Tree Sculpture

What you need:
Play dough
• Plate
• Small Branches
• Stones

What you do:
• Put some playdough on the plate.
• Poke branches into the playdough.
• Add small pieces of red, yellow, and orange playdough to make leaves.
• Add some stones around the base of your tree.
• Find the perfect spot to display your work!

Columbus Day

Columbus Day, which is annually on the second Monday of October, remembers Christopher Columbus’ arrival to the Americas on October 12, 1492.
One of the first known celebrations marking the discovery of the “New World” by Christopher Columbus was in 1792, when a ceremony organized by the Colombian Order was held in New York City honoring Christopher Columbus and the 300th anniversary of his landing in the Bahamas. Then, on October 12, 1866 the Italian population of New York organized the first celebration of the discovery of America. Three years later, in 1869 Italians in San Francisco celebrated October 12 calling it C-Day.
To mark the 400th anniversary of Columbus’ voyage, in 1892, President Benjamin Harrison made a commemorative proclamation. But it was Colorado, in 1905, that became the first state to observe a Columbus Day. Since 1920 the day has been celebrated annually, and in 1937 President Franklin Roosevelt proclaimed every October 12 as Columbus Day. That’s where it remained until 1971 when Congress declared it a federal public holiday on the second Monday in October.
Christopher Columbus (1451 – 1505)
A child of poor wool tradesman from Genoa, Italy, Christopher’s childhood dream was to live on sea. When he was 23 he took part in a big sea voyage – in the Mediterranean; two years later he saw the Atlantic Ocean for the first time. He settled in Portugal and became a merchant sailor in the Portuguese fleet. His most significant voyage was to Iceland through Ireland.
Between 1477 and 1482 Columbus made merchant voyages as far away as Iceland and Guinea. But in 1484, his “Enterprise of the Indies” idea fell on deaf ears when he presented it to King John of Portugal. Shortly thereafter, he moved to Spain, where King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella became more interested in his adventuresome ideas.
To the New World
On August 2, 1492, Columbus set sail in search of the East Indies. The voyage was financed by Ferdinand and Isabella by making the city of Palos pay back a debt to the crown by providing two of the ships, and by getting Italian financial backing for part of the expenses. The crown had to put up very little money from the treasury.
Columbus and 90 crewmen boarded the three ships that were to make the first voyage to the New World, the Niña, Pinta, and the flagship, Santa Maria. On October 12, 1492, Columbus first saw the islands of the new world, landing in the Bahamas. Later in the month, he would sail to Cuba, and to Hispaniola (now Haiti). He thought he had reached the East Indies, the islands off Southeast Asia.
What was not realized by Columbus, was just how big a globe it was. Columbus seriously underestimated the size of the planet.
Seaworthy Cuisine
The menu for Spanish seamen consisted of water, vinegar, wine, olive oil, molasses, cheese, honey, raisins, rice, garlic, almonds, sea biscuits, dry legumes such as chickpeas, lentils, beans, salted and barreled sardines, anchovies, dry salt cod and pickled or salted meats (beef and pork), salted flour.
Food, mostly boiled, was served in a large communal wooden bowl. It consisted of poorly cooked meat with bones in it, the sailors attacking it with fervor, picking it with their fingers as they had no forks or spoons. The larger pieces of meat were cut with the knife each sailor carried. Fish was eaten most often. On calm days, the crew would fish and then cook their catch.
Return to Spain and Additional Voyages
On Christmas Day, 1492, the Santa Maria sank off Hispaniola. Columbus departed for Spain on January 16, 1493 on the Niña, arriving there on March 4.
Columbus made three additional voyages to the New World. The second voyage set sail in September, 1493, with 17 ships. During his expeditions, he helped to colonize Hispaniola, and discovered the South American mainland. He did not, however, see mainland North America during any of his voyages.
He returned to Spain for the last time on November 7, 1504. He died at Valladolid, Spain on May 20, 1506, at the age of 55.
Even though Columbus will always be “the Discoverer of America” to most people, nowadays more and more scientists support the thesis that the first European to reach the New World was in fact Leifur Eriksson who went from Iceland to North America in 11th century.

