Friday, August 21, 2009

Fairy Houses

We found the book "Fairy Houses" by Tracy Kane at our local library and decided to build one of our own.

This book tells the story of a young girl who vacations on an island off the coast of Maine for a week with her parents. They show her a little spot in the forest where people have been building houses for fairies. Kristen builds her own house and waits for the fairies to arrive...

The back of the book gives lots of great ideas for building your own fairy house in any season of the year. It also gives ideas for allowing creatures other than fairies to benefit from the "fairy houses" -- gathering berries and acorns for birds and squirrels, etc. Nora was instantly inspired and wanted to get right to it, even before breakfast.

Chck out The Crafty Crow's "Fairy Crafts Roundup" for more ideas...

We did break one rule of the fairy house, which was not picking or disturbing any living materials. Nora wanted to pick some flowers to decorate the house. I figured that, since we were in our own backyard, this was okay.
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Nora spent a good hour that morning working on her house (yes, she looks a little eccentric here, since she was still in her pajamas and insisted on wearing her gigantic star-spangled sunglasses). Soren just tried to do everything she did. Bless his little heart.

She built a stick wall, "to protect the fairies from predators." She used a magnolia branch for the roof, and dry grass and clover to line the back of the house. She made a "driveway" out of rocks (do fairies drive?). :) Later that afternoon, I remembered our milkweed plant and brought her some milkweed pods. I showed her how to slice them open lengthwise with her thumbnail, and she thought they would make perfect fairy beds. She tucked them inside the fairy house.
The finished, decorated house:

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Making a Worm House

This was a very popular activity with my daughter and her friends. How can you beat worms for easy-care, quiet pets?! :)

You'll need:

-- a clean, dry 2-liter plastic bottle (just rinse well; don't use soap)
-- an Xacto knife or razor blade to cut the top off the bottle
-- sand, dirt, newspaper for inside worm house
-- trowel for digging up wormy friends
-- plastic wrap to put across top of house
-- veggie scraps or rice cereal powder to feed your worms

Step One: Using your razor blade or Xacto Knife, cut the top rounded part off of your 2-liter bottle:

Step Two: Have your child help you shred up some newspaper. (Don't use any glossy inserts or magazine stuff; just the regular ol' newspaper). Put a couple of inches of newspaper in the bottom of the worm house.

Step Three: Layer sand and dirt, alternately, up to a few inches from the top of your worm house. A couple of inches of dirt, a couple of sand; and so on. I think we had space to do this cycle just 2 times. Somewhere in the middle of this, you can sprinkle a little baby oatmeal or rice cereal powder for the worms to eat; or toss in a few pieces of diced veggie like tomato scraps, a couple potato peels (diced very small) -- something the worms can eat.

Step Four: Find your worms! This may be easiest after a rain. We found one big nightcrawler, which we gave to our friend, and then a bunch of teeny tiny worms. (I read later that nightcrawlers feel the vibrations when you are digging, and they hurry down deeper, which was probably why we only caught that one and no others. You have to be a little fast to catch them! The regular garden worms are easy, though.) My daughter got so into her worms that we actually bought a few more nightcrawlers from a pet shop the next day, so she could see them better.

Step Five: Place a layer of plastic wrap across the top of your worm house and poke a few small holes in it. Keep it in a cool, dark place for up to 10 days. Check on your worms a few times a day, and you will see them dig tunnels, gradually mixng the sand and dirt together. Sometimes they will even slide right alongside the plastic, and you can see their insides. Be sure to put the worm house back in its dark place when you are done (more than a few minutes of light at a time is bad for them). After a week or so, release them into your garden or compost pile, where they will live on happily, keeping your garden healthy.



We learned a lot about worms during our "worm week."

We read the books Diary of a Worm and Bob and Otto. Both very good!

We enjoyed the narrative and videos at The Adventures of Herman the Worm, a great web site for kids from the University of Illinois extension. (We especially were interested in learning about the worms' anatomy -- did you know they have a gizzard, like a chicken does? It's a little organ right behind their mouths and it's filled with teensy rock particles. When a worm ingests food, it can't chew, so the gizzard grinds up the food into smaller particles that the worm is able to digest. One of our worms slithered right along the plastic container and we were able to see its gizzard in action!)

Worms also have five hearts! We learned this on the great web site Wendell the Worm. You can see a little video of a worm's five hearts pumping blood. You can also see a video of a baby worm hatching from a cocoon smaller than a grain of rice. (I had trouble linking to these directl, so you can click on the "All About Earthworms" links to get there.)

