Sprinkled Animal Letters

That’s the best name I could come up with for this activity.  I need caffeine.  Or a nap.  Maybe both.

 Anyways, this little art sensory activity was lots of fun, and I already had everything on hand that I needed.  Preparation and organization did not make the top five (or twenty) in my skill set. ;)

For this activity all you need is paper, markers, glue, and any small ‘sprinkly’ item.  We used sprinkles and white chocolate chips,  but there are many other things that would work, (rice, dark chocolate chips (yum), dried beans, uncooked pasta, glitter, beads, ect.).

*If you opt to use something as yummy as chocolate be prepared for the majority of it to not make it onto the paper). :)  And this activity is best suited for older children, since the art medium is bound to wind up in a youngin’s mouth.  :)

First, we decide what letter we were going to ‘make’ into an animal.  L chose B for butterfly and brother told me he wanted “Sssssssssss.”  (That is snake in our house). :)  I’m all about the happy faces today.  Apparently I need all the encouragement I can get.

After we drew out our letter/butterfly/snake, we got down to decorating them.

Oh how they love to sprinkle.

And consume large quantities of sugary white chocolate chip goodness.

This made for a great sensory activity, as well as good practice for fine tuning those fine motor skills.  It also took care of snack time.  That is one succesful art project in my book.

Viola!  A butterfly (with scales and all)!  Hair brushing is optional in our house.






September 1, 2011. Art, Education. Leave a comment.

Make It! I’m Not Bored Anymore Art Jar

My daughter received a Land of Nod ”Im Not Bored Anymore Art Jar’ from a sweet friend last Christmas that she uses ALL THE TIME.  You can see it here.  With several of her friends’ birthdays around the corner I thought we would make our own version.


We made a trip to Micheals and gathered a variety of ‘artsy’ things we thought looked like fun.  Yards of ribbon, pink feathers, pom-poms, felt stickers, they all seemed to scream “create with me!”

It is also a great time to stock up on staples like crayons and glue, they are considerably cheaper this time of year. :)

We placed them in this adorable ‘paint can’ gift package, that I also found at Micheals.

We finished it off with some ribbon, a gift tag and a personalized label made from scrapbook paper taped inside (using double-sided tape).  Not only is this gift fun but it is very easy to personalize according to the child’s interests.  And it is something the birthday girl (or boy) can add to as they use up the supplies.  Craft stores always have discounted sections and sales, that you can snag bargains at.


August 30, 2011. Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

More in Depth

Whenever you take a photograph, say of your precious children watching cartoons, there is an area that is in focus (my child), and an area that is out of focus (the pillows behind her).

The area of sharpness in a photograph is the depth-of-field.  The depth-of-field extends in front and behind the subject that you are shooting.  And the amount of area in focus is determined by several factors:

  • The f-stop (this is the aperture setting-the smaller the number, the larger the aperture (or opening that lets in light). Mine goes from 2.8-8.
  • The distance from the subject-up close and personal, to far away and zoomed in.
  • The focal length of the lens.

Changing any one of these factors, changes the depth of field.

Our  in-class photography assignment:

Shooting pictures of a dog toy on a ruler.

These are going to be keepers. :)

In this photograph, I used a wide-angle (I was up close and my lens was ‘zoomed out‘ as far as it could go).  Since it is a wider angle, more of the ruler, in front (and behind) is in focus.  The aperture setting was 3.3, the smaller number, the larger the aperture and the more area of the ruler that is sharp and in focus.

In this next lovely photograph, I was standing across the room, with my camera ‘zoomed in‘ toward the subject (don’t you like my use of highly technical terms here). :)  Notice the dog is still in focus, but the end of the ruler is now blurry.  The longer your lens, the more narrow the area of focus.  I also used a smaller aperture, of 8.0, which allows less light through the lens.

This weeks assignment: practice taking pictures, taking note of the depth of field and how it changes when you change any one of these factors.

  • Change the f-stop
  • Try out different distances from the subject-up close and personal to far away and zoomed in.
  • Vary up the focal length of the lens.
Happy shooting!

August 26, 2011. Photography. Leave a comment.

Show me the money-Part Two: Setting up Shop

So learning about money has been a big hit with my oldest.  She’s intrigued.  She’s excited.  And she’s very interested.

And when she’s interested in something, she listens (well, listen might be a stretch-she’s more inclined to take what I have to say into consideration). :)

So the other day, we brought out the nickel.  Now the idea that one slightly larger silver coin is worth as much as five brown smaller coins is a bit abstract for a four-year old, but since I had her attention I thought I would introduce it anyway.  L manipulated the coins around and we played around with making different amounts.  Like I said, a bit complicated and probably won’t completely register, since she is not developmentally at a place to build those non-concrete relationships in her little 4yr. old mind.  But I wasn’t pushing it, just introducing and talking about it together.  And really we’re still just getting down the names of the coins.  Our grownup world is so confusing…..

