Continent, Country & Flag Identification

Color Coded Continents Countries and Flags Puzzle Identification - Hands on Learning - projectsinparenting.com
Since my boys were 3 years old, this US Foam Puzzle has been a favorite go-to of theirs. At 1st it was just fun for them to put together, but as they got older it became a great learning tool. They are now familiar with most US states, their shape, general location, as well as some facts we’ve learned along the way.

Jacob has been asking about the difference between city, state, country and continent lately, so I wanted to come up with a hands-on way for him to understand the bigger picture. Since they enjoyed the other foam puzzle so much, I decided to purchase this World Map Puzzle with Flags & Capitals. Understandably due to size constraints, it doesn’t include EVERY flag in the world. If it did, I think that would be too overwhelming anyway. The puzzle has a total of 65 flags (based mainly on country size) which seems to be the perfect start.

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The foam puzzle, flags and map provided are great. Unfortunately there is no ‘key’ to know where each flag goes. I was able to figure it out using the original sticker sheet, but both Jacob and Evan were at a complete loss putting the puzzle together without my help. To give them the independence of easily figuring it out on their own, I created a color-coded diagram showing all of the 65 flags and the corresponding country by continent. I also made a color-coordinating continent map for easy reference.

Click on image below for FREE Printable:

Hands-on Learning, Color Coded Continents, Countries and Flags - projectsinparenting.com
Hands-on Learning - Color Coded Continents, Countries and Flags - projectsinparenting.com

Once I gave them my diagrams (other than some adorably incorrect pronunciations) – easy peasy. Both Jacob and Evan were able to correctly identify 65 flags, place them in their corresponding country, and understand which continent they belonged to as well!

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I have no doubt this puzzle will be another one of their favorites – learning more as they grow and discovering new things each time they complete it.   🙂

Related: Color-Coded Beginner Piano Music Book
Related: Constellation Sticker Craft

“Without geography, you are nowhere.”

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Sun Catcher Valentine

Sun Catcher Valentine Banner - projectsinparenting.jpg

With 8 to 14 inches of snow expected today, schools in the area were cancelled for a rare occurrence — SNOW DAY!! Needless to say, the kids were very excited and we spent most of the morning outside. This afternoon, we decided to stay warm and stick indoors for a Valentine’s Day themed craft.

Using these cute doilies from the dollar store, (click here for a similar product on Amazon) I simply cut out a heart shape from the middle of the doily and attached a square of contact paper (larger than the doily) to one side. Then, with Valentine’s Day inspired colors, I cut small squares of tissue paper and put them in bowls.

Sticky side up, the kids selected their preferred tissue squares and attached them to the contact paper heart in the center of the doily.

When their Valentine heart decorating was complete, I trimmed any excess tissue paper that was hanging over the lace part of the doily, then sealed their heart with another sheet of contact paper. After trimming around the outside of the doily (to cut off excess contact paper), we hung their masterpieces in our window to enjoy the beautiful stained glass colors!

These Valentines also make perfect gifts to send to family and friends! 🙂

“Close your eyes and picture of the sun. That’s what it felt like to love her, warmth.”
– Atticus

Follow me on Pinterest and Instagram for more fun ideas!

Unicorn Valentine Printable

Unicorn Valentine Banner

Right now Avery is OBSESSED with everything unicorn. Anytime she spots something at a store with a unicorn on it, she ogles at it like it’s a lost baby kitten and is convinced it was made for her. So to no surprise, this year we decided to create Valentine’s Day cards with this mystical creature – and just the right amount of sparkle!

Since Valentines these days usually come with a fun favor attached to them, I purchased cute unicorn fans to include with Avery’s. Some other ideas if you are interested in adding a favor (which you can either tie on, attach with double sided tape, or use a fun glitter or unicorn Washi tape)…

Based on whichever size you would like, click on the above image to download and start creating your own magical Valentines!

Related: DIY Heart Breaker Valentine’s Day Cards

“Always be yourself, unless you can be a unicorn. Then always be a unicorn.”

