My kids are incredibly irritable these days.  I'm sure the constant cold weather is partially to blame; they are so tired of being inside, but with the high hovering around -20C most days, we haven't ventured out much lately.  The usual activities are not capturing their interest (even dancing!), so I've been turning to the one thing that never ceases to engage my tactile kids: sensory play.

This is the final post in my Night Sky series of three.  If you missed the first two, you can read Part 1 and Part 2.  This last post in the series explores some Full Moon Artwork (What Does the Moon see?), I share a free printable for Counting Stars, and we try out Galaxy Play-Dough!  

Now that the days are shorter, my early-to-bed kids are able to see the night sky more often. The moon and the stars have always been a source of beauty and excitement for Yummy.  She never gets tired of racing to the window to wish on stars or to see the moon, whether it is night or day.  With this month's full moon happening this Sunday, I decided that now would be a great time to start a themed unit for the kids to explore the wonder of the night sky.  You can check out your local moon phases at almanac.com

This is the first post in my series of three: here are Part Two (Art Appreciation & Painting with Van Gogh) and Part Three (Full Moon Artwork, FREE Counting Stars printable, & Galaxy PlayDough)

Every August, my cousin, sister-in-law and our kids all get together at our Grandma's place to pick crabapples from her trees and enjoy a potluck lunch all together.  I love this yearly rhythm that has developed and can imagine the warm memories that Yummy is building from this growing tradition.  It surprised me that she had visual memories of putting apples in baskets and following her cousins through the tree rows from last summer (a whole year seems very long for a four-year-old), but she mentioned these things before I did, after I told her we would soon be going to pick apples again.  

I just ordered seeds for my garden and am looking forward to digging in the dirt once the snow all melts away.  Yummy, being a fan of anything Outdoors, is also looking forward to getting out her little watering can and putting some seeds in the ground.  To satisfy our longing for Spring yesterday, we set to work  building our own little garden, using brown play dough and sculpted vegetables.
You Will Need:
  • Sculpey (or Fimo, or a homemade bake-able clay)
  • Acrylic paints & paintbrushes
  • Mod Podge
  • Brown play-dough (I use a recipe for no-cook play dough from The Imagination Tree -so easy!)
  • Optional: little signs made with card-stock and toothpicks to label the vegetables 

Exploring a New Medium: Sculpey / Oven-Bake Clay
I have had a big package of Sculpey in my art cabinet for ages, hoarding it for something wonderful.  Yummy was excited to try out a new material, but quickly found that it is much stiffer to work with than play dough.  I showed her how to warm a small piece up between her hands to make it more workable.  While she was exploring the clay, we talked about the different vegetables we will plant in our garden this year.  I made a list and drew a little picture for Yummy to connect the word to.  

Back In The Hills: 21 easy morning activities for your kids, so you can enjoy your coffee.

I treasure quiet mornings.  I love being awake in a sleeping house, sitting on my puffy couch with a hot cup of coffee and seeing what is new and awesome on Pinterest, basking in sheer silence.  And I don't particularly like talking for an hour or two, if possible.  
Back In The Hills
Since having children (specifically, one that gets up all on her own), those quiet mornings have been shortened, and some days they just don't happen.  Getting up at 6:30am helps, but I can't always drag myself out of bed until 7am, a mere 15 minutes before my eldest emerges.  A while ago, I came across a post on The Imagination Tree about Creating Invitations to Play -this simple idea has greatly enhanced my mornings!  By taking a few minutes in the evening to set something out on Yummy's table, I gain a few more minutes with my coffee and iPad while Yummy explores whatever activity I've set out for her.  Dooter usually sleeps in a little later than his sister, so for now I don't set anything out for him, other than the occasional board book for him to peruse.

Simple Set Up & Clean Up
My mission is to keep it simple.  It shouldn't take me more than five minutes to set something up and it shouldn't require a whole lot of clean up.  I keep a list of ideas tacked inside the art cabinet next to the little table so I don't have to think very hard about what I am doing.   I often put the activity on a cookie sheet so it is easy to bring to the sink for cleaning, if needed, or move out of the way if Dooter shouldn't be stuffing it in his mouth.

Yummy is always excited to race upstairs and see what is waiting for her on her table (no matter how simple the activity is) and I have grown to look forward to setting out a surprise activity for her each morning.  I like the chance to introduce her to a new combination of art materials, or to bring out something she hasn't looked at in a while.  Some of these activities I created beforehand, so they don't take any extra work now to get them out.  

Here's my list of Easy Morning Activities:
*Each photo below contains a longer description, if you click on it.
  1. Paper (magazines, printed paper, newspaper, etc), scissors, glue
  2. Paper doilies & watercolour crayons (water and paintbrushes optional)
  3. Wrapping paper scrap & tape
  4. Stick Puppets from cut-out pictures
  5. Watercolour paint, glue, salt
  6. White paper, white crayon, watercolour paint
  7. Felt stick puppets with felt clothes
  8. Drinking straws & scissors (Nice to work on fine motor skills.  The straws are very satisfying to cut, and sometimes the end sticks together so Yummy can pinch it to make "poppin' sounds"
  9. Glitter glue & paper
  10. Rocks & coloured sharpies
  11. Chalkboard, chalk & wet rag (optional -water and paintbrush)
  12. Chalk, black paper, water bowls (paintbrushes optional)
  13. Dry Erase Pictures (colouring pages or play-dough mats inserted into plastic sleeves)
  14. Colouring pages (crayons/markers) (the page in the photo are from MadeByJoe)
  15. Water Painting sheets from store-bought books
  16. Stickers & sticker Book 
  17. Wipe-clean books with dry-erase markers
  18. Little figurines arranged in a new way
  19. Magnet letters on a cookie sheet
  20. Clothesline, clothespin apron (made by me), little clothes & basket (I tie the string between two chairs, and I cut the clothes out of fabric scraps.  You could also use doll clothes)
  21. Play-dough
    • play-dough mats (the ones in the photo were free printables from SparkleBox
    • various tools (plastic knife, plastic pizza cutter, rolling pin, dough cutter, etc)
    • play-dough stamps (I snagged mine at a thrift shop)
    • cookie cutters
    • natural textures (leaves, dried corn cobs, rocks, grass, sticks, shells, etc)
    • googly eyes & pipe cleaners
    • letter cookie cutters
    • potatoe head pieces
    • feathers and goggly eyes
    • cupcake play-dough (I saw this little box at Dollarama and was inspired to put together a kit with sparkly pink play-dough, muffin cups, candles, and little gems & sequins)
*Of course, know your child and what they are capable of using safely.  Scissors, pins, etc can be dangerous for young children.  Make sure they are always supervised.

**Click a photo for a description!