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Archive for July, 2011

Robert’s Age: 2-3/4

Success Rating: Moderate – he likes it when I wear the puppet and make it talk but isn’t interested in wearing it himself yet – maybe when he’s a little older. But if you’re little one likes puppets, this one is sure to be a hit!

Koala Puppet Completed

I was born and raised in Australia, so I figured my first puppet should be something from ‘home’. Stay tuned for a lion and a frog puppet, coming soon.

Materials

  • Koala Puppet Pattern (PDF)
  • 2 sheets gray felt
  • 1 sheet white or cream felt
  • 1 sheet black felt
  • A pen
  • Sewing pins
  • Gray thread
  • White/cream thread
  • Black thread
  • Scissors
  • Sewing machine (or, if you have a little time, you could sew it by hand)

Instructions

  1. Print the Koala Puppet Patternand cut out the pattern pieces.Koala Puppet Pieces
  2. On the front of the body, position the whites of the eyes on the felt, then place the black eye centers on top of them, and position the nose beneath the eyes. Pin the nose and one of the eyes to the koala. Stitch a small cross in the black center of the other eye to attach it to the body, then repeat with the other eye, then stitch around the edges of the nose.Koala Puppet Eyes and Nose
  3. Now position the belly on the front of the body, pin it, and stitch it in place.Koala Puppet Belly
  4. Take the left white inner ear piece, and place it on top of one of the left outer ear pieces, then stitch the inner ear to the outer. Repeat with the right ear pieces.Koala Puppet Ears - Front
  5. Take the second left outer ear pieces and place it behind the left front piece. Stitch around the edge of the outer ear with gray thread to secure the two pieces together. Repeat with the right ear.Koala Puppet Ear Backs
  6. Take the back body piece and position the ears, pin them, and stitch them in place.Koala Puppet - Ears Attached
  7. Place the back body piece, with ears attached and facing up, and place it on your work surface, then place the front body piece, on top, with eyes, nose and belly facing up. Pin the two body pieces together, then stitch around the edge making sure not to stitch the bottom edge (where you hand will go inside the puppet.)Koala Puppet Completed

They also make great party favors.

Koala Puppet Party Favors

Enjoy!

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Robert’s Age: 2-3/4 but this activity would be great for 3-5 year olds to help them learn their fish
Success Rating: Excellent! Hours of fun catching fish off various surfaces around the house, dragging them down hallways and up the stairs.

As my husband is an avid fisherman, and Robert is sooooooo into whales and fish, I’ve been contemplating making a fishing game like the one posted on How the Sun Rose for a while. At first I was going to make some nice bright tropical fish out of felt, but wanting to incorporate more ‘sense of place’ education  I decided to investigate what it would take to make some local fish species instead.

The problem with local fish is that they do not have as many color variations as tropical fish, and I decided sewing something that would have any chance of being identified was going to be too difficult and time consuming, so I decided upon a ‘printable’ fish game. I hope you enjoy it!

I trolled the web for public domain images (i.e., ones that are not subject to copyright) of local fish, and after several hours of searching and Photoshop-ing, developed twelve fish for the game:

  • Black Crappie
  • Bluegill
  • Brook Trout
  • Brown Bullhead
  • Channel Catfish
  • Green Sunfish
  • Largemouth Bass
  • Pumpkinseed
  • Smallmouth Bass
  • Striped Bass
  • Walleye
  • Yellow Perch

Materials

For the Fish

  • 5 sheets copy paper for printing the fish worksheets (or, if you wanted to make them more robust you could use printable card stock or photo paper)
  • A color printer
  • PDF Fish Worksheets
  • Scissors
  • A glue stick
  • Clear contact paper
  • A sewing needle or similar sharp instrument for poking holes in the fish (a compass point would also work)
  • 12 paperclips

For the Fishing Pole

If you already have another fishing game or puzzle that includes a pole, feel free to use it. If not:

  • A stick, or piece of wood dowel, about 18 inches long – a bit shorter or longer doesn’t matter
  • A knife for notching the stick (I just used a serrated kitchen knife)
  • A piece of fishing line, or string (length will depend on your child’s height, but I cut mine about 28 inches long)
  • A magnet that can be secured to the end of the string with a knot

For the Water

  • A piece of blue or green fabric works well. For a greater challenge you might want to put the fish inside a deep bowl (so your child can’t see them while fishing) or drape your fabric over (and inside) a big cardboard box to conceal the fish – you could also paint the box blue.

