Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thanksgiving Turkey Felt Board

The month of November has flown right by it seems! We enjoyed a few Thanksgiving activities over the past few weeks that I never got around to posting about because I was so busy making homemade gifts for Christmas! Goodness, it seems like I haven't been around much this month and I'm sorry for that! So here is another last minute Thanksgiving activity: A Turkey Felt Board! 

Felt boards are really easy to make and you can see our tutorial here. The rest of the pieces were also really easy to make. 

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The materials you will need are:
Felt Sheets (I buy them in sheets and occasionally by the yard at Jo-Ann Fabrics) in dark and light brown, red, orange, and yellow. You can also just use whatever colours you have available! 
Paper (to trace the turkey, but you can certainly free-hand it!)
Pins or pens (depending on which is easier for you to cut felt)

I traced a large circle on the dark brown felt and cut it out. 

I traced out a few different "feather" shapes on the paper and cut them out as well. I pinned them to the felt and cut out three feathers of each colour.

Then I assembled all the pieces on a tray and let the kids begin!

At first they used the tray to practice making the turkeys on.

Bean's turkey is on the left and Munchkin's is on the right. :)

Eventually Bean took over and played around with the two turkeys.

Then she finally realized I had set out the felt board so she decided to continue working on the turkeys there. :)

Afterwards, like all of our felt pieces, we stored them neatly in a storage bag to keep them tidy and clean.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!! I hope you'll all stick around for our Christmas themed felt boards coming soon! (I'm waiting to post them in December. I hope you'll forgive me!)


Ok, I have to share these pictures because they are just too cute! We took our felt turkeys with us over to Grammy's house on Thanksgiving to keep the kids out of the kitchen so Grammy could finish cooking busy. I packed all the small pieces in a ziploc and rolled up two pieces of green felt (for grass). It was simple to set up and the kids had a lot of fun designing their turkeys! 

Please always stay within arms reach of your child(ren) when they are playing. Some sensory materials may not be age suitable for every child. Please use your own judgement when creating sensory activities for your child(ren). 

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Thanksgiving Small World

I'm super sad that I have not been able to find the Safari Ltd. Jamestown Settlers toob or a turkey at our local Michael's Arts and Crafts store, which normally has them in stock, but of course it's when I'm there specifically looking for them that they don't have them. Go figure! So you'll have to forgive us for making do with the Wild West people instead! We also included the Powhatan Indians toob as well as various animals from other toobs, like the North American Wildlife toob and Arctic toob. And a couple larger figures as well, because the kids insisted on playing with them too. We already played with a felt turkey earlier as well as ate turkey for lunch and dinner, so we'll just excuse the turkey from being absent from this small world. :)

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Originally when we started this Native American themed sensory play activity it was in a bin. But as you can see, it's not now. When my kids are playing with such tiny people, they have trouble moving them around in a bin, even when it's a pretty big one. So we decided to expand the territory and I laid out a fluffy tan blanket for them to play on. I also gave them a few of our homemade felt boards, which was perfect for different kinds of land (water, dirt and grass). We also included our fake vines which was used for the forest, since we only have palm trees. 

Slowly this set-up evolved every time we played with it. First it was in a bin and we used brown rice as a filler and homemade tepees made out of felt and popsicle sticks. The next time we used our Lego's table to create small dwellings for the Pilgrims. And eventually we ended up testing out the felt boards to see how they held up as small world landscapes. They were perfect! They are sturdy and because the surface is relatively flat, the figures are much easier to stand up and not worry about them falling over (although a few of them are still top-heavy, so we just prop them up on something). 

Here are the bigger animals we explored. Foxes and moose are pretty common in New England (provided you live in the woods!). Horses became a huge part of Native American culture and elk were hunted for food in the north. 

The Native American figures are definitely the kids favourite of the "people" toobs. They love their clothes and weapons (Bean adores bows and arrows) and find them fascinating, as I did as a child as well. We have Native American relatives, although they sadly live on the other side of the country, and I really hope my children are able to meet them someday. It will be very exciting to explore Native American culture with my children as they grow older!