Playdough Recipe

What you need:
• 1 cup of fine salt
• 1 cup of flour
• 1/2 cup of water (may add more)

What you do:
• In a large bowl, combine the salt and the flour.
• Make a well in the salt/flour mixture and add the water.
• Knead until smooth and shape into a ball.
• Once the dough is made, you can divide it up into small portions to roll into 1/8″ thick pieces with a rolling pin. Use cookie cutters to cut out a variety of shapes, and place the shapes on wax paper or other surface to dry.
• Allow the shapes to dry for a day or two, turning them over periodically to speed up the drying process.
• Instead of allowing the dough shapes to air dry, you can bake them in the oven at 200 degrees F until hard. Baking times varies depending on oven and dough thickness. Make sure the dough is completely baked. You can cover the dough with aluminum foil if it starts to darken before completely baked through.
• When  salt dough is not in use, wrap it in plastic or store in an airtight container

Tips: To get a softer dough you can add more flour. Adding more salt will lend a more granulous affect. To add color to your dough, use different types of flour or add food coloring or paint.
Knead to get an even color.
You may also paint your ornaments and sculptures after they dry.

Gardening with Kids

Gardens are magical, fun, and always full of surprises. Watch a child pull a carrot from the earth, brush off the soil, and take a bite, or see the anticipation in the eyes of a youngster creating a bouquet of flowers he grew. There is a natural magnetic attraction between children and the earth, whether it’s making mud or discovering a germinating seed emerges from the earth. Gardening with children, from toddlers to adolescents, opens new windows in a world dominated by technology.
Memories last longer than one season. Adults who fondly remember a childhood spent in a garden often recall a parent, grandparent, or neighbor who guided and encouraged them to explore the natural world.
Incorporate planting and play, and kids become more comfortable. We can teach even the tiniest child garden etiquette, such as where to walk. Later, they learn the consequences of good (or poor) care: watering, weeding, cultivating.
Moreover, both kids and adults learn patience in the garden. We have to wait for nature to take its course. Keep kids’ gardens simple, and a manageable size, about 6 by 10 feet.” Begin with only a few seed or plant varieties that grow quickly, and give the children tasks appropriate to their age and skill level. Watering is a favorite and even weeding can be. The pathway to better health and nutrition is right outside the door. Of course gardening offers great opportunities for exercise, fresh air, and good food. Growing their own food expands a young person’s choice of foods, a key to good nutrition. If they have grown up on home-grown and homemade food, they can taste the difference.
Gardening is a powerful experience for children. Children have fewer and fewer chances to interact with the natural world, and the connection to nature is important for their development. Children who develop regard and concern for the natural world come to be good stewards of the land and its resources. Being responsible for tending a garden also fosters their sense of “nurturing” and helps them learn to care for other living things. Kids don’t often hear much positive feedback from adults, and creating and tending a garden also empowers kids because they hear that they have “done a good job” from other adults.

Tips on Gardening with Kids:

1. Kid gardens must be kid-based. This means that kids help generate the ideas for what will be there, help with construction and planting, and are responsible for maintenance. Grown-ups need to facilitate and show how, but not do everything. Focus on the process of involving them, and they will then take ownership.
2. Develop the garden to be appropriate for the regional conditions. Develop the garden so the features and plant choices are adapted to local conditions, so you are not “working against nature.”
3. Focus on functional garden design, not how it will look. Start the design process by determining what the children want to be doing and learning in the garden. Base the features on the practical functions they will serve, and don’t worry too much about aesthetics. Gardens that serve as hands-on learning laboratories for kids will be beautiful because they are well-used and well-loved spaces. Also remember that the children’s sense of what is pretty may not be yours; that’s ok because the garden is their space.
4. Be comfortable with dirt. All kids are washable, so let them get dirty.
5. Bugs and crawly critters are cool. Children aren’t inherently afraid of things that crawl and creep. They learn that these things are bad or scary or icky from adults. When you pass on an aversion to something because of how it looks, that’s called “prejudice.” Worms, caterpillars, grubs, insects, spiders and all sorts of wondrous creatures are out in your garden as part of the ecosystem. Please see them as integral parts of the system, and the kids will be amazed and curious, not afraid.
6. No chemicals. Given that you are gardening with children, this really should not need any explanation. Also in urban areas, it is advisable to have a basic soil assessment for lead and other urban contaminants to make sure your site is safe for children before the garden is developed.
7. Grow some things to eat. Children are much more willing to try and consume fresh fruits and vegetables that they have grown. In fact, they likely will try things they never have eaten before because they have tended the plants through harvest.
8. Keep it fun.

