Friday, October 19, 2012

Fall Leaf Sorting

Children LOVE to sort things.  I don't know what it is about grouping things into categories that is so instinctual for them, but they love it.  They love repeating it.  And they are really really good at it!  So creating interesting sorting activities is always on my to-do list.

I bought this bright orange condiment server to use at a birthday party, but it has since become one of our go-to sorting tools especially for smaller items.  We've used it to sort beans and pom poms and a few other things.  The bright orange color makes it the perfect fall season tray for leaf sorting too.

These little foam leaves are a good size for little hands and come in four beautiful fall colors: purple, brown, green, and yellow.  They also come in three different shapes.  So we can sort two ways!  I found these leaves in a package at our local dollar store.  An alternative would be to cut your own leaf shapes out of foam sheets or even cardstock or construction paper.  

What's more fun that sorting fake leaves?  Sorting real ones of course!  The bonus here is that we get to go outside and pick up a bunch of leaves to sort through!  It's always fun to see all the wonderful colors straight from nature. 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Paper Plate Pumpkins

Painted Paper Plate Pumpkins.  Try saying that five times fast!  No really do it!  Ok, now onto the real fun.  We enjoyed our pumpkin rice treats so much, we decided to make some more pumpkins that would actually keep around the house until Halloween.  All we needed was something round and orange, which quickly translated to paper plates and orange paint.

  • Plain Paper Plate
  • Orange Paint
  • Paint Brush or Fingers!
  • Black Construction Paper
  • Brown Construction Paper
  • Green Pipe Cleaner

The kids love when I drag out this old blue tablecloth.  It's one of those cheese vinyl picnic table cloths.  We only use it for painting so when they see me lay it out on the table they always get excited!  I gave them the option of finger painting or using a brush.  My oldest wanted to finger paint, and the youngest wanted to use a brush.  Well at least she started off using a brush anyway!  

After painting the plate orange (my oldest had to do both sides because pumpkins are orange all the way around!), we let them dry for a little about 2 seconds because they just couldn't wait to make them into jack-o-lanterns!

We used black construction paper to make the eyes, nose, and mouth.  It's a good opportunity to talk about shapes.  The eyes and nose are triangles.  We started with something close to a crescent or half circle shape for the mouth and cut out squares or triangles to finish it.

The stem is a rectangle shape cut from brown construction paper.  And we finished them off with a leaf made out of a green pipe cleaner.  

Carefully poke the pipe cleaner through the plate near the stem to attach it to the pumpkin.  You could also use a hole punch to make this easier.  To make the curly vine shape, wrap the pipe cleaner around a pencil or your finger a few times and gently slide it off.

And voila, you have a super fun and easy pumpkin or jack-o-lantern to decorate with for Halloween!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Pine Cone Crafts and Activities for Preschoolers

We've collected a bunch of pine cones recently as we've been outside enjoying the amazing fall weather.  I knew they would come in handy for preschool crafts, but I had no idea just how many adorable pine cone crafts and activities were out there!  I've compiled a list of ten of our favorites and what is now my pine-cone-craft-to-do-list to keep us busy throughout the upcoming holidays!

1.  Pine Cone Birdfeeder

It's a classic!  This simple, fun, and very useful craft is perfect for the little ones to make and then watch as the birds enjoy it too!
2.  Pine Cone Owl

Really, who can pass up an owl craft?  This little guy is just too adorable!  All you need is a little pine cone, felt, and some googly eyes.  And I love how he's sitting on a little branch too!

3.  Pine Cone Monsters

The page is in Swedish  but I think the pictures are pretty self explanatory.  I love how they've even decorated the googly eyes!  These would make a fun Halloween party favor!  

4.  Pine Cone Reindeer

Every year we make a craft with the kids for them to give out as gifts at Christmas.  We've done ornaments and clothespin reindeer, but this little pine cone reindeer might be this year's craft.  

5.  Pine Cone Pumpkins

I thought these were carrots at first, but of course pumpkins make more sense this time of year!  Either way, they are just plain cute!  Make a bunch and put them in a bowl for a beautiful fall centerpiece.

6.  Pine Cone Toss Game

Play with your pine cones first, and then make a craft when you're done!  This would definitely be a fun game for all ages.  Play outdoors if the weather is nice or inside if it's not.

7.  Pine Cone Trees

Here's a tutorial for another version of the pine cone tree,  I like how they have a tree trunk made out of a thread spool.  The possibilities are endless on this one!

