part to them and of course hard-boiled eggs.  I got the girls all set up and then the went around the house balancing the eggs.  It turned out to be a great exercise for focus and balance–and I got to make lunch in peace.  They even moved on to smaller spoons, although the eggs did end up being  very cracked.  We will definitely be doing this again in the future.  I love it when activities just appear!

File Folder Games

We also played some egg file folder games.  One was cracked eggs where you matched the upper case letter with the lower case letter.  The game is in black and white so I colored the eggs myself to make it prettier and easier for the girls to distinguish the letters so that it was a little less overwhelming.  Older kids could certainly color the eggs themselves.

The other game is practicing visual discrimination.  They match the egg to the corresponding basket.  I liked it because it was a little more complicated.  The girls know their colors but this one had more than one color on each egg/basket.  They really had to look at the whole thing as opposed to just one color.  I used an exacto knife to slice the top of the basket so that the egg could slide into it.

Egg Letters Game
Egg & Baskets Game

Easter Egg Felt Board

This has to be the easiest felt board story to make!  It’s just five eggs.  Of course, you could decorate the eggs more instead of just cutting five eggs out of felt like I did (I had big plans for decorating them and making them look a lot cuter but those seemed to fall by the wayside).  I actually found two felt board stories–one adding the eggs and one taking them away.  I changed the colors just a bit on one so that you could use both together.  On the second one, we actually change the names of the family members to be our names, including the dog.

Hunting For Eggs from workofheart.bravehost.com
Hunting for eggs Under my bed,
I found one in a slipper, And the egg was colored RED!

Hunting for eggs, Now I have two,
I found one in the closet, And the egg was colored BLUE!

Hunting for eggs, What a lucky fellow,
I found one in a bucket, And the egg was colored YELLOW!

Hunting for eggs, Where none could be seen,
I found one in a shoe box, And the egg was colored GREEN!

Hunting for eggs, Quick as a wink,
I found one in the garden, And the egg was colored PINK!

Red and yellow, Green, pink, and blue.
I found five eggs -How about you?

Five Little Easter Eggs from mrsjonesroom.com
FIVE little Easter eggs, Lovely colors wore;
Mother ate the blue one, Then there were FOUR.

FOUR little Easter eggs, Two and two, you see;
Daddy ate the red one, Then there were THREE.

THREE little Easter eggs, Before I knew,
Sister ate the yellow one, Then there were TWO.

TWO little Easter eggs, Oh, what fun!
Brother ate the green one, Then there was ONE.

ONE little Easter egg, See me run!
I ate the last one, And then there was NONE.

Books we read…

We also read books that had an egg in it or featured the letter E a lot (that way the girls could find all the E’s on the title page–not the entire book or we would never finish).

The Odd Egg
by Emily Gravett

 

Celebrating the Easter Story

Here are some of the activities we’ve been doing to celebrate the Easter story.  I have more Easter activities that I will be posting shortly, but I tried to group like activities together.

Painted Crosses

I actually had a different cross craft planned but the Zoe found these when we were at Michaels so we switched gears and painted crosses.  They are only $1 but you could certainly make your own out of wood or cardboard.  And while I know that Jesus did not die on a shimmery pink cross, I think it’s important for the girls to connect with the cross and the sacrifice and salvation it represents.

We used the shimmer paint to give it a little sparkle and while I let the girls pick their colors, I also limited them to just a few choices that wouldn’t look too bad if they were all mixed together.  We also sprayed them with sealant afterwards and will be hanging them on the wall in their bedroom.

Easter Garden

My super awesome sister actually shared this idea with me!  We bought the terra cota base, some soil, grass seeds, and decorative stones at Walmart and used a 2 1/4 inch terra cota pot I bought at Walmart.  Next to the pot lying on its side, I put a rock to build up the hill.  Then we found the twigs to make the crosses.  I tied them together with thread but I’m warning you that was a bit of a pain.  Our’s looked a lot better before the dog got ahold of it and we had to pick the soil off of the grass.  And of course, our grass hasn’t grown yet.  You can actually find a picture of a prettier one here.

The Berenstain Bears and the Easter Story

This is actually my favorite Easter book to read with the girls.  They are really into the Berenstain Bears right now, but, I mean, who doesn’t love the Berenstain Bears?  Jesus dying on the cross can be scary to some children, but what I really like about this one is that it tells the Easter story with all the important parts in a way that the kids can really understand it.  Some of the other stories are too graphic, or leave out important details (we have a book of Bible stories that leaves out the whole ascension into heaven), or they are just a little hokey.

 

Zoo Bingo for Toddlers

We just had a fabulous day at our local zoo, Reid Park Zoo, checking out their brand new elephant exhibit, Expedition Tanzania.  For those of you who live in the area, it’s definitely worth a visit out there.  We loved seeing the baby elephants!  In honor of our visit to the zoo, I wanted to share our zoo bingo game.  It would also make a good matching game for children who aren’t ready for bingo.

I made bingo boards for us using pictures of the animals at our zoo.  While you are welcome to use our boards, I think the game is a lot more fun if you use pictures of the animals at your own zoo.  I got my picture off of our zoo’s website and their Facebook page.  But of course you could even take your own.

