Friday, January 30, 2015

Penguin Play

Our first playdate of 2015 followed a winter snow theme. The boys and I missed attending that one because they were sick. But, we heard that our friends had a great time eating cheese stick snowmen, having an indoor snowball fight with socks, and making these paper plate snowmen:

Thankfully, Jaden and Cody were feeling better by the time our second January playdate rolled around. This one was penguin-themed. Even our two youngest playgroup members, Hannah and Wes, got into the theme. Aren't these two just adorable? :)

Samie slaved over these super cute penguin snacks, made with string cheese, olives, and carrots. Talk about impressive! :)

Here are the seven older kiddos, waiting patiently for snacktime.

Kenzie, Landon, Abbie, Micah, Ryder, Jaden, Cody

During snacktime, we watched a very brief video on YouTube which gave some fun facts about penguins. Then, we moved on to a few activities. All the kids listened and participated SO well for this first little game! We discussed what "waddling like a penguin" means and practiced some waddling.

Then, we all waddled along to this little tune: 
(sung to Twinkle Twinkle)
Penguins, penguins, having fun; Waddling in the winter sun.
Waddling fast and waddling slow; Waddling to and waddling fro;
Penguins, Penguins oh-so-nice...

We reeeally exaggerated the slow and fast waddling!

The song ended with, "They sit down upon some ice!" After hearing this line, the kids each had to find an ice cube (a white square of paper) to sit upon. I think we sang this song 3 or 4 times. It was quite a hit!

After the waddling song, the kids worked together to carry cotton ball "ice cubes" over to the couch, using only a plastic spoon. Somewhat surprisingly, they could actually all carry out this activity really well! I figured the game would be better as a cooperative activity, rather than a relay race, like I had seen on Pinterest. The kids did it fairly quickly and seemed to enjoy working together.

Our last game was Penguin I Spy. The kids sat down in groups of 2 with a stack of penguin picture cards. One of the adults would say something like, "I spy a penguin holding a star (or ice skating, or wearing a purple hat)," and the kids would find the appropriate cards. 

Recently, Jaden and Cody have been really into matching games at home, so they overall seemed to like this one. When we were done, each family kept a set of the penguin cards so they could play their own matching game at home.

After all these activities, the kids were ready for a bit of free play. Finally, though, our playdate ended with craft time. Ruth planned a very cute craft that used the kids' handprints as the penguin's wings.  

The kids, of course, were most excited about using the glue sticks!

And here's our group... holding their completed penguins.

"We love penguins!" :)

Monday, January 26, 2015

Winter Crafts

Recently, because Cody and Jaden haven't been very into outdoor snow play, we've decided to bring some snow fun indoors... in the form of craft projects. I found all these cute ideas on one of my favorite blogs: The girl who writes this blog has 3 boys, so her projects are usually right up our alley.

First, we made a snow collage. I taped some contact paper to our glass door and gave the boys various decorating items (paper, Q-tips, and cotton balls).

We found out that if we dabbed the cotton balls on the contact paper, it left a fun wispy, cloud-like remnant.

That was definitely the boys' favorite part!

Here is their final abstract product. The only help Mommy gave was with the snowflake in the bottom corner. I was trying to convince them to make snowmen with the circles and hat shapes, but as you can tell, that didn't happen. :)

Another day, we made no-mess painted snowflakes. Mommy loved this one! I started by cutting snowflake designs into small paper plates. Cody and Jaden loved opening up the snowflakes to see the patterns. Then, we stuck the snowflakes into plastic bags.

The boys each picked out a color of paint and helped me dump it into the bag. Then, they got to use their hands (and later even their feet!) to smear around the paint. Good thing we made the snowflakes with a durable paper plate!

Even though we dumped glitter into the bag along with our paint, it didn't show up very well. So, after taking the snowflakes out of the bag (it worked best to turn the bag completely inside-out), Jaden and Cody got to sprinkle on a bit more glitter.

Once the snowflakes were dry, we hung them on our mantel. Also on our mantel are paper plate/snowglobe snowmen that the boys made at library story time. Each week, a mom volunteers to lead toddler-friendly crafts that fit with the theme of the library stories. Her ideas are always so cute. We love our weekly library time!