8.  Pine Cone Turkey

I could probably do a whole post just about pine cone turkey tutorials.  There are so many versions out there.  This is one of my favorites, using only a pine cone, construction paper, glue and googly eyes (which we always have around here!).

9.  Pine Cone Weather Station

Did you know you could predict the weather with pine cones?  Here's a great science experiment  where  little ones can observe the pine cones to predict what the weather will be like!  

10.  Pine Cone Cardinal

We live in Indiana where cardinals are the state bird, so when I saw this little guy I had to add him to our to do list!

Now that I know what to do with our pine cones, it's time to get started!  Only problem though is just to decide which one to make first!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Word Up! It's Dictionary Day!

Today, October 16, is National Dictionary Day.  It's the birthday of Noah Webster (And coincidentally several other people I know!  It is a very popular day to be born).  Dictionary Day is a day to celebrate language, learn new words, or teach others a new word or two.


Here's an excellent post on Squidoo that has compiled a mass of information about Dictionary Day, the history of the dictionary, as well as activities for all ages to celebrate this special day.  I remember playing  the Dictionary Game when I was in school.  I always enjoyed that one.  I also like the idea of the dictionary race, but our little ones are too little for those games.  

When trying to decide what activities I did want to do with the little ones for Dictionary Day, I first realized we don't actually have a dictionary!  In this day and age of technology with computers and smart phones, I realized Google had become my dictionary!  That's something we'll definitely have to rectify, so perhaps a good way to celebrate today is to go buy our own dictionary.


Don't want to have a physical dictionary?  No problem.  Check out this post for links to free online dictionary resources  for everyone!

We are making a trip to the local library today to look for different kinds of dictionaries, learn some new words, and enjoy our language!  How do you plan on celebrating Dictionary Day?

Monday, October 15, 2012

Pumpkin Spice Rice Treats

Tis the season of pumpkin flavored everything, and I'm here with one more pumpkin recipe to add to the list!  I've had these pumpkin rice krispy treats pinned on Pinterest for a long time, but they use regular marshmallows and food coloring to make the orange pumpkin color.  I've been wanting to make them, but I also wanted more than the pumpkin color.  I wanted the pumpkin flavor too!
Insert Pumpkin Marshmallows!!!!  My very wonderful and amazing twin sister found this bag of Baker's Corner Pumpkin Spice Marshmallows and gave them to me for an early Halloween present.  Did I mention how awesome she is?  Now all I needed to do was make the rice krispy treats.

I was a little disappointed to see that the original Rice Krispies Treats recipe was no longer on the back of the box of cereal!  But I've made these enough times to know there are only three ingredients in the original recipe:  butter, marshmallows, and Rice Krispies.  And since I like to play with recipes, I'm of course adding a couple ingredients of my own.

First melt the butter.

Next add the marshmallows.

Stir slowly until they've completely dissolved.

Almost there.  Keep stirring.

When it's smooth, turn off the heat.  Add in the vanilla and cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice.

Add the Rice Krispies.

Just pour them all in at once.

Gently stir until they are fully coated with the marshmallow mix.

Form into balls, err pumpkins!  I used a sheet of wax paper over a muffin tin so I had a guide for the size of each one.

For the stems, I used a Tootsie Roll cut in half.  Press one into the top of each pumpkin.  They stick pretty easily as long as you work quickly.

I used green "writing icing" to make the little leaf beside each stem.

Here's the link to the inspiration pin:

Pumpkin Spice Rice Treats

  • 3 tablespoons of butter
  • 1 bag of Pumpkin Spice marshmallows
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon 
  • 6 cups Rice Krispies cereal
  • 10 Tootsie Rolls, unwrapped and cut in half
  • green icing

Melt butter in large saucepan.  Add marshmallows and stir until completely smooth.  Remove from heat.  Stir in vanilla extract and cinnamon.  Add cereal and stir until fully coated.  Form into balls and set out on wax paper to cool.  Add a Tootsie Roll piece for the stem.  Use icing to make a leaf.  Makes 20 pumpkins treats.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Pineapple Cherry Cobbler

This Sunday, October 14, is National Dessert Day.  If you are looking for a quick and delicious, and oh..did I mention easy?, dessert that will impress anyone, look no further!  This pineapple cherry cobbler recipe is the dessert for you!

