Sunday, May 12, 2019

Octonauts Themed Birthday Party

Well, our first ever birthday party is in the books! Don't get me wrong; we didn't completely ignore SourPatch's first few birthdays. There were definitely cake and family time involved in all of them, and I think birthday #3 fell on a day I was hosting preschool, so we worked birthday festivities into the activities of the day (that year had the best dragon cake, too! The tutorial is floating around online somewhere...)

Then last year, SourPatch opted for an excursion with a friend over a traditional party. Yet this year... this year it felt like it was time. Patches was excited about a friend party, and I was ready to try to expand my mothering experiences to include hosting said party. His favorite show of the moment is Octonauts, a show of which I approve and an obvious theme for his party.

Here's what I liked about his birthday this year: it gave us an opportunity to work on party-preparations together. For example, we bonded making a pinata of Captain Barnacle's face. I was going to add a link to the tutorial we used, only to find out the site is having troubles. Basically, we cut out two outlines of a polar bear head in cardboard and a two inch strip of cardboard to go in between. We taped it together with packing tape (not too tight, lest the kids couldn't crack it open...) and left an open flap to add candy later. Oh, and I added some sturdy ribbon tied around the inner cardboard strip for hanging.

Next, the wrapping! To give it the appearance of fur--and that classic pinata look--I cut slits 3/4 of the way up two rolls of white streamers acquired from the dollar store. Since I had modge podge on hand, it was my adhesive of choice to brush across the pinata in sections as I wrapped the pre-cut streamer around and around and around, overlapping the strips to leave no brown cardboard peeking through. SourPatch was a great helper here.

Once completely wrapped, I let it dry and cut out a hat, ears, and face from construction paper and card stock. Add an Octonauts emblem to the hat, and voila! The captain.

I'm glad it looked cute and even more glad that the kids universally seemed to enjoy hitting it. Indeed, they kept hitting it even after the candy came out.

My son also enjoyed helping decorate for the party. We added streamer seaweed to the windows.

We also made and hung jellyfish from the ceiling (the tutorial is found here at Little Stars Learning.)

So... activities. I read lots of moms online skip the party games all together and just let the kids play, especially if they have pleasant weather and a big yard. I considered having the party at a nearby park, but the weather was inclement. Further, the point was to try to throw a "real" party, not just a play date, so, consulting with the birthday boy, we tried to think of activities he and his friends would enjoy.

As the kids arrived, we had a bubble machine blowing ambient bubbles on the porch. First thing, they came and played "Pin the Eyepatch on Kwazii" (another creation we threw together with poster board and construction paper, though I believe there's a version you can buy on amazon.)

Then, there were ocean sticker scenes from Oriental Trading Company available for the kids at folding tables to create while waiting for the other kids to arrive. I'd say half the kids chose to do the sticker scenes while the other half played with toys. Works for me!

Once all the children arrived, we unrolled a "treasure map" to three different spots in our home. The first spot had a classic "fishing game." Dad crouched on the other side of a blue blanket, attaching cheap plastic ocean animals to the end of a fishing rod as each child took turns casting it over. The next spot on the map went to these awesome swordfish swords, also from Oriental Trading Company (but sadly now discontinued.) I had them stabbed into a gold, spray-painted cardboard box so they could each pull their sword out King Arthur style. The kids enjoyed playing with them and surprisingly didn't kill each other with them (though one child did obliterate the box... no picture of that one!)

Our last stop on the treasure map led the kids to sand boxes on the porch full of buried gold (plastic) doubloons. After digging their allocated amount of coins, they were free to go and play until pinata time. I, like every other mom on the internet, made "Pesos' Medical Bags" to hold their party swag and pinata candy. Thank you, Misadventures of a First Time Mum for the band aid printable.

As mentioned before, the kids really do love hitting a pinata, especially with their new swordfish sword. Post pinata, we went inside for cake and candles. I made a Kwazii cake on Patch's actual birthday earlier in the week; we rocked cupcakes for the friend party. Now, what to do for food? Looking online, I found that some really beautiful, elaborate, and adorable, ocean-themed spreads. I thought and thought about what to do... and decided to follow one party planner's much simpler suggestion: ice cream bar. Kids love the power to choose their own toppings, she claimed, and she was right. Cake and ice cream? Simple. Though yes, I'm sure I did spoil these kids' lunches...

I really meant to say "no presents necessary" on the invitations and then just didn't... However, it was great to see how excited the kids were to see SourPatch open his presents. I thought kids hated the "open presents" part? I was actually going to skip it. Again, I'm a rookie mom, apparently; this was a highlight for the guests, and though I'll still likely say "no presents" next year, it was fun to see the kids' faces light up with the happiness of giving.

It felt like a win. Yes, we invited more kids than I thought prudent for the age group (and our square footage.) Yes, it was chaotic. Yet the kids seemed to enjoy the activities and company, and SourPatch had a great time, both in the preparations leading up to the party and at the party itself. Victory.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Young Women's Smash Book Activity

Fact: Young Women's is new to me. I mean, yes I attended young women's class as a teenager at church, but this is my first time called to it as an adult. It's a learning curve, but I'm tentatively enjoying the process.