This next craft was from our first January playgroup. Unfortunately, the boys and I had to miss our gathering, due to sickness. But, since I was the one to plan the snowman craft, I had all the supplies ready to go. The boys enjoyed assembling their snowman here at home once they were feeling better. The lighting of the photo isn't great to tell this, but their favorite part was adding decorations and features to the snowman's hat and face. And of course, ANY craft that involves glue stick is always a winner!

Most recently, we made marshmallow snowman. I wasn't sure how the boys would handle this project, since they LOVE eating marshmallows, but we gave it a try. First, Jaden and Cody colored their paper blue.

Then, Mommy drew on the snowman's body. The boys helped me squirt glue along the black lines. After sampling a small handful of marshmallows, they were ready to stick the marshmallows on the glue.

Not that this was my intent, but this was a great project to practice the boys' fine motor skills. Not surprisingly, Jaden was very careful about placing his marshmallows on the black line. He hardly needed my help at all!

Cody need a bit more guidance (he liked to just drop his marshmallows on the paper), but he eventually got the hang of it. Mommy was just thankful that we made it through the project without anyone eating a glue-covered marshmallow! :)

Now, our house is full of snowy decorations! We enjoy having something festive hanging up, especially right after the Christmas decorations go away. I'll have to remember this again next year!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Recent Playtime

Due to our many cold weather days and plentiful snowfalls, we've been indoors a lot the past few weeks. Jaden and Cody have been getting pretty creative with how to pass the time...

"Playing" on the piano is a regular favorite. They both get a piano book out of the bench (yes, always the same book for each boy) before they start to play.

When they've found the right song in their books, the performance begins! Their songs always include vocal AND piano. I didn't take a video of this particular concert. I thought it'd be best left to your imagination after seeing the photos. :)

Cody and Jaden really do sing actual lyrics to their songs! Most often, they sing "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands" (whole world haaaaands). Another favorite is "Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed" which they've only heard read. They made up a tune to this one! Sometimes, they'll even make up a little ditty on the spot, based on what Mommy happens to be doing nearby. Talk about some wonderful fun. :)

Occasionally the boys will sing without the assistance of a piano. Here, Jaden and Cody perform a Christmas-time favorite for Daddy.

Another popular pastime is play-dough. Jaden and Cody love the shapes they can make with their new Play-do factory that they got for Christmas (thanks, Uncle Matt & Aunt Kim!). One day, without any prompting, Jaden put the play-dough up to his mouth and told us he had a mustache!

Jaden's silly mood continues... On this day at lunch, he told Mommy that his napkin was a helmet.

Jaden and Cody's first activity of the day is nearly always zooming around their cars and trucks. Our very orderly boys enjoy making traffic line-ups...

...and parking lots with their cars. What another great Christmas gift! Thanks Grandma, Grandpa, Grammy, and Papa!

Cody has been very interested in his numbers lately. He will often point at words and say, "Numbers!" and then start counting all the letters. Most often, his string of numbers include randomly-placed numbers, but occasionally he CAN count correctly from 1 to 10...

One fun thing about having twins is seeing the activities they'll devise all on their own. One day, they got such a kick out of playing with their train set... in a most unusual way. The boys call this game, "Dump Me Out."

On a few days this winter, we've experimented with indoor snow. This is a good way to avoid the cold and yet still do some snow-play! As long as Cody and Jaden have a nearby towel to wipe off their hands, they think that poking the snow is pretty fun.

The second time we brought snow indoors, the boys got a little braver with it. Noses first...

...and then even the tongue. :)

The first 11 days of January brought us 17 inches of snow. The shoveled snow piles along our driveway are taller than Jaden and Cody! One day, I'm sure, they'll love to climb on these snow mountains.

For now, about the only snow-related thing we can convince these little boys to do is to take sled rides (as long as they're not downhill). 

Daddy is an excellent guide through the snow!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Happy Noon Year!

Last year, I saw on my cousin Becky's blog that she had taken her kids to a local "Noon Year's Eve" party. It was a party that celebrated the new year at noon instead of midnight, geared for younger kids who don't (shouldn't) stay up that late. I remember thinking how great that sounded and how I wished our community had a similar event.

As New Year's Eve rolled around this year, I thought about that idea and figured that our playgroup could pull off a Noon Year's Eve party. My fellow mommy friends agreed, and so we did it! We had a small turnout that day, but our little group had a memorable time, I think.

Before the party, Jaden and Cody helped me make a large 2015 decoration. Each number featured a different art medium (torn paper, dot painters, markers, and paint). They seemed to have fun doing it, as they willingly made all 4 numbers in the same morning.