The Imperial March Beginner Piano Sheet Music

Color Coded Beginner Piano Sheet Music Banner - projectsinparenting.jpg

The boys have mastered the Color-Coded Beginner Piano Sheet Music I created for them, so I thought I’d put together another song. They are super into Star Wars right now, so The Imperial March (Darth Vader’s theme) seemed like the perfect option. Simple, yet dramatically fun – and perfect to get in the mood for our upcoming trip to Disney World!

All I had to do was add a few more color-coded note stickers to our keyboard. POST UPDATE: I originally cut down circle dot labels I had on-hand (as seen in my photo), but recently upgraded to these Color Coding Dot Labels, which I highly recommend. The colors coordinate exactly and they are the perfect size for full-sized piano keys / keyboards.

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Click on below image to download FREE printable color-coded sheet music…

Star Wars - The Imperial March Color-Coded Beginner Piano Sheet Music - projectsinparenting.com

…And may the force be with you.

 

 

DIY Heart Breaker Valentine’s Day Cards

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‘Tis the season for roses, hearts, Cupid and the age old tradition of spreading love with thoughtful Valentine’s Day cards!

Avery is currently obsessed with decorating herself in adhesive bandages, like they are a fashion accessory – so I picked up some holiday themed bandages to use for her classroom Valentines (one of many amazing finds at the Target Dollar Spot!). I created and printed the below Heart Breaker Valentine’s Day Cards and attached the bandages with double-sided tape.

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Click HERE to download free printable.

Now my adorable little heart breaker is ready for her 1st Valentine’s Day celebration at school.  🙂

Related: Mermaid Valentine Printable
Related: Unicorn Valentine Printable

Color-Coded Beginner Piano Sheet Music

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The other day, Jacob was jamming away on his toy piano singing ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’ – eyes closed, head bopping, slamming random keys on the key board…  I loved the enthusiasm and figured the boys are probably old enough to start reading beginner sheet music, so I decided to put together a few songs for them.

I am by no means a musician, but I did play piano back in the day and remembered some of the basics. I wanted to keep it simple with what I feel is a reasonable goal for toddlers and preschoolers: Find Middle C and play a simple song with one finger (not at all insisting on proper finger placement). I’m not trying to raise Mozart – I just want them to have fun and become comfortable with the basics of sheet music while doing so.

We have a Fischer-Price electronic keyboard that has color coding to the keys, so I decided to coordinate with that…. POST UPDATE: I originally cut down circle dot labels I had on-hand (as seen in my photo), but recently upgraded to these Color Coding Dot Labels, which I highly recommend. The colors coordinate exactly and they are the perfect size for full-sized piano keys / keyboards.

I then created color-coded sheet music for a couple of their favorite songs. Click on below sheet music image to download a FREE printable.

twinkle-little-star

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For more song selections, please visit my Etsy Shop.
9 song pack

As simple as that – now my boys understand the concept of reading and playing music on the piano. With or without an accurate rhythm on the keyboard, watching their faces and sense of accomplishment after completing a song is absolutely priceless!

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Related: Star Wars The Imperial March Beginner Piano Sheet Music
Related: Color-Coded Beginner Piano Music Book

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Stained Glass Sun Catcher Leaf Craft

stained-glass-sun-catcher-fall-leaf-craft-for-kids-projectsinparenting

A couple of years ago, we had to remove most of the trees around our property due to Ash Borer. Now we hardly have leaves in our yard during Fall. Seriously, this is the leaf “pile” the kids were playing in yesterday…

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The kids had a blast – but without a ton of leaves, it hasn’t felt much like fall (to me anyway). So I decided to create a fall-themed craft to set the mood for the autumn season. My boys loved the Stained Glass Sun Catcher Ornaments we made last winter, so I created a similar craft using a leaf shape… Super-easy, no-mess, and perfect for all ages!

To get the project ready, print any of the following leaf shapes:
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CLICK THE FOLLOWING corresponding leaf for free PDF printable:
Maple
Magnolia
Oak
Oak 2
Redbud

Cut out the CENTER of the leaf shape with an X-Acto knife or scissors.
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Prepare colored tissue paper by cutting them into squares.

