About Ali Cummins

Posts by Ali Cummins:

Cinco De Mayo

Cinco de Mayo can be a fun fiesta day for kids and a wonderful way to learn about another culture’s celebration. While looking for craft ideas, I learned a lot about the holiday myself. It is not Independence Day for Mexico, which is a common misconception. The holiday memorializes the Battle of Puebla, 1861, when the French invaded Mexico to collect a debt. The Mexicans were able to defeat the French in Puebla, which kept them from advancing to the capital of Mexico City. Before you begin your celebration, I highly recommend reading Cinco de Mayo, a children’s book in the On My Own Holidays series. I’ve included it in the books section below. (more…)

Earth Day

Earth day is right around the corner. How will you celebrate? We’ve used this celebration to learn all sorts of things about plants, the growth cycle of a seed, recycling, and animals.

 Lima Bean Flower Garden


In preparation for this activity, we read Planting a Rainbow by Lois Ehlert. This fabulous book explores the steps it takes to plant  garden, uses the proper names for the flowers, and breaks them down by color. After reading the first page, I knew this book was for us. It begins, “Every year Mom and I plant a rainbow.”  We dove right into the book calling the flowers by their names and talking about the differences between each. Riley flipped back and forth between the colored pages until she declared blue as her favorite set of flowers. Maddie was less particular. She was equally delighted by each color. This set the stage for our craft project and for planting our own garden this weekend.

Paint lima beans for the perfect #earthday #craft Click To Tweet

You will need:

Lima beans
Paint
Paint brush
Jar or plastic baggie
Card stockor heavy surface. Construction paper will work but will rip more easily from the weight of the lima beans
Glue
Wax paper

Directions:

1) Color the lima beans by putting them in your jar or plastic baggie, add paint, and shake. I used a baby food jar Pink Paint Lima Beansbecause I have a lot of those lying around (recycle, reuse!). Lay the colored lima beans on wax paper to dry. The wax paper will keep the lima beans from sticking while they dry.

2) Draw a garden scene on the card stock. Be sure to make the areas big enough to fit multiple lima beans.

3) Glue the lima beans to the scene!

* I used red lentils to make the sun. You can use yellow or orange lima beans or anything else you can think of!

Lima Bean Flowers

 

Nurture the Experience:

Have a conversation with your kids about what kind of flower they are making. Having just read Planting a Rainbow they will have many of types of flowers to choose from. This is a great way to get your child to start using the proper names for flowers. Have the book close by. If they can’t remember the name of the flower, they can go back into the book and find the one they are looking for. A great beginning to using references to support your thinking.

Riley's Lima Bean Flower

Riley’s Lima Bean Flower


Animal Grass Growing Jars

This activity was sparked by a trip to Walmart. The girls were helping me pick out flowers for our garden this year and found small ceramic animals that grew grass as hair much like the Chia Pets of my youth. And much like my youth and desire for a Chia Pet, I did not buy one for the girls but decided “we can make that at home!”

You willl need:Grass Head Animals

Directions:

1) Decide what animal you would like to make. I am not an artist, so I googled “animal faces” to reference and Riley Grass Head Animalsfound some great ones here.

2) Paint the jar the color of the animal. You will likely need two coats.

3) When base color is dry, paint the animal face of your choosing. Riley and Maddie both enjoy jumping so I chose two animals that jump.

4) When paint is dry, apply a coat of Mod Podge to seal it.

5) Fill the jars with dirt and plant the grass seed! Place the jars somewhere sunny and where the kids can observe them growing. Ours are on the kitchen window sill.

Nurture the experience:

Let’s talk about the growth cycle of a seed! As you are adding the dirt and the grass seed, talk about what it takes for the grass to grow. The discussion can be around what the seed needs to begin to grow (water, sunlight, and soil) but also how the seeds come to be in the first place. While looking this up to make sure I knew what I was talking about, I found this great website that shows a seed growing but also different ways that seeds are dispersed.


 

Earth Day Reading

There are a lot of great books out there that talk specifically about Earth Day but also classic books that address popular Earth Day topics. Don’t forget to infuse some nonfiction reading to enhance the learning experience!



The Lorax
is a classic. This book has the classic characteristics of all the beloved Dr. Seuss books with the message of being aware of our effect on the Earth. The book tells the story of the Once-ler who came upon a new environment. The Once-ler is an entrepreneur and sees potential in this new environment to make a product that everyone must have! And he was right. He uses the Truffula Trees right down to the last one. Along the way, the Lorax, who is the voice for the trees, warns the Once-ler of what he is doing. This is a great book to spark conservation conversations with kids.

