Friday, June 29, 2012

Building Neighborhoods With Shapes

We have these great shapes from Discovery Toys we've been playing with lately! They have little suction cups on the back so they stick to windows and bathtubs... and make a fabulous sound when you pull them off. :O)   We hadn't gotten them out for a long time but Molly (5) found them this week so we put them to use and made a neighborhood with them on our big front windows!

This is a great project to foster imagination and creativity, along with practicing shapes and colors for Ben (2). I was so happy when I heard that later Molly used shapes to create another neighborhood without me so it must have been a fun project for her! (success!)

Unfortunately, I just checked their website and Discovery Toys doesn't offer these suction cup shapes anymore. But! You can also make a neighborhood using shapes cut out from construction paper, similar to what we did in this older post from this past winter!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Denim Roads for Toy Cars

I found this idea a while ago on Pinterest and was so excited to have an excuse to make it this week: Roads for little toy cars made out of old pair of recycled jeans!! These were fun to make, they're fun to play with, and they can travel easily for playtime when you're not at home. Plus they are perfect to create a little town or neighborhood with your Paper Bag Village from my previous post!  Here's how to make this easy new toy:

First find an old (or cheap) pair of jeans you can cut up. The bigger the better so you can make more roads! I stole a pair of my husband's beat-up jeans from the bottom of his closet with big holes in the knees. He probably didn't even notice... unless he reads my blog! hehe. Cut out large sections of denim, cutting along the seams so you get nice flat pieces to work with.  Draw your roads on the back side so you know where to cut. Mine are about 4 inches wide, or enough for two Matchbox-size cars to drive side-by-side. Regular ballpoint pen worked fine for this.Cut them out.

 I was able to make a total of 24 pieces out of that one pair of jeans! This included: (2) 4-way intersections,  (1) 3-way intersection, (6) curves, (7) long stretches, (6) short stretches, and (2) parking lots with three spaces each.

Now you can draw or paint lines down your roads. I used puffy paint pens. (fun!) I made dashed lines, wrote "Stop" at all my intersections and "Parking" with spaces on my little parking lots. While I did this part, Molly (5) got to use the puffy paint pens to decorate the pocket! Later, you can use the pocket to store all your streets in, or store cars...or any little thing that your child chooses like Molly did. (Hmm... maybe we'll make a purse out of it... to be continued!!)


It is easy to set up these roads and they don't have to match up perfectly. If you want them to stay in place better on your carpet, you can add the rough side of Velcro to the bottoms. You can also add Fray Check to the edges or make a zig zag stitch along the edges to keep them from fraying. So far I haven't done any of those extras because they're working great for us just plain and simple! I always love the easy way. :O)

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Paper Bag Village

Last week for MOMS Camp we studied all about Neighborhoods and Communities! This meant a week of police cars, firetrucks, roads, houses and neighbors. This was such a fun week for both my kids! I am so excited for Ben (2) to be able to really participate in our weekly activities now that he's a year older this summer!

One activity we made was a paper bag village! We used a little kit to make one from an old High Five magazine which I had been saving for nearly a year! The kit included miniature doors, windows, signs, and decorative plants to cut out. You can of course make your own building accessories out of construction paper and either keep them plain or color them. Glue your doors and windows, etc onto paper lunch bags which become your buildings! Use paper grocery bags for a larger scale village. Well, maybe that would be more like a city... heh.

When they are dry, fill each bag with something like wadded up paper or packing peanuts or air bags (which is what we used) to help them stand up. Fold over the top and staple shut. Our little village included a bank, library, preschool, grocery store, and pharmacy but you can include any other community buildings you want! Houses and a post office would make good additions.

We placed our paper bag village along the streets on a rug we have so all our cars could drive around town! I admit that Ben later used our village buildings as soccer balls, but the good news is that it's just paper bags so they're still in one piece!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Lenexa Playgrounds!

One thing we've done all summer so far is visit playgrounds! Lenexa Parks and Recreation has created a great map of all their playgrounds you can pick up at the Lenexa Community Center for free. Each playground has a temporary sign with a letter and number on it, corresponding to a word puzzle on the map. If you can visit at least 24 playgrounds and complete the puzzle by September 28th you get a small prize and are entered to win a larger prize. Reading at writing these letters has been great practice for Molly (5) and it's excited to find the "secret code" wherever we go!

So far we've visited 14 different playgrounds - many of them ones we've never been to before! Some of them have turned out to be great discoveries that we will definitely go back to! Here are pictures and reviews of a few playgrounds we've been to so far. I have grand plans to review every one of them for you,but I might have to save that project for a rainy day!
A GREAT new playground but it was hard to find! It's built to look like real wood and trees stumps. Park in the back parking lot of the Flat Rock Creek public pool at 103rd and Noland Rd. There is a HIDDEN bridge behind a shed which takes you across to this shady playground. Not pictured is a bench and swings.Flat Rock Creek Park, located at 103rd street and Hauser.