Instructions

For the Fish

  1. Print the worksheets.
  2. Roughly cut up the worksheets to separate the fish, then take a fish and fold the two halves together along the fold line so that the picture is facing out.
  3. Lightly apply glue to the back of one side of the fish and press the two halves together. If you use too much glue the paper will rip when cutting.
  4. Cut out the fish (it doesn’t matter if you don’t cut out every tiny detail, it’s just a game.)
  5. Cut a piece of contact paper twice the length of the fish, then fold it in half, with the back sides of the contact paper facing each other.
  6. Peel off the backing paper and place the fish on one half, then fold over and press to seal.
  7. Cut away the excess contact paper, leaving a good quarter inch (half cm) strip of contact paper all around to help protect your fish.
  8. Take the sewing needle and push through the fish’s mouth to create a small hole.
  9. Thread a paperclip through the hole.
  10. Repeat with the remaining fish.

For the Fishing Pole

  1. Cut a small v-shaped notch about 1-/4 inch (0.5cm) in from the end of the dowel or stick, then roll the dowel and repeat on the other side (of the same end.) This will help hold the line in place.
  2. Tie your line to the end of your dowel, making sure to cinch it in the notch (I just used a reef knot), and cut away the excess line.
  3. Attach your magnet to the other end of the line, and cut away any excess.

Now set up your ‘water’, place the fish on/in it and you’re ready to go fishing!!!!

Feedback on the worksheets is always welcome. I hope you enjoy the game!

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Robert’s Age: 2-3/4

Success Meter: Great Success!

After Santa brought Robert a toy firehouse for Christmas that, aside from having brachiosaurus climb the stairs once in a while, sat collecting dust (and I HATE to clean) it was time to regroup. It just so happened that around the same time I was pondering toy play houses a girlfriend sent me a link to Blueberry Forrest Toys, where I spied these fabulous tree houses. A few days later I stumbled across a post on building a tree house  from the wonderful ladies at playbasedlearning.com.au.

After observing Robert closely, both at home and at friends houses, playing with different toy houses, garages, and similar structures, a few criteria began to emerge if I were to consider building him something:

  1. He doesn’t like levels or floors that completely overlap one another because it inhibits access to playing with the toys on the level below
  2. He liked being able to walk his tallest animals – the giraffe and brachiosaurus – under the lowest level
  3. He likes having easy access to being able to make his animals climb stairs
  4. He likes bridges
  5. He likes making animals climb up the cargo net style rigging on a ship.

And so the plan was born….

Materials List

  • The base – the top of an old table that we had in our garage
  • The structure – wood pieces, some from when my husband trimmed back a few trees in the yard, and the big piece was from some firewood that hadn’t yet been split – my DH cut that piece with a chain saw. If you don’t have access to any wood, you could also make one out of a Tree Block Set
  • A roll of jute twine (about $6 from Michaels)
  • A hand saw
  • A bag of little shaker pegs (about $2.50 from Michaels) for securing the bridge and cargo netting
  • A drill for drilling little holes in which to secure the pegs
  • A hot glue gun (I didn’t own one so I spent about $8 on that plust $7 for a bag of glue sticks) – for gluing all the pieces together – love this thing!
  • Bees wax (about $20 for a 1 lb block, but you only need a little bit) and jojoba oil (I already had some) that I made into a wood polish for sealing the wood (see Amber Dusick’s great instructions)
  • A lazy susan – this is optional, but Robert loves being able to spin the tree house around to access the different sides. I already had one lying around.
  • A chest freezer – because I was taking wood from the yard, I froze all the wood for 72 hours in our chest freezer before using it to kill off any bugs that might be lurking within.

The design of the tree house was guided both by the size and shape of the wood pieces I scrounged, especially the base, and once I’d laid them all out I simply glued it all together. Once glued I applied the wood polish to seal the wood pieces and prevent splitting over time.

To tie the bridge pieces together I used a rolling hitch (rolling hitch instructions are about half way down this page), which is pretty straight forward.

The cargo net was a little more involved. I ended up having to undo the whole thing part way through and start over. To tie the cargo I used these instructions as a guide. Two things to note on making the cargo netting:

  • Firstly, I made a very small frame, as they suggested – 6 nails in a piece of plywood, however I found that having both squares the same size didn’t work very well due to the small scale, so I ended up making the second square a little larger – the width of the first square plus an allowance for the size of the twine.
  • Secondly, when cinching the knots it is possible to cinch them incorrectly. You have to make sure that the corners of the squares are cinched inside the knot so the knot does not slip. If you’re knot is slipping (the knotted piece can slide along the piece you’re attaching it to), then undo your knot and try again.

I cannot recommend this project highly enough. Since making this tree house about two months ago it has been played with every single day! The bridge has been the biggest hit, so definitely include one in your design if you decide to take the plunge and make one.

Don’t have any wood? Try making it out of a tree block set like this one:

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Robert’s Age: 2-3/4

Today we took Robert to the Adventure Aquarium in Camden, NJ. Knowing how much he loves all things aquatic, we were sure that he’d get a kick out of seeing the fish – which he did – but the unexpected highlight of the day? The Hippos….

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