Tangrams for Kids

Tangrams are ancient Chinese puzzles that are still used today by both adults and children. A tangram begins with a square. This square is cut into seven standard pieces. Each piece is called a tan. When creating pictures with tangrams all seven pieces must be used to complete each picture.   When tangrams are used during storytelling, the storyteller arranges the tans to show the shape of the characters in the story. Each new arrangement helps to tell the story elements as the story develops.   Tangrams are also excellent tools to teach spatial relationships, geometry, and fractions. Tangrams puzzles are fun to solve and to create!     
The tangram as an invention is not recorded in history. The earliest known Chinese book is dated 1813 but the puzzle was already very old by then. At that time it was considered a game for women and children.
Tangrams became very popular during the 19th century in Europe and America. This happened as trade with China opened up and sailors brought home new amusements they discovered during their travels. It is said that Tangram translated from Old English is “puzzle” or “trinket.
The “Chinese Puzzle” over the years has created many books and picture card sets.
Some examples of Chinese tangram sets still exist today with pieces carved from and/or inlaid with ivory, jade and other fine materials from the early 1800’s.

What you need:
• Foam Sheet ( 2 different colors)
• Scissors
• All Purpose Glue
• Printable Pattern

What you do:
• Trace foam tangram from pattern provided. Cut out.
• Glue down shapes to another piece of foam in pattern of an animal of your choice.
• Follow pattern provided.

Snake for Kids

What you need:
• Chenille Stem – Green
• Pony Beads
• Wiggle Eyes
• Scissors
• All Purpose Glue
• Construction Paper

 What you do:
• Make a loop in your chenille stem like a snake’s head, twist together.
•  Slide on pony beads to make snake as long as you want.
• End by re-looping chenille stem through last bead.
• Add tongue and wiggle eyes.
Pin It

Gummy Bears

What you need:
• Small cup of water
• Gummy bear candy
• Ruler

What you do:
• Measure the length and width of your gummy bear.
• Put the gummy bear in the cup.
• Fill the cup with enough water to cover up the gummy bear.
• Let the gummy bear soak in the water overnight.
• Watch your gummy bear grow.

For the Growing Gummy Bear science project click here.

Easter Eggs

Natural Dyes for Easter Eggs

Egg-dying is a really fun family activity or a science project – regardless of your religious affiliation. This year, try going au naturale using these recipes:
What you need:
• Eggs
• White Vinegar
• Vegetables and spices, see below
• Saucepan
• Filtered Water
• Measuring spoons
• Wooden spoon and slotted spoon
• Olive oil, wax, cooking twine, leaves, etc (optional)
What you do:
1. Choose which colors you’d like to dye your eggs:
•  Red
-Red onion skins, use a lot
– Pomegranate juice
– Whole beets- not canned
– Cherries or cranberries
• Yellow
– Lemon or orange peel
– Celery seeds
– Ground Cumin
• Pale Yellow
– Boil eggs in 3 tablespoons of ground turmeric for 12-15 minutes
• Deep Gold
– Boil eggs in 3 tablespoons of ground turmeric for 30 minutes
• Yellow Brown
– Dill seeds
• Yellow Green
– Bright green apple peels
• Orange
– Yellow onion skins
• Blue
– Canned blueberries and their juice
– Red cabbage leaves
– Purple grape juice
• Baby Blue
– Boil ½ head of read chopped red chopped cabbage, soak eggs in solution in the fridge for 1-2 hours. (Cabbage dye does not work until it cools).
• Royal Blue
– Boil ½ head of red chopped cabbage for 30 minutes, soak eggs in solution in the fridge overnight.
•  Violet Blue
– Violet blossoms
-Red onion skins (less than needed for red)
• Green
– Spinach leaves
-Fresh green herbs
– Olive green, use red onion skins (colored produced by reaction with vinegar)
• Brown/ Tan
-1 quart of strong black coffee instead of water
– Black walnut shells
– Tea
-Handful of cumin seeds
•  Lavender/ Purple
– Diluted purple grape juice
-Violet blossoms plus squeeze of lemon
– Frozen Blueberries
•  Pink
– 3 cups of chopped beet
– Cranberries or cranberry juice
– Raspberries
– Red grape juice
2. Place eggs in the bottom of a large pan. Cover with water. For each color, fill a saucepan with at least three inches of water. Add 2 Tablespoons of white vinegar. Add the natural ingredient of your choice from above. It’ll take around 2 cups, packed.
3. Bring the contents to a boil.
Reduce heat and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, depending on the color you are intending. Some ingredients take longer to set and the longer the eggs boil, the deeper the color. To further deepen the color, take the pan off the stove and store in the fridge overnight.
5. Remove the eggs from the dye. If you’re satisfied with the color, then allow them to dry on racks over old dish towels. For deeper, richer colors, strain the liquid, and allow the egg to continue to soak for up to eight hours. Any longer, and the vinegar will start to disintegrate the shell. If you plan to eat the eggs, put them into the refrigerator.
Helpful Hints:
Use brown eggs to deep gold and browns, white eggs for other colors. Try creating unique designs on your eggs by drawing on them with white crayons, tying cooking twin around them before dying. For permanent hollow eggs, create a small hole in both ends of the egg with a safety pin or wire and gently blow contents of the egg out of one end. Any food that gives off a tint when boiled is a potential dyeing agent- look around the kitchen for other ingredients that might produce interesting hues.
Other Ideas:
To add a marbleized effect, stir in a few teaspoons of olive oil into the cooled, stained dye. The oil will stick to the shell in certain places, preventing the dye from continuing to color the shell in certain spots.