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Note: I separated the tissue paper squares into coordinating cup colors for easy selection. I’m not pointing this out to show how overly organized I can be, I’m sharing this to show one of the MANY ways I’ve re-purposed the cups provided in our Easter egg dying kit – Great cups to save and reuse!

Adhere a piece of contact paper to the FRONT of your pre-cut leaf print-out, covering the entire outline. (Don’t have contact paper? Packaging tape works as a wonderful substitute!) Then lay the paper down, sticky side up.
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Now it’s time for your little artist(s) to decorate their leaf… Have them select their tissue paper pieces, and press them down onto the contact paper.
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When complete, seal the back with another piece of clear contact paper. Trim around the outside of the leaf shape with scissors and tape or hang your masterpiece in a window to enjoy the beautiful stained glass colors!
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Related: Fall Leaf Lantern

Exploring Colors for Preschoolers

exploring-colors-for-preschoolers-projectsinparenting-com

Mix It Up! by Hervé Tullet has been a long-time favorite book in our house. A truly brilliant and engaging way to introduce the idea of mixing colors. One of the best parts = The kids can mix colors, over and over again, without the actual mess of paint! Another great book to compliment this read is The Wonders of the Color Wheel, by Charles Ghigna. Similar to Mix It Up!, this book explains color combinations, but also touches upon the categorization of primary and secondary colors.

While paint seems to be the most logical activity for hands-on learning of mixing colors, I’ve found that (specifically when working with toddlers) the secondary colors never come out quite right. For example, when attempting to mix the bright green of a shamrock, we end up with more of a brownish-green that looks like rotting seaweed 😦

To make things a little easier (and more accurate), I’ve come up with a few other mediums that are great for exploring colors with kids…

1. Mixing Colored Water

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I filled plastic cups with water and used food coloring to dye the cups in correspondence to this Color Math Printable. The boys then poured the 1st two cups in each row (primary colors), into the last empty cup, to create the secondary colors (green, purple & orange).

2. Play-Doh Color Wheel

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Using the primary colors of Play-Doh (blue, red & yellow), the boys mashed and rolled small pieces together to create each secondary color (green, purple & orange), and place them on their Color Wheel Printable.

3. Overlaying Transparency Colors

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Using the primary colors of Magnatiles, the boys held the tiles up to a window, overlapping them to discover each of the secondary colors. If you don’t have Magnatiles, any form of color transparencies can work.

Thanks for visiting my blog! For more fun kids’ activities and free printables, follow me on Pinterest and Facebook.

“The ones who are crazy enough to think they can color the world are the ones who do”

Toddler Weekly Calendar

FREE Printable Toddler Weekly Calendar - projectsinparenting

Shortly after the boys turned 2 years old, they started finding Cory or I in the mornings and asking, “Is Dad home all day?”. If the answer was “no”, I often times had two crying kids on my hands. Understandably (in their minds), they were upset that Cory had to run off to some unknown “work” place, instead of staying home to play with them. Unfortunately for me, I had to break this news to them every Monday through Friday and they would be super angry with me – like it was MY choice which days Cory went to work.

While it was neat watching them realize the concept of days, I wanted to avoid the unnecessary tantrums and help them understand their schedules better. As a visual person myself, I decided to put together a weekly calendar *showing* them which days Dad was “home all day” (by putting a picture of Cory’s face on Saturday and Sunday). I printed out the calendar, put it in a sheet protector, and hung it on their bedroom door with a clothespin to mark the current day. Each morning, they would wake up and move the clothespin to the new day.

Both Jacob and Evan responded to the calendar extremely well, so I started adding images for almost everything – doctor’s appointments, swim class, holidays, etc. The boys quickly started understanding weekends vs. weekdays and were excited when something new would pop up on their calendar. Although our weekly events pretty much stayed the same, when I knew a holiday or special event was coming up, I would print the future week in advance and simply slide the sheet behind the current week (in the sheet protector) so that it was ready to go.