Here is another shady spot, nestled right in a neighborhood - that is someone's house in the left side of the photo! It's a nice playground though, with a bench, swings, and a nice little sand box. Gillette Park, located at 9010 Gillette.

 This playground is better for younger kids like Ben (2). It would be in the shade each morning or evening but when we went around noon it was too hot to slide. They have a bench and a huge sandbox in good condition. Also a plus for Ben, it had a view of the not-too-close train tracks! Scouting Park, located at 94th and Haskins, behind the Lenexa Community Center parking lot.

 Although I didn't see us returning to this old little playground, Molly (5) has asked to go back to the igloo playground! This picture literally shows the whole thing, sans a bench and a tiny basketball court for big kids. Green Prairie Park located at 92nd Terrace and Cottonwood.

Both of the above playgrounds are part of the newer Buffalo Meadows Park, located at Prairie Star Parkway and Lone Elm Road. It is very sunny and very windy so the best time to visit is early morning or later in the evening. They do have nice restrooms, a walking path, large field, and covered picnic tables, though, so it's a really nice one. I love that they have a big kid playground AND a little kid one... though my kids ages 5 and 2 like to play on both anyway. Also gotta love how close it is to my parents' house!

Jungle Theme Outings around KC

Our second week of MOMS Camp was all about the Jungle! Truthfully, we didn't do very many crafts for that week but mainly because Molly (5) wasn't up for it. Believe me, though, I had plenty planned for us! I guess I'll save them for another day! Instead we did do several activities around town so I'll mention those just in case anyone around the Kansas City Area needs some ideas for outings with the kids!

On the first day, we visited the Matt Ross Community Center and headed to their Explorer Room.  This is an awesome 3-story jungle-themed playground with slides and tunnels... and it's FREE! For anybody. Just walk in. You don't have to be a member and you don't have to be a resident. Go in the doors and turn right. Now play. ;O)

We also spent a morning at the  Lenexa Community Center watching a puppet show called "Jungle Story!" There's another puppet show later in the summer so you haven't missed your only chance to catch one.

Finally, you can obviously you can head to the Kansas City Zoo, though we actually didn't go there this week! We went somewhere totally new (to us) called the Cedar Cove Feline Conservatory & Education Center in Louisburg, KS! This place was so neat! They have several large cats that have been rescued from unfit owners and smaller zoos that have gone out of business. The animals are well-cared for and close enough to really see them! The workers give personalized tours to each group that comes in; and though we discovered it isn't exactly stroller-friendly, there isn't too much walking for the little ones. My favorite cat there: a white tiger!! Molly's favorite? "The one with pointy hair on his ears!"

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Spongebob Squarepants Bean Bag Toss Game

For my birthday this year (back in May) my daughter told my mom that I would like a Spongebob Squarepants birthday cake. Well, she was right! In fact, I decided to make my whole birthday dinner into a Spongebob affair and we created our own Spongebob Squarepants Bean Bag Toss Game! I usually make a bean bag toss each October for Molly's Annual Halloween Party, too. Here's how we made one for Spongebob:

We started with an empty cardboard box and I used an old steak knife to cut out a large mouth-shaped hole. Then we painted the whole box to look like Spongebob using tempera paint. This was a fun part of the project for Molly (5) to help with! I added details with black permanent markers.

While that was drying, we got to work on the bean bags. I cut several 5" squares from yellow fabric. You can use a single yellow fat quarter from Wal-Mart for this and it costs maybe $1.25! I searched for "Spongebob faces" images on and found exactly what I was looking for here! Using these Spongebob pictures as a guide, I used colored permanent markers to make a different face on each of six yellow squares.

For the inside of our beanbags, I bought a couple bags of dry beans from the grocery store. Molly (5) helped me fill six sandwich bags with about 3/4 cup of the beans in each and seal them up.  Fold each bag in half, then in half again so it's the right size. I  used blue painters tape to hold the folded edge down (just because it was the closest tape at the time...any kind will do!).

Molly also helped me sew the beanbags on my sewing machine! Place two yellow squares together: one plain and one with a face on it. Be sure the face is upside down!

Sew around three complete edges, and part of another edge. Leave that hole open so you can turn it right-side-out. Then put the plastic baggie filled with beans inside your semi-sewn bean bag. Finally, fold the open edges in a little and sew it closed. That way you won't have any rough edges poking out. You can also sew this part by hand.  Be careful not to sew the plastic bag inside so you don't mess up your sewing needle. I love the facial expression in the one below - Spongebob looks pretty nervous to have that needle so close to his head! lol

The kids enjoyed playing our Spongebob Squarepants Bean Bag Toss game at my impromptu birthday party last month... and it's still in our living room being played with today so it's held up great! Mostly though, I loved making it with my little girl!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Paper Plate Butterflies

Yep... another paper plate craft! (We have many, many paper plates in our house...) This was a craft I originally found on Pinterest a while ago. I made it with my kids without double checking the Pinterest version so it came out a little different. Either way, it's a butterfly and it was easy  to make and fun to do! There is no wrong way to do a project with your kids!!

