Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Spring Play Dough: An Invitation to Play

*This post contains affiliate links

Play dough is a staple amongst ECE educators.  It's a great tool for imaginary play, exploration, and helps to build-up the fine motor skills needed for writing.  It's also cheap to make.  I often use this no cook recipe from The Imagination Tree. It's what I used in the picture below.  I added yellow food coloring and green glitter  to make it "springy."


The dollar store is a handy resource for cheap exploratory supplies.  If you are like me, and don't go often, Amazon is fantastic too (not to mention it'll be delivered right to your doorstep).  When I go to the dollar store, it takes me forever because I'm hunting for anything I can use for art and sensory activities.  It's amazing what you can find, especially amongst the seasonal items.  And the containers!  So many cute ways to present invitations to play/explore as well as for storing said objects.

For this particular invite, I set out the homemade play dough, sparkly Mini Styrofoam Eggs, silk flowers, and plastic butterflies.  The other play dough tools are all on a low shelf for easy access.

This particular spring themed invitation allows a child to explore concepts of spring: plants/gardening, new life, insects (life cycle), and Easter (if one chooses).  This activity allows for independent play and free exploration of materials.

You may be asking, "what is an invitation to play?" and that would be a great question.  For an awesome tutorial, check out Creating the Invitation to Play on Teach Preschool and Creating Invitations to Play! on The Imagination Tree.  

If you wish to expand this activity through reading, you might try:


Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Color Dripping: Spring Flowers

 *This post contains affiliate links

Recently I purchased some Pipettes because my 4 year old likes to play in water.  I figured, amongst many other things, she could use them for water transfer and creating "potions" outside.  I also know they are great for various art projects and color blending.  While browsing Facebook I came across a beautiful spring art experiment from Fun-a-Day that inspired me to decorate for spring.  So I set to work, which included creating some liquid watercolors.  

While I prefer how vibrant purchased Liquid Watercolors  can be, I didn't have any on hand.  But I did have a bag full of dried markers I'd been collecting.  You can repurpose these old markers by placing their tips in water and allowing them to soak for several hours, or overnight.  Then you can store the created watercolors in small plastic containers.

After creating the watercolors, I cut some coffee filters into flower shapes.  The nice thing about coffee filters is they are thin, so you can cut a number of them at once.  When all was ready, I set out the flowers, watercolors, and pipettes (one for each color) for my preschooler to play with.  I used a plastic box lid to contain the mess as best as possible.  A tray or cookie sheet could also work.  Some kids like to really soak their art work, so keeping it from running all over the place is important for your own sanity.

Pipettes are a great tool for developing fine motor skills.  Toddlers may find squeezing and transferring the liquid difficult.  If this is the case, give them a paint brush.  It'll still create a lovely work of art.

There are several ways you can take this activity.  If you want to teach simple color blending, try using only two colors at a time:

  • yellow+red= orange
  • blue+yellow=green
  • red+blue= purple
If you want to move beyond the basics, try multiple colors.  Some truly beautiful flowers can be created this way.  I explained to my daughter that it's best to mix the colors on the paper, rather then in the containers because otherwise you'll end up with all brown.  Of course, if your child is like mine, they will still test this theory.  I found if you use an ice tray for your colors, rather then giving them the storage containers, you'll waste less, and it can be easily dumped and replenished.  

As much as possible, stand back and allow your child to explore the activity.  It's OK to ask them questions about the colors they are blending but otherwise let them create.  Some may chose to not blend the colors.  That's OK too.  Sometimes the process is more important then the product.  

With Easter around the corner, we also painted some coffee filter Easter eggs.  Once all the flowers and eggs were dry, we hung them in the windows to catch the light and enjoy. 

Here's a list of what you'll need:
  • pipettes or droppers (paint brush for toddlers)
  • coffee filters
  • liquid water colors
  • Scissors (for cutting flower/egg shapes)
Have you used pipettes for color blending before?  Let me know how you did and what you think of this activity.  

