Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Wild West Wanted Posters

Every time I do a Wild West theme, I make wanted posters of the kids. They wear a cowboy hat for the picture and they either smile or make a mad/mean face. Then I come up with a fun name for them. I make the poster using Microsoft Word, change the photo to black and white, and print them on sepia colored paper to make them look old.
You can always add more, like why they are wanted and where they were last seen. And you can make the reward something fun, like candy or hugs. But I always keep it simple.
My first year making these, I played around with them a little, trying to make them look really old and worn. I tried burning the edges and crumpling them up. But I didn't like them that way. It took away from the cuteness of the child's photo. So now I just hang them up normal with the title, Have you seen these Outlaws?
The hardest part about this is coming up with the names. Sometimes I had 24 kids in my class that needed unique cowboy names. (This year I had it easy with seven!) In case you are interested in doing something like this, here is a list of names you can choose from. I use either the child's first or last name, depending on what sounds better. The child's name usually comes last, but sometimes it is first. (In the list below, if it's a last name I only included the first letter.)

Quick-Draw Jackson
Easy-Ridin' Ian
Two-Steppin' Tanner
Mud-Kickin' Max
Lawless Logan
No Heart Noah
Jo Jo Jingles
Wild W...
Crazy Horse C...
Heartless H...
Zeke the Sneak
Boot-Scootin' Brooklynn
Saddlin' Up Sam
Lassoin' Liam
Stink-Eye Elliott
Gallopin' G...
B... the Bandit
Black Jack Justin
Poker Face Ace
Jack Rabbit Jacob
Horseback H...
Do-Si-Do Daniel
Gold-Rushin' R...
Rattlesnake Ryan

I hope that gives you some ideas!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Paper Bag Cowboy Boots

A couple weeks ago we had a Wild West theme. I haven't done this theme in several years and it was fun to get back in the saddle again. (Sorry -- couldn't resist!) One of our projects was making cowboy/cowgirl boots. I got the idea from Momstown Calgary.
We pretty much followed their directions. I found a boot template from a quick google search, enlarged it to fit the paper bag and cut out a bunch of them from different colored construction paper. The kids decorated them with circle and star confetti/sequins.
I also photocopied some spurs that I found in the July/August Teacher Idea Book. Those were glued on around the ankle and decorated as well.

I had actually considered cutting out the bottom of the bags so the kids could wear them, but then I thought they would all get crushed and destroyed as they walked around.
But paper bag boots fit their legs/feet perfectly, so it's definitely an option! I told the kids they could cut the bottoms out when they got home if they wanted to. Still love how they turned out, though!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

July Fourth Party Shakers

I really don't know what to call these things, but this is how we made them. (These are similar to our Pom Poms from last summer with a little added "bling.")
You need contact paper and either construction paper or regular paper. Because we were making ours for Independence Day, I chose red, white and blue construction paper. I also found some star garland at the dollar store, but it isn't necessary.)
Cut some of the paper into 1/4-inch strips, or use a paper shredder if you have one. Save some paper to cut directly in half. And cut the contact paper to be the same width as the regular paper. If using garland, cut that into strips as well. Take off the cover of the contact paper and stick on the strips of paper and garland.

The more you use, the better it will look, in my opinion. But don't fill it up completely. You need to leave some of the contact paper open so it can stick to the half-sheet of paper, which is the next step -- flip the contact paper over and stick it to the paper.
Then you just roll it up and tape it closed!
We took ours on a walk, along with some red, white and blue musical instruments, so it was like a little parade!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Space Activities