Now for the fun part.  I had mentioned in a previous post, that the best way for any child to learn, is through tangible, real-life experiences.  A trip  to the grocery store with (physical) money in hand is a great way to teach your child about money.  Food cost money.  You can exchange money to buy what you need.  Different things cost different amounts of money.  Once you run out of money, you can no longer buy things (at least that’s how it is supposed to work).

But children learn best through play.  Going to the store  might expose them to money, and how it works, but manipulating it themselves, gives them the ability to truly learn and internalize how it works.  Play is essential to building understanding about how the world around them functions.

So we made ourselves a little store.  L and a sweet little friend were in charge of setting up all the goodies they were going to sell.  They also cut out paper pennies and nickels (from an old workbook) and glued them on little signs to show how much each area of items would be.

This was the bargain table.  (I don’t know if you can read that little sign but each item was on special for 4 cents). Now that’s a deal.

Each girl received her own bag of money to ‘spend’ at the store.

And of course they took turns shopping. :)

Quite the spread.

To say that they enjoyed it would be an understatement.  They LOVED counting out their money to one another, and I was amazed at how well they kept track of where each item was from and how much it was.  Amazed.

And the great part about this activity was that it allowed for some real exchanges and dialogue about the money being used (we only used pennies and nickels).  If L didn’t have 10 pennies, but she had a nickel and 5 pennies, she could still buy an item from the .10 cent table.  And watching them work together was quite the treat. :)

Another good life lesson from this fun ‘activity’; once their money was gone, it was gone.  The shopping time had ended (until we put things back, redistributed money and started over), but still the concept was understood in such a clear way - I have only so much money, I have spent all my money, and now I am finished shopping.

The girls had so much fun,they even made little aprons for themselves when they were the ‘workers’.  This is definitely an activity that we will revisit, and expand with a wider variety of currency (I can imagine it will become very exciting when we throw some dollar bills in their little hands). :)

So go and have some ‘shopping’ fun with your little ones, and for an extra special treat-invite a friend.  We had ourselves one fun-filled playdate!

August 25, 2011. Education. Leave a comment.

Fireplace Redo-Phase 1

It only took me a week and a half  to go from this:

To this:

It’s a minor improvement, but I love it nonetheless.

The room feels brighter, lighter, happier.  And it’s a change.  I thrive on change.  And routine.  I’m complex like that (or thoroughly confused). :)

Now for the mantle.   That mirror isn’t doing much for me.  And I don’t think it will do much more for me if I paint it.  That’s where the master plan comes in……..


Sorry, I’m fine tuning it  a bit, but think-stacked stone, built in’s and more creamy white paint.  I’ll get back with the details asap.

And if your curious as to what color we used, it is a very creamy off-white that I had custom matched to our dining chairs a while back, but it is very close to Valspar’s Crisp Linen (it’s just a little more off-white).  I primed everything with a oil-based primer (after a good “sand” down with liquid sander) and then applied two topcoats of a latex enamel.  I have painted several pieces using the enamel paint, and I LOVE it.  It has a nice  smooth, hard finish and I have found that is stretches (and peels) less than a regular ol’ latex.  But be sure to let it cure for several days (if not a week) before you place anything on it.  It seems to take a bit of time to harden (that could also be due to the fact that I put it on way too thick-I have a patience problem).  That is why (if you look closely) I have dish towels under all the things I placed back up there.  I might be impatient, but I did take the time to find white dish towels and place them down first.  That’s progress in my world.  Looking forward to sharing the rest of the plan.  And if you have any ideas for the mirror, I’d love to hear ‘em, maybe there’s still hope for it yet!

August 23, 2011. Home, Inspiration. 1 comment.

Sink or Float

With summer drawing to a close, the kids and I decided we’d fit in as much ‘water fun’ as the day would allow.  This activity was super simple, we just used items from around the house, and it was a big hit with both ages.

First, round-up a bunch of toys/household items that you don’t mind getting wet.  Then let your little scientists make predictions as to what will happen to each item when it’s dropped into a tub of water, sink or float?  I labeled two plastic tubs so that they could sort them into those.

