April 28, 2014

Our Favorite Board Games for Preschoolers (and the rest of the family)!

Little Sister just turned 4 years old, and Big Sister is 7. We own a lot of board games and we love to play. I know that a lot of families have a difficult time finding games that are developmentally appropriate for preschoolers, yet interesting enough for the rest of the family to enjoy as well. Here are our recommendations to keep your family game night running smoothly!

Richard Scarry's Busytown Eye Found It! Game

The object: Players work together to get their Busytown characters to Picnic Island before Pig Will and Pig Won't eat all of the picnic food. Along the way, everyone has to work together to find hidden object in the game board.

Why kids like it: Unlike many cooperative games, this one is actually fun! You battle a common enemy (well, not really, but you try to be faster than the hungry pigs!). Everyone gets to search for hidden objects, and the number found is the number of spaces that each player moves. And there is a spinner instead of dice. My kids love spinners.

Why adults like it: It's not a terribly long game, and it IS actually fun, especially trying to find hidden objects before the timer runs out.

Skills used: Teamwork, counting,observation.

Too Many Monkeys

The object: The monkeys are having a slumber party! Each player has a row of 6 cards face down in front of them. To win, you have to draw cards from deck and be the first to have an ordered row of monkeys (numbered 1-6) face up in front of you. Watch out for special cards that can help or hinder you.

Why kids like it: It's a fast-paced game, with lots of special cards (wild card, skip a turn, turn over another player's card, root through the garbage pile for a card, etc.). There is very little skill involved - it's mostly a game of chance, so everyone is on a level playing field.

Why adults like it: Explaining the game the first time is the trickiest part. After that, everyone catches on very quickly (kids and adults). Because the kids have just as good a chance at winning as the adults do, adults don't have to try to lose so they don't beat their kids every time (we've all been there, haven't we?).

Skills used: Counting, number sequencing

Cat in the Hat - I Can Do That! Game

The object: Flip over cards to make sentences with silly actions for you to perform. The person with the most stars on their cards at the end of the game wins!

Why kids like it: The game has very simple instructions, props, and they get to do silly things (and watch their parents do silly things)! Pre-readers will need help to read the actions.

Why adults like it: It's easy to explain, and is short enough to play several rounds before moving on to a new game. This game gets everyone laughing, and the smiles on your kids' faces will be priceless!

Skills used: Motor skills, counting, reading

Spot It!

The object: Spot It! includes instructions for a bunch of quick mini games. There is always one (just one) matching symbol between any two cards in the deck. Depending on the game you play, you either try to get the most or the least number of cards by calling out matching symbols.

Why kids like it: It's fast paced and very easy to learn. In our house, this game elicits lots of shouting and giggles as the kids call out their matches! There are only 3 words on any of the cards (OK, STOP and ART), so it's easy for pre-readers too. Just take a peek through the deck before you play for the first time to show your kids the symbols and give them names (e.g. my kids had never heard of a yin yang before!).

Why adults like it: It's lots of fun, and can be played by a bunch of players. You'll be amazed at how quick your kids can be at finding matches!

Skills used: Observation, matching, counting


The object: Roll the dice and put your coloured pegs on the numbered spaces of the wobbly game board. Try not to topple everything over!

Why kids like it: Kids always like games where things can fall over & make a mess, don't they?

Why adults like it: It's easy to explain, not a long game (have you noticed that is a theme here?), and it's fun to see the kids' faces when the board topples over!

Skills used: Fine motor skills (balancing), counting


The object: Set the timer and put all of the shaped pegs in the appropriate holes before the timer runs out and the board pops, sending the pegs flying!

Why kids like it: Most little kids like shape sorting. Some like the popping, others don't. Little Sister likes to put all of the pegs in, and then turn the timer on, so that she's not surprised by the pop. When I was a child, I liked trying to beat the clock.

Why adults like it: This can be played as an individual or a team game. It's a fun break from a board or a card game, and it's fun to watch your kids jump when the timer pops!

Skills used: Fine motor skills, shape sorting

Magician's Kitchen

The object: Push your magician's apprentice around the board with a magic wand, dropping colored ingredients (marbles) in the matching cauldrons. The first person to get rid of their ingredients and "light" the fire wins! Watch out for hidden spells (magnets under the board) that will make you drop your ingredients!

