Friday, September 28, 2012

{Playing Through Autumn Day 15} Books We Love: Autumn Leaf Book Round-Up

One of the things I'm most looking forward to sharing with L this autumn is jumping into a huge pile of crunchy fall leaves. We're still (somewhat impatiently) waiting for the leaves to change and fall, but in the meantime we're reading tons of books on the very subject.

Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf
Written & Illustrated by Lois Ehlert

Autumn Leaves
Photos & Text by Ken Robbins

Leaf Jumpers
Written by Carole Gerber
Illustrated by Leslie Evans

Mouse's First Fall
Written by Lauren Thompson
Illustrated by Buket Erdogan

Fall Leaves Fall!
Written by Zoe Hall
Illustrated by Shari Halpern

The Little Yellow Leaf
Written & Illustrated by Carin Berger

Fletcher and the Falling Leaves
Written by Julia Rawlinson
Illustrated by Tiphanie Beeke

Leaf Man
Written & Illustrated by Lois Ehlert

There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed Some Leaves!
Written by Lucille Colandro
Illustrated by Jared Lee

We're Going on a Leaf Hunt
Written by Steve Metzger
Illustrated by Miki Sakamoto

I hope you'll be able to start leaf jumping soon! In the mean time, you might like to check out some fabulous fall board books, awesome autumn nonfiction picture books, and a round up of books about harvest. Are there any leaf books you would add to this list?

Thursday, September 27, 2012

{Playing Through Autumn Day 14} Autumn Lego Printing

One of the best things about seasonal art projects, I think, is that you can take something you'd do any day of the year and sneak in those seasonal colors to make the activity match the season. This was the case recently when L and I did some Lego printing using autumn colors.

For Lego printing, you simply press the top of the Lego into a blob of paint and then put it to paper. It ends up looking pretty cool. In fact, I had to join L on this activity because she made it look so fun!

As per my usual, I talked with L about red, yellow, and orange being colors we see in the fall. She just loved slamming the Legos onto her paper!

Mommy's final work:
(I thought the prints ended up looking like leaves swirling in the air. My husband quickly pointed out that, in fact, they looked like uniform circles in fall colors. Everybody's a critic!)

L's final work:
("Now THAT," says Dad, "is an autumn picture!" Could you share some of that encouragement over in this direction, honey?)

At any rate, this was a lot of fun. I have to hand it to L, she certainly knows how to make a painting glow!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

{Playing Through Autumn Day 13} Scooping Seeds

Most toddlers find such joy in the simple act of scooping and pouring. L is no exception. It is one of her absolute favorite things to do, which is why sensory tubs are such a huge hit in our house. I recently decided to ramp things up a bit with a Montessori-inspired scooping and pouring activity for L, with a little added autumn flair.

I filled a bowl with popcorn kernels that I nicked from our popcorn sensory tub and put it on a tray with three miniature Halloween pumpkins (the plastic kind with an opening at the top). I placed everything on a cookie sheet to help minimize a big mess and added in a tablespoon-sized measuring spoon. (Note: I went with a tablespoon based on the size of the opening on the pumpkins. Anything smaller wouldn't have picked up many of the kernels and anything larger would have made it very difficult to pour into the pumpkins without creating a big mess. I wanted to help L be successful in this activity and limit potential frustrations.)

This activity required a lot of fine motor control in the scooping with a smaller spoon and pouring into small containers. Some of the kernels didn't make it into the pumpkins (but of course!) which led to another wonderful opportunity for fine motor practice: using those fingers to pick up the rouge kernels.

In addition to her love of scooping and pouring, L has also been very interested in counting recently. It was fun for her to count, "One, two, three..." as she poured into each pumpkin, and we were also able to count a few of the runaway popcorn kernels.

How are you engaging your kids this autumn? What sorts of activities do they enjoy?

Monday, September 24, 2012

{Playing Through Autumn Day 12} Mama-Made Books for Fall

I have always loved creating teacher-made books for my students, and now that I'm a mama, I'm bringing that love home for my own little one. This year I'm really excited about the way they turned out, and the fact that L really likes them. They do take a little time to make, but it is totally worth it if that's the sort of thing that you enjoy.

The first one I made is a take on Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? but in this case it's Autumn, Autumn, What Do You See? This is kind of great because thanks to Bill Martin, Jr. I don't even have to come up with my own rhyme scheme and I get to incorporate lots of photos and vocabulary concerning fall. 

To make this book, I simply divided fall-colored sheets of construction paper in half to create the pages for the book. Then I found photos on the internet of various fall items (leaf, pumpkin, scarecrow, acorns, etc.), printed them, and used doubled-sided tape to mount them onto the front side of each page.