Earth Day

Earth Day is a name used for two different observances, both held worldwide annually. While some people celebrate Earth Day around the time of the vernal equinox, others observe the occasion on April 22 each year. Earth Day  aims to inspire awareness of and appreciation for earth’s environment. It is currently observed in more than 140 countries around the world.
What do people do
The April 22 Earth Day is usually celebrated with outdoor performances, where individuals or groups perform acts of service to earth. Typical ways of observing Earth Day include planting trees, picking up roadside trash, conducting various programs for recycling and conservation, using recyclable containers for snacks and lunches. Some people are encouraged to sign petitions to governments, calling for stronger or immediate action to stop global warming and to reverse environmental destruction.  Television stations frequently air programs dealing with environmental issues.
Public Life
Earth Day is not a public holiday and public life, with regard to transport schedules and opening hours for schools and businesses, is not affected.
The April 22 Earth Day, founded by Senator Gaylord Nelson, was first organized in 1970 to promote ecology and respect for life on the planet as well as to encourage awareness of the growing problems of air, water and soil pollution.
Some people prefer to observe Earth Day around the time of the March equinox. In 1978, American anthropologist Margaret Mead added her support for the equinox Earth Day, founded by John McConnell. She stated that the selection of the March Equinox for Earth Day made planetary observance of a shared event possible.
Symbols used by people to describe Earth Day include: an image or drawing of planet earth; a tree, a flower or leaves depicting growth; or the recycling symbol. Colors used for Earth Day include natural colors such as green, brown or blue.  
The “Earth Flag”, which was designed by John McConnell, has been described as a “flag for all people”. It features a two-sided dye printed image of the Earth from space on a dark blue field, made from recyclable, weather-resistant polyester. Margaret Mead believed that a flag that showed the earth as seen from space was appropriate.

Goofy Glasses

What you need:
An egg carton
• Pipe cleaners
• Markers, paint, faux jewels, stickers, etc.
• Scissors
• Pen
What you do:
• Have your child cut out two egg cells from an egg carton and separate them from each other.
• Help him use scissors or a pen to poke a hole in the middle of the bottom of each of the cells so he can see out of them.
• Next, have him poke two holes along the top outer edge of the egg cells and two on the inside. (You’re creating holes for the bridge and the earpieces of the glasses, so try to line the holes up across from each other.)
• Trim a pipe cleaner to about three to four inches and then loop it through the inside holes to connect the two egg cells together. This pipe cleaner will be the “bridge” of the glasses.
Next, run one pipe cleaner through each of the outer holes on either side of the egg cells. These will be the eyeglass arms and earpieces. You may need to trim them to fit your kid’s head and then bend them to wrap around the ears.
• Now that the hardware is finished, have your kid decorate the glasses in any way he chooses. He can glue on rhinestones, feathers, pom poms, foam shapes or whatever he pleases.