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

It's All OK

What can I say? I've been gone awhile. I go through these phases where I want to write, then I don't. I could play the busy mom card, which I am, but really, I get frustrated with my blog.  I don't do web design, so I'm unhappy with my blogs appearance.  I don't know anyone who can help me and since I don't make any money, except a few dollars here and there, I don't want to pay anyone to assist me.  I get frustrated because I see these other blogs that I began with, who have grown tremendously, and here I am the same. I get frustrated because my ideas aren't new, simply regurgitated versions of activities I did as a teacher or that I've seen on other "mommy" blogs a thousand times. I get frustrated because editing pictures takes so....darn....long..... I get frustrated because I'm frustrated.

I decided this is all OK.

See, besides ADHD, I suffer from depression and anxiety.  The depression, in my case, is genetic. The anxiety stems from being abandoned by someone I loved, plus some other things in my past.  They come and go, sometimes hanging around for months, other times peeking out for only a day or two.  It's not the sort of thing I can simply will away by thinking happy thoughts.  But I can accept that this is a part of me.  I can tell myself that it's OK to step back from things less important then my family and my health so I'm not overwhelmed and shut down completely.  Caring for my children and myself is more important then keeping up with my blog.  It often means getting out of the house, into the sunshine so I'm not bogged down by the tired feelings I get at home.

And don't get me wrong.  I have albums and albums of ideas I intended to blog at one time or another. I take loads of photos, everywhere I go, and during almost every activity I provide at home for my children.  But sitting down to edit photos and write tends to be overwhelming.  My mind wanders to other things, or I'm interrupted by my children, or it's simply too late (by the time they go to bed), and my mind has shut down for the evening.  My husband often complains that I'm simply too lazy to write.  That's really not the case at all.  I've been working on this piece for almost a week now and it's been difficult.  I'm forcing myself to get it out, right at this moment, because I need to do it.  I'm not writing this particular piece for anybody, other then myself.  I don't expect my readers to look at it.  I probably won't even post it on my Facebook page.  This is for me because I need to get these thoughts out.  I need to express that I'm not lazy, I'm bogged down by the swirling thoughts in my head and the emotions I feel so strongly each and every day.  I have a gazillion things to do today and if I accomplish one, on top of caring for my kids, I can pat myself on the back.  Each and every task is a baby step: clean off the coffee table, vacuum the downstairs, empty the washer, vacuum upstairs, clean at least 1 of the 3 bathrooms in the house, feed the dogs and cats, cook dinner, provide art/sensory activities for my kiddos, etc.  The list each day is long.  I don't mind cleaning and such; I'm happy and privileged to be home with my kids to care for them and the house.  But sometimes the amount that needs to be done becomes too much.

But that's OK.  It's OK that I need to sit and put my thoughts in order.  It's OK if I don't complete my list each day.  It's OK if I only post on my blog twice a year because I've decided that other things in my life are more important.

But I also need to make goals; goals outside of the everyday tasks.  Do I want to build my blog back up this year?  Yes.  Do I want to go back to work and then school when my youngest starts TK?  Yes. Do I want to have enough extra income to pay a housekeeper to come and help me at least once a month?  Absolutely!  Do I want someone to help me with my blogs appearance, even if I have to pay them?  Yes.  These are my goals.  So where do I start?  I start with the simplest, building my blog back up to where it was 5 years ago.  Back then it was growing.  I was starting to make a little money from it.  I was getting product reviews.  I was reaching people.  This is where I start.  Do I have a goal for posts each week.  No.  I'm not sure I can handle that yet.  Maybe I make it small.  One post every two weeks.  That seems reasonable.  Maybe I expand past my normal postings.  Instead of only posting activities you do at home or school, I open up to places we visit.  My kids and I love to hike and explore.  Since moving to the bay area, we've discovered some cool places.  This gives me more to write about beyond staging sensory and art activities for my smallest child.

Ok, I have to stop there.  Sometimes even excitement at what something could be can be overwhelming.

So here I am.  Laying this out for myself and anyone else who understands what it's like.  Or maybe you don't understand and this helps.  It's OK if you don't understand; being inside the head of someone like me is difficult to explain.  Just don't assume people like me are lazy.  I mean, of course there are times I am lazy, and I'll admit it.  But most of the time that isn't the case.  Most of the time I'm simply frustrated and overwhelmed because I'm unable to sort through the mess that is my mind.  I'm sure that's the case with many of the people like me who live with ADHD, anxiety and depression.

