growing up good

mothering, homeschooling, and me

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Tracks: not for the neat freaks.

Tracks is what I call an activity we like to do on a once-in-awhile basis. Why? Because flour is messy. It’s almost glitter messy. However, I’ve found that with the help of a vacuum, this activity is totally worthwhile.

All you need is a cookie sheet or cake pan (or any other receptacle), about 1/2 cup flour, and a couple cars.

That’s it.

Familiar with this activity (though it's been awhile), Elliot dove right in.

Familiar with this activity (though it’s been awhile), Elliot dove right in.

Mary had her own way of playing, SO much neater than her brother, which isn't typical for her.

Mary had her own way of playing, SO much neater than her brother, which isn’t typical for her.

Edison dove right in, as if he's done this this activity a million times before (it was his first)!

Edison dove right in, as if he’s done this this activity a million times before (it was his first)!

All three kids played their own way, it was so neat to see how each one took to this activity.



When I got out the vacuum, Elliot and Mary actually wanted to help me clean up! Woot! I’ll jump at that offer!

When he finished with his cars, he vacuumed the table AND the floor for me! Woo-hoo!

When he finished with his cars, he vacuumed the table AND the floor for me! Woo-hoo!





Future Archaeologist

For Christmas, Elliot got this cute little “gem” kit. We actually made it a week past Christmas before he was beggin’ to open it up.  So one day, while the others were napping, I decided it was a good time for him to do this activity. It’s a little block of sand (?), with a little pick, a brush, and a magnifying glass. I gave him a cake pan and set him at the table to get started!

DSC_0397Each of these kits comes with one “block”. In that block are 2 gems, hidden inside.  The object is to use the little pick and the brush to reveal the gems (rocks) inside. Elliot got right to work at chipping away the sand (which is more like a fine dust).  Surprisingly, he was very gentle, and quickly became absorbed in the activity.


He was excited when the gems started to peek out! He got out the brush and gently started sweeping away the dust.

DSC_0419And he wanted a better look at the gem, so he got out the magnifying glass.


He was excited to find both gems (errr…rocks), and get them cleaned up. He then looked up which rocks he found according to the key on the box.  I would *definitely* buy this again (they sell them at Lakeshore Learning).

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I turned my kitchen into a city.

I’ve been perusing Pinterest again, after quite a long hiatus from the site.  Mostly I’ve been looking for ideas to keep my tornado active little toddler busy while I work with my other two on their lessons.

I came across a picture of a mom who taped out some squares on her floor with blue painters tape and let her kids play. Youcan see her post here.

On a cold, Friday morning in January, I decided that this would be the perfect play opportunity to motivate my munchkins through their lessons.

So while they were working somewhat independently, I started taping out our blue tape city. When they were done, we started with some balancing, I had them walk the lines.




Then I brought out the playmobil figures, a basket of assorted animals, and some trains.

My older son immediately started in with some “bad guy” stuff, attacking and knocking down trains and animals. I set some strict ground rules for this play session: No bad guys. No attacking. No rough play.

He can play like that anyime. This time, I was forcing him to think outside the war. He’s totally capable of creative, peaceful play.

He actually got into it more than his sister did. He set up most of the playmobil figures, and even gave them a table to eat at! Mary was more interested in making a long train. I guided them by helping to set up a zoo, a farm (discussing which animals belonged in each), and even a dinosaur museum.  We had a hedgehog home, a “castle”, and a train depot, too.




DSC_0627After awhile, my little tyrant (and I say that with as much love as a mother with a little whirlwind of a toddler can) got up from his nap, and he was elated to be able to play WITH his siblings. I encouraged Elliot and Mary to show him how to play, and give him toys so that he could join in.  They were hesitant to really share, but I suggested that he might be less likely to destroy the areas they set up if he had toys to play with as well.

Overall, this activity went over pretty well. They played in the kitchen like this for over 30 minutes, but what I thought was interesting is that each of them went off on their own afterwards, Elliot with some of the playmobil figures, Mary with some trains and animals, and Edison with silverware (his latest obsession). Getting out some toys they hadn’t seen/played with in awhile was a great way to inspire some more purposeful play.




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Mad Scientists

Elliot has been begging to do a “mad scientist” activity for awhile now. It requires quite a bit of supervision, so with Edison getting into every little thing these days, I’ve been hesitant. Yesterday Elliot asked so nicely, I knew it was time to say, “Yes.”

