Adventures of the Non-Creative Mom

September 25, 2012

Leaves! Leaves! Leaves! by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace

Leaves! Leaves! Leaves! by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace

I don’t know about where you live but the leaves on our trees have started to change colors and that means my 5 year old is asking why.  This book is really neat as it takes you through the four seasons and you follow a boy and his mama as they go out on leaf hunts during each season. They talk about the leaves they find and what is happening as the buds change into leaves, what makes leaves green and eventually why do the leaves change color.

This had my daughter asking to do one of her favorite activities…going on a nature hunt.  This is our second time doing this and she loved it as much as she did the first time.  Instead of painting the egg carton this time my daughter colored each well a different color using crayons and then we headed out.  We were on the hunt to see what we could find in nature that fell into each of the colors and collect a sample to bring back home.

Nature Hunt

Our front yard yielded lots of the colors thanks to our rose bushes.  And our neighbor was doing yard work so we came across lots of leaves on our walk.

I just had to share a picture of the nature hunt dance my daughter also came up with on our walk.

Nature Hunt Dance

We finished up our hunt at the park.  For the second time we had no luck finding anything blue other than the sky. Never realized just how hard it could be to find blue in nature around here.

Once we had all our nature items of course she wanted to do an activity with them.  So the next day we decided to do a collage.


My two year old initially wanted to paint Kai-Lan but of course once he saw glue he had to glue leaves as well.

Gluing Leaves

And the final collage!

Nature Collage

We did a couple other leaf/nature activities with our collection that I will post in the future.  If you are looking for other leaf/nature books we also did a nature hunt back in January and read There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed Some Leaves.

August 23, 2012

Layered Liquids

Filed under: Books,Learning,Science Activities — by dsuzuki @ 10:44 pm
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Have I mentioned how much I love being an Usborne Books & More consultant?  One reason is that I get to try out some amazing books because I really don’t like to sell books I haven’t read and enjoy myself.  Today my soon to be 5 year old and I busted out our new book, Big book of Science things to make and do, for our afternoon activity.  She picked out the Layered Liquids experiment.

First we had a cup full of cold water and food coloring. Note that I didn’t realize we should have been doing this in a separate cup and not the container we were going to be making layers in so after coloring the water we poured it back into the measuring cup.

Layered Liquid Water

Next came the cooking oil.  The directions just say to add 4 TBSP to the jar but I thought it would be fun for my daughter to see what would happen if you add food coloring.  It was neat seeing how it stayed in a little blob like in a lava lamp instead of mixing with the oil.  Even stirring wouldn’t get the food coloring to mix and I had her explain her observations about the difference in behavior of the food coloring in the water and oil.

Layered Liquid Oil

Then we slowly added the water to the jar (pouring it down the side of the jar) and watched as the water sank below the oil.  How cool right?  Thankfully since I’m rusty on all my science knowledge the book had a blurb explaining about the difference in density between oil and water caused the water to sink.  I did have to simplify saying that the water was just heavier even though I know it’s not the most accurate description but oh well.  You can’t really see it too well in the picture but it was also neat to see how the green food coloring we had put in the oil got sucked down into the water layer as well.

Layered Liquid mix

Finally we added some corn syrup to the bottle and watched that sink below the water and created three distinct layers. The green is the corn syrup, the black (it was supposed to be purple) is the water and the yellow is the oil.

layered liquid

After that we just played around with the mixture like stirring it up and watching them separate again.  We also tried adding more food coloring and watched as it slowly sank through the oil into the water layer.

Layered Liquid Play

Not long after this my 2 year old woke up and wanted to play as well.  It didn’t take long for the concoction to be spilled and that was that for this experiment but we had a blast.  Even when daddy came home he was watching the experiment and making suggestions on things to try out.

This is the book we used and you can purchase it through my store if interested.

Big book of science things to make and do

The Usborne Big book of Science things to make and do

July 16, 2012

Sea Shapes by Suse MacDonald & an art project

Filed under: Arts and Crafts,Books,Learning — by dsuzuki @ 10:01 pm
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Sea Shapes by Suse MacDonald
This is a great book for introducing shapes in a fun way.  It takes each shape and transforms it into some fun picture in the sea from dolphins to starfish and many more.  My two year old liked flipping through it and naming all the shapes and trying to name all the creatures that were in the book.