If I don't post for while, well, that OK, because I'm spending time with my kids or cleaning house, but probably spending time with my kids, because even this blog started because of them.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Fun with ChalkOla Chalk Markers

This is a product review.  I received two sets of ChalkOla Premium Wet Wipe Markers for free: one set of 10 Party Colors Bullet Tip (6 MM), and one set of 8 Jumbo Tip (15 MM) Platinum Series.  While I received these markers for free, this is an honest review of the product, which my children and I truly enjoyed.  This post contains product links and discount codes. 

I spotted ChalkOla Chalk Markers  back in December on Amazon while searching art supplies for my 3 year old.  They looked cool, but not what I wanted at the time.  I added them to my wish list, hoping someone else would pick them up for her for Christmas.  Lucky me, I was recently contacted by a representative that asked if I wanted to try them in exchange for a review if I liked them.  Who am I to pass up trying new things?

We were so excited when the package arrived.  My daughter wanted to try them out right away but I had to have time to prime them first.  This is the one downside with this sort of marker is the prep work before hand.  Each jumbo-tipped (15 MM) Chalk Marker takes about 2 minutes to prime before the ink begins to flow.  I found that it helped to do it at the table, one in each hand.  Once the chalk pens were primed, we needed to decide which surface we were going to play with first.  According to the packaging they are best used on:

  • Whiteboards
  • Windows
  • Mirrors
  • Plastics
  • Chalkboards
  • LED Boards
  • All Hard Non Porous Surfaces
I quickly decided the front windows were our first stop.  We have nice, low windows, perfect for kids to watch the rain or wipe their messy fingers.  This time they could create a masterpiece.


I've always wanted window markers and ChalkOla glide easily and the colors are vibrant.  The jumbo-tipped wet wipe markers are perfect for large surfaces.  These would be great for preschool windows as well as business.  They are quick-dry and long lasting, which is great if you plan to use seasonally.


My 3 year old has to turn every art project into a full body experiment.  Luckily for me, ChalkOla chalk pens are child safe, non-toxic, low odor, and water based.

We had no problem washing the chalk ink off her hands and (subsequently) her clothes (in the wash). And speaking of washing, the windows came clean easily as well.  My kids covered the windows in doodles and Chalk Marker (I mean a lot, like a rainbow threw-up on our windows), and in the end, all I needed was a wet cloth and a bit of Windex.  I imagine the average person would need a bit less, probably just Windex and some paper towels.

After I cleaned up their *ahem* art, I decorated for spring.  

"I'm making a giraffe"

Next we played with the ChalkOla Bullet Tip (6 MM) wet wipe markers which, of course, have a smaller head.  These are perfect for:
  • Whiteboards
  • Chalkboards
  • Ceramics
  • Plastics
  • Glass
  • Mirrors
  • All Hard Non Porous Surfaces
While we played with these at our easel, which has both a chalkboard and whiteboard, these vibrant, neon markers would be perfect for crafting and labeling.  In fact, ChalkOla has these really cool Chalkboard Labels which can be used on mason jars, cabinets, or for various craft projects per your imagination.  The nice people at ChalkOla sent me a set but I'm waiting for inspiration to hit before I use them.  I'm terribly disorganized and not much of a labeler so they will probably be used in some sort of craft project.  

Ok, so we had a lot of fun with the ChalkOla Chalk Markers.  It's something I can give my daughter to keep her busy while I cook, either at her easel or on our windows and the mess is minimal compared to paint.  It's possible the Leprechauns will decorate the kids' mirrored closets for St. Patrick's Day. In a preschool setting, teachers could use these for labeling or decorating windows for holidays or seasons.  Moms, these are perfect for crafting and labeling.  I have a few other ideas, but that's for another day, another post :)

If you'd like to purchase ChalkOla Chalk Markers you can receive 20% off from this post with the code below.  UK we have you covered too!