This activity was inspired by a friend of mine. During a playdate once, our kids were in dire need of some sort of activity, and before I knew it my friend Helen had busted out 4 cookie sheets, some baking soda, vinegar, and droppers. Our kids were so mesmerized, I knew this was going to become a staple activity in our house, and it has.

Here’s what you need:

And a cookie sheet for each child. It will help contain the mess.

You’ll need some sort of containers for them to conduct their ‘”experiments”. You can use baby food jars, clear glass bowls, plastic jars, anything that allows them to see through. We have this, a Christmas present to my son last year and was worth every single penny my mom paid for it, we’ve used it a lot without even doing the experiments that came with it:


I gave each child a babyfood jar of vinegar tinted with the food coloring.

Then I let them play.


They played like this for 1.5 hours, with me only having to add some fresh baking soda now and then. Yes, I said 1.5 HOURS. That’s an ETERNITY for kids this age. I even left the room momentarily to put the baby down for his nap! The rest of the time I sat at the table and wrote the two blog entries I posted yesterday. After 1.5 hours Elliot was asking for more stuff, so I went to the fridge and found a bottle of tomato vinaigrette and stir fry sauce that had been in there, opened longer than what I consider usable, so I gave them a blob of each on their tray, and also gave them each a spoon and a pastry brush.

Warning: this does up the mess factor!


I’m happy that I finally said yes to this activity again! Both kids really enjoying creating their concoctions, and it was great to see them so focused on one activty- a real change of pace around here! Will I let them do this every day? ABSOLUTELY NOT. But maybe a little more often now.


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Magnet Mosaics

I was at a local re-sale this past weekend, and when I saw the 600 piece magnet mosaic kit, I knew it was gong to be a hit with my kids, and it was.

What it is:

600 foam cubes, in about a dozen colors,  about the size of your pinky nail, with magnets on one side.

A magnet board.

Design sheets- I think there are about 20 designs in this kit. The designs are black and white, with little numbered squares all over.

What you do:

Each color has an assigned number.

Find a colored square on the design, find the corresponding color cube, place the cube on the square. Repeat until all the squares are covered.

Was it worth it? 

Every. Single. Penny.

At first, I was skeptical because there aren’t enough cubes to do more than one design at a time. So they would both have to work on the same one at the same time. But that didn’t seem to bother Elliot and Mary. They picked out a design and didn’t waste any time finding the colors that went with the numbers.  They seemed to be working well, so I took Mary’s clothes upstairs. Edison came up to  help me evacuate his dresser, so I put him down for his nap. Then I went back downstairs to….quiet. I was momentarily scared. But the quiet? It was because they were still working together! I quietly grabbed Edison’s clothes basket and tiptoed upstairs to put his clothes away. Back downstairs, and they were still working together. That’s when I had to get the camera.  I don’t expect that I’ll have this kind of harmony every time they work on this activity, but for today, I’ll enjoy every minute of it!



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Play dough fail…

So Tuesday was National Play Dough Day. Or so a dozen people on facebook told me.  We had no morning plans, so I thought it would be a great day to make playdough. Yes, make it.  It’s actually quite easy to make, but I’ll admit it’s been awhile since I’ve made it, like since before Mary came along while. I happen to just love the smell of the real stuff, and it’s pretty inexpensive, especially when you get it on sale during the holidays. But on National Play Dough Day I thought it was only fitting that I make it myself. So  I gathered my materials and 2 munchkin helpers, and we set out to make two separate batches of play dough. The recipe I use is as follows: 1 cup flour, 1 cup water, 1/4 cup salt, 2 tsp cream of tartar, 1 tablespoon oil, and food coloring. Mix, cook, knead, cool, and play. Easy peasy, right?

I had a pan for each batch, and let each child measure (or help measure) the ingredient and choose their color.  You can see all the ingredients, except water sitting out on the counter.  Notice what I’m missing?

We didn’t even notice that we hadn’t added the oil. I didn’t even remember, even when our dough ball looked a little ragged, like this:

When did I realize I had left out the oil? When I was scraping it off the table with a BLADE later.  Holy cow. Add the oil, people! I was too frustrated to remember to take a picture, but trust me, most of the dough ball ended up in a thin layer on my kitchen table. And it dries. Fast. As frustrated I was with the clean up, my kids didn’t notice. They were happy to help me “cook” in the kitchen, got to play with play dough with tools and bug stampers, and they didn’t have to help me scrape it off the table.