Friday, October 10, 2014

Children's Jack-O-Lantern Painting

With baby #2 on the way, I have had virtually no energy to do anything once I get home from a long day of work. Poor Claire has been a trooper when I explain to her that mommy needs to lay down a little and watch her play, or must her chicken nuggets yet again for dinner because I have no energy to cook! Now that I am starting to feel a little (and I mean a little) less exhausted, I finally broke down and bought her the art supply she's been requesting for longer than I care to admit (the thought of setting up, taking down and the potential mess were all just too much for this preggo to handle in the first trimester)...paint! 2 packs of watercolors, 1 set of finger paints, brushes, a Mickey Mouse poster paint kit, paper, and one, giant, drop cloth later, and we were on our way!

Once we arrived home, it was on! I grabbed an old shirt of mine for Claire to use as a smock, covered everything within a 3-mile radius in a drop cloth and let her go to town. After finishing her Halloween-themed, Mickey Mouse posters, she used the leftover paint to decorate a white, baby pumpkin we had recently purchased. A word to the wise...teaching a toddler that she must wait for paint to dry before touching and playing with the completed 
projects WILL result in multiple meltdowns. The sooner you accept it, the easier it becomes!

Finger painting was our final endeavor of the evening. We worked on mixing colors to make other colors and used the orange we created to spread and play with the paint. I helped Claire use her fingers to trace jack-o-lantern eyes, nose, and a mouth and placed it in a safe place to dry.  The following day, I knew I wanted to use her creations as Halloween decoration and decided to tweak her finger painting a bit to be able to display it proudly year after year.

I used a green, chevron, piece of cardstock I had in my stash and traced a pumpkin shape on the back of it in pencil. Using scissors, I cut out the pumpkin shape. 

Double-sided tape allowed me to adhere the pumpkin cutout to the finger painting, so that the jack-o-lantern face was centered nicely. 

I trimmed the excess paper from the finger painting and cut down the chevron paper to make it fit an 8x10 frame. Once placed in a cute frame, the project was complete!   

I do believe this will be a household staple for every Halloween and Fall for many years to come!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Detachable Olaf Plush

Do you wanna build a snowman??? A question familiar to probably every child in America and beyond, courtesy of Disney's fantastic movie Frozen! And who doesn't love that adorable snowman obsessed with the season that would deduce him to a puddle, as well as constantly getting himself decapitated and impaled throughout his adventures with Anna, Elsa, Kristoff, and Sven! Olaf is a character you can't help but love and my nephew, Derek, is no exception. Check out the stuffed Olaf I created for him. The best part??? He's detachable...just like in the movie! Now Olaf can get into all sorts of pretend play mischief, too!!!

I must note that I am sort of a "cut and wing it" kind of sewer, so there is no specific pattern for you to follow, but I can give you the basic idea as to how you can make an Olaf for yourself! Here goes...


-1 yard white felt
-white thread
-sewing machine
-fabric scissors
-black, orange, and dark brown felt
-Velcro (about 1 ft. total of soft and rough sides)


1. Placing two pieces of felt together, cut out an uneven circle of about 8" in diameter (keep in mind, one of the most endearing things about Olaf is his 
    uneven-ness and whacky ways, so there is no need for precision here). Put both pieces off to the side.

2. Create 2 uneven circles out of white felt approximately 6" in diameter. Place both pieces to the side for later.

3. Create two oval-ish shapes (almost bell shaped) approximately 8"x6" (at its widest point). Refer to the pictures below to get an idea of the shape. 
    Place to the side with the others

4. Using white felt, cut out a rouded rectangle for teeth,  two-2" circlesr eyes, and 2-2x4" rounded rectangles for feet.

5. Using black felt, create three uneven circles approximately 4" in diameter for buttons, two circles about 1" in diameter for the eyes, and one mouth, approximately 4x6" at its largest point (refer to picture)

6. Using dark brown felt, cut out 3-4, 3" long strips for Olaf's hair, two, long, triangular pieces for his eyebrows, and two arms about 6" in length.

7. Take one of the white felt pieces that will make Olaf's head and pin on the mouth, teeth, nose, and eyes (white and black circles) in the appropriate 

8. Using white thread, handstitch the pieces to the felt

9. Using one of the middle pieces, pin on a black button. Handstitch the button onto the felt.

10. Using one of the large, bottom pieces, pin two black buttons onto the felt and handstitch.

11. Match each of the white pieces felt up so that the eyes, nose, buttons, mouth, etc. are placed in the insides. Pin the hair, arms and legs to each ot the 
      corresponding pieces and place the remaining material into the middle of the white felt so that no parts of the hair, arms, or legs are sticking out. Pin 
      matching pieces together (should be a total of three).