6mm Pens -
UK -

20% Off on Amazon - Coupon Code -> CHALK20A

15mm Markers-
20% Off on Amazon - Coupon Code -> CHK20OFF

Please check out ChalkOla on these Social Media Platforms:
Have you tried ChalkOla wet wipe markers?  Leave me a comment below and tell me what you think!  

Monday, February 8, 2016

Valentine Playdough

*This post contains affiliate links

I love Valentine's Day.  Not because of the candy (but I do love candy!), but because of all the fun things you can do with kids.  There are no shortage of props you can purchase for inexpensive that can enhance any activity.  The dollar store is full of fun items to craft with, add to playdough, or use to create a fun sensory bin.  Valentine activities can be used all month long and is a wonderful way to teach kids about the heart shape and the colors red, pink, and purple (and how you mix those colors).  
Playdough is quite popular in our house.  My youngest (of 3) benefits from 13 year of collecting supplies, cookie cutters, and various tools which she can enjoy with her playdough.  I always have some on hand or am ready to make it, trying different recipes along the way.  

This beautiful, rose colored playdough is a no-cook recipe from The Imagination Tree.  I added some red food coloring (less for pink, more for red), glitter, and rose oil for a complete sensory experience.

As an invitation to play, I put out the playdough, some red faux diamonds, silk roses, foam heart picks, and heart DecoPics (cupcake decoration) . Most of this stuff I purchased at the dollar store.  There were no instructions, no "you must create this..."; just a table full of tools to explore.

When you provide an open play experience, you never know what your child will create.  It's all up to them.

  1. Your favorite Playdough
  2. Various Valentine type/inspired items such as flowers, gems, cupcake decorations, floral decorations, etc  
Don't forget to leave a comment about your experience.  And feel free to share your pictures on my Facebook page!

Friday, February 5, 2016

Simple Scribble Valentines

*This post contains affiliate links

Like many moms, I have an addiction to Pintrest.  And like many moms, I pin what I like, but hardly get around to completing the project.  This is especially true when it comes to holidays.  For instance, have you seen all the adorable Valentines you can make?  Robots from juice boxes, printable Minecraft and Lego Valentines; just about every kind of creative Valentine you can imagine.  One problem I've come across, besides the time issue, is the amount of these creative Valentines one must create to distribute to a class.  I don't know about you, but the average class ratio in California for young school age children, and often preschool too, is 24.  Printables are not the issue here.  It's the adorable Robots and such that are not only time consuming, but can be costly when you account for so many children.  I can spend $5 at Target for a box of the old school paper Valentines, or go to the Dollar store and spend less.  Many parents, even the stay-at-home kind, don't have the energy or time to put in such an effort for such a large class.

That's why Scribble Valentines are perfect, especially for the preschool aged or young school-aged child.  They are incredibly easy,  take very little time to create, and can be upgraded with a treat.  Perfect for busy parents!

I first came across a similar idea on What We Do All Day while searching for last minute Valentine's Day ideas.  You want to start by rolling out some plain white Easel Paper.  It's the kind of paper that comes on a roll so it can be as long as you need it.  I covered my coffee table to make it easier for my son to work.  Then....SCRIBBLE!  You can let your child do it alone, or join them in the fun.  Either way, make sure you cover the chosen amount of paper with scribbles.  We used all different colors but that part is up to you.

Once the paper is covered, you want to fold it for faster cutting.  

Make a heart template for the size you want from construction paper or cardboard (an old cereal box is good).  Then trace the amount of Valentines you desire, fitting them as close together as possible.  After that, cut them out.

Once you have them cut, your child (or you) can write their names wherever you choose.  We did the back because we added...


You don't have to add a treat, but if you choose, you can include pretty much anything.  Chocolate Hearts would be delicious and fun.

  1. Easel Paper Roll (so many uses!)
  2. Crayola Crayons (because really, Crayola is the best and I refuse to use any other.  They did not pay me to say that; it's simply the truth)
  3. Scissors
  4. Lollipops, Chocolate candies, Conversation Hearts, or  Mini Nerds Candy (optional)
I hope you enjoy creating these Valentines as much as we did.  Please leave a comment and feel free to share your pictures on my Messy Kids Facebook Page.


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