Road to Reading

Do you remember learning to drive, how you had to get used to using three pedals with two feet while holding on to the steering wheel and watching the road all at the same time? It was difficult to coordinate and may have taken a while to get right. Your child is in the similar situation when he learns to read.
Learning to read is new, it is not easy and it can take a long time.
Your child is just settling into primary school after leaving the familiar environment of pre-school or home. Now he will be expected to sit and concentrate for longer periods than before.
You begin to realize that your baby is a baby no longer. He looks so serious going to school with that big school bag! You can encourage your child by following their school work closely and, in particular, by showing an interest in the reading folder.
Your child may be eager to learn to read and write but he will soon discover that it is hard work. It is important not to let him get discouraged.
You may find you are not as relaxed about your child’s progress as you would like to be. If things do not go according to plan, you might see it as failure. Perhaps you feel helpless and don’t know what to say when he bursts into tears because, “It’s to hard, I can’t do it!” or, “The teacher is too strict.” It is not always easy to help a child who, sometimes, does not understand what he is reading.

Your child may need to repeat things again and again. In the early days, the meaning of a story can be completely lost as he struggles with the words themselves.
You, as parent, may feel impatient and worried. Is it normal that your child is still slowly fumbling his way, while a best friend is whizzing through whole books?
The road to reading is often rocky. Your child might get out of breath, slow down or even come to a complete halt. Don’t worry. He will get there in time.
 To be continued…
Reading Part I


Autism Awareness Day

On the evenings of April 1 and 2, 2011, prominent buildings across North America and the world — including the Empire State Building in New York City and the CN Tower in Toronto, Canada — will turn their lights blue to raise awareness for autism and to commemorate World Autism Awareness Day on Saturday, April 2.
Autism is a complex neurological disorder that typically lasts throughout a persons lifetime. It is part of a group of disorders known as autism disorders (ASD)
It is estimated that as many as 67 million individuals are affected by autism, making it more common in most countries than pediatric cancer, diabetes, and AIDS combined.
It  occurs in all racial, ethnic, and social groups and is four times more likely to strike boys than girls. Autism impairs a persons ability to communicate and relate to others. It is also associated with rigid routines and repetitive behaviors, such as obsessively arranging objects or following very specific routines. Symptoms can range from very mild to quite severe. All these disorders are characterized by varying degrees of impairment in communication skills and social abilities, and also by repetitive behaviors.
Autism spectrum disorders can usually be reliably diagnosed by age 3, while first diagnosis usually takes place around 18-24 months.
Parents are usually the first to notice unusual behaviors in their child or their child’s failure to reach appropriate developmental milestones. Some parents describe a child seemed different from birth, while others describe a child who was developing normally and then lost skills. Pediatricians may initially dismiss signs of autism, thinking a child will “catch up”, and may advise parents to “wait and see”. New research shows that when parents suspect something is wrong with their child, they are usually correct. If you have concerns about your child’s development, don’t wait: speak to your pediatrician about getting your child screened for autism.
Early behavioral intervention can result in significant improvements.
Although parents may have concerns about labeling a toddler as “autistic”, the earlier a diagnosis is given, the earlier interventions can begin. Currently, there are no effective means to prevent autism, no single effective treatment, and no known cure.
Research indicates, that early behavioral intervention for at least two years during the preschool years can result in significant improvements in IQ and language ability for many young children with autism spectrum disorders. As soon as autism is diagnosed, behavioral intervention should begin. Effective programs focus on developing communication, social, and cognitive skills.
In many countries autism is not a recognized disorder and diagnosis can be difficult. Countries must take a commitment to building capacity for early recognition by raising awareness. Screening methods for detection of at-risk children are available for toddlers as young as 18 months of age. Such screening can occur during a regular well-baby check up.
The most effective treatments are early, evidence-based  behavioral interventions. Many children also benefit from speech-language therapy and occupational therapy.
Red Flags of Autism:
• No big smiles or other warm, joyful expressions by six months or thereafter
• No back-and-forth sharing of sounds, smiles, or other facial expressions by nine months or thereafter
• No babbling by 12 months
• No back-and-forth gestures, such as pointing, showing, reaching, or waving by 12 months
• No words by 16 months
• No two-word meaningful phrases (without imitating or repeating) by 24 months
• No response when the child’s name is called by 10 months
• Any loss of speech, babbling or social skills at any age.