Next I typed up the rhyme and put it on the back page of the corresponding photo, like so:

This book can really be as long or as short as you'd like, and incorporate anything relating to autumn within the rhyme. Mine ended up being about ten items.

Finally, I sent the sheet through a laminator (thankfully, a friend has one that she lets me use!), punched holes down the side, and used binder rings to create the finished product. Thanks to the lamination, it's nice and sturdy and I'm really not too concerned about it getting torn up.

L absolutely loves this book! She knows how to anticipate the rhyme and matching picture, thanks to all the times we've read Brown Bear. I also love it because it has made her really aware of the things we see everywhere we go during the fall: scarecrows, Indian corn, and the like. 

The second book I made this year is a songbook filled with songs about autumn and corresponding photographs. I made this one in much the same manner as the one above, although this one was slightly easier. I went through old resource files and preschool websites looking for lots of songs about autumn. I picked my ten favorite, found photos that illustrated some aspect of the song, and used them to create a book.

For the songbook, I used half sheets of construction paper as before, with the photo on one side, and the corresponding song on the back.

There are so many websites out there full of great seasonal songs for kids. I just googled something like "autumn songs for kids" and ended up finding a lot of really great stuff. Now L has even more photographs at her fingertips of autumn goodness, and she gets to learn a ton of new songs to boot! These are also great for a classroom setting (I have several at school) and you can make them for just about anything: Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, winter, whatever you like.

Mommy-made materials are loads of fun! Do you have anything to share? I'd love to hear all about it!

Friday, September 21, 2012

{Playing Through Autumn Day 11} Books We Love: Hooray for Harvest!

The celebration of harvest is one of the biggest ideas associated with fall and you can see it cropping up (no pun intended, but good one, right?) everywhere you go: pumpkins, apples, corn, the whole lot. For kids who are experiencing their first autumn, or in the case of my wee one, are just too young to remember it from last year, picture books offer an amazing way to activate some knowledge on the topic. We can't go anywhere - the grocery store, pharmacy, even our own school! - without running into pumpkins, so naturally L has lots to inquire about the subject. Here is a quick round up of some of our favorite books concerning pumpkins and apples that are perfect for informing those inquiring little minds.

Red Are the Apples
Written by Marc Harshman & Cheryl Ryan
Illustrated by Wade Zahares

It's Pumpkin Time!
Written by Zoe Hall
Illustrated by Shari Halpern

Apples and Pumpkins
Written by Anne Rockwell
Illustrated by Lizzy Rockwell

The Apple Pie Tree
Written by Zoe Hall
Illustrated by Shari Halpern

Apple Farmer Annie
Written & Illustrated by Monica Wellington

Pumpkin Day, Pumpkin Night
Written by Anne Rockwell
Illustrated by Megan Halsey

You can find even more autumn book love by checking out our fabulous fall board books post and our round up of awesome autumn nonfiction!

What books about harvest make you say "Hooray!"?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

{Playing Through Autumn Day 10} Cinnamon Play Dough

There is just nothing like home made play dough - it's softer than store bought, it smells divine, you can personalize it in almost any way, and it can be made with things you most likely already have in your house. I love the stuff. So when I came upon a recipe for cinnamon play dough in an old resource binder, I knew I couldn't let autumn pass us by without making it.

Cinnamon Spice Play Dough

2 cups flour
1 cup salt
4 tsp cream of tartar or alum
5 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cloves
2 cups water
2 Tbsp oil

Combine dry ingredients in a saucepan. Add the water and oil and mix well. Cook over medium high heat, stirring frequently, until the mixture begins to thicken and form a stiff ball. Remove from heat and knead when cool enough to handle. Store in a Ziploc bag when cooled to keep from drying out.

This stuff smells amazing and will get your whole kitchen smelling of tasty cinnamon! And the really great thing is, it falls right out of a no-stick pan. I plopped mine onto a plate to cool, then kneaded it as soon as I could touch it.

Play dough is such a multifaceted material: it's a great sensory experience, it's fantastic for fine motor and dexterity skill development, it's creatively open-ended. I presented the finished product to L with pumpkin and leaf cookie cutters for that added autumn flair. We were both engaged with this stuff for nearly an hour!

We have been playing with this dough for the better part of a week now, and it has yet to lose its luster. It still smells fantastic and we have yet to run out of new ways to play with it. Play dough is seriously awesome!

Do your kids enjoy play dough? What other open-ended activities do your kiddos enjoy?

