Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Summer Reading With Activities at the Back of the Book - Day 4: Pencil Eraser Ballet Slippers


I printed a ballerina finger puppet out of Google images for the girls to color...


...to go along with Carolyn Keene's fourth installment of the Nancy Drew and the Clue Crew series - "The Cinderella Ballet Mystery".


Each of the books in the series has instructions for a go-along craft at the back of the book.  In this case, it was for a make-your-own, card stock, ballerina finger puppet.  I liked the craft, and it looked very doable, just a little time consuming. 

With a house inspector to trail today, and a visit to the emergency room, yesterday, with the Man of the House, and his kidney stone, time consuming was not on my list of acceptable concepts.  So, as with the other crafts, and most of what I imagine we'll be doing this summer, we simplified.

Instead of having the girls craft original, card stock and fabric puppets, I had them color (both sides) of the pre-printed puppet I found in Google images.


The girls cut them out, and I helped them to encase them in clear contact paper (to make them sturdier)...


...before cutting out the finger/leg holes.  I couldn't find a razor blade, so I used a hole punch to make small holes, to slip scissors into...


...for cutting the holes to finger size.

Then, we added our own touch, by making quick slits in pencil erasers, so they could slip onto the girls fingers...
...as toe-shoes...
...for their little dancers.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Baby Killdeer and the Day We Learned Richard Feynman was Wrong.


You can know the name of a bird in all the languages of the world, but when you’re finished, you’ll know absolutely nothing whatever about the bird… So let’s look at the bird and see what it’s doing – that’s what counts. I learned very early the difference between knowing the name of something and knowing something.        — Richard Feynman

Except for the cookie spelling game yesterday, we pretty much dropped everything else, to spend the day watching...


...a family of Killdeer in the vacant lot behind our house.  The two adults are old friends of ours.  We've seen them often in the yard this spring, and figured they had a nest nearby - though we hadn't found it.


The four little fuzzballs trailing behind them though, were new to us.



We spent most of the day observing them through binoculars, from in the house, or across the yard.  They're so fuzzy!!!


Occasionally I'd sneak out across the lot, still muddy from last week's rain, trying to snap a close-up or two of the chicks.  It proved next to impossible.  They scatter quickly...


...and hide...


...while their parents put on quite a diversionary show, flopping around on the ground - showing off reddish back feathers, and making a ridiculously loud ruckus, all designed to lure predators away from the chicks, and give them time to hide, or be led to safety by the other parent (Mr. Wizard has a nice little video clip all about it).


If that doesn't work, they get louder (like the shrieking eels of Florin) and start swooping and darting through the air in an extremely menacing manner. I didn't get any pictures of that, but rest assured the children had quite a good show to watch out our window.

When I came in we looked up Killdeer facts from the BioKids, and All About Birds sites (two of our favorites).  They not only have nice, sharp, close-up pictures, but a wealth of fun facts about the birds.  And, as we read, it occurred to me that Dr. Feynman, a fine physicist I'm sure, must not have been a birder, or a linguist.

If he had been, he would have known you don't have to know "the name of a bird in all the languages of the world", because biologist have assigned each bird a Latin name - a name you can know a bird by no matter what country you are from.  And, when it comes to many birds, as with the Killdeer, or Charadrius vociferus, knowing the name - you'll know quite a bit about the bird.



I still love that quote, though.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Cookie Spelling



I happened on bags of letter and number shaped animal-type crackers at the store...


...and decided if we (meaning me) are going to be stress eating this week anyway (we finally closed the sale on our old house, and have put in an offer on a new one - soooo much paperwork), we might as well get a spelling lesson out of it.

So, I sent the children to wash their hands, while I sorted the letter crackers (homemade sugar cookie letters would do just as well) out into a big bowl...


...ready for a Scrabble-style crossword game.  Our rules were pretty lax.

We each started with ten letters.


The first player spelled out a word, on which the other players played, moving around the table in turn...


...drawing new letters from the bowl to replace the ones played.


But, since we were playing with cookies, we added a rule.  If a player was not satisfied with the letters they drew, they had the option to eat one of their letters, and replace it with another from the bowl (only one per turn). 

And, since we were focusing more on spelling than actual game play, we allowed players to peek into the bowl, and choose whatever letters they wanted/needed as they drew them.  I was surprised how much the extra rules revved up the excitement of the game.

We had thought to play until we had used up all the cookies in the bowl, but there were a lot of cookies (maybe one bag would have been enough).

After about a half an hour, D (age 12) spelled "The End"...


 ....and it seemed like a good time to stop, at least until after dinner.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Summer Reading with Activities at the Back of the Book - Day 3: Cardboard Tube Horses




In Carolyn Keene's Pony Problems - volume three of the Nancy Drew and the Clue Crew series, eight year old Nancy and friends set out to solve the mystery of a pony's nightly escape from a local petting zoo.

There are instructions at the back of the book for making a cork and toothpick pony.

As usual, we switched things around a little.  We have corks, but they're on the small side, and part of our science supplies, so we opted for cardboard tubes (which we always seem to have in abundance), and craft sticks.

For each of our horses, we gathered glue, scissors, and tape plus:

* Two empty cardboard tubes
* About a dozen, or so, 10'' pieces of yarn.
* 6 craft sticks
* 2 googly eyes
* and 2 small, brown paper arches (for ears)


We shortened one of the tubes, by cutting off about a quarter of the length.


Then, I sketched quick cutting lines for the girls, centered, on one end of both tubes (for neck slits), and punched a hole, on the opposite end, but the same side, of the longer tube (for the tail).


I also rolled the longer tube over, and sketched out two lines on both ends, for leg slits (keep paging down, and it should begin to make sense).


The girls cut the marked slits...


...and then slipped craft sticks into them (beginning with the legs)...


...taping the open end of the slit shut, to secure the sticks (a little, anyway).


Once they had the four legs in place, and adjusted, so the horses could stand...



...they slipped their last craft stick through the neck slit of the long tube (taping it the same as with the legs)...


...finally slipping the shorter tube onto the other end of the neck stick.


Then, all they had to do was glue on eyes (slightly to the sides on the head)...


...add a mane (by tying the pieces of yarn onto the neck stick, within and below the head area)...




...then, tie on a tail (through the hole in the back)...


...and glue on ears.


For a final touch, they trimmed the manes and tails to make them even, and pulled one piece of yarn forward, to fray out for "bangs".


C (age 8) chose a more whimsical color of yarn, and cut an extra slit at the top of the head, so the neck stick could slide all the way through, changing her horse into a unicorn...


...which didn't quite go along with Carolyn Keene's story line, but pleased C immensely, nonetheless.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Rainy Day Boredom Buster - Paper Towel Templates



We've just emerged from a week so rainy it would make Seattle seem dry.  Naturally, I've been keeping my eye out for easy, and inexpensive boredom busters to ward off cabin fever, while we've all been stuck inside - like this great idea from Maman...je sais pas quoi faire!!!, for coloring in the dotted designs on paper towels.

While I was out at the grocery store this weekend, I made sure to grab a cheap roll of paper towels, with an interesting design.  Of course, then we woke up to a beautiful sunny day today (not that I'm complaining).  It turns out though, that coloring in the little dotted patterns is also a great way to keep hands busy during long, family read-aloud sessions(we should have another book to review, shortly).


Our markers weren't as fine as the ones they used over at Maman...je sais pas quoi faire!!!, so our designs were a little messier, but that was okay...


...because we quickly discovered...


...that if we taped the towels down (to keep them from slipping around) over white paper...


...they turned into fantastic templates for designs on the paper underneath...


...which we thought was pretty nifty.