As with the paper plate caterpillars we've already made, we used our "Do A Dot Art Markers" to decorate a paper plate.Make a rounded "v" cut about at third of the way down the plate. Overlap the two pieces with their outside round edges touching and staple them together.  Molly (5) and Ben (2) glued craft pom poms to create the  body (Ben had a little help with his).  Finally, twist a half-size piece of a chenille stem and tape it to the back to be the antennas.  I love having these coloring butterflies up in my kitchen window!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Paper Plate Caterpillar Mask

We have learned all about different caterpillars during our butterfly week of MOMS Camp. Here is a fun project to make with your kids using - what else? - paper plates!
To make a paper plate caterpillar, have your kids decorate four paper plates. My kids used "Do A Dot Art" markers, which you can buy on These are so fun and CLEAN and EASY to use! They even make special coloring books to use them with and everything. I like them because they are clean (did I mention that??) and easy for my 2-year old to handle. Of course he lost interest after the first plate so I finished the rest of his.

After all the paper plates are decorated, cut out two eye holes from one to be the mask. Help your child glue or staple legs to the other plates. I cut 1.5" strips of colored card stock for our legs using my paper cutter to make it a quick job.  You can always have your child cut the strips themselves for extra practice with scissors, though! Just like a real caterpillar, we attached six legs to the first section, then four more on the remaining two bottom sections.

Attach all of your paper plates together to create a long caterpillar! We simply overlapped the edges and taped them together. We had a blast using these caterpillars as masks and playing outside with them, being caterpillars. We found leaves to eat and trees to climb on. Then we changed into a butterfly!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Caterpillar Magnet Clip

As part of our butterfly week for MOMS Camp, I had the kids make Caterpillar Magnet Clips! I love that Ben (2) is getting old enough to really participate in our crafts now, even if he focuses mainly on the glue! The mess I have to clean up is worth it for me to see him working so hard on his projects!

First I drew 4" leaves (give or take) on green construction paper to cut out. The kids glued on colored craft pom poms to make a caterpillar. This, of course, was Ben's favorite part! They also glued on googly eyes.

When your caterpillar is a little bit dry, glue the whole paper leaf to a wooden clip. I used hot glue to attach a magnet to the bottom of the clip. To get one long enough, I actually used a magnetic business card that I cut into skinny strips.

Now you have a cute homemade magnet for your fridge...and you can use it to clip up new artwork too! 

Butterfly Books to Read With Your Kids

Molly (5) really enjoyed learning about butterflies during our butterfly week of MOMS Camp. We found some great books at our local library that did a good job teaching the life cycle of a butterfly to her age group. Some of our favorites are:

"Are You A Butterfly?" by Judy Allen and Tudor Humphries. It has beautiful illustrations and tells all about butterflies in a very cute way! For example, "...You grow bigger. And bigger...You feel so full you think you are going to burst."

"Starting Life Butterfly" by Claire Llewellyn was our favorite. It has so much detail about a butterfly's life. You can choose to read all the script in all the little side notes, or just stick to the main parts. I actually learned a lot about butterflies that I didn't know! The different sizes of pages are fun, too.

A fun book to read is "Angelina and the Butterfly" by Katharine Holabird. It's a cute story of how Angelina and Alice find a butterfly that later saves the day! I also found this one on DVD from the library which was fun to watch. 

Finally, "The Butterfly Alphabet" by Kjell B. Sandved is so interesting! It has cute verses for each letter... and close up photographs of different butterfly wings with letters in their designs! There is also photos of the butterfly from far away. It was so neat to see all the different butterflies!

After reading these books, I had Molly review the butterfly life cycle with a really cool Sequencing Life Cycle Sticker Kit I found at Oriental Trading. It was on sale and included other life cycles that we'll use later in the summer so it was a real win-win find! Each sticker had more facts on it and was a fun project for Molly. Later, as we visited playgrounds, she liked looking for butterfly eggs and baby caterpillars on the leaves!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Beginning Butterfly Week

Our first official week of MOMS Camp this year is all about butterflies! On the first day, I gave Molly (5) a special present: butterfly wings! I found these on which is my favorite "store" of all time! I was so pleased when they arrived - and so was Molly! They fit great and are made well. I love that she can really "flutter" her wings as we played "butterfly tag" and then "butterfly hide-and-seek" in our back yard. What a wonderful addition to our dress up closet!

Our butterfly outing for this week was to Deanna Rose Children's Farmstead in Overland Park, KS. Molly and Ben (2) both love to see and feed the animals, ranging from goats, cows, chickens and pigs to bison, bald eagles and turtles. They have a special butterfly garden filled with hidden paths and butterfly houses. Luckily we did get to chase a few butterflies in between chasing each other!

For breakfast on our first morning of butterfly week, we had special butterfly toast! I used a large butterfly-shaped cookie cutter to cut the toast, but you can also cut a slice into diamonds and rearrange them on a plate to create a butterfly's wings. To top it off, after spreading on butter, I sprinkled on a bit of cinnamon and colored sugar to make them extra special. What an enchanting butterfly day!