I made the board with only nine spaces and the girls only needing to get three in a row to “win.”  Since this was our first bingo game and they are only two I wanted to start small.  I also am starting with only nine animals so that all the animals are on every game board, just in a different position.  I didn’t think we were ready for the frustration of looking for an animal that’s not on their board.  My plan is to make more game boards as they get bigger or board with the game and add in more animals.

For our bingo markers, I just used circles I cut with my scrapbooking tools, but you could also use pennies or just squares of paper.  And I thought it would be cute to have ZOO at the top over the columns, but didn’t do that with mine because we’ve been practicing spelling our names and I knew that Mia would be very disappointed to see all the boards with basically Zoe’s name on them.  But if you don’t have a Zoe (or only have a Zoe) you could put Z-O-O over each column to make it more like Bingo.

To call out the animals, I printed an extra game board and cut out the squares.  Then we draw the animal cards out of the bag.  And of course, I laminated the call out squares and the bingo boards so they’ll last longer.  I also printed them out on cardstock to make them stronger.


So far, we’ve had a lot of fun playing the game and the girls get to practice taking turns and following the rules of the game. We also talk about the animals while we play–where they live, which is bigger, what they might eat, how the mamas take care of the babies. And I like that they can start to see the connection between the words and what they represent.

Here are our animals boards: Zoo Bingo
You can also generate bingo games here; however, for this activity I personally prefer to have real pictures of the animals as opposed to the clipart. And like I said, I like it being the animals that we actually see.

Of course I need to include some pictures from the zoo…

And here are some of our favorite books after a visit to the zoo…

St. Patrick’s Day Fun

With St. Patrick’s Day coming up we spent some time talking about St. Patrick and that saints are people who love God very, very much.  We also used it to do a lot of math and counting activities.  I actually had a few more things planned but my little leprechauns got so into counting their gold that we didn’t get to everything.

Skills: math, counting, fine motor skills,
Supplies: green felt, green posterboard, green yarn, file folder, pennies, ink & paper

Pots of Gold File Folder Game

Little leprechaun pots of gold seemed like a perfect way to practice counting.  This was the first file folder game I’ve made all on my own (well, to be honest, that my husband designed and I put together).  Usually I find others online but I couldn’t find one that I really liked.  We’re focused on counting and not as much the number symbols so instead of matching the leprechauns with the numbers on them, we just counted out pennies for each pot of gold.  For my girls at this age, it probably would have worked even better had I put each pot of gold on separate notecards, instead of the file folder with all of them, since they became a little overwhelmed with all the pennies.  But now I have it ready for next year when it will be easier and they can also match the little number leprechauns.

Apparently Mia became a little leprechaun because she kept grabbing the bowl of pennies and saying “My pot of gold!”  🙂  We ended up getting out two more bowls and practiced counting out pennies into their own bowls and then building towers with the pennies.

Pots of Gold File Folder Game

St. Patrick Action Story

We recently did an action story and the girls really enjoyed it. So I did one today for the girls to learn about St. Patrick. It’s pretty hokey but they had fun doing the motions. The girls loved the snakes so even after the story we spent a long time being snakes and then yelling “Go away snakes.”

St. Patrick lived a long time ago (wave back with your hand) and far away (wave far off) in Ireland. Ireland is across the ocean (make waves with hands) with rolling hills (draw hills with hand). St. Patrick loved (cross hands over chest) God (point up) very much. He loved (cross chest) God (point up) so much that he wanted to tell everyone about God (wave pointed finger like talking to someone). He told everyone in Ireland how much God (point up) loves (cross chest)us (point to self).

St. Patrick loved (cross chest) God (point up) so much that he could do special things. Ireland had lots of snakes (wiggle like a snack and stick out your tongue). The snakes (wiggle) were scary. St. Patrick loved (cross chest) God (point up) so much that God (point up) helped him get rid of the snakes (wiggle). St. Patrick said “Go away snakes!” (shout “Go away snakes!”) and the snakes (wiggle) went away. St. Patrick knew God (point up) could help him do anything.

Shamrock Felt Board Story

I really liked this Shamrock felt board story from preschooleducation.com.  I’ve been trying to get away from the 5 little whatevers for each holiday but I really liked this one because it was a little different.  The girls also really taking the pieces off of the board and this one forced them to take turns.

Five green shamrocks growing outdoors,
(Child’s name) picked one, and that left four.
Four little shamrocks, green as they can be.
(Child’s name) picked one and that left three.
Three little shamrocks playing peek-a-boo.
(Child’s name) picked one and that left two.
Two little shamrocks nodding in the sun.
(Child’s name) picked one, and that left one.
One little shamrock for St. Patrick’s Day fun.
(Child’s name) picked it, and that left none.

Lacing Shamrocks

I just cut out Shamrocks out of green posterboard and then punched holes along the edge for the girls to lace yarn through.  To make it easier I attached a little “needle” made out of a pipe cleaner.  Since we had sewn the mittens before, we experimented a little with different stitches.

Other Printables

Lately Zoe and Mia really like pasting things in place so they really enjoyed the shape and pattern printables I found at First School.  We also coloring some St. Patrick’s Day coloring pages.  Here are the ones we did:

Shamrock hat shape matching
St. Patrick’s Day pattern activity

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