Avery is 2 years old now, and starting “toddler school” this week, so I started using the weekly calendar for her. She is loving the new responsibility of updating her marker for each day, and super excited for her 1st day of school. No more tantrums and full cooperation for the day’s activities (well, most of the time anyway). Either way, a definite WIN!

  • Click HERE for Weekly Calendar Printable.
  • Click HERE for Weekly Calendar Clipart Printable – Simply cut & paste appropriate holiday, event or activity onto your Weekly Calendar.
  • For sports classes such as swimming, gymnastics, tennis, etc., I recommend using images from Classroom Clipart (endless options and free!). This website also has perfect graphics to use for other activities (piano lessons, etc.) and additional holidays.

“December is here before its June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon?” – Dr. Seuss

Toddler Water Activities

Toddler Water Activities

With summer comes water – especially here in Chicago, where the heat and humidity can make a bed of ice cubes sound comfortable. Even with the scorching weather, I like to spend as much time as I can outdoors with the kids – which means LOTS of water activities to keep them cool. We have a ton of fun with sprinklers, water balloons, and the kiddie pool, but sometimes they need a little extra creativity to catch their interest and get them excited to play outside in the heat.

With 3 little ones, I try to stick with activities that have minimal set-up time. I’ve seen a ton of great ideas on Pinterest, and as fun as some of them may be, I simply don’t have the time for things like building an extravagant “car wash” system out of PVC, hoses and hanging sponges…. For me, simple = good. And holding the kids attention for 30+ minutes = WIN!

That said, below is a list of our top 10 water activities…

1. Target Practice

Target Practice
Using water sprayers from our local dollar store, I set up rubber ducks and frogs on top of activity cones and the kids practice their aim by spraying them off.

 

2. Fishing for Ducks

IMG_7980Fishing for Ducks 2Fishing for Ducks
Holding the test of time, this has been a favorite activity since the boys were just short of 2 years old. Using an aquarium net, the kids “fish” for anything from rubber ducks to ping pong balls… After they are done fishing, sometimes the kids like to get out kitchen utensils and make “duck soup”.

 

3. Animal Baths

Animal Baths
This particular day we were taking a break from the heat, but have done this activity indoors and out… Using an old toothbrush and some soap, the kids enjoy pampering their favorite toy animals with a little spa-day.

 

4. Sink, Float & Explore

Sink and Float
With simple items from around the house, the kids explore what sinks or floats. The activity itself only lasts about 10 minutes, but then they enjoy simply playing with the items in water… (example items: plastic cups, paper, marbles, straws, plastic beads, coins, pom poms, plastic bugs/animals, buttons, wooden sticks, spoons, paper clips and rubber bands)

 

5. Splash Slo-Mo

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Playing around with the ‘slo-mo’ feature on my iPhone, I decided to take some clips of the kids splashing around in the pool – SO FUN! Now the boys are constantly requesting I take videos so they can watch their playbacks in slo-mo… Summer splashing at it’s best!

 

6. Chalk Paint

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Wet Chalk Jacob
Water + chalk = messy fun!!… Great for using left over small pieces of chalk – Just throw chalk sticks into a baggie, pound with a hammer (or the flat end of a meat tenderizer), pour chalk powder into a bucket, and add a small amount of water to make a thin paste… For less prep: Simply pour water on the ground, color heavily in the puddle with chalk, and mix with hands.

 

7. Car Wash

Car Wash
Whether it’s washing their toy trucks or Mom and Dad’s cars, the kids always enjoy a good car wash.

8. Wet Paper


As simple as construction paper in water – Squish it, squeeze it, and tear it. A great sensory experience.

 

9. Water Transfer

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Another go-to activity of mine, indoors or out… Using kitchen utensils, sponges, and a Fine Motor Tools Set, transferring water becomes endless hours of fun.

 

10. Putting out Fires

Putting out Fires
Off in imagination land, the kids love to pretend their toy house in our backyard is on fire and they help put it out with the hose, buckets of water, and/or their Paw Patrol Water Backpack.

Thanks for visiting my blog! For more fun ideas, follow me on Pinterest and Facebook… and now I’ll leave you with this adorably happy face…

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