I received an e-mail from a wonderful woman who was interested in writing a post for my blog. I've never had a guest blogger before, but when she mentioned her idea for Space activities, I just couldn't resist. Space is one of my most favorite themes. (And her name is also Betsy, so how could I say no?) Betsy is an avid crafter with six years of preschool teaching experience. In her spare time, she teaches horseback riding lessons to children with sensory and learning disabilities. Here are her activities. (NOTE: I did the first one with my class because we had our Space unit last week. The pictures are mine. I used a coloring page of the planets, found here.)
Three Activities to Teach Your Child about the Sun and the Stars
There’s no time like summer to teach your children about the universe they live in.  Because the summer provides more comfortable nights, it makes it easier to get everyone outside for family bonding as well as learning. Here are three great activities you can do this summer that will encourage your children to keep learning and to have fun while being able to show off new knowledge to their friends!
Paper Plate Solar System
With this easy activity your child can make a working replica of the solar system! You will need a paper plate, a brass fastener, a hole punch, 8 strips of white or black construction paper, a glue stick, and either handmade or cutouts of the 8 planets (you can include Pluto, if you want).
For size references, the paper plate is going to be our sun, and the planets will rotate around it.  If you really want to get creative you can include a couple of large moons around specific planets and use an extra circle with fasteners.
Cut the strips of the construction paper so each is one or two inches longer than the one before it. Glue a planet to each of the strips, making sure Mercury is glued to the shortest strip and Neptune is glued to the longest, then stack them in a pile.
Punch a hole in the center of the paper plate as well as the ends of each strip of paper so that all 8 holes align on all of the strips.  Next push the brass fastener through the strips and up through the paper plate leaving space so they can spin and move.

You can customize your sun and planets however you wish, and can repeat this craft for each individual planet to educate your kids about how the solar system works. You can also make a fun game out of it by showing everyone where the planets are at different times of the year and see if each child can create that using their maps. 
This exercise will help them to think about what is visible in the sky, how every planet travels and moves and also helps to work with retaining information. 
Painted Rock Sundial
Long ago our ancient ancestors were faced with the problem of how to tell time. They used the resources around them to invent the sun dial. Having your child recreate this ancient tool is a great way to teach your children about the movements of the earth.
For this activity you’ll need a small tub of play-dough, paintbrushes, and various colors of eco-friendly paint. You will also need 12 medium-sized rocks that you and your kids can gather from the garden, or a local park.  The last piece is a smooth stick about 1 foot long (make sure the stick has already fallen from the tree, we don’t want to damage nature!).
Once you have all your supplies, help your little one paint each stone with the numbers 1-12.  At noon, anchor the stick with a ball of play-dough so it doesn’t fall over, and place the stone with the number 12 at the end of the shadow pointing north (this is also a great chance for your little one to learn how to use a compass). Each hour, place the next stone at the end of the shadow, and by the end of the day you will have a great sun dial!  This fun exercise can lead to many more exercises. 
One could be learning to tell time while on a camping trip.  Another could be creating a schedule out of shapes where they put the shape of the shaded in areas starting at noon (a ¼ circle would be 3pm) to schedule your day or even making a game where your child is the stick in the middle and has to guess who is at which hour.  You could even use math games with the 12 numbers around your sundial. 
Constellation Night Light
There’s no better time to learn about the night sky than during the summer. Bringing this breathless starscape inside at night is easy when you create this great Constellation Night Light out of a used water jug.
To prepare for this craft, you need a battery-operated lantern, an empty water jug with the top cut off, black paint, a paintbrush, a piece of black construction paper, a glue stick, and a hole punch (you can also use a pencil or a stick in place of the hole punch).
Before sunset, have your child paint the sides of the water jug black, leaving the flat end unpainted, and set to dry.  Once the sun has set and the stars have come out, have your child get ready for bed, but remember to pack something like a kid’s bathrobe or thermal pajamas. (Since kids’ robes are usually seasonal, you may want to try a store that offers them year-round like
When the stars come out, find different constellations in the night sky and have your child pick their favorite one. Next, use the hole punch to cut out different constellations in the construction paper with random stars mixed in.  If you have different size punches, you can even do multiple constellations and starscapes.  Now place the cut-out paper on top of the jug with the battery operated lantern inside. 
Now it’s time to crawl into bed and let your child fall asleep with the night sky glowing inside the tent or room.  You can even read a book about the legends behind the constellations to help them drift off to sleep. 