I feel like our last mutual activity was a success, in part do to the wonderful hoarding of goodness knows how many previous presidencies. Our YW closet, it turns out, is a treasure trove of stickers, jewels, and scrap booking do-dads. Add to it some awesome scrap booking paper and wasabi tape one of the counselors inherited from work, plus some dollar store composition books, and we were set. If you have a similar stash of materials available, this might just be the activity for you: we made "smash books," the internet-sensation, journal/scrapbook with no rules and no pressure. I hoped this would be a good prelude to upcoming personal progress activities; after all, so many experiences have a journaling component. It's also a nice start-of-the-year activity, don't you think? Resolving to document your thoughts and adventures of the upcoming year?

Here's hoping. As the girls arrived, we played a few rounds of "This or That?" as a get-to-know you opportunity. I printed the ideas from Amateur Craft Hour and cut each  suggestion into a strip of paper, thrown into a bowl. It was fun to hear which "item" each girl would pick, and hopefully a good bonding experience, too!

Next, I explained we were making "smash books" and showed some online examples to get the girls excited and give ideas of what to do. I then asked why we are commanded to keep a journal or record, and answered it a couple of ways. One, there's this great, short video from President Eyring's talk O Remember, Remember. After watching the video, we passed around and read some of my favorite quotes pulled from the New Era article The Angels May Quote from It by President Spencer W. Kimball. It's a fabulous message.

Now on to the creating! Almost. With all of these crafty supplies on hand, this is also a natural time to write an amazing birthday card, a thank you, or a "we miss you" message to anyone to whom the YW might need to send their appreciation! If the bishop or a member of your ward needs a pick-me-up, it's easy to spend 5 minutes expressing love and appreciation... in every color. And with stickers. In our case, it was the YW president's birthday, so each girl wrote a birthday note and decorated a giant card (poster, really) to leave on her doorstep.

Then, on to their books! With the 2019 youth mutual album playing in the background, we just chatted and decorated. It's nice that these books are open-ended and low pressure. We'll see if the girls bring these journals with them to Young Women's on Sunday; I feel more motivated as a leader to provide handouts when I teach so I can encourage them to glue them in. It was a fun activity.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Shapes Preschool Lesson

Shapes! What a wonderful topic for a preschool lesson, right? I was excited about this one. After browsing the internet for ideas (as I always do), my interest was piqued by the plastic tiles in various shapes used to make mosaic-like pictures. Have you seen them? I thought the idea was great: a fine-motor activity showing how different shapes fit together to form a beautiful picture. I was a little skeptical that they would keep the kids attention, however. Still, reading all the glowing reviews, I took a chance and bought a pattern block set by Learning Resources and some accompanying activity cards.

I had the tiles and cards out while the kids arrived, along with basic wooden blocks and Magformers (your family knows and loves Magformers as much as mine, right?) I was so thrilled; the kids loved the cards. The first thirty minutes of preschool saw five little preschoolers excitedly putting together pattern after pattern (two of the kids preferred blocks and Magformers. Either way, all the children were engaged creating with shapes!) What a great, fine motor activity as well as tactile geometry lesson.

As a few of the kids grew restless with the tiles, we cleaned up and did our usual circle time, reviewing our letter and number of the week. I could tell we needed some large motor movement, so we watched and danced to this "dancing shapes" video. It's not great, but the kids just needed something lively, and it did the job.

After asking the kids to name all the shapes they could think of, I read Shape by Shape by Suse MacDonald. It's a delightful book that slowly builds a dinosaur, well, shape by shape. I have to say, I was a little worried that these kids, many of whom are five, would already know all the typical two-dimensional shapes. I was surprised to find several  needed reminders on the most basic of shapes.

Then, I handed the kids a pile of Q-tips and began reading The Greedy Triangle by Marilyn Burns. As the triangle added more sides and angles in each stage of the book, the children created each new shape with their q-tips. This was a nice, natural way to talk through many of the basic shapes. After the book, we made all the shapes again, this time using our bodies! Again, it showed me how much the kids like being involved and doing large motor activities.

Next, we talked about how shapes are all around us. To demonstrate, we took turns playing "I Spy," shape style. Each child had a chance to say he or she spied a certain shape in the room (usually with the color, too, to make it easier.) The kids enjoyed the game, and it again highlighted how several of the kids could not quite tell different shapes apart and gave us a chance to teach the correct name: "That is actually an oval, not a circle. See how it is more egg shaped and longer across this way than across that way?"

We briefly dipped into the world of three-dimensional shapes with our wooden blocks, identifying some of the more common ones. We played "Which shape is missing?" where three differently shaped blocks were put in front of a child. Then, after covering up the shapes, one was removed, and the kids had to see if they could remember what shape was now missing.

Our last book was Mouse Shapes by Ellen Stoll Walsh. I thought it put a nice cap on the end of our activities. We began the day by using shapes to make predetermined pictures on cards. Now, we read about mice creating their own pictures with shapes and afterwards went to do just that ourselves. I was delighted that the kids really engaged in making their own pictures using various shapes cut out of construction paper. I love open-ended art projects that really allow the kids to create rather than merely copy.

To wrap things up, we did a "snack sort" where they had to sort a medley of crackers, cereal, and chips into groups by shape before eating them. In hindsight I should have found more nutritious options. . . there are whole grain Triscuit crackers, at least!

Thanks for another fun preschool, kids! I'm grateful we have a chance to learn together.