12. Sew around each pinned piece, leaving a 2-3 each gap to stuff them. Once sewn, flip rightside out, stuff, and handstitch to close.

13. Handstitch a 3" piece of rough Velcro to the bottom of Olaf's face, a 3" soft piece to the top of Olaf's mid-section, a 3" rough piece to the bottom of the mid-section, and a 3" soft piece to the top of the bottom part of Olaf.

14. Attach Olaf and enjoy the detachable fun!!!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Counting Money Activities

Let's face it...there are TONS of mathematic concepts that we've been taught,  which we can honestly say we have NEVER used in our everyday lives, nor ever use them in the future! I mean, who can say they've ever had to use the Pythagorean theorem or know the square root of anything in their adult lives? I mean this as no offense whatsoever to all of the math teachers in the world and give them tons of credit for all they do. I am simply leading into some activities that I have used for my students to enforce a math concept that will constantly be used in the future...concepts of money! As a teacher of special needs students, these are crucial life skills that will be used their entire lives and are far more beneficial to this population than exponents, angles, and other, more abstract concepts. Here are some activities to use at home or in a classroom for students of varying ability levels to teach concepts of money...

Practice sorting coins using fake money and small cups
Label envelopes with specific dollar amounts and have students place the correct amount of faux dollar bills in each envelope
Practice combining coins to create the amount written on each envelope (I always include a picture of the item they are "purchasing" to empahsize the fact that money allows us to buy the things we want)

I would loooove to hear ideas you all have for helping your students and children understand concepts of money. Let me know!

Friday, August 8, 2014

Back to School Cash Giveaway!!!


Its back to school time! Are you ready? In case your answer is a resounding "no," you have come to the right place! I'm teaming up with lots of awesome bloggers to give away 3 (that's right...THREE) cash prizes of $200 to help you with your shopping! Simply enter using the Rafflecopter link below for your chance to win! Good luck!!!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Monarch Party

My mother has put her heart and soul into teaching for 35 years, so we knew that, for her retirement party, we had to go big or go home. The theme of the party was easy to come up with, as mom spent the last 10 years of her teaching career raising monarch butterflies to show her students its life cycle and quickly became obsessed with everything monarch.

I wanted the students of her school to be a part of the party, so we were able to have each classroom decorate monarch butterflies of varying shapes and sizes that we used for centerpieces and decorations. The centerpieces were very simple, as we filled Mason jars with green raffia, tied orange ribbon to the top and filled the jar with a few branches. We then cut two small slits in each paper butterfly and attached them to the branches. We then sprinkled other butterflies the students had decorated over each of the tables and used what remained for the walls.

As you can see, we left no butterfly behind and had them EVERYWHERE for the party! Like I said...go big or go home!

We used the stage of the auditorium to display former yearbooks, class pictures, and student work over mom's years of teaching and the screen above for a powerpoint show.

Another big element of the party were stations set up in honor of the other themes that mom had used in her classroom over the years. Each year, her second graders read the book Stone Soup and then brought in ingredients to make it themselves. Each student brought a different ingredient for everyone to enjoy. In homage to this tradition, my sister purchased the adorable bowl below that was decorated by a friend of hers for mom to have as a keepsake.

In addition, we also printed out Stone Soup ingredients and encouraged everyone at the party to chose an ingredient and write down on it what they suggest she should do in her retirement. The pieces will eventually be placed into a scrapbook for mom to keep, along with some of the other souvenirs from her party.
A second station we included gave guests the opportunity to write messages to mom that we would put into her "retirement yearbook," complete with pictures from the Powerpoint show we displayed of mom's teaching career from past to present. The third was a play on the 100th day of school tradition that mom has done for years, in which students place 100 fingerprints onto t-shirts that they wear on (you guessed it!) the 100th day. Each former student in attendance at the party was instructed to place a fingerprint and their name on a t-shirt we had created out of foam board to be proudly displayed for years to come.

My family looooooves the opportunity to use ridiculous props and use them for even more ridiculous photos, so the idea of a photo booth at the party was a no-brainer! My awesomely artistic sister-in-law, Tiffany created a beaver (did I mention my mom was "Mrs. Beaver?"), a bulldog (her school's mascot) and a monarch butterfly out of foam board to use as props!

Photo booth models mom (left) and her sisters Rene (left, center), Rita (right, center) and Julie (right)

A huge congratulations to my amazing mother, who is an incredible educator and human being. She has enriched the lives of many and I know will approach this next chapter of her life with open arms and a tenacity to never stop educating. We love you, mom! Congratulations on your retirement!!!!!