While my two and four year olds were flipping through the pictures again I grabbed a few pieces of construction paper (which I snagged at a back to school sale since we tend to go through them quickly) and started cutting out several of each shape.  Luckily we have this shape sorter so I used each of the blocks to trace each shape since I have no artistic talent whatsoever.  It was a little late to start an art project so I saved them for the next day.

While my son was napping my four year old had a lot of fun using the shapes to make her own sea pictures.  First we used stick glue…


Shapes 2

I somehow missed taking a picture of the final outcome but she used the “leaf” shapes to make the fish’s tail.

Then later we used more of the shapes and some paint to make our own ocean.  I loved watching what she would come up with to create using the shapes and she painted waves, waterfalls and caves.

Painting shapes

Sea Paint

The other fun thing was blending paints together and working on what colors do you have to mix to make new colors.  We used a lot of blues, greens and white to make the ocean and then some yellow and orange for other items.  She amazed me how many of the color blends she’s remembered.

Final shape paint

My daughter had a blast creating fish, divers, water falls, etc. Sea Shapes is definitely a great book to brainstorm about such ideas.


June 17, 2012

Kids Activities in the Bay Area #1: Children’s Creativity Museum

Children's Creativity Museum

As my daughter gets older I’ve been spending more time exploring what kinds of activities and places we can go to keep busy and let her explore the world around here.  One of my latest finds was the Children’s Creativity Museum in San Francisco.  I had never heard of it before but during a lunch out with some co-workers I saw a sign for it and looked it up.  I was excited to see that my local library lets you sign up for one free pass for two people each year(check your library’s website. I’ve found that several of my local libraries offer free passes to a bunch of different places).  So a couple of friends and I took our kids to check it out.

Parking is horrible in the city so we decided to take the Bart train which the kids loved!  I think they would have been happy with just that ride.

Bart Ride

The museum was just a short walk away from the Bart station and on our way in we ran into a festival going on and found out they have these every Friday through out the summer.  There was also this awesome playground.

Yerba Buena Playground

By time we made it off the playground and  into the museum it was lunch time and the museum had this nice patio with both kid sized and adult sized tables to eat at.


Once everyone was fed we started exploring.  First stop was this magnet building area.  My 4 year old daughter loved it!  All the kids had a ton of fun building things and we were there for a long time.

Magnet Building

There were also several “green” rooms that the kids could play on slides or dance in front of cameras and then see themselves on TV.


They also had a bunch of craft stations.  You could make cards or pictures with a bunch of materials laid out among tables, draw on the chalk board or play with some play doh.

CraftsPlay doh

They also had this cool wall where you could play with legos and this huge room with mushroom tables that each had an iPad attached to it.  There was some application that let you draw shapes that would turn into creatures that floated around large screens all over the ceiling.

Lego WalliPad play

We finished off the day riding their giant carousel and then riding the train back home.


We were there from roughly around 11 until 3:30 and only explored maybe half of the museum.  If your kids are a little older there also was an innovation lab where they gave you a bunch of materials and let you create things, a recording studio where you could sing and have them add all sorts of backgrounds to your music video to take home, a Photoshop lab, an animation lab where you could create creatures/things out of play doh and then create animated videos with them and a few more things.  You could probably spend all day there and not get bored.  They even had this “dreaming” area with bean bags to recline on, books to read and neat origami mobiles hanging over head.

If you are in the area I definitely suggest checking this museum out.  I do suggest packing your own lunch as the museum doesn’t have any sort of concession stand.  Fortunately we had brought our own food.

Check back soon for our Chabot Space & Science Museum Tykes Class.

May 13, 2012

Recycling: Treasure Box

Filed under: Arts and Crafts — by dsuzuki @ 10:18 pm
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My husband bought some ginger tea that came in this pretty solid container that I knew was just waiting for an arts and crafts project for my four year old.

Tea Box

I had to do some work but I also needed to keep my daughter occupied so I whipped out this box and glued a piece of construction paper over the label on the box, laid out a bunch of random pieces of things she could use to decorate the box and a bottle of glue.

treasure box

As expected there was heavy glue usage but she had a great time decorating.

Treasure Box 2

And she was very proud of the finished piece.

Final Treasure Box

Once everything dried she was excitedly running around the house picking out her favorite items that she wanted to store in her treasure box.  I found it adorable that the first item was a picture of her cousin aka her “best friend”.