 

 


The Giving Tree is another book that speaks to what nature gives to us and is a classic. In this book, a little boy befriends a tree who gives him everything it has to make the boy happy. The boy goes on to live his life with little gifts from the tree. It is an endearing story with many lessons to be learned. Pick out your favorite topic from this book and start the conversation!

 

 


Nat Geo Wild Animal Atlas is a nonfiction text designed for children. This book is a wealth of information! The book is divided by continent and then breaks the continent down into habitats. Different animals from each continent and habitat are highlighted. The correct names are used for the animals, and it is crammed with facts! The pages are colorful and designed to keep children’s attention. Drive the connection between habitat and continents more for your child by exploring this book before a trip to the zoo. The zoo is also broken out by continent and habitat. Your child will be able to make the connection between what they have learned in this book and what they are seeing at the zoo.

 

 

Felt Board

I order my diapers through Amazon Prime. It saves me haggard trips to Walmart but also leaves me with a lot of cardboard boxes. We’ve gotten a little bit bored with the traditional coloring-of-the-box-to-make-it-into-a-house game. I was also looking for a new way to talk to Riley about her letters. Like most three-year-olds, she was not interested in sitting at the table and doing flashcards or workbooks. I decided to make an alphabet felt board for the playroom. Decision made, we set off to Walmart to purchase supplies. Wait, didn’t the box end up at my house to avoid a trip to Walmart? Oh, the best-laid plans often go awry.

What you’ll need:Felt Board

Large piece of cardboard

Large piece of felt, big enough to fit over the cardboard (Walmart cuts by the yard.)

Hot glue and hot glue gun

Ribbon for the border

Package of assorted felt colors to make the letters

Scotch mounting tape

Directions:

1) Cut the cardboard to your desired size. Cut large piece of felt so that there is enough on the back to glue but not so much that it will hinder hanging it.

2) Place felt on the table and put the cardboard over it. Glue the felt edges to the cardboard so that the felt lays flat when you turn it over.

3) Glue on the border.

4) Cut the mounting tape into strips and place them on the back of the felt board. Turn over and hang!

5) Cut smaller felt into letters. I used two pieces for each and glued them together to make them easier to grab.

6) You’re done! Start learning those letters or practice your spelling!

Nurture the experience:

Try making scenes from your child’s favorite book out of felt. For instance, if she is into Pete the Cat and his four groovy buttons, you can make Pete, buttons, a skateboard, a surfboard, etc. Read the book with her but allow her to interact with it using the felt board. Each time a button pops off, have her remove the button and sing the song with you. Or, just let her make up her own story with her character and scene. Develop a love of literacy and the imagination!

Friendship Bracelets

Some weekends are full of activities and feel like you are going all of the time. This weekend was one of those. We
needed an activity that would allow us to sit and focus on just one thing. These bracelets did the trick. It can be very relaxing working on a simple braid, and the girls loved having matching accessories at the end! Be careful, before you know it you could have a full jewelry box of these. At least try to match the colors to the work outfit you have planned for Monday!

Friendship Bracelets 2

What You’ll Need:

Embroidery thread, three colors

Tape

Scissors


 

1) Cut three strands of each color of embroidery thread. The length does not have to be much longer than the length you want for the bracelet. Just Ready to braidBraidingkeep in mind that it will be braided so it will be slightly shorter, but the braiding doesn’t detract too much from the length.

2) Tape one end to a table.

3) Braid it. Allow enough thread at the end to tie the bracelet when it is done.

4) Tie the finished product to your child’s wrist and cut the ends.

 

Nurture the Experience:

Use this time to teach your child about tying different knots! See if you can master all of the knots below. Knot tying is a great exercise in finger and mental agility. Each different knot requires a different set of steps, which means different muscle movements for your fingers, forcing your brain to concentrate and rethink the task.

how-to-tie-knots

Picture from almanac.com 

 

Fun with Science!

The Color Scientist

What You’ll Need:Beakers

  • Food coloring, at least the primary colors
  • Clear plastic containers
  • Eyedropper
  • Scientist gear (optional but fun)
  • Colored circles cut from construction paper
  • Sheets of colored construction paper
  • Glue stick

Directions:

  1. Fill a plastic container partway with water and add a couple of drops of food coloring. Mix.
  2. Repeat with the number of colors you’ve chosen to work with.
  3. Encourage your child to use the eyedropper to move colored water from one plastic container into an empty container and then add another color to see what happens.
  4. When she makes a new color, have her choose the two colored circles that made the new color and glue those to circles onto a sheet of paper of the new color. For instance, if she mixes red and yellow to get orange, have her glue a red circle and a yellow circle onto an orange piece of paper.
  5. Repeat with different colors until she’s either tired of the game or you’ve created as many color combinations as you can.