Why kids like it: Kids like seeing their characters pop the marbles into the cauldrons, and they like the unexpected element of the (magnet) spells.

Why adults like it: This is a cute game, but pretty easy for adults, who can easily remember where the spells are. Remember to shake the board after every game to move the magnets to different spots.

Skills used: Fine motor skills, color matching


The object: It's a memory game with cute penguins and colored eggs! Roll the colored dice and try to find the colors you rolled.The person with the most penguins wins. But watch out, because your opponents can steal your eggs to make their match!

Why kids like it:The penguins and eggs give this game a fun touch. Kids also like stealing eggs from someone who is in the lead!

Why adults like it: It's another easy to explain game that is relatively short. You'll be amazed at your kids' memories (and your lack of it)!

Skills used: Memory, color matching, counting

I hope you enjoy these recommendations for preschool-friendly board games! What are YOUR favorite games?

April 20, 2014

Happy Easter!

Just a quick note from us to say Happy Easter!

We hope you are enjoying the holiday weekend, whatever you choose to do. On Good Friday, we dyed our Easter eggs, and today we went to church and are celebrating Little Sister's 4th birthday (where does the time go?!).

Here she is, helping with our egg dying. She was pretty proud of the results (as was Big Sister, of course).

We used natural dyes to dye our eggs:
  • Blueberries
  • Yellow onion skins
  • Black tea
  • Chili powder mixed with paprika
  • Stems of beet greens
We boiled each ingredient in a separate pot with a splash of vinegar, and strained out anything chunky. The results turned out pretty good! I must confess though, the stems of the beet greens just didn't give us enough colour (next time I'll use beet root), so we added a few drops of red food colouring to make it a stronger shade of pink.

The girls have been enjoying eating boiled eggs for snacks, and I plan on making some egg salad sandwiches tomorrow. It will be a nice treat. I never think to make them, and usually only get to enjoy them at church picnics!

I hope you all have a wonderful Easter!

April 18, 2014

A Very Merry UnBirthday Party

Alice in Wonderland is a great theme for a birthday party, especially if you won't be hosting the party on your child's birthday!

Two years ago, Big Sister requested an UnBirthday party in March, since we'd been on vacation in Florida for her birthday in February. It was fun to make cupcakes for this party, instead of a big cake! There are so many things you can do with this theme: the white rabbit, the cheshire cat, the playing cards, bread and butterflies, flowers, etc.

 I always try my best not to host birthday parties at mealtimes, to cut down on food costs (one of my tips for frugal birthday parties), but we had more than enough finger food to nibble on. We had fruit, small sandwiches, sugar cookies and some candy (mostly for decoration). Of course, things were labelled "Eat Me" and "Drink Me"! We put a bunch of tea pots on the table, and everyone had their own fancy tea cup (purchased for another party from a thrift store several years back).

I made decorations by printing photos and illustrations from different versions of Alice in Wonderland on my computer, and using sticky tack to attach them to the walls on the walls (no tape residue left on my walls!). I also framed some of the photos and placed them on tables where we usually have family photos (notice the Mad Hatter and the Queen of Hearts on the food table?). I also drew and cut out direction arrows from cardstock and taped them to black construction paper to give them some definition.

We also hung some store bought heart garlands from the ceiling (left over from Big Sister's many Valentine's Day birthday parties), alternating with homemade circle garlands made by sewing together circles of scrapbook paper.


I also drew a doorknob similar to the one from in the Disney cartoon of Alice in Wonderland.

For activities, we had a craft table garden, where the kids could play with plasticine and create paint-with-water pictures from Alice in Wonderland. I made the giant flower and mushrooms out of bristol board. It's hard to see in the photo, but there are "bread and butterflies" and "rocking horseflies" on the wall, too!

We also played "Pin the Watch on the White Rabbit" and "Alice Says" (like Simon Says). Between that and the food, the kids were content just to play together, and we didn't feel like we needed any other scheduled activities for a 2 hour party. We didn't have any prizes for games. Each child got to bring home a notebook and pencil as a party favour.