Munchkin really enjoys setting up the people while Bean explains what they are doing or where they are going. "She is cooking corn." "He is going hunting!" "This guys bow is wicked awesome!" Occasionally she would ask questions like, "Is this a deer or elk?" or "What's a tepee?" The idea of a tepee is amazing to them, so usually this activity ended with building a blanket fort to play in. :)

Little tea lights are perfect for fires, "because the light flickers like a real fire." And since it becomes dark out quite early around here, we were even able to turn off the light and observe the late-night dinner these guys were having around a fire. Apparently corn, pumpkins and deer was on the menu. 

Over here the Pilgrims are "plowing fields for the corn," even though there is no plow. :) They are settling in fine, because it's just raining and now snowing... Granted, they are still planting during the wrong season, so I don't know how much food they expect to harvest! haha. 

Over here the Native American's are having a yummy feast and tanning some leather hides in preparation for winter. It's going to be a cold one!

Howdy ladies!

Mmm, cinnamon wood! This fire smells super yummy.

Eventually we put away the felt boards because the kids began to just play on the blankets. They still huddled around the fire though! It's raining out, so everyone was chilly.

Yum, roasted corn! While the kids played, I talked about how important it is to share and be kind to your neighbors.

Finally the Pilgrims have made a few friends.. They have discovered fire and roasted corn, as well. Such a fun small world to play in!

Meanwhile the animals roamed free.. The big animals formed a "pack" of their own.

Meanwhile Bean sorted all the little animals together and said these ones were a family that lived in the woods. Notice how the turtles are keeping up? She remembers that part from when we read Aesop's Fables! Though the hare is currently a little faster... She moved these guys around several times and Munchkin raided them with the Native American hunters to find dinner.

If you're American, I hope everyone has a fantastic Thanksgiving tomorrow!! Everyone else have a fantastic day too! :)

Please always stay within arms reach of your child(ren) when they are playing. Some sensory materials may not be age suitable for every child. Please use your own judgement when creating sensory activities for your child(ren). 

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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Zippity-Zoo: A Magical Zoo Book Review

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Zippity-Zoo: A Magical Zoo by Julia Dweck was delightful to read! My kids absolutely love the zoo and really enjoy pretending to be animals. Bean especially liked this book because Ryan actually transformed into a giraffe! Like magic! Hence why it is called a magical zoo. It's a zoo where children go to experience their dreams coming true. Imagine if you could go to a zoo and decide to be a leopard or a turtle for a day?

Since we love pretend play, we used this book as an excuse to bring out all of our stuffed animals. We set them up around the living room, stashed them on bookshelves and arranged them on the couch. Then the kids would pick one and pretend to be it. Munchkin only wanted to meow, so he was a kitty for the whole day. Bean went through most of the animals and really enjoyed being big, meat-eating cats. Roaring is sort of her specialty. :)

And while we read the book, we stopped on each page to see which animals the kids could name. They knew all of them except the toucan. There are so many animals in the book and it was so fun to play I Spy with the kids.

Julia certainly captures the magic of a child exploring a zoo as a giraffe and experiencing so many exciting adventures. Ryan used his long neck to defeat a cheetah in a race and managed to make a booming roar to scare off a lion and was welcomed by the other giraffes, along with other giraffe endeavors. :)

How adorable is this giraffe? It would be so much fun to be a giraffe for a day!!
This is definitely a fun book to read! We love all of Julia's books and would certainly suggest them for young children who like stories about imagination, magic and pretend play!

Zippity-Zoo: A Magical Zoo is available on Amazon!

Julia can be found at her website, Amazon, Facebook and Twitter.

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Monday, November 18, 2013

DIY Pretend Play Food: Chinese Food

Our newest homemade pretend food has been a huge hit with the kids! We love stir-fry and teriyaki chicken, so Chinese food was a must-have on our list. Desserts will come next! To see our other homemade pretend foods, check out our Pasta, Pizza and Salad, and Tacos! Yum!