In this day and age it’s so easy to rely on technology instead of connecting with the world around you. Learning about the solar system with your family is a great way to encourage your children to become more aware of their surroundings, learn fun facts and about the tools that Mother Nature has given us to survive without technology. This summer, unplug look up at the sky with your loved ones to create memories and allow your child to learn fun facts about the sky that they will remember forever.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Pretzel Tree Houses

I had a fun idea the other day. I thought the kids would enjoy designing their dream tree houses. I was thinking they could use craft sticks, but they are big and kind of hard to break if smaller pieces are needed. So I brainstormed a little bit and came up with pretzel sticks! We used large white construction paper so there would be plenty of room for their masterpieces. First they drew a branch at the bottom of their paper. Then they used a glue bottle like a pen to "draw" their tree house. And lastly, they put pretzel sticks along their glue lines.

The pretzels were very easy for the kids to break if they needed to. And it gave the tree houses a rustic look. When the glue was dry, or mostly dry, they used markers and crayons to add details to their houses, like furniture or flags or people.

I also used my label maker to print out little signs with their names on them. This is actually what gave me the idea to have them make a tree house. The labels looked like wooden name plates.
So the kids attached the sign somewhere on their tree house. Finally, they glued on some leaves so it would look like it was actually in a tree.
There were some really cool designs! The kids did a great job!
Although it looks like this child didn't want his mom in his tree house, he explained to me that mom was the only girl name he knew how to spell. So it's supposed to mean No Girls Allowed!
But this boy seemed to get it right.
The kids were all so creative and each one looks different.

This was such a fun project!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Gettin' Antsy!

I put up my end-of-school-year display today. I had each of the kids make an ant. I originally cut out a bunch of circles from different colored paper. The kids glued 3 circles together, added legs, antennae and eyes. As they were coming together I thought they looked more like caterpillars.
And then my boss walked in and said, "Ooh! Caterpillars!" So I ended up scratching that idea and coming up with a new one rather quickly. I cut "lemon" shapes and circles out of black construction paper. The kids glued two lemon-shapes together and one circle for the head of the ant. I randomly cut a bunch of small rectangles for legs, without worrying too much about making them all the same. The kids glued six legs on their ant.
I also cut out some longer rectangles for the antennae. We used neon wiggle eyes to add some color to our ants. The kids drew on a smile with a metallic Sharpie.
I hung them in the hall with the title, Gettin' Antsy For Summer. Under each child's ant, I wrote their favorite thing to do in summer.

Check this one out. Her response was to "squish ants" and she actually drew the mouth of her ant wide open, instead of a smile. So I couldn't resist having a little fun with that and I made a thought bubble above the ant's head that said, "Yikes!"
And in case you are wondering, I let the kids take home their "caterpillars" after they drew in some eyes. (I had torn off the wiggle eyes so we could use them on the black ants.) I'm so glad I changed the craft a bit because I love how they turned out! And now I am going to carefully clean my camera lens because I think I see a smudge...

Fun Fact: Ants have two stomachs -- one for themselves and one to feed others.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Peas in a Pod

We made adorable pea pods yesterday to go along with our Vegetable Garden theme! I knew I wanted to have the kids make some sort of pea pod craft, but I didn't know what. So I began looking through my craft drawers to see what I could use for peas. I found these pop beads that the kids sometimes use to brush up on their fine motor skills.
I had plenty of green ones so I decided to use those.
I snipped off the end easily with a scissors. Then I had to find something that could be the pod. These beads are pretty small, so I needed a small pod as well. I found a bag of seashells that I use for my beach unit. Although not perfect, I thought it would be good enough. So first the kids painted the outside of the shell with green paint.
When that dried, they painted the inside of the shell.
When that dried, I used hot glue to attach the beads to the inside of the shell. When the glue was cool, the kids used a thin black Sharpie to make faces on the beads.
They are so cute!
This pod has one pea yawning!
I love it! I tried putting magnets on the back, but all I had were thin self-adhesive ones and they weren't strong enough to hold the shell. I think those thick round ones would have worked. You could hot glue it to the back of the shell. But I just sent the pea pods home as is.
Oh, sweet pea...