One of the greatest things about this project was a) I didn’t have to buy anything for it. We had the box from the husband’s tea, the tiles, snowflakes, etc were all left over pieces from past projects or Christmas gifts, b) it definitely kept her busy while I got some work done and c) it was something my daughter could actually use.

February 23, 2012

Friday Featured Product

Filed under: Learning,Manual Dexterity,Math,Motor skills — by dsuzuki @ 11:59 pm
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There are only a handful of products I love enough that I really suggest to friends and family so I thought what better way to spread the word than mentioning here.  So for the next few Fridays I am hoping to highlight some of my favorite products for families with kids. Note: I either purchased these items, borrowed or was given them as gifts from families and friends.

Today I wanted to highlight the game Mr. Pencil Saves Doodleburg that came with my daughter’s Leappad.  She got one for Christmas and she cracks me up whenever she tells me what she is playing because she says the name of the game with such gusto.  Sometimes I ask her where she learned something and the answer is “Mr. Pencil saves Doodleburg!!!” with both arms raised up in the air.

She loves this game and I’ve sat down with her a few times to watch her play because she’s always coming up with the most amazing, random comments that she says she’s learned from this game.  It focuses on skills like writing letters, numbers, tracing lines, drawing, colors, etc.  One day I was driving her to school and she tells me “Mommy, you are the left side of the car and I am on the right side.  That means we are sitting diagonal!”  I asked if she learned about diagonals at school and she said no it was from “Mr. Pencil saves Doodleburg!!!”  She’s gone on to mention learning about mixing colors, drawing various shapes and a couple nights ago she even started giving me a lesson about animation.  She, my 19 month old and I were doing some painting on scrap pieces of cardboard and I drew an ocean with fish jumping out of it.  Looking at the picture she tells me “Mommy, you can draw more frames so it looks like the fish are really jumping like in an animation.”  This shocked me because at 4 we have never talked about how cartoons are animated or about different frames that make up an animation.  I thought maybe this was something new that she was learning at school but nope, she shocked me again saying she learned this from Mr. Pencil Saves Doodleburg.

After all of these comments she has been making about what she has learned from this game and what she remembers even after not playing it for awhile has made me a huge fan of the game.  If you have a preschooler or a slightly older child (it’s rated for 4-7 year olds) then I highly suggest trying this game out.  It teaches some wonderful concepts, the letter and shape tracing has really helped my daughter slow down and really focus on what she is writing and things like colors, color mixing, etc really has helped reinforce what she is learning in preschool as well.  Definitely a 5 star game in my book!

February 9, 2012

Skippyjon Jones Color Crazy by Judy Schachner

Filed under: Books — by dsuzuki @ 11:09 pm
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So I have an embarrassing confession to make that exhibits just how clueless and un-observant I can be at times.  Until we received a short book along with our Scholastic book order about Skippyjon Jones and what he can be by reading books I had no clue what these books were about.  A friend who works at Keplers mentioned Judy Schachner was coming to do story time awhile back and I figured “eh, never heard of her.”   Then about a month ago it was bedtime, we had rest our usual three books and my daughter was begging for just one more book.  She brought this one to me  and while I was curious about what this Skippyjon Jones craze was all about I just wanted to put her to bed and go rest myself.

I figured it was short enough so why not read it to her.  So here’s the embarrassing part…I was so tired and rushing to get through it that I took the first sentence “I’m Skippyjon Jones a Chihuahua to my bones!” quite literally and assumed he was a dog.  It wasn’t until we read another Skippyjon Jones book that I realized he was actually a CAT!  My husband laughed at me but come on…those big ears…the mask and he called himself a chihuahua for goodness sake.  Yes, I know still how unobservant can I be?

Ok, but now back to Skippyjon Jones Color Crazy.  My four year old is in love with these books so I had to request all the books my library system had because she kept begging for them.  This one quickly became one of her favorites.  It is about Skippyjon Jones drawing all sorts of things but with his own unique take on their colors.  He colors a pink sky, yellow grass, purple water, etc.  My daughter found this so silly she could not stop laughing and we would talk about what color should the sky really be or how would she like it if the sky were to be pink.  It’s made for a lot of fun bedtime discussions and I have to admit for some interesting pictures in the days following.  She even questions why in one of her games they only let her choose green to color the trees.  She was so put out that she could not color them purple. LOL.

This is definitely a book to check out for those Skippyjon Jones fans and for those kids who like to use their imagination to see the world in new ways.