Fair warning, if you have kids who get really into their pretend play activities, you may want to warn them not to actually eat the felt food! It took a few times to convince Munchkin it wasn't actually food, and he got the point finally after enough times licking felt. :)

As I said in the other pretend play food posts, I don't use templates for this project. I simply draw out what I want to make and then use that as a guideline. Occasionally I'll cut them out if it's necessary, but for the most part I have been eyeballing it. You'll notice that I didn't get around to making broccoli, baby corn, bok choy, pineapples or wontons. And that's because my two were too impatient and wanted to play with their new felt foods right away. I'll get around to finishing them up eventually. :) (Oh, and yeah, the broccoli looks completely wonky. I will not be using them as my guideline, haha.)

Alright, first up we have teriyaki chicken and beef on sticks. These were super easy to make and are Bean's favourite. They secretly promote fine motor play, which is always a plus! I used some brown scrap felt for this and cut out rough rectangles. They don't need to be perfect because they are meant to resemble a piece of meat and no two pieces of meat are the same anyways.

Trim around the edges in a wavy pattern.

Then fold the felt in half the long way and cut two straight cuts into it about a quarter of the way from the top and bottom. Don't make these cuts too wide, you only want it to be big enough to fit a popsicle stick through. (I didn't want to use actual bamboo skewers because they typically have sharp ends and popsicle sticks are safe for toddlers and preschoolers, but still watch them closely!)

If you are concerned about the wood snapping or possible splinters, you can always opt to use foam popsicle sticks. I've only ever seen them sold in craft kits though. However, they work just the same, they are just slightly thicker and tougher to stick in the meat because they bend a bit. 

Repeat the process with a darker shade of brown felt for the beef.

Then comes the shrimp! I'm actually allergic to shellfish, so I wouldn't normally want to deal with shrimp. But they happen to be really cute, so I couldn't resist. I simply cut out a shrimp body out of antique coloured felt and then some shell lines using light pink felt. I made them all different sizes.

Originally I intended to sew the pink lines on, but then this wouldn't be a "no sew" project! Apparently people like simpler crafts. :) I still wanted to keep the pink lines in place though, so I opted to glue them instead. Sadly I ran out of felt glue! But it turns out that hot glue works perfectly fine as a replacement glue.

You'll want to trim any of the excess pink hanging off.

And I decided to use a metal tray as my base of operations because I knew at one point I'd get glue everywhere (why does that always happen to me??). Hot glue peels right off of metal though, so it was perfect for the job!

I asked Bean if she wanted me to add an eye to the shrimp (I'd have used super mini pom poms, like the ones we use for spices in the pretend pasta), but she said that would look creepy!

Aren't they cute?

For the rest of the ingredients, there are shredded carrots and fancy-cut carrots, two kinds of mushrooms, green and red peppers, pea pods, water chestnuts and chicken (can be General Gao's chicken or teriyaki chicken). For the noodles, we used the thick cut noodles from our pretend play pasta and called it "lo mein".

And here's what they look like all put together in a fancy bowl! Doesn't it look delicious?

And we had enough to make another two bowls worth! In Bean's own words, "Yum, Yum, Yum!" One is shrimp and the other is chicken.

I set them up at the picnic table for a quick pretend meal while I prepared their real lunch (cheese and crackers and veggie sticks) at the table next to them. I even gave them some chopsticks to use. For some reason I can't find the kid-friendly ones that are easier to use, but they happen to actually really love these ones so it worked out perfectly. :)

They played with this set up for quite a while! They even pushed their lunch aside until they were done playing. :)

I showed Bean how to use the chopsticks, but she preferred to use them her own way. She would wrap a strand of lo mein around one of the chopsticks and then pretend to eat it.

Here's what the lo mein looks like being picked up with chopsticks. Bean literally told me it looked good enough to eat. :)

She absolutely loved this batch of pretend food! She returned to this activity again after lunch and continued to wrap the lo mein noodles around the chopsticks.

After she was done, she asked if she could have a container to save the rest of her meal in her fridge. It was so cute watching her pack up her leftovers and store them away in her little play fridge.

Please always stay within arms reach of your child(ren) when they are playing. Some sensory materials may not be age suitable for every child. Please use your own judgement when creating sensory activities for your child(ren). 

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