Hmmm……

Then, head on over to your ‘tub’ and let the submerging  (or floating) begin. :)  We used our backyard water-table, but any tub (or sink) would work just fine.  Just be sure you monitor your little ones AT ALL TIMES when playing around containers filled with water.
After the toys proved themselves to be sinkers or floaters (sorry-that sounds a bit wrong), we sorted them back into the correct tubs.  Then let the analysis begin.  ”Were your predictions right?”  ”What caused some items to sink?”  ”To float?”  ”Did anything surprise you?”  You may want to record your child’s original predictions so that they can remember what they had thought each item would do.  Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending how you look at it), my daughter’s memory is a steel trap, so there was no need. :)

August 22, 2011. Education. Leave a comment.

“Did he say to put the camera in the refrigerator?”

“….no, he said to put the snake in the refrigerator-it slows them down which makes for better picture-taking.”

Really excited about this class; it’s going to be great.

As I mentioned yesterday, I had my first photography class experience last night, and thoroughly enjoyed it.  Our teacher is incredibly knowledgeable, helpful, patient and interesting.  The first class was mainly an overview of what we would be covering; but we also kind of jumped around and touched on a lot of topics (that we would be covering more in-depth down the road).  (And if you’re really just interested in the snake story, just scroll down to the bottom).  :)

Probably, the single most informative (and connected) thing we discussed in the class was how to tell your camera more about the picture you’re wanting it to take. Hmmm…..  Apparently our cameras see gray.  It takes all the colors in whatever it is we’re shooting and makes it average out to gray.  So we have to get in there and tell it to show us what we, the photographers, see.

That is where white balance comes in.  You pretty much go in and tell your camera what white is.  This is where I kind of got lost.  So I read a bit more online.  Apparently white balance  is the process of removing color casts from your photographs, so that objects that are white in person, appear white in your photograph (and in your LCD screen).  Our eyes are good at judging what is white, but digital cameras can have some difficulty.  The light source that is being used has a certain color temperature (the coolness of white light or the warmth of incandescent light) and that can affect how the object appears on the camera.  Proper WB takes into account the ‘color temperature’ of a light source .  Knowing how to adjust the white balance in your camera will improve your photographs in a wide range of lighting conditions; if it’s too ‘blue’, you can adjust it to appear how it looks in real life (more warm).  So now comes the part of figuring out how to do that. :)

Your camera should have a white balance setting, you can go through and manually select what is you are dealing with, direct sun, shade, etc. Our teacher used something called a color calibration target.  It looked something like this.  

So, first you take a picture of this in the light you will be shooting in.  Then you take a look at the histogram (more on that below) to see if any of your highlights or shadows are off or ‘clipped’.  If they are, then you adjust the exposure and check again.  Once the correct exposure is achieved, you reference the image with the camera’s white balance function.

I think physically manipulating the camera, specifically the WB function will help me to understand exactly how this works.  Hopefully. :)

If that wasn’t enough for you, here are a few other random things I took from class (I promise next time they won’t be as scattered).

  • First of all, locate your camera’s manual (I am in the process of hunting mine down).  They are specific to your camera (obviously) and can help you navigate around and figure out how to undo something when you accidentally push a button and turn on your cameras backlight setting and goof up the in-class assignment-oops.
  • Lighting is the paintbrush of your photographs, use it to make or break your pictures.  (More on that here).
  • If you are looking for user-friendly photo software, our teacher recommended Corel Paintshop Pro.  It provides a lot of editing options, along with very helpful tutorials.  There is also an open source program called Gimp, which allows you to edit and retouch your photographs, but the support is not quite as user-friendly (it is more in the form of question and answer forums).
  • If you want a lot of control over your picture editing, take them in RAW format files instead of jpeg.  This allows you to go back in during the editing process and change every aspect that occurred while taking your photograph (you can go back and set the WB (white balance) after the photograph has been taken.  (Once, our teacher took outdoor pictures using an indoor light setting, and all the pictures came out with a bluish cast, but he was able to correct it because he shot them using RAW format files).  While searching around online, I also saw that Adobe’s Lightroom software, allows you to go back in and make the same adjustments to jpeg files (which take up a lot less memory space).
  • Did you know that digital cameras cannot capture the range of highlights to shadows as well as your SLR camera can?  Film has a wider dynamic range.  (I’m sure this is so very helpful). :)
  • A UV filter and lens hood are a great investment for you camera.  The lens hood protects against lens flare, which is where light comes in and bounces around causing you to lose contrast and picture quality. Hmmm…..
  • As you’re taking pictures, hit the ‘display’ button on your camera.  One of the things that should pop up is a histogram  that shows you what is going on with the light and exposure of what you are shooting (it is a graphical representation of the amount of light and shadows that are captured).  This will help give you an idea what the camera is ‘seeing’ and how it is reacting to it.
  • On a cloudy or overcast day, go into your camera’s settings and go to ‘picture style’, then from there, increase the saturation.  It will add more color and clarity to your pictures (although he did say it was not good for closeups or portraits, apparently it makes everything more clear).