February 3, 2012

Friday Feature: Melissa and Doug Puzzles

Filed under: Learning — by dsuzuki @ 4:50 am
Tags: , , , ,

There are only a handful of products I love enough that I really suggest to friends and family so I thought what better way to spread the word than mentioning here.  So for the next few Fridays I am hoping to highlight some of my favorite products for families with kids. Note: I either purchased these items, borrowed or was given them as gifts from families and friends.

Today I wanted to high light the Melissa and Doug puzzles and in particular the alphabet and number puzzles.

My daughter received the number puzzle as a gift when she was 2 or 3 and she really enjoyed it.  Especially since when you put the number back in it’s spot it actually talks.  Where it has really amazed me is with my 18 month old.  He absolutely adored this puzzle and was able to count to 10 by around 14 or 15 months and able to put them all in their correct spots.  Now he’s gotten to 11 and 12 and can say some of the higher numbers although he still sometimes gets confused and will say “one one” or “one two”.  My parents were so impressed by how much this puzzle helped that they bought him the alphabet version and my son quickly took to it as well.  He knows most of his alphabet now and I credit that mostly to the sight words dvd and my father working with him playing with these two puzzles.

No matter how many times I put these puzzles away in the toy closet my son always pulls them out to keep them on his table and constantly brings me various letters to tell me what they are.  He also points out various letters on the covers of books I am reading or in the newspaper.  In general I love Melissa and Doug puzzles but if you have to pick just one or two I would definitely suggest these two.

Other featured products:

Sight Words from Preschool Prep

January 10, 2012

Potions Lab

Filed under: Outdoor Activities — by dsuzuki @ 8:00 am
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This winter has been amazingly mild and not much rain in comparison to past winters so the kids were bursting to go outside and play with water (one of their favorite activities).  It was still a tad cold so I decided to make a mini potions lab using some warm water, different containers and food coloring.

The spray bottles were something relatively new to them so of course they went for those first.  Kaitlyn sprayed the water into the empty container and we compared the sound it made hitting the empty container vs when it started to fill up and was hitting water.

That was too slow for both kids so I uncapped the rest of the containers and let them start mixing things up.  I had a recycled Nesquik milk bottle, an empty olive oil plastic bottle, a plastic Snapple drink bottle, a condiment bottle and then gave them a couple funnels, a colander, mixing bowl and plastic eye droppers that my brother and his wife gave Kaitlyn for Christmas.  Both kids quickly got into the spirit of mixing the colors together and I found it funny that Michael kept insisting on trying to put the top of the eye dropper into the water instead of the tip.  Every once in awhile he would squeeze it just right that a jet of water would shoot out and spray someone without him even realizing it.

Kaitlyn initially started off mixing the colors slowly to see how the color would change but eventually it just turned into how fast could she start transferring water from one container to another.

The condiment bottle was another favorite as Kaitlyn found if she squeezed it really hard the water would shoot out really fast.

As always happens all the water ends up mixed together in one container and we were wrapping up the play when Kaitlyn begged to do the volcano experiment again.  Since daddy missed out the last time we did it she called him over and showed him how it worked.

Then the kids got a few more splashes in and off to the bath tub they went since the volcano experiment called for vinegar and both kids had hands that reeked of it.

January 9, 2012

Get Out and Play-Outdoor version of “angry birds”

Filed under: Outdoor Activities — by dsuzuki @ 5:42 am
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Since my parents bought our family an iPad2 for a group Christmas gift Kaitlyn has been hooked on Angry Birds.  I don’t want her to spend too much time on the computer and she loves being outside so I was trying to think of a fun way to bring Angry Birds to her without being in front of a computer screen.  Well, remember those cardboard boxes I mentioned that we had piled up from my online Christmas shopping?  They wouldn’t all fit in the recycling bin so they were piled up outside waiting for the next pick up.  I decided to start stacking them up and placing some of the kids’ foam bowling pins on them and let them have at it.

She loved it and was so excited.  She even got into making her own set ups with the boxes and pins.

My son also really got into it as he started off innocently enough picking up the balls she threw…

Then he decided it was a fun obstacle course…

Then it quickly turned into could Kaitlyn knock down the pins before he disassembled the boxes and ran off with the pins and boxes?

It was so much fun to do and it kept the kids occupied for a long time.  So if you need something to get the kids outside and away from the computer why not give it a try?  I think I’m actually going to miss the cardboard boxes when they are gone.

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