...and of course, we sang the UnBirthday song instead of Happy Birthday!


April 16, 2014

Maple Syrup Candy

It's hard to believe it's the middle of April. 

Despite our rapidly melting snowbanks (they were HUGE - taller than my husband!) and spring jacket temperatures, we woke up to a snow squall this morning. It was discouraging (I don't want to scrape the car again until next year!), but the fresh snow gave us an opportunity to try one last winter activity that I'd been hoping to try with the girls - making maple syrup candy!

I followed the directions here, but forgot that our candy thermometer broke a while ago. We boiled the maple syrup and waited for it to get frothy, scooping up a bit occasionally to see if it was getting thicker. The temperature may not have been 235 F like in the directions, since our maple syrup was more like candy than like taffy, but it tasted great. I was honestly worried that I might lose a tooth though!

I'd like to try molasses candy too. We love molasses around here!

April 14, 2014

Earth Day Cartoon Videos for Kids

While looking up a Berenstain Bears video to link to my last post (More Earth Day Books for Kids), I decided to search and find a few more fun videos that I can show my girls as we prepare for Earth Day. I uncovered some gems! I really love YouTube. :)

Here you go - Earth Day cartoons for you to enjoy with your kids!

The Berenstain Bears Don't Pollute (Anymore)  
Schoolhouse Rock! Save the Ocean

Bouba and Zaza Protect the Earth

The Magic School Bus Goes To Seed

The Lorax 
Betsy's Kindergarten Adventures: Happy Earth Day

And here is an audio story of "The Carrot Seed" by Ruth Krauss.
(click on the link and scroll down. You can listen to the story online)

April 13, 2014

More Earth Day Books for Kids

Earth Day is approaching, so it's time for another installment of Earth Day Books for Kids! Unlike most holidays, which have hundreds of easy-to-find books, it takes a bit more hunting to find appropriate books for Earth Day. Here are a few of our current favourites. Have a look at our previous list here.

 Mother Earth and Her Children: A Quilted Fairy Tale - Sibylle von Olfers

This is a beautiful book that features photos from a stunning quilt. The story follows the preparations that Mother Earth and her children undergo to awaken the world after the slumber of winter, take it through the changes of spring, summer and fall, and put it back to bed just before winter comes. A lovely, whimsical tale, with a lot of detailed illustrations that children love!

Miss Fox's Class Goes Green 

This is a cute story that describes schoolchildren's excitement at "going green", and the simple changes they make to their everyday activities to help the environment. A great introduction to environmental activities for little ones.

Michael Recycle Meets Litterbug Doug - Ellie Bethel

A funny rhyming book about what happens when a caped recycling crusader meets a smelly, grimy litterbug and helps him to clean up his act - and the town! My girls have loved this book since they were very small.

The Curious Garden - Peter Brown

I love the illustrations in this book! The story is lovely too. A little boy becomes the caretaker of a neglected little patch of garden in his grey city. As he nurtures it, the garden grows, and so does the city's love for nature!

Why Should I Recycle? - Jen Green

In my opinion, this isn't one of the most interesting books on recycling, but my daughter loved it in kindergarten last year! It has straightforward questions and answers about the benefits of recycling, and what happens to garbage vs. recycled goods. I guess she likes it so much because they are questions she had as well!

The Berenstain Bears Don't Pollute (Anymore) - Stan and Jan Berenstain

In this story, the bears learn that even though Bear Country seems clean, there is pollution under the surface, and there are a lot of things they can do to help to clean up the earth. There is a Berenstain Bears video with the same name, and although it has a different storyline, it has a good message about taking care of our world. We watched it a few days ago and we all enjoyed it!

Looking for more Earth Day activities? Play this easy Earth Day recycling game for kids, or check out my Earth Day Pinterest board for inspiration. Click here for more Earth Day cartoon videos for kids!

April 9, 2014

Hello again!

So... I used to be a blogger.

I didn't have hundreds of followers, nor did I make any money from my blog, but I liked writing about my life and activities with my daughter, and I grew to have a little circle of blogger friends.

...But then came Baby #2. She came into the world a couple of weeks early, due to complications. After that, life with two children left me feeling exhausted, and I decided to step away from the online world, to focus on being present at home.