My mother-in-law gave me the recipe years ago.  We usually make it around the holidays, but it's a really easy dessert to whip up any time of the year.  This is one of those treats where everyone asks for the recipe, and they're always just as surprised as I was to find out just how simple it is!

Start with an 8x8 or 9x9 baking dish.  I made this cobbler in one of those throw away foil pans you find at the grocery store because we were taking it to someone else's house for a holiday party.  Pour in the pineapple chunks.  I've also used the pineapple "tidbits" for this cobbler, but I like the larger chunks better.

Next spread the cherry pie filling evenly over the pineapple.  I got a little eager here and kept going without snapping another picture.  But it's simple, you can't mess this one up!  Pour the dry cake mix (that's right, no cake batter, you're just pouring straight out of the bag!) over the cherries and pineapple.

Next cover the cake mix evenly with thin slices of butter.  I don't always use the whole stick of butter here, sometimes I have one or two tablespoons leftover.  It just depends on how thick you make your slices.  Also, I've made this with unsalted and salted butter.  I don't notice a big difference in taste, so just use whatever you have one hand or normally buy.

When its ready, pop it in the oven and bake.  It comes together quickly.  You can bake it while you are fixing dinner or while you're eating dinner, and have a delicious dessert fresh from the oven when you've finished!  It's even great warmed up for breakfast the next morning (if there's any left that is)!

Pineapple Cherry Cobbler

  • 1 box of yellow cake mix
  • 1 large can of cherry pie filling
  • 1 large can of pineapple chunks (in juice), drained 
    • Note:  Feel free to save the juice for another recipe, perhaps yummy sweet and sour chicken!
  • 1 stick of butter
  • Pecan halves (optional)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Pour pineapple chunks into an 8x8 or 9x9 baking dish.  Spread cherry pie filling evenly over pineapple.  Pour entire package of dry cake mix evenly over the filling.  Cut stick of butter into thin slices and spread out evenly over cake mix.  Bake for approximately 45 minutes or until golden brown on top.  When done push pecan halves into the top of the cobbler and allow to cool slightly before serving by itself, or top with whipped cream or ice cream.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Simple and Cheap Fall Decor

One thing most people know about me is that I'm pretty frugal.  My mom taught me from an early age how to spot a bargain, and always check the clearance rack!  I remember going through the drive-thru when we were little and thinking that there was a sale because the sign above the drive-thru said "clearance".  I didn't realize back then that sign was telling me the height of the drive-thru canopy instead!  Now that I'm the mom, it's even more important for me to save where I can.

I like to have a centerpiece on the table, but with toddlers having candles or anything breakable just isn't an option yet.  I'm super surprised they've been so good with our new fall centerpiece, but since they have their Halloween themed sensory bin (which is way more fun to play with), I get why they don't want to 'play' with this centerpiece.

The bowl is a large black bowl we've had for a while.  I normally keep fruit in it or use it for mixing up something to bake.  The 'straw' is a natural colored raffia I picked up on a clearance shelf at Walmart for $1.  It comes in long ribbon like pieces, and I used scissors to cut it down into shorter straw-like pieces.  It was a rather large bag and after using some in our Halloween themed sensory bin and in this centerpiece, I still have  about half the bag leftover!

The colorful gourds I picked up in a mixed bag at our local farmer's market.  I absolutely love going to the farmer's market for their produce and goodies like this.  The produce is always bigger, better, and cheaper than the grocery store!  If you have a farmer's market near you, go!!  This bag was $3 and had nine gourds in various colors, shapes, and sizes.    I saw similar bags for sale at the grocery store for about $5 but they weren't as colorful and didn't have as many gourds in them.

We added the two mini pumpkins we picked from our own flower bed into the bowl to top off the centerpiece.  It's a lovely addition to the table and really adds to the fall feel in our home (especially when I'm burning my pumpkin scented candle!)

We also decided to put up a few Halloween decorations outside this year.  I saw this Frankenstein door decoration on Pinterest, and since we have a green front door I figured we just had to do this one!  I think he turned out pretty cute, despite having to work around all the windows on our door.  We've already received a few compliments from neighbor kids.  We used black and white construction paper, tape, and a trash bag. All things we already had in the house.  The other decorations were from the Dollar Store.  So our front porch decorations cost a total of $3.  Can't beat that!

We're going to the pumpkin patch this weekend to get our big pumpkins.  I'm looking forward to that!  This is the first year we'll be carving a pumpkin with the kids.  I can't wait to see how it turns out!