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

{Playing Through Autumn Day 9} Autumn Elements Sensory Bin

It is no secret that I absolutely ADORE sensory bins and I have been giddily anticipating the coming of fall for all of the magnificent sensory bins I have planned. Our first bin of the season, filled with autumn rainbow rice, has been a huge hit in our house. I was a little reluctant to swap it out, but I knew L would be a big fan of what I had in store for her with our second bin of the season, the autumn elements bin.

This bin was really easy to put together, and I have to say it looked so beautiful when it was finished.

First I layered in two different types of silk leaves: smaller, smoother ones and larger, rougher ones.

Next I sprinkled in some craft feathers in fall colors. This I did especially for L, because she loves things that tickle and I knew the feathers wouldn't let her down!

Finally I added in a few decorative gourds and pumpkins. I chose to go with faux stuff for this bin, because I can save it from year to year, but I am planning on doing a bin with the real deal later in the season.

How are your kiddos experiencing this beautiful season so far?

Monday, September 17, 2012

{Playing Through Autumn Day 8} Sound Scavenger Hunt

Getting outdoors is one of the best things about the cooler weather of fall, and I love to find ways to get L connected to the world around her. Lately she has become very aware of the different sounds she hears around her on a regular basis. That kid can hear a train, plane, or barking dog long before I do. It's actually kind of impressive. To capitalize on this interest and to help foster her awareness of the world around her, I created a sound scavenger hunt for us to try at a local park.

I printed up this list, trying my best to predict what we'd be most likely to hear on our hunt. Turns out I was pretty close, with the exception of other kids playing, because it was a wet and chilly morning and there weren't any other kids there! (Helpful hint: I printed this out on card stock, so it was much more durable that regular paper for L's tiny hands. The added bonus was that it held up in all the moisture of the wet air that morning.)

L was listening closely, and it didn't take us long to hear lots of birds and cars. 

In fact, there were trees absolutely brimming with birds. I guess maybe they had more sense than we did and were trying to stay dry! 

And she's off! Soon after, we also had the good fortune to hear an airplane, a flock of geese (awesome!) and leaves rustling in the trees. Of course, we also got the pleasure of hearing a crunchy leaf on the trail:

Perhaps the most fun, and somewhat unexpected, sound we had the good fortune of hearing was L's feet splashing in the giant puddle we encountered on the trail. In our family, there is ALWAYS time for puddle jumping!

The entire family got in on the action of listening for new and different sounds, and it was a roaring good time indeed. L has been holding on to that sound list for several days now, which is proof enough that she had a fabulous time.

How do you get your kids connected to the world around them?

Sunday, September 16, 2012

{Playing Through Autumn Day 7} Easy Autumn Visual Discrimination Game

Visual discrimination is a skill imperative to learning how to read, and if you've been a reader here before, chances are you've come across this topic before. While L is really still in the pre-pre-reader phase of her existence, I like to present her with fun ways to work on this super important skill. So it was a no brainer for me to come up with a quick and easy visual discrimination game on my current (and always!) favorite topic: autumn.

For this game, I simply turned to trusty old Microsoft Word, and used clip art to create matching pairs of fall images. I just cut them out, laminated them, and boom - instant autumn fun, perfect for a rainy day!

For older kids, this could double as a memory/matching game, but for L I simply laid out one set of pictures and gave the other set to her. We do this sort of activity pretty regularly, so she knew immediately what to do. She was able to match up the pictures with no trouble, and it was a great opportunity for me to talk with her about the images she was seeing and what they mean in terms of this wonderful season.

The great thing about this game is it was so easy to create. L didn't stick with it for a terribly long time, but I will be presenting it to her again throughout the season. It was so easy to make, in fact, that I've been toying with the idea of making a set for Halloween, Thanksgiving, and the like. I love working those pre-reading skills!

Friday, September 14, 2012

{Playing Through Autumn Day 6} Books We Love: Awesome Autumn Nonfiction

Thinking about autumn from a thematic perspective, it is certainly abundant. You can literally find books on dozens and dozens of various topics, all relating back to this wonderful season. In my opinion, one of the best things about books relating to autumn is the vast number of nonfiction books concerning the topic. Books about pumpkins, apples, leaves, the changing weather, animal behaviors and fall traditions are just a few of the areas covered by many wonderful nonfiction titles. Some of my very favorite nonfiction fall titles come from the All About Fall series from Capstone Press. With authors including Martha Rustad, Calvin Harris, and Gail Saunders-Smith, these books are a fantastic introduction to the season. With gorgeous photographs and simple text, they appeal to very young children, as well as kids beginning to take those first steps toward independent reading. L adores the beautiful imagery and I love that I can sneak in a little bit of learning on the side. We are both big fans!