It was wonderful, and gradually we all gained more independence and I resumed working part-time from home. Lately I've felt the urge to share some of our fun activities online again, so I decided to exhume this blog. I'm in the progress of updating it and doing some spring cleaning (there are a lot of cobwebs on these pink pajamas!), so please bear with me.

I hope you'll enjoy getting to know our family, and sharing some of our activities and recommendations with yours!



April 2, 2010

Easter activities and song for kids

Hi folks! Sorry I dropped off the face of the earth/blog! Baby prep plus work deadlines have been overwhelming, and I've kind of been ignoring the computer during my downtime (or else I've been napping). I need to find time to write and schedule a few posts so that this blog won't be entirely dormant when the baby arrives and I'm too tired to do anything!

Anyways, the reason for my post is Easter!

We took C to the Stations of the Cross for children at our church today, and although she was a bit wiggly and chatty, she did pretty good! She was one of the youngest kids there, and she even got to hold the cross for a while (which she was thrilled about).

We've been playing a new Easter-themed board game, which she LOVES. It's a memory-type game called The First Easter. You put egg-shaped cards with the Easter story on them face down, then take turns flipping them over to find a match (just like Memory). When you make a match, one card goes into your Easter basket, and one goes on the game board. Once the Board is filled up, you can read the Easter story together. C got the hang of the game really quickly, and asked to play it five times in a row! I bought it for a fantastic price on sale too!

Two printable games I found online have been keeping us busy as well. The first is Easter egg number matching from Confessions of a Homeschooler. It's pretty simple - count the number of dots on half of an egg, and match it with the correct written number.

The other game is the chicks in eggs game from Tired, Need Sleep. You fill up plastic Easter eggs with cards showing either a chick or another animal. Roll a coloured dice (included in the PDF), then open the egg. If you have a chick, roll again; if you have another animal, it's the next person's turn. I may print out a few extra non-chicks - we keep getting beaten badly by C!

As for music... I read about the musician Yancy on the blog Impress Your Kids (now called Oh Amanda) a few weeks ago. I couldn't find her music in my local book and bible store, and tonight I thought to look on eMusic.com - success! She has a fantastic CD of Christian music for preschoolers, and I downloaded Little Praise Party for my daughter, and then clicked over to her website. On her blog, I noticed that she is offering a 5 song download of new preschool songs for $5 - but only for a limited time - until Easter (edited: this has expired now). "The Springtime Song" is definitely worth a listen at this time of year. It's about a child's view of Easter, reminding them about Jesus. Plus, it's very cute and catchy! We don't have much religious kid's music that we listen to regularly, so I thought this might be a way to introduce some to C.

The weather has been VERY unseasonable and beautiful, and we may have our Easter egg hunt outside for the first time I can remember in my life (usually we still have some snow at this time)! We also plan to make hot cross buns again this year - yum!

March 24, 2010

Bloggy inspiration - games and printables

I've been getting a lot of inspiration from other people's blogs lately. There are so many creative ideas out there! Here are a few of my recent favourites (some are spring and Easter themed):
I'm also trying to create a good stash of printable activities to have on hand for when I'm exhausted from the new baby, but want to teach C with some fun new activities (or have someone else teach her while I'm napping!). Here are a few samples:
Feel free to link up your favourites in the comments - I love seeing what's on everyone else's radar!

March 23, 2010

Simple St. Patrick's Day fun

We celebrated St. Patrick's Day a day late this year, but it seemed a shame to let the holiday go by without commemoration!

We listened to Irish and Irish/Newfoundland music all day, and learned about the history of St. Patrick's Day through this cartoon on YouTube (Oh, how I love YouTube).

We ate green snacks: leftover sugar cookies from the freezer, spread with icing and topped with green sprinkles, and green Jell-o later in the day.

We had a colour hunt, which C waned to do again. I think we'll try this another time with a different colour! I hid (in plain sight) a few green items to get her started, and we walked around the house collecting more items and putting them inside a green canvas bag. Afterward, we took an inventory!

Later in the day, we did some very simple artwork using different shades of green.

I hope you all had a fun day!
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