When our guests arrived, we took pictures by this photo wall. I found some free downloadable photo props that I thought were so cute! I was actually surprised that Jaden and Cody got into this activity. They wanted to pose with every single prop.

Kenzie's glasses (below) say 2015.

She was the only one to successfully hold 2 props at once!

Even our littlest guests, Hannah and Wes, posed for a picture.

After we were all photo-ed out, we started our party activities. These were done in a countdown format. Before the party started, I had decorated 8 paper bags with clocks and stuck an activity slip inside each one. As the clock struck the time shown on the bag (or at least fairly close to that time...), the kids would open the bag to discover our next event. I had also seen this idea done with balloons, but I figured that balloon-popping would be too frightening for our age-range of guests.

Even though we were off on timing for quite a few of the events, the kids of course didn't notice! The bag-opening helped to transition from one event to the next, and it built excitement for the kiddos too.

The first activity was at 10:00-- snacktime! Ruth prepared a fun frosted jello and brought crackers too.

Hannah and Wes were particularly pleased about the second snack!

While the kids were eating, I read them a Winnie-the-Pooh New Year's story. It was a fairly cute story. The animals all think that they're stuck in December forever when they see it's the last page of their calendar. They end up writing a poem, celebrating all the months of the year and mourning the good-bye. Thankfully, Christopher Robin saves the day and tells the animals that the new year brings a whole new set of months. It's a reason to celebrate! :) Jaden and Cody LOVED this book. We read it many times following the party.

Jaden opened the bag for our next activity...

...crafts! Samie brought along supplies to make noisemakers. The kids enjoyed coloring their trumpets and using plenty of stickers, too.

It was SUCH a treat to have two dads join us for this playdate!! Jason had an extra vacation day for the year that he took advantage of this day. I loved having his help with the activities and the boys! Tom (Abbie and Hannah's dad) came along too, since he didn't have to teach. The men took charge of the baby-watching while the women guided the craft-making.

Here are the kiddos, attempting to blow their New Year's trumpets. Cody and Jaden obviously have no idea what they're doing. I love Kenzie's face as she's looking over at them!

I didn't get any action photos of our next activity-- a candy cane hunt. Jason, however, did a great job of hiding over a dozen candy canes in creative spots around our house. The kids found them all fairly quickly.

Then, it was on to New Year's BINGO. Jason ran this event too. He held up picture cards (depicting things like a noisemaker, party hat, or balloon) for the kids to find.

Jaden and Cody surprised me by really liking the game. They were very proud when they discovered a picture that matched Daddy's card. It was a successful first Bingo experience. None of the kids really understood the five-in-a-row concept, so we basically just played blackout. :)

Next, we had a mini-science experiment and watched "fireworks" explode in a jar. (just food coloring and oil poured into warm water) It was a very brief activity, but fairly impressive.

One of our last activities was filling out New Year's Eve reflection pages. Each family sat down together to discuss favorites and memories of 2014. The website where I found this form suggested sticking the completed page in your Christmas decoration box, where it'd be easily uncovered the following year. Great idea!

Cody and Jaden demonstrated to us how they love to live in-the-moment. Probably 3 of their favorites of the entire year mentioned something to do with "playing Bingo"! :) 

When everyone was done, we all shared some of our favorites of the year with each other.

Right before our countdown celebration, we made mini-pizzas with English muffins for lunch. The pizzas were conveniently cooking while we went downstairs to do the countdown.

The countdown went entirely too fast, so I didn't get great pictures. But, this activity was certainly full of noise and action! First, we gave the kiddos party hats and noisemakers. Then, we displayed a YouTube countdown video on our TV for the kids to watch. (The video I used only counted down from 10. If I repeat the party next year, I'm definitely doing a minute-long countdown. We need a bit more anticipation build-up!)

When the "Happy Noon Year" finally arrived, Jason was in charge of pulling the balloon-drop drawstring. This was a GREAT idea I found on Pinterest that was super easy to do. It simply used a cheap tablecloth, cut in 2, and then threaded together again with yarn. You fill the tablecloth with TONS of balloons (thankfully I had a balloon air-pump) and then duct tape the tablecloth to the ceiling. It worked like a charm! What fun to have tons of balloons fall on your head!

What a celebration! Happy "Noon" Year!

God's blessings on your 2015!