Herman's "Worm Facts" are fascinating -- we learned that there are worms in Australia that regularly grow to 12 feet long! The longest worm ever found was in South America, and was 22 feet long! Aaaa! We pulled out the tape measure and tried to imagine worms as long as our whole house!

You can visit Wendell the Worm's cousins, including Larry Leech and Paulette Planaria.

You can eat a "worm snack" if you dare -- a cup of chocolate pudding with a gummy worm stuck inside, and cookie crumbs sprinkled on top. ;)

"Worm Art" -- glue lots of lengths of different colored string on sandpaper.

This link was really fun....have your child click on their state to see worm pictures sent in from kids in that state.

Can your child figure out what's funny about this poem?:

It's such a shock,
I almost screech
When I find a worm
inside my peach!

But then, what really
makes me blue
Is to find a worm
who's bit in two!

-William Cole

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Newspaper Flowers


Below are simple instructions for lovely newspaper-and-button flowers, easy enough for a child to make with just a little help. I saw this craft on the blog Imagination Station.
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Step One: Spread out a couple of thicknesses of newspaper and paint the top layer in a variety of pretty, complementary colors. The more newspaper you paint, the more flowers you can make, so be generous with yourself! Let the paint dry.

Step Two: Unfold a cereal box to use for your templates. Find five round objects to trace (or draw circles freehand if you're good at it) -- you want five circles, each slightly larger than the other. Here are the five we traced:

Step Three: Cut out your cardboard circles and, on the dry, painted newspaper, trace one of each circle for every flower that you want. Cut out your newspaper circles and let your child crumple each one slightly (fun fun). Then, smooth them slightly and layer the five circles, from smallest to largest, one on top of the other.

Step Four: Poke a small hole through the middle of all of the circles. Place one button on your pipe cleaner, right side down, and push it about half an inch down on the pipe cleaner. Then push the pipe cleaner through the five newspaper rounds. Top it off with a final button, right side up. Twist the pipe cleaner so the button won't come off.

(Alternatively, you could punch two small holes in the newspaper so the pipe cleaner goes up through the paper and button, and back down, twisting closed behind the paper.

If you are short on buttons, you can use just the top button, but the "flowers" may slide down on the pipe cleaner stem somewhat.)

Fill a vase with rocks, rice, or marbles and arrange your flowers. Very pretty, and they last a long time!
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Saturday, August 8, 2009

Printmaking, Preschooler-Style

I encountered the idea of printmaking with children on the blog Let's Explore. The prints looked complicated, but after testing the process out, I realized that it is so easy!

All you need is:
-- watercolor paper
-- a slick surface (like the back of a folder or placemat)
-- paintbrushes and washable paint
-- tape
-- Q-tips

The basic idea is that your child paints on the slick surface (we used the back of a vinyl placemat; the paint will wash off easily whenever you want to change colors). Then, she uses a Q-tip to draw a picure in the paint. When a page of watercolor paper is placed on top and then peeled away, her image will be there, in white on the painted paper! Very cool!

(A note on watercolor paper: You do need to use this rather than regular drawing paper, because otherwise the edges of your paper will curl up too much as the paper dries. However, your watercolor paper need not be expensive. A glance-over at Michael's revealed that watercolor paper ranged from $16 a pack to $2.99. Obviously, I went for the $2.99. It served our purposes just fine.)

Just follow our easy steps below....
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1) Tape around the edges of your watercolor paper. This is so that,

no matter how crazy your child may go while painting, you will still end up with a nice clean edge like this:

(I think peeling the tape off at the end may have been Nora's favorite part. Magic!)

2) Set your child up with the painting surface (in our case, the back of a placemat). Have your child fill in the entire area with a layer of paint.

3) Using a Q-tip, let your child draw whatever picture she wants. But, explain that if she wants to make a print, she'll have only a few minutes to draw because the print needs to be made before the paint dries. (We abandoned a few pictures to live out their lives as "mere" paintings, because I didn't want to nag at Nora about the time while she was enjoying her creativity. Paintings that she finished more quickly went into second lives as Prints.)

4) Genly place your watercolor paper atop the placemat. Again, gently, rub the back of the paper, being careful not to let it shift (or your image will blur). Nora wanted to help with this step, but she is three, and simply could not do it without rubbing her image into oblivion. Once this became clear, she was okay with me taking over.

5) Peel up the watercolor paper to reveal your image. COOL!

Then hang them up and enjoy:
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a friendly reminder....


...While assisting your preschooler with an involved craft such as printmaking, do keep a close eye on your toddler, who will probably decide to repaint your house (and his hair, and his teeth) in Pepto-Bismol pink.
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