And then there was our homework for the week, which I would love to pass down to you: playing with the whole white balance thing and also practice shooting pictures in macro mode, (you should be able to find this in the settings menu of your camera, or it appears on your camera in the icon that looks like a flower) that is where the aperture is larger, and less area is in focus.  (Like for shooting flowers or beetles, if you prefer).  In macro mode you have less depth of field.  You can also switch to aperture priority mode and select a larger aperture OR see if your camera has an ISO adjustment.  You can adjust this to make your aperture larger, but it will also increase the noise in your photograph (which is tiny irregular colored pixels across the photograph).

That doesn’t sound to hard, that is, if I can find the macro mode. :)

So, I think that about covers it, oh, except for the snake.  Apparently there are a lot of avid wildlife photographers in our class, and somehow a discussion came up on how to best photograph snakes and large beetles.  __________________________    I was pausing to let you reflect on that for a moment.  Anyhoo, it just so happens, that if you capture one of these majestic creatures, stick it in a tupper -ware container and then proceed to place it in the refrigerator for a short period of time ( I’m sorry to all you detailed oriented people, I didn’t catch the length of time to keep it in there), it will slow it down just enough to allow for some great photographic opportunities.

However, our teacher did give us one word of warning to heed: be sure and let everyone in the household know that there is a snake in the fridge, as this could potentially cause some dissension later on.

Like I said, really excited about this class, looking forward to next week!

August 19, 2011. Photography. 4 comments.

Photography Series

Remember the photography class I had mentioned here  (kind of feels like forever ago)?  Well, it’s starting tonight.  I’m excited, and a little nervous, I mean, it’s been a while since I’ve been in a class.  But I am really looking forward to learning a lot of helpful things when it comes to learning about my camera, and taking beautiful photographs.  And I’m really looking forward to sharing that knowledge right here on the ol’ blog.  (And did I mention I’m taking it with a good friend?  That just raised my excitement level another notch).  Anyways, every Friday, for the next five weeks, I’m going to feature a post sharing what we’ve covered in class that week-I can barely contain myself-which makes me more nervous, a little tense, slightly apprehensive and way rambly, sorry.

So check back here tomorrow morning, hopefully I’ll have something fun and informative worth sharing!

August 18, 2011. Photography. Leave a comment.

Let the creativity flow

L loves to create.  And some days I just let her have at it.  We have a jar filled with odds and ends, stickers, tissue paper, puff balls, popsicle sticks and more.  Occasionally, I’ll pull it out and leave L to her own devices.

Let the mess creativity begin!

 

August 18, 2011. Uncategorized. 1 comment.

Show me the money: Part One

L has been showing a lot of interest in money lately, (it starts so young). :)

“How much is this?”  ”How much do I need to buy that?”  ”Can I have some of your money?”  ”What about daddy?  He has a lot of money.”

And it begins.

So I decided that we could start discovering the world of money, one coin at time.  This activity is more of a counting activity, and also an introduction to the penny, but most of the methods I use when it comes to introducing a new concept to my children is through hands-on, meaningful experiences.  Now this qualifies as hands-on, and counting out objects and physically representing them is a good and developmentally appropriate activity, but it’s just that, an activity (which L seemed to really enjoy by the way).

Children learn best when their experiences are in meaningful, real life situations.  That is why, for the most part, I try to integrate what we are learning into something very real and tangible and ‘everyday’.  (Nothing would help you get the concept of money down as fast as having to go buy your own food at the store for instance, but that might be a little harsh for my four-year old). :)

But as far as activities go, this seemed like a fun place to start.

First, cut out squares numbered 1-10 and have your child order them.

(One more disclaimer: Even though learning the ‘signs’ of the numbers is important (the written numeral 8,9, 10, etc.) they do not bear any actual resemblance to the objects (pennies) being represented.  Although writing numbers has its place, it is more important for children to construct the mental structure of numbers, and once they do this, than they will have no problem assigning the appropriate ‘sign’ to it.  So I don’t encourage pushing writing, ordering or “counting” numbers by rote as first priority, but manipulation of objects to build numerical meaning and understanding).

Then bring out the pennies!  Let your child arrange the appropriate number of pennies under the corresponding number cards.


If you place the cards close enough, it will encourage your child to ‘group’ the pennies together (instead of lining them up) which is helpful for when it comes to ‘seeing’ numbers.  (Three rows of three is a better visual representation of the number nine, than nine pennies strung out in a row).

Happy counting!

August